Here I am and Donington Park is awaiting.
Walked the track as night fell (about 9pm) and the cool breeze got cold.
Well, not exactly as it was for Scott and Oates on the Antarctic expedition but cold enough that I was dressed like them, furry lined anorak with a beanie over my head and the hood of the anorak tied tight around my mush.
Call me a soft c**k if you must, but the feel of the sun on my back is more akin to a birthright than an ‘occasional blessing’.
8:00am. All set for qualifying Sat morning at 9:10 am.
Minor adjustment to gearshift so that 3rd to 2nd will drop through more easily.
Report to new drivers briefing at 08:20. Can’t find a clerk of course.
Find him at 8:45.
Get briefing: “Watch turn 1 (Redgate) and the esses leading on to main straight.”
Get back to car at 9am. Most other cars are on the dummy grid.
Don’t panic. Get in, get belts adjusted, get shit together.
Start up and here we go. Eeeerk! Have reverse where 2nd is supposed to be.
Cars moving along now. Don’t panic Ollie. Get spanners. Make minor re-adjustment.
Get on to dummy grid. Get redirected to ‘pit entry’ access. 5 minutes gone now. Find pit access.
Don’t panic Ollie. Be cool.
On track and it is wettish, and losta cars, going quick.
Find that 2nd is not a gear I needed as most corners are fast or very fast.
Get a bit of up and go and feeling good. The downhill Craner curves to the Old Hairpin are very, VERY fast and swoop down like an eagle going in for a kill on a pidgeon. Then a fast 3rd gear turn and up the hill, steep, fast and flowing double left and to the tight right hander and slide through for a short run uphill to Coppis, a blind, over brow double right hand 3rd gear turn on to the(first) front straight.
2nd full lap done and getting the feel for this.
Good run down and up the hill and great entry on to the straight.
Hard brake for the esses in the middle of the front straight and spin it into the gravel trap.
Try to drive it but bury the front. B O L L O C K S.
Race 1. Cold and wet (about 4-6’C), with light rain falling. Grid is around 32/34 cars.
Good start and pulled a few places back.
Car feels great and pick up a couple of places going down the hill and then up the other side, getting a nice slide (actually more than a little butt clenching) out of some corners and carrying extra speed to make a pass on the next straight.
Am now mixing into the faster end of the front engine brigade and going great. Get up to around 14th.
Spin it (yes, the same esses) at the esses. Bugger, but start it up and get racing again and start re-passing those cars.
Only spin twice more at the esses (ARRGGHH) and over-run it once to handicap myself a bit more but manage to pass a bunch of the same cars (again and again). Finish 14th, so happy to have had the outing.
Find that the rear of the car is covered in gearbox oil and right rear tyre is badly oiled. That would explain a lot! Especially in the wetter areas. Discover the breather tube fitting has broken and oil is pumping from 1st gear directly out to ‘make a it messtony’.
Repair breather, top up gearbox with 1.5 litres of oil and get set for race 2.
Brakes a bit soft so bleed them off and pedal feels a bit better.
Race 2. 2:45 Sunday.
Weather has suddenly come warm, sunny and around 14-15’C and sun on the track is warming it.
Good start picking up a number of places.
Give it a few laps of discretion only making safe passes while watching the lines and monitoring the passing opportunities.
Lap 3 start pushing and find great power from the 995cc and the cool air, but, the brakes feel like I am stepping on an over-ripe kiwifruit. Allow 200-250 yard braking for esses and Redgate (turn 1) and am still picking up places. Up to about 13th on lap 9, then …………………
……..spin at the esses under braking and turn in. Jeez Wayne. Feel like I have been here before.
Now I get a misfire too and pull off after turn 1. Go talk to the marshalls who are all bloody fine blokes with a better sense of humour than me at this specific moment in time. Tony (from Yorkshire I think) on the Craner curves marshalling point arranges for me to get a tow back when the 20 minutes race finishes and we have a chat. Good bloke that Tony.
Strangely enough, there is more of this gear oil on the right rear tyre again but this time, I’m not sure exactly from where is has escaped, but that will be a job for next week. There is enough oil that it has lubricated the plug leads on the distributor cap that two of those have slipped off,
For now, I have the experience of Donington under my belt. I HAVE to race this track again. It is magic.
By the way,……….. must tattoo back of hand with “Put Memory Stick In Camera” next time so that I have something for posterity (or if not posterity, to support a failing memory).
Duh. I thought jet lag had ended a week ago, or, has dopiness just returned from my adolescence.
Sorry no photos today but, try and see the picture I have painted.
An oddly content and surprisingly upbeat and positively minded Ollie, bids you good day and all the best for it that you can make. Onward to Pau.