Edit: What a stupid name for a post. I thought it was good at the time. 20 Jan 2009.
This round comprised 600 miles and nine hours travelling, £ 60 worth of fuel, another nine hours at the circuit, and all for only 6 laps.
After arriving at Croft (a circuit in North Yorkshire), the 75 remaining contestants signed in and took our seats in the briefing room.
On signing in we had been randomly allocated a group letter. Each group would have one of eight instructors for the first of two sets of laps. Each instructor was allocated one car. There were two BMW 325 M5s, three Mini Cooper S’s, and three open-top Ginettas. However, one of the two BMWs blew a piston on a test lap, so the two BMW groups had to share one car, slowing down completion of the session.
The instructor would take us out for three laps. On the first two, he or she would explain the racing line, gear changes and speeds. He would then remain silent while we did one flying lap, pitting at the end. For each corner, there were points awarded for hitting the right breaking, turning, apex and exit points. No overtaking was allowed, so we would have to slow up if we caught another car.
I was second out in the BMW with Chris as my instructor. In a strange car, having never been on a racing circuit before, I had to remember all the cornering points and gear changes, and the racing line, all in two laps. Talk about overload.
The BMW – it was like driving soft butter. There was no feedback at all; I couldn’t feel the engine, steering or grip. Anyway, The instructor seemed okay with my laps. If I could have done a few more, I would have done much better.
Before the session I had been interviewed by Paul Musselle, Executive Producer of PMA TV. He interviewed me again as I got out of the car, then I had to go back to the briefing room to change out of my race suit. Blanche (my wife) was with me for the event and as all good team members do, she had her ears and eyes open. As I changed, Paul interviewed my instructor.
We waited around for ages in the sun while everyone else went out, then the judges retired to make their decisions. After lunch, we gathered in the pits and Tim read out the two lists. Five drivers were deemed good enough to go through based on what they had done already. Ten were told they were out. I was in the other 60 who would go out again to be judged a second time in a different car and by a different instructor.
Between sessions, I decided that I had been thinking too much about what to do, and trying to remember every gear change and minute detail given to me by the instructor. I decided to drive more naturally in the second session, to drive more by instinct and to enjoy it more.
I was first out in a Mini Cooper S. That was much more to my liking. In fact, I loved it. Compared to the BMW, it was like Diet Coke; light, crisp and fizzy.
Phil was my instructor, and explained things again for two laps, during which I easily caught the car in front. I would catch him, slow down to give myself space, then easily catch him again. Only having three laps, there wasn’t enough time to give myself a really big gap.
Where I did have space it was amazing with great acceleration, hard braking and plenty of tyre squeal in the corners while maintaining control. I really wanted to carry on and do more laps, but everyone was limited to three.
In the long wait that followed, I thought about my chances of going through. I thought it had gone well. I needed to polish up my line on a couple of corners and perfect my timing on a couple of gear changes, but a few more laps would have achieved that.
Talking to the other drivers, most had raced competitively before (I have not), and most have some track experience beyond karting (I have none). There’s no way for the judges to know that unless it comes up during the track sessions and a note is made. Anyway, I just thought I’d get my excuses in there.
The judges decisions were made. Only another 15 went through to round five, and we all went home. So, 20 went through, and 10 of the 75 had gone out after the first session. That puts me in a group ranked 21 to 64, out of over 2000 competitors initially. Let’s say the top 3%, shall we? I’m pretty pleased with that.
Overall, I’ve achieved quite a bit. Since we were told we would need sponsors and advertising just over three weeks ago, I’ve found a sponsor (ik Software at www.ik.com), I’ve been in touch with several other sponsors (but not secured any due to limited time), and produced this blog.
That’s not the end though. I’ll keep racing and keep blogging. Over then next week, I’ll be taking some time to organise myself and work commitments, and organise my plans for more racing. I’ll be posting non-racing stuff too. So, please keep coming back, and leave me some comments!