A behind the scenes summary from a very wet Brands Hatch.
This season not only is Steve racing in Locost but we are also looking after Matthew Price aka ‘Basra’ or ‘Baz’ as he’s known in Stockhatch class A. He drives Saxo number 35.
It is his first adventure into circuit racing although he is a regular autotester and has attended many track days and recently competed in a sprint at RAF Odiham. The weather was not kind to either driver but Baz was thrown in at the deep end and coped remarkably well with the poor conditions…………
Thursday night saw us arrive at the track ready for testing in the morning. Our first session would be 9am so Dan and I were up sharp the next morning readying the car whilst Steve signed on.
We would be working in conjunction with Matt and Ivan Gilmore from Procomp who were going to do some data logging to aid car set up. We had already fitted a small additional temporary wiring loom to connect the magic box up to. This included a GPS sensor mounted to the top of the roll cage to enable split times etc.
We did a few initial checks like ignition timing and idle speed etc and sent Steve out for a couple of installation laps as I wanted to check nothing was amiss as we’d had the engine, gearbox and diff/axle out only a week previous.
All seemed fine so Steve continued to put some laps in gaining valuable data on the logger. We continued on this theme throughout the day with Matt downloading all the info interpreting them into adjustments needed. The fuelling was leaning off at high rpm so carb jets were changed several times to try and improve things. Ivan wasn’t completely happy with the end result so it was decided to save any possible piston melting problems we would swap the carb out for Procomps own spare they carry on the van. This made an instant noticeable difference compared to our carb. Started on the button, nice even idle and no flat spots.
Both morning stints were dry but the first afternoon one was wet. We had already purchased a set of new unbuffed A539’s as we didn’t have any decent wet tyres. We put them on for this session but Steve came back in after two laps as it was drying quickly asking for a change back to drys. Dan quickly done this and the lap times improved accordingly. Good choice.
Baz had now arrived with the Saxo so I set to giving it the once over and we had George Polley fit a pair of brand new front tyres. The original fronts were put to the rear. The rear damping was set up quite hard from a previous dry event so as the forecast was pretty grim we wound them quite a bit softer for a better wet setting. The fronts were already soft so were left alone.
Saturday morning and scrutineering loomed. We’ve only ever had a minor comment or two from the scrutineers in the past but it’s always a worry they may find something wrong. Both cars were fine.
Qualifying and Steve was up first. I’d assigned myself to Baz for the weekend so Dan readied the Locost and went with Steve for his session whilst I stayed behind in the paddock doing last minute checks on the Saxo like tyre pressures etc. Baz’s session was soon upon us so we headed for the assembly area. I met Dan on his return and he confirmed Steves stint went ok.
Baz was clearly nervous but also confident. The plan was I’d be on the pit wall and he would come in for adjustments if needed. He stayed out circulating until an off by somebody red flagged the session. Baz unfortunately followed several other cars back onto the grid as opposed to the pit lane and was sent to see Viv the clerk of the course for a telling off and missed the remainder of qualifying. A lesson learnt but he had done five laps so the minimum three laps had been completed. The race was on! Final qualifying positions were Steve 16th and Baz 27th.
The Stock Hatch race was 2.25pm. The weather was foul whilst sitting in the assembly area and wasn’t about to improve. A good luck handshake and Baz was lined up on the grid for his very first race ever! I don’t know who was more nervous, him or me. I watched from the pit wall and after a good start he kept up with the pack for a lap and I awaited his return. A big gap from the pack and Baz reappears having spun at Graham Hill (unbeknown to me.) He continued closing the gap and at the end was only half a second from the next car. One more lap would’ve had him. Very well done for a successful first race in extreme conditions.
Parc ferme saw the car and driver weighed and the ride height checked. Both within the allowed limits although over the minimum weight by 35kg! Time to go on a diet.
Steves race was 5.55pm so we had a bit of time to decide on set up and tyre choice. Due to the extreme wet conditions we fiddled with the suspension settings and fitted the new wet tyres. It turned out to be the right direction.
He lined up 12th on the grid and a good start gained a place and after a few laps was up to about seventh I think and finally finished 9th. An excellent result considering the recent problems we’ve had with the engine. The loaned carburettor certainly improved the driveability of the car. It sounded better from the pit wall too.
A very successful day with a couple of great results. We retired for a celebratory beer and hot meal in the bar.
Sunday morning and it’s still hooning it down. The wind has got up again too so conditions are going to be even worse. Stockhatch race two is 11am and Baz starts in 25th. I jump in the Saxo and we head for assembly. It’s not long before the windscreen starts to mist up so all we can do is wipe down, keep the windows open a crack and hope for the best. There is no heater fitted so unfortunately for Baz his visibility was reduced for most of the race. Need some rainex or similar next time. However he kept it on the track and had a good clean race and kept out of trouble. A fantastic result mate and a pair of important signatures on your licence. Very well done.
Locost race two was 12.45pm. The only change to the car was one less click all round on the shocks. We left the wets on as there was a lot of standing water on the track although the rain had eased up a bit.
Steve started 11th and got a flying start only to have a bump going into Paddock resulting in a broken left hand rear wheel arch and bent exhaust tip. The exhaust contacted Shaun Brames car #32 wheel and chopped the tyre valve clean off. Game over for him unfortunately. Steve continued to overtake car after car and was soon up to just 0.8 secs behind Stuart Sellars in the lead! A fairly sideways moment exiting Paddock Hill Bend resulted in Alex Von Ehrheim grabbing second and another slide down the hill towards Graham Hill Bend briefly lost third but he recovered well, gained the place back from Nick Selby and crossed the finish line in 3rd place just 5.5secs off the leaders. Our first podium and trophy! The first of many hopefully.
A very very well deserved finish to a difficult and tiring weekend. Congratulations to both Steve and Baz from Dan, Hayley and myself at Team SEWC. Well worth getting wet for.
By the way. In true Mclaren style I’m keeping the trophy and you’re getting a shonky replica Steve!