Hasn’t 2019 flown by? It seems like only yesterday that our Ford, having spent its life as a garaged runabout, was first stripped and readied for an all-new series called EnduroKa. Fast forward six months and the little car has two podiums from four in MSVR's (not officially a series) series, and the same number of track days and an afternoon of hill climbing under its belt. PH’s battle-scarred racer has proved its worth and then some throughout the summer – while demonstrating that you really can go endurance racing with a 1.3 Zetec racer built on the driveway.
Last weekend it was a quartet of 15-minute sprints on Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit - arguably the toughest (or roughest, at any rate) track action this year. With no more than 15 laps - Kas can’t break the one-minute barrier on the Indy - from start to finish and no pitstops to mix things up, the racing was to be of the non-stop flat-out kind. Team PH was nervous not just of the obvious potential for being shunted off the track in each race, but also for the health of our pride and joy.
We were optimistic, too. RacingPete got us off to a cracking start, ensuring the PH Ka lined up in fourth for race one before surviving the first few lunges of a 24-car field that’s never before had so few laps ahead of it. Ben and I – the other two drivers on hand this weekend – were even relieved when Pete dropped back a couple of places, because the PH car had escaped incident. That unfortunately wasn’t true for everyone in the field, as one unlucky Ka caught the gravel trap of you know where at the wrong angle and ended up on its roof. With the driver ok and car 54 surprisingly unbent (it re-joined in race two – well done team Powerbell Services!), the race was restarted, and our man made made brilliant progress, fighting his way back up to fourth – and saving a massive slide at Paddock Hill Bend along the way.
Next up, Ben, who having never attempted a race start before was openly terrified at the prospect of lining up on the second row. He did alright though, and stayed with the front pack, giving as much as he got against the likes of IP Racing and CHR Motorsport. Ben, who along with Olly (holidaying this time round) had done much of the spannering to build the Ka in the spring, did a fine job of avoiding more panel damage. He was robbed of two places going into Druids - but remained unflustered enough to sneak back into fifth when the cars ahead tussled.
Pete returned for race three and it was no surprise to see him mixing it with the front pack from the get-go, with only the leaders – winner of races one and two, Frugal Racing’s Callum McDougall, and Octane Junkies’ Martyn Smith – making a break from the pack. The following gaggle of Kas were so closely matched in pace that Pete was forced back three places, before he fought back in characteristic fashion and nabbed PH’s first podium of the day - as well as providing yours truly with a handy position on the grid.
The mission was simple: challenge for second. Callum’s pace was so strong (he was Frugal’s lone racer for the day) that just keeping with his car’s tail would be an achievement. At first the plan worked, leaving second-placed Adam Smith of Octane Junkies no room to cut to the inside of Paddock Hill Bend, and allowing me to follow Callum through. The rest of my opening lap was spent defending, so the pace-setter scampered off, maintaining his untouchable form. The gap grew further when Club Racing UK’s Nick Holmes had a late lunge into the final bend, hitting our Ka’s side and momentarily sending me back to fourth, but I eventually settled behind SuperKA Racing’s Jake Fraser Burns.
Working together, we broke free from the pack and had our own race for second until the race’s closing stages, when Paul Robson of CHR became the lone Ka in the mirrors. My focus quickly turned from attack to defend. Paul, now clearly several tenths a lap faster, made a challenge for second around the outside of Surtees but, because my right mirror was part-folded in from the earlier contact, I was unaware of him attempting the run alongside me. He clipped the right rear quarter of our Ka as I took my normal line, sending him onto the grass but thankfully back on track without losing a place. Sorry, Paul! I can’t lie, it added a slight bitter taste to the third place (and alcohol-free?!) champagne on the podium.
Still, that our slightly more battle-scarred Ka survived the day’s action was enough reason to celebrate – the four strong finishes and two trophies felt like brilliant bonuses. With no Olly to bring the Sevens & Classics trailer we’d been borrowing all year, Ben drove the Ka home under its own steam, wearing its new dents, scratches and scuffs with pride. Fixing much of those is now the priority before we’re back at Brands for the ‘Indy 500’ – which, as the name suggests, is of the more familiar endurance format. We can’t wait.
We'll just leave this link here in case you fancy joining the grid...
Pic credit: RacingJohn