New car, new team and new tracks all combine together to make 2011 an interesting season for me and the Westbourne Motorsport – little did we know when we arrived at Brands Hatch on Thursday evening for the first race of the season that it would be this “interesting”!
Friday morning we arrived and the car was ready for the free practice – I went out and for the first few laps was running in P2 – things were looking good but then as the session went on, the car was suffering under steer and brake balance problems – the car’s performance seemed to drop off a cliff. Session 2 came and went and a similar situation despite making some changes – this is what learning a new car is all about.
Saturday came and the team made some fairly brave changes to the car but unfortunately, we went too far the other way which meant the car was even less driveable and never came on. P12 was not really in the plan but a good start could change all that – how ironic was that statement?
Sunday race day came and the team had the car in pristine condition and believed that they had the car in a good place in terms of set up to suit my style. The cars all lined up on the grid – I seemed to get a reasonable start and very quickly went around the outside of the three cars in front of me preparing to take Paddock Hill Bend from in front having moved from P12 to P9 in 200 yards.
Unfortunately, I was tagged from behind twice as I took the corner – the second tag being the fateful one sending me headfirst into the barrier at Paddock with a massive impact that could be heard as far away as Druids. The car disintegrated and ended up back on the track with the severity of the impact only to be collected by another car. The Doctors and Paramedics were on the scene within seconds and attended to me. I was in severe pain in my chest, neck, legs and back from the massive impact – boy that hurt!
After being checked and given the OK to be removed from the car, the crowd applauded me as I managed to walk to the ambulance which took me off for more in-depth checks. The car (now looking severely damaged) was delivered back to the Westbourne team on temporary wheely jacks – seemingly looking as though it would have to be taken back to base for some work.
This apparently was a different plan to that which the Westbourne guys had in mind who set about repairing the car which was badly damaged – they had just over 4 hours to get the car ready (assuming my injuries allowed me to continue).
The whole front end crash structure was replaced, wishbones, steering arms, wheels, tyres, bonnet, rear crash structure, steering wheel, exhaust manifold (need we go on) were replaced and despite a last minute panic with a blown fuse which meant the car wouldnt start, I was on the grid for race 2 (with 2 minutes to spare).
The race started and at Paddock, the car stopped as my throttle stuck on FULL! I pulled over, undid my belts and despite the pain, mended the throttle cable and drove to catch the pack – I made the mistake of joining back in position which caused the clerk to issue a drive through penalty (not having a good day then?) – I was also having to drive the race on half throttle as anything more would cause the throttle to stick wide open. The cockpit was also full of smoke which was from some damage from the accident but I opened the window and battled on.
My mission was to prove that I wanted to race and to deliver home some points to the team which I did finishing 11th overall.
Overall whilst a disaster for me and the team in terms of the start of the season, it was a Herculean effort by the boys from Westbourne to repair the car in such a short period of time. I didn’t want to let them down by not finishing (despite the fact the pain was by this time unbearable).
Since the weekend, I have been having treatment from a specialist chiropractor in Harrogate and accupuncture to deal with the trauma injuries in my back after the accident. More treatment Monday, test Tuesday then rest before rounds 3 and 4 at Donington next weekend.
Thanks to all who sent their best wishes to me and to the guys at Ginetta and of course Westbourne who defied all logic by getting that G40 repaired and (nearly) driveable for race 2.
The car has been back to Ginetta in Garforth and checked over, fully repaired and should be ready to go for next week.
We just need to make sure that I have a clean race and that I can show what I can actually do with a car which is on form!
Watch this space…………….