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Great 924 Race at Donington

October 1st, 2017
Heading a cluster through Redgate. Photo © Jon Elsey.

I signed up to the special 924s-only race celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Porsche Racing Drivers’ Association (PDA) almost on the day Philip Waters suggested it and on Saturday was one of 18 drivers assembling at a slightly drizzly Donington. After leaving Rockingham very depressed and considering leaving racing with the PDA completely, and now being at probably my favourite circuit, I was determined to make a better show.

Having skipped the optional warm-up session earlier in the morning, a dry line was starting to appear as all 18 of us headed out for qualifying. Clive, chief mechanic for Moluto Motorsport, had fitted new front brake pads, so I was careful to bed them in properly. Some of the guest drivers hadn’t even sat in a race car for a number of years, so I reckoned I should be further from the back than I usually end up and I posted a best lap of 1:37.98 putting me in P15, just a quarter second slower than my new PDA rival (and 924 Owners’ Club chair) Andy Pritchard, who is showing improvement race-by-race this year.

The rain had cleared and the first of two races was going to be on a completely dry track, meaning I had no excuse not to push my car to its limits. AJK TV had very kindly donated their time to record footage of the event and I was one of the cars chosen to carry an in-car camera.

A poor start was one of the reasons for my poor results from Rockingham and I made a far better start this time, by Craners making up a couple of places to closely chase Andy and Jason Wood (in Gavin Johnson’s car) for a few laps, with Rick Matthews stuck to my tail. Team mate Philip Waters went wide into the gravel at the exit of Coppice and wasn’t able to rejoin.

I out-braked Jason into Redgate and being careful to avoid contact, grabbed another place, leaving me to chase down Andy and long-time PDA member and Toyo tyre man Tony Mekwinski. Rick overtook me at the Roberts chicane and later he got past Andy at exactly the same spot. This slowed Andy enough to put me right on his tail for the run down to Redgate and he over-cooked it on the turn-in, spinning off harmlessly to the right.

This left me to try to chase down Rick and in the distance Tony, and my lap times were getting quicker and quicker. With no ABS, a good threshold braking technique becomes even more vital and I was closing up to Rick through several corners, where he was slightly quicker on the exit.

Closer to the front, past champions Steve Potts and Alastair Kirkham had collided on the exit to Redgate and with body panels flapping in the wind, Alastair was losing ground. Rick and I caught up with him at McLeans and although his engine was fine, his front-right suspension certainly wasn’t and he was dropping back. I think he had held up Tony to a degree as his car was now only a few car lengths in front of Rick as the last lap board came out.

Determined to catch and pass them spurred me on further still and my final lap was my quickest. Ascending the hill through Schwantz Curves, ahead of us a big puff of smoke signalled the demise of Steve Potts, whose engine was later shown to have gained an inspection port and lost a con rod. Although I’d closed with Rick and Tony, the drop of the flag ended any chance of me catching and overtaking them and I finished in 10th. My quickening pace left me with a better fastest lap time than Rick, Tony, and even past-champion Linda Warren who was piloting her red #42 car that was coming into view in front of Tony on the last lap.

Race 2 didn’t last very long for me because it was obvious I had a brake problem even just driving from the assembly area to the grid. During the green flag lap, for most corners I had no brakes at all and I made the quick decision to come into the pits rather than take my place on Row 5 of the grid. With the bonnet removed, Clive and I could see brake fluid on a cross-member, which explained the pedal going to the floor! Game over before the lights even went out, but this was my first and only 924 race missed due to car problems this entire season.

Even with this disappointment, I came home feeling relieved that I’d got my racing mojo back. I’ve only got one scheduled race left this season – the Birkett relay at Silverstone at the end of October – but maybe I need to re-think my plans for next season. Perhaps a return to 924s in the PDA might be on the cards…

I have to take this opportunity to thank the many people who made this event possible. Firstly Philip Waters for pretty much the whole idea and for doing a great job of recruiting so many drivers; the drivers themselves (some of whom – like Karl Rossin – had worked so hard to get their cars ready in time); Andy Holley for clerking; John Broadley for coordinating; 750MC for hosting us; AJK TV for recording the video footage and interviews; and as always the gang of officials and marshals who look after us time and time again.