This is a write up from Chris Brown who is an Opie Oils sponsored Driver.
For once in my life I was pretty organised for this race event which made a lovely change being a lot more relaxed the day before the event rather than running around like a headless chicken. Friday saw me going to pick up the race car mid-afternoon to bring it home for the last tiny bit of prepping before the race the following day. The car had already been checked over and was ready to go mechanically. From my previous race I wasn’t happy with the way that the ballast was bolted into the car I have to carry just under 100kg of ballast in the car to bring it up to race spec and that is held down in 2 50kg piles with M16 studs through the floor. In the event of an accident the way it was previously mounted there was a risk it could be ripped through the floor and so I re-arranged the ballast with a larger spreader plate underneath the car that also joined the 2 piles of ballast together meaning I was much more confident with the security of the ballast now. I have to give a shout out to my brother Luke who gave me a hand sorting that out as it just wasn’t possible with one pair of hands and I know I made him late going out by asking for his help. After that was done I had to fit a few new bits of vinyl supplied by DMB Graphics, I received a great service from them as usual and received them extremely quickly after I was a bit disorganised ordering them. Last job with the car once the new vinyl was fitted, was to give her a wash with Power Maxed to make sure she was looking her best before the weekend’s events and load up the truck ready for the short journey in the morning to Lydden Hill. To go with the improvements with the race car I also improved the towing vehicle too after learning a few lessons from the previous time being the first time I had towed the truck fully loaded with the race car on the back. I had an adapter plate made up by Nusteel Structures to raise the towbar up, I put some spring assistors in the rear springs and also fitted some roof bars to allow the tyres to go on the roof of the car instead of taking up space in the back. All in all this made towing the car fully loaded a much nicer experience with the car not bottoming out nearly all the time and people pointing as sparks flew everywhere all the time.
As usual pre-race nerves of sleeping through my alarm meant 6am soon came round and I was off to the track. When we got there we changed all the tyres to some older tyres. Lydden Hill is known to be very abrasive on your tyres and so I didn’t want to ruin my best ones. The car went through scrutineering with the only comment being made about the fire extinguisher wanting a little bit of tape over the bracket as a caution to reduce any risk of it coming undone through vibration, this was duly noted and acted upon. Qualifying soon came round and after a mad panic just before I went out regarding the wheel nuts being torque’d up, I was out on track. Qualifying went well with no major drama’s. The track however is very new to me as I have only ever completed one 20 minute session on it in the past so I had to learn quick! My time wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be however not far out for a new track. I came in from qualifying and my tyre pressures were sky high which wouldn’t have helped my timing but the most of it was down to track experience never the less I was in 8th place in class.
Race one soon came round and I was back in the hot seat. My start was good however wasn’t able to make any places up. I gradually pushed harder and harder learning the lines better as I went and by the end of the race I had managed to knock. 1.5 seconds off my qualifying time. There was a couple of accidents on the track one particularly bad one involving 3 other cars just round Paddock Bend. This was probably the most hair raising moment of the race trying to slalom around the cars with the speed I was already carrying through the corner This gained me one place and allowed me a great battle though the rest of the race with a racer in the class above me as I tried to hold him off as long as I could. The race was bought to an end slightly early due to an accident causing the red flags to come out.
Race 2 was probably my favourite race of the day. This time I was on the grid in 7th place. I managed to get a fantastic start and move up 3 places by the first corner and put a huge boost in my confidence. Unfortunately I soon lost those places with the squabble around the first corner that there always is. However I had latched onto the back of the Saxo of Kieron Lehanne who was the previous driver of my car. We had a fantastic battle through that race with myself literally millimetres off of his bumper at times but sadly not quite enough to stick my nose in enough to get round him at all. In this race though an old gremlin from Brands Hatch popped back up where around the Devil’s Elbow the car would pop out of second gear. This is the only tight left hander in the track and I had the same issue around Graham Hill being the only tight left hander at brands. This meant that around that corner I would have to hold it in gear and steer one handed around the corner which wasn’t ideal at all. A few times I forgot and nearly lost the back of the car where I didn’t have the momentum to carry on pulling the car round the corner when I found I had no drive but, thankfully, the car held together through the race with the only damage received being a stone being put through my headlight.
Sunday saw us having a bonus 3rd race which we would not normally have this was due to our first round being cancelled. Sadly my start was nowhere near as good as I had managed in my previous race and no places were gained on the start, I found myself once again behind the widest Saxo in the world of Kieron Lehanne, this time however I was determined to get past him! It was another awesome battle with a 205 just in front of him too. I stuck to the back of him as hard as I could looking for my way around him. I found my opportunity once around Paddock Hill by carrying alot of speed though the corner and then being slightly later on the brakes, I had done it! However my victory was short lived when my lateness on the brakes forced me to scrub too much speed off for the corner and he was able to pull more speed round the sweeping right hander of Chessons Drift. So I was forced to stare at the back of the car the rest of the race where he gradually pulled away after one of my tyres couldn’t handle the abuse any longer and went bald causing a major loss in grip.
All in all though it was an awesome weekend of racing I would like to thank all my sponsors friends and family who came to support me on or away from the track.
We would like to wish Chris the best of luck in his next round and for the rest of the season.