After Round 3 and the MSV Extra Race at Silverstone back in June, we missed Round 4 at Oulton Park due to a clash of calendars (with the Goodwood Festival of Speed - a must for any petrol or diesel head!), which meant our next race was Round 5 at the fast and flowing Brands Hatch GP Circuit.
The format was changed slightly for this race from the norm, with Classes S and A being mixed in with our Class B and the C & Ds due to the increased circuit limit and packed schedule.
More info about the TDC can be found on their website - http://www.trackdaychampionship.com/about-tdc/
Our Ibiza is in Class B. The regulations for the series are reasonably relaxed, so that most cars that have already been used for track days will be eligible.
Throughout the report, we will be describing the track by corner names. This image should help
The Brands Hatch GP circuit is widely regarded as the best circuit in the UK, for its fast flowing layout, short runoff and the infamous Paddock Hill bend. Unfortunately, due to ever increasing pressure from nearby residents with noise complaints, the number of trackdays, test days and races on the GP Layout are reducing every year. This made it difficult to get some practice in on a track I have no experience on at all (other than a track day on the Indy Circuit last year). Luckily, there was a Track Day in July by Javelin Trackdays, which was pretty much a test day since 95% of the participants were MSA Race Licence Holders, getting some laps in before a race meeting in the coming weeks. The fact that most were experienced racers didn't mean the red flags were reduced, quite the opposite!
Live timing is not allowed on Track Days (normally due to insurance purposes) but we leave the V-Box in and review the footage and data between sessions to get an idea where we are. Data from the day showed the car was capable of at least 1:48s, with 'Ideal' lap times in the 1:47s. Based on the previous years lap times in our Class, this put us in the top 10. It was going to be an interesting race, and hard work to get to the goal of a Top 5 finish!
For those that love data, all the official results can be downloaded from the
TSL website here under the MSVT Trackday Championship section, and I have taken screenshots below for quick reference.
Since Friday testing was only on the Indy Layout (complicated story, mainly involving noise again!), MSV put on a 15 minute Practice session for those who want to familiarise themselves with the track, since a lot were first timers, and others might have not seen the track for over a year! We did not participate as we chose to spend the time getting the car 100% ready after testing the day before.
Qualifying looked to start off perfectly. I was the 3rd car out with lots of clear air in front and behind, ready to put in some quick laps before the circuit filled up with cars of massively different capabilities. First up best dressed was not to be as the first flying lap was slowed to a snails pace due to a Safety Car deployment, to assist with the recovery of a dead Ford Puma from the exit of Graham Hill Bend onto the Cooper Straight.
I did another flying lap, which was miles off the pace and then came into the pits to asses tyre temperatures and pressures, since the weather was vastly different to the day before (Cloudy vs Sunny). Pressures had not risen to the desired level, so we added a few PSI and I went back out. Instantly the car felt much more stable, but as indicated on the Racelogic, I was still nowhere near the goal I had set to ensure we were in a decent position for the start.
By my 10th full lap, we were almost 25 minutes into a 30 minute session, and time was running out. I went past the pit lane and my pit board indicated 8th in Class. I got my head down with a Class A Saxo and Class S M3 in front of me, and gave it everything. I could see from my Predicted Lap Time that this was going to be a good lap, and a massive improvement over previous ones. After Stirlings, I decided not to take any more chances and just bring it home cleanly. The lap ended up being 1.5s quicker than the previous best, and put me from P8 to P6 in class.
The position was actually P17 overall and P7 in class, but a Class S and Class B car were disqualified, so that pushed us 2 places up to 15th and 6th
This was the grid, giving me the inside line into Paddock Hill and Druids, exactly where I wanted to be
With qualifying in the morning, and the race not until 16:55, it was a long day of waiting around since the car needed minimal changes from the morning session.
The start, as always was eventful to say the least! The pit straight at Brands is slightly downhill so a couple of cars without handbrakes struggled, as you can see from them creeping before the lights went out. I set off a little late, but the Clip Cup of J & R Honeybone in front had a terrible start, as did the BMW of Gary Burstow 3 places ahead, dropping back behind me into Druids as I had the inside line. Dean Hyde in the BMW E30 (Class C) had a really good exit from Paddock hill and tried around the outside of Druids, but I had a better exit to pull back in front.
The BMW M3 of Hugh Gurney (Class S) had a bad exit and ended up on my inside line into Graham Hill Bend. Lewis Denslow in the Fiesta (Class C) started in a fantastic position, right in the middle of the Class B cars, and was still in front at Surtees. Being a class lower, I had the legs on it down the straight, but even with 25whp/ton more, it was not a walk in the park! I was in front at Hawthorns and Westfields, but being a little cautious of the Mini, BMW and 944 battling in front, Lewis was able to get round me at Dingle Dell. Some more tussling at Sheen Curve and Stirlings meant this is how it stayed by the end of the first lap.
Lap two started just as manically, with Gary Burstow in the BMW making a great move on the outside of Druids as I was caught up behind Lewis taking a defensive line. Into Surtees Gary made light work of Lewis and onto the straight.
I had to be pretty defensive for the rest of the lap, meaning the guys in front pulled a decent gap. I decided to let Hugh in the M3 through at Druids, since my race was not with him. Back down the straight and into Hawthorns I was able to get past Lewis in the Fiesta, and start to close in on the leading pack again, but braking a little early into Stirlings, the Clio managed to get through.
Lap 4 and still battling! The other cars behind were mainly Class C but with experienced drivers, so as long as I kept my nose clean, they should not give too much trouble since the GP layout is a power circuit. Just in front of us, the Leon TCR of Steve Gales (Class S) ran into the rear of the Saxo of Ryan Steel (Class A) at Surtees, leaving bits of bodywork all over a good overtaking spot, and eventually putting them both out of the race.
Into Clearways I ended up close to the back of the 944 of Chris Bialan and Chris Campbell, who had set a crazily fast qualifying time of 1:46.111 to be top of Class B. The next few laps were pretty uneventful, but with some close racing between 3rd and 6th positions for Class B. I set my best lap time of the race on Lap 5 with a 1:47.44.
Lap 7 into Paddock Hill was a little sketchy! This meant I had even more time to make up in the next few laps. By lap 11 we were into traffic from some of the slower Class D and C cars, which always spices things up a bit! I got lucky with the traffic and closed the gap between myself, the 944, Clio and E36 at Clearways. The Porsche pitted, so I decided to stay out longer to try and get a decent few laps in. Yellow Flags at Druids were waved as the Clio of Griffiths / Rogers was upside down in the gravel. I expected a safety car and was ready to pit, but it never came. The E36 and Clio then pitted on lap 13, meaning I was on my own until I pitted on Lap 14.
The minimum Pit Stop time is 2 minutes. There was no analysis for this weekend, but mine must have been pretty close, or the guys in front must have had long stops, as I ended up pulling out right in the middle of the Clio and BMW, into 4th place! Cold tyres and brakes meant I was unable to keep the BMW behind into Druids.
On Lap 16, John in the BMW made a lunge down the inside on the Clio of Ray Honeybone at Druids, and they had a coming together, as can be seen from their on board footage
I was able to get round the BMW at Surtees as it had a poor exit onto the straight, starting a battle that would last another full lap, until this at Clearways lost me momentum into Paddock Hill Bend
Look at the rear view from the Clio
We then battled on for 7 more laps, with a few half chances on the Clio into Stirlings as he was struggling with the brakes, until we saw the Chequered Flag on lap 25.
The Race Results are below, showing P11 overall and P5 in class, exactly on my target at what I would consider my weakest circuit, both personally and the car, on only my second ever race (the first stint at Silverstone was my first). Its a hard track on tyres, so it favours RWD over FWD.
It is also the first race with Class A and S cars, which was an experience. You can see the difference in speed below, up to position 6 lapped even on a long circuit!
There were also lots of DNFs, some mentioned above, and others for mechanical reasons. 45 minutes is hard on the car and driver!
The next round of the TDC is at Zandvoort in the Netherlands, however being an international event, it requires a National A Licence. Since we have only just started racing, we only have a National B, requiring 6 signatures to upgrade to the National A. So it looks like we will be missing that, and picking up again for the final round, back at Brands Hatch on the shorter Indy layout, on the 10th November. In the meantime we are looking to take part in the Trackday Trophy races at Cadwell Park and Rockingham in September.