My team boss keeps telling me that you should always look for the positives – and from this weekend I’m very happy that for every outing, my times were going in the right direction. Sadly we didn’t get a single finish out of any of the three races today.
Qualifying saw me shave another 1/2 second off my lap record and made certain that I wasn’t going to be starting right from the back of our small grid. I’d been warned that Alyn James would be a threat in his innocuous all-black Honda Jazz but he posted a best time only 0.132 better than mine – which I immediately considered a challenge to beat.
The first of the three Trophy races started soon enough after qualifying that there was still some warmth in the tyres and I found I was able to fully lean on them by the second racing lap. A few laps later and I caught Alyn on Hangar Straight and over-took him at Stowe. But it was soon apparent that something was wrong with the car – a grinding noise, more evident on right-handers, was obviously getting worse and I pitted in the hope it was something quickly fixable. Even with this noise going on, with one eye on the diminishing Honda in my mirrors I dropped my lap record by a further 0.3 seconds. With nothing immediately apparent – and with me now firmly last – I went back out again but the noise had evolved into something that was beginning to affect the car’s handling.
On pitting again we decided to retire from the race to allow the mechanics to get the car in the air and diagnose the issue – which turned out to be a severely failed wheel bearing – not something the team carried a spare for. I rang round local suppliers but the only solution near enough and quick enough were the guys I’d bought other parts from recently, Matt Stephens and ex-BRSCC Porsches racer Steve Warburton. We would definitely miss the second race but Matt had a complete rear hub assembly available and was able to bring it to the circuit in time to make the third and final race of the weekend.
Unfortunately there remained a sensor issue that meant I had no ABS system and unknown to me, I had been relying on the ABS in the harshest of braking zones, that being the approach to the Vale chicane. On braking for this turn in the first racing lap the wheels locked and I sailed majestically into the gravel trap, in the process shredding both front tyres – and we had no spares. So a second DNF out of three races.
So, the positives are that each time I went out today, my times were improving – which is extremely gratifying and gives great hope for our next round at Donington on 10th/11th May.