The 15th year of fun and games

 - The highs and lows of motor racing - 

2003 is my 15th consecutive year of Triumph racing. With just a couple of dips in 1995 and 1997 when my kids were born, Iíve been entering between 12 and 18 races a year and have over 150 starts to my name. Thatís not as many as some of the guys I know, but far more than most. In the main, drivers who start club racing manage about 3 or 4 years before either financial or spousal factors tip the balance away from the sport.

In the late 90ís there was a Welsh chap who we raced with for several years and who was a very keen Spitfire driver. He did nearly every race going, until the day he got married. Although his fiancťe had been coming to the meetings regularly and appeared to be enjoying herself, we never saw him again.  Itís not an uncommon story! Finances also do their bit towards foreshortening careers; quite often drivers can justify it for a few years but get put off by a bad year or a number of expensive problems in a row. One thing is for certain, itís not always a part time hobby, racing can be very invasive on your life and takes inordinate amounts of time and money on occasions. You certainly need family support and I have been very fortunate to have this along with the long-term support of my pit and paddock man, Martin Stackpoole.

I should also mention the members of the paying public who take the trouble to come over and speak to us at meetings and offer their support. Sometimes the smallest things make the day. At one meeting a supporter gave me a small wolf badge (from a VW Sirocco I think), I fixed it then to the dashboard in my Spitfire and I still carry it in my V8 now.

There are some things worthy of note since my early days of racing and they are as follows:

         Entry fees are over twice what they were back then Ė even taking inflation into account thatís a significant price hike.

         Event entry numbers are much lower. I donít know if there were fewer meetings back then, but I can remember when an entry of over 300 cars was not that uncommon. I remember the paddock at Snetterton being absolutely packed one day back in about 1994 with over 350 cars at a one-day, 10-race meeting.

         The toilets have got better.  Cadwell was notorious; pre my racing days, the gents toilets were 40 gallon oil drums with a plank on top with a hole cut in!

         The public address systems are just as bad as they were 15 years ago.

         Public seating has got worse Ė grandstands have been removed without any replacement at Oulton Park, Cadwell and Snetterton.

         Track days seem more important to circuit owners than race meetings.

         Back when it was run by the BRDC, the public used to get in for free at club meetings at Silverstone and we used get a few spectators. Now Octagon charge £10 and almost no-one comes to watch.

         The cars are much faster and are generally better prepared. Lap times keep coming down. Tyres and brake pads are the biggest areas of improvement.

         Itís now much harder to get your first race licence. When I started you just filled in a form and sent off a cheque for about £25; now itís ARDS training followed by track and written tests which I believe costs over £250.

         The best fire extinguishant known (BCF) has been replaced by less effective ones because of some spurious Ďevidenceí of a hole in the ozone layer which was probably already there in the first place.

         Aluminium roll cages have gone.

         98 octane 4 star has gone.

         Two Chicanes have appeared at Castle Combe.

         Croft and Anglesey have come back to life.

         Lydden Hill is teetering on the precipice while McLaren and the local planning legislators determine its future.

         Brands Hatch is looking more and more like a tasty (and valuable) housing development site every day. I say sell the bloody place as development land and put the money into new facility somewhere else. My back yard would be fine. The full GP circuit is so underused (thanks to local residents) and expensive to use that itís pointless.

         The Russell complex at Snetterton has had a few re-shapes and the access bridge has moved!

         Silverstone has had several changes, especially at Luffield and Copse.

         Rockingham has come. Wow.

         Noise Ďpollutioní is becoming more and more of an issue with whinging residents complaining that the local race track is noisy. Of course itís bloody noisy, itís a race track you prats! Buy a house by a race track and you can expect some noise!

         The FIA is being a money-grabbing, pompous organisation bent on screwing every few quid out of clubbies, they say because of safety! If safety was the issue youíd have to close half the tracks in the UK. How does me having an international licence make my car or driving safer? If itís truly about safety, make the price of an amateur, international licence the same as a national one.

         Bad driving is not clamped down on, especially in the professional series. Panel damage and rubbing are acceptable in the BTCC and it filters down to club racing. Stop the proís doing it. The same is true in football where the professional players get away with terrible behaviour and it influences up and coming club players. 

 

Racing highlights have been:

         My first sub-one minute lap in my Spitfire at Mallory in 1991. By 2001 I was lapping sub 55 seconds.

        Coming 3rd in Class A in the 1994 750 Motor Club roadsports championship.

         Winning the 1999 TSSC Race Championship by a record margin including 8 class wins and 9 lap records.

         Overtaking a Porsche 911 Turbo race car in my Spitfire Ė During the Birkett 6 hour relay in 1994 I overtook it on the outside at Coram Ė a pretty tricky manoeuvre even if I say so myself!

         Racing at the British historic race festival at Zandvoort in 1999 and 2000.

         Winning the second round of the 2002 TR championship at Castle Combe. My first outright race win.

         Coming 3rd in the all-Triumph feature race at Mid Ohio, USA in 2002.

         The whole Mid Ohio 2002 event.

Lowlights have been:

         Engine failure when leading overall at Croft in 1996.

         Crashing when in the overall lead at Pembrey in 1999. Mitigated, however by the fact it was my 1st ever Triumph pole.

         Crashing straight into the end of the Pembrey pit wall in practice in 2000 at about 60 mph. Ouch.

         Three d.n.f.s in a row from class C lead in 2000 caused by a dodgy rotor arm.

         D.n.s in the TR7V8 at Cadwell in 2001 with major ignition problems.

         Failing to make the start of Thruxton 2002 after a mammoth week of building an engine from spare parts around the garage.

  Iím sure there are plenty more and hopefully there's another 15 years to come!

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