Tuesday 24th August 2010


CATERHAM ACADEMY ROUND SIX: BRANDS HATCH

Spins, sin bins and unexpected wins (well, podiums) as the championship chase hots up


To finish first, first you have to finish. It's a dreadful old cliche, but it's also something that will be said to you if you go motor racing. Particularly if you go motor racing in somebody else's car. But the thing about cliches is that they tend to contain more than a nugget of truth - and this particular one seems to hold especially true at Brands Hatch.

Compared with the wide open spaces of our previous race at Snetterton, the Brands Hatch Indy circuit is a tight, unforgiving ribbon of rising and falling, constantly curving track, with deep gravel (which will get you stuck) or looming walls (which will get you crashed) eager to punish any mistakes. It is not a place where you push your luck.


But the thing about racing - especially in a series as closely competitive as the PistonHeads.com Caterham Academy - is that sometimes you have to push your luck a little. Sure enough, on the testing days prior to the event three cars managed to cause themselves fairly major damage, with one out of the weekend altogether.

Come the qualifying session late on Saturday afternoon, an already congested track was made all the trickier by several stopped cars. The ensuing yellow flags meant confusion and disruption and it was clear that whoever managed the traffic best - and got lucky with the flags - would be the ones to post the quick times.

Tough race for championship hopeful Kurt Brady
Tough race for championship hopeful Kurt Brady
In the end, championship hotshoes Kurt Brady and Martin Pass took the front row, but the equally rapid Tim Abbott only managed ninth on the grid, while Snetterton victor Chris Bingham was down in 13th. I was pretty ecstatic with fourth on the grid (although I was actually fifth fastest - the third quickest chap - James Needham - was deemed to have passed under waved yellows and so was bumped to the back. He would claw his way back up to twelfth before ending his race in the gravel at Paddock Hill bend).

On race day, the predicted heavy rain held off and, under a gloomy but dry sky, I finally made a decent getaway from the line as the red lights went out. Unfortunately, as I tried to duck inside Martin Pass ahead of me he fluffed the change to second gear, forcing me to back off and become immediately swamped by cars left and right. I managed to squeeze back past a couple of cars at the Druids hairpin, but I was seventh at the end of the first lap.


I managed to make seventh place into sixth all by myself, before other parties intervened to make my progress that much easier. Up front Martin and Kurt took each other into the gravel, pushing them both down the order and giving the ever-consistent Ross Macindoe a lead that he would never lose, while a lucky lunge at an out of sorts Tim Abbott got me up into fourth.

I managed to stay there until the safety car came out - allowing marshals to retrieve the beached car of Mr Needham - although a nervous restart made me over-defensive into Druids, resulting in a bit of a love-tap from Tim, who was (very) close behind me. I managed to hold him and a recovering Kurt and Martin off and was wondering whether I could chase a podium when the final roll of Lady Luck's die landed.

Ross Macindoe leads a post-safety car pack
Ross Macindoe leads a post-safety car pack
Second placed Andy West, under pressure from David Menzies in third, spun off at Surtees, moving David up to second and me into third. I simply could not believe my good fortune.

It stayed that way until the end of the race, giving Ross, David and me - three extremely chuffed novice racers - our first taste of the podium. It's quite good fun, this racing lark...

Pics: Rachel Horgan

Too much of this...
Too much of this...
...ends you in this
...ends you in this
   

 

 

Group 1 - the 'other' race:

Mike Hart Leads from Wesley Fox
Mike Hart Leads from Wesley Fox
In Group 1 - the other half of the Academy grid that runs as a parallel championship - Mike Hart looked to have clinched a win by a nosecone following a race-long battle with Wesley Fox.

Sadly, a late-braking lunge at Paddock that caused Mike to nerf Merlin Edwards into retirement, and a muscular move on Wesley towards the end of the race, both drew the attention of the race stewards. After the race, they decided that Mike had been 'driving in a manner incompatible with general safety', and would therefore be excluded from the result.

Although Mike was undoubtedly pushing his luck, the penalty seemed like a harsh call, all but wiping out Mike's championship hopes and leaving Wesley in a commanding lead in Group 2's championship standings.

With the race officials doling out a full race exclusion, Mike can't use Brands as his dropped score - a punishment that doesn't seem to quite fit the crime. you can have a look at the contorversy by following the links to Mike's in-car camera footage below.

Group 1 Academy race part 1
Group 1 Academy race part 2

   
   
   
   
   
   


Author: Riggers
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