Stunt Driving Course

I was recently invited to enrol on a stunt driving course with 1st Take Action Drivers, a new joint venture between David Hornsey and Stewert Lyddall. I’ve known David for many years – he has extensive race and road car experience and has coached me in the past; Stewert is an establish TV and movie stunt driver. The course is possibly the only one in the UK that offers to teach the skill of driving a car on two wheels.

1st Take’s stunt fleet

The course takes place on the big expanse of tarmac on Thruxton circuit’s infield and consisted of the following sessions:

  • Driving to mark
  • Tracking car driving and following
  • Handbrake turn into a coned area
  • Drifting
  • J-turns
  • Driving on 2 wheels (side ski)

The first two are skills very specific to TV and movie production. The next three involve controlling the car beyond its grip limit. I did pretty well at J-turns but just couldn’t get the timing right for the handbrake turn and with the drifting, kept pushing the car into understeer rather than provoking oversteer – in both cases, possibly because these actions are so opposite of circuit racing!

The 2-wheel car with its outrider in the foreground

The final section – driving on two wheels – was the most challenging and only one of us really managed to get the car to balance. The car is fitted with an outrider to prevent you from being able to roll it completely – probably just as well given we were all completely new to this.

1st Take’s drift car

Three More Podiums – But Robbed of a Win – At Silverstone

For the penultimate round of the BRSCC Porsche Championship, we headed to my local circuit of Silverstone for three 20-minute races and to continue my chase of the overall title I needed more than three third-places. As it turned out, I did a lot better than expected.

As with a previous round, qualifying and two of our races had grids shared with the Alfa Championship but with us starting behind them, this mostly didn’t the 924 class races at all. I qualified third behind Pete Smith and Hugh Peart – pretty much where I expected to be – but this proved to be Hugh’s best time and it was soon apparent that, for some reason, he was off his game.

The first race was on a dry track and although I had my usual poor start, I finished second behind Pete and just 0.17 seconds off his fastest lap. So I was already a point up on where I expected to be and pace was again improving.

Race 2 on the Sunday morning – again sharing the grid with the Alfas – was on a damp but drying track and I quickly used my confidence to take the lead. Towards the end of the race a couple of stranded Alfas led to the deployment of the safety car and just as I exited Club corner onto the start finish straight, Pete overtook me under the just-deployed yellows – a clear violation of the rules. Although I expected him to be disqualified – or at least penalised – I did stay with him finishing just over a second behind after one of the Alfas got in the way. Pete and I was, as expected, called the Clerk’s office and his review of my in-car footage confirmed what he had already admitted to. I left before the ruling was given but to my surprise – and disappointment – the Clerk let him off completely and he kept his win and fastest lap point, meaning I’d lost out of at least one extra point. Despite going back to the Clerk later, he wasn’t willing to change his judgement – so I had to live with it.

By the time we lined up for Race 3, the track was completely dry. Yet again I was left behind at the start and while Pete disappeared into the distance, Hugh and my team mate John Jones battled relentlessly, blocking my options for getting past the both of them to challenge the leader. About half way through, on the exit of Abbey, I was closing on the pair of them to try to take them both on the sharp right at Village when Hugh dived right – probably with the same idea – and contacted my front left, spinning me off the circuit. I recovered to chase the pair just in time to get past John to take a third.

Mixed feelings from the weekend, then, as I left with more points than expected – leaving me third in the championship – but fewer than I really deserved. We have just a single weekend remaining – at Donington – which will consist of one 20-minute sprint and a 40-minute race on the Sunday to include a compulsory pit stop. This final race of the year had been planned to be shared with Moluto team mechanic Clive – who raced 924s a while back – but a sudden re-read of the regulations has left that up in the air. It is still possible for me to win the championship outright, but that would depend on a particularly poor performance from Pete which, frankly, is unlikely. I’ll just have to play it as it comes.

 

Class 2nd Shared with Michelle in Second CALM 4Pot Race

Drift ace Michelle Westby – in only her second ever circuit race – shared the 924 class 2nd place with me in the CALM 4Pot Trophy race at Brands Hatch GP last weekend.

Although I was able to get to the circuit on the Friday, neither of us had an opportunity to do a test session so we both went into qualifying on the Saturday morning without ever having driven the full GP configuration before. I’ve raced at Brands many times – in fact had taken my first 924 win there only weeks before – but the GP more than doubles the length and completely changes the character of the circuit. Unlike the Silverstone round, our 10 Porsches would be sharing the grid with over 20 cars from the 750MC Bernie’s V8 – and a more varied mix of cars you’re not likely to find anywhere!

It was decided that I would qualify first to get heat into both the MRF tyres and the brakes and I set out after a frantic early-morning scrutineering session and briefing of the entire 33-car grid. But the session was dogged by hold-ups – no less than four crashes and two red flags – and I wasn’t able to find the pace I wanted. Michelle then jumped into the car – complete with “booster seat” cushions – and while was concerned she would not be able to get the required three laps completed before the session ended, the results sheet later showed just how well Michelle has taken to circuit racing – she’d posted the quickest and second quickest laps of the both of us.

Moluto team chief mechanic Clive and I had discussed who should start the race and we decided that, given it was to be a rolling start, it would give Michelle a chance to be among competition immediately. Having the drviers this way round would also make the driver change a little easier since we would be removing the extra seat cushions and moving the seat backwards.

All three of the other 924s pitted before us but two (#15 Philip Waters/Dan Gick and #69 Richard Jones/Alaric Gordon) suffered electrical problems and did not return to the circuit, leaving only two cars in class – so unless we suffered a DNF, we were already on for a podium finish.

Fortunately the race was not dogged by the crashes and red flags that we had had in qualifying and I spent my entire session racing the #23 944 of new racer Ben Anderson, another entry from the 4Pot section of the grid. We swapped places several times but ultimately he finished around a second ahead of me.

I took the flag 2nd in class, so we shared a trophy – Michelle’s first – in the after-race presentation. From the timing sheet, Michelle again showed how quick she’s adapted to circuit racing with a fastest lap a mere 0.76 seconds slower than mine.

Here’s the in-car video of all of my stint.

Our original aim was to also compete in the annual Birkett Relay on the Silverstone Historic GP circuit which this year falls on the 26th October but unfortunately all drivers need to have completed at least six races – and Michelle has only finished two. So, for now at least, this is the last of Michelle’s circuit races for 2019. Lets hope she is able to land some sponsorship so she can continue to race next year.

Photos kindly supplied by Darren Skidmore