Silverstone Race Report

Keith Vaughan Williams tells us about his Silverstone weekend :-
Following Friday testing and trying to further tweak the set up for the car “sans aero” for the coming season, Saturday’s qually looked like it was going to be a wet one according to the forecast.  Several others gambled on the weather holding (it had been raining earlier) and chose slicks but I wasn’t convinced.  It was touch and go but I went out on a damp track with the wets – there was just enough water offline I thought not to destroy the tyres.  After all, I could always come back in for a tyre change – albeit it would reduce the on-track tine in the 20 minute qually session.  It turned out to be the right call – sitting in the car in the assembly area the tell-tale spots of rain started to hit the windscreen.  I managed to qualify 2nd in Class A (6th overall) whilst others were spinning off and had to come in for tyre changes. It was rain with hail too!  I aborted my mid-session pit stop to check the tyre pressures were at optimum as team mate Tim Davis was already there changing his slicks for wets.  In fact I blocked him in the pit lane as I came in and was pushed back by a couple of the guys so he could exit.  He didn’t seem like he was going to leave quickly enough for me and with time at a premium I didn’t hang around and went back out immediately and finished the session.  That was another good call as my fastest lap was the penultimate one.  Tyre pressures obviously were there or thereabouts as the post session check subsequently confirmed.
Sunday dawned clear and sunny and the post lunch season opener was definitely going to be a dry one – albeit cloudy as the day went on.   I got a really poor start and bogged down badly.  I hadn’t started in anger since July 2012 at Rockingham and I hadn’t raced since.  I lost 3 places off the line and settled in to the race but the engine didn’t feel right under full load and lacked straight line speed.  The car was also under-steering badly around Luffield, which looked impressive I’m told, with the offside front wheel cocked in the air for most of the bend but that doesn’t make for fast cornering or getting the power down early out of it.  On lap 8; Christian Douglas in his Tuscan #7 drove straight past me on the back straight at full chat, his car had plenty more power than mine . . . worrying as mine was recently rebuilt.  I finished 9th overall and 4th in Class A – disappointing for me given from where I’d started; I ought to have been on the podium!  Some changes were definitely required to the dry set-up for sure.
Checking the car over for race 2, Rob (our race engineer) had found a lot of dampness in the coil pack connections, clearly from the previous days qually.  It couldn’t have been anything else as we were in the pit garages so overnight dew wasn’t going to have been the cause!  After drying everything out and with liberal use of WD40 and Vaseline he fired up the car.  It was only then I noticed dramatic arcing between the block and 2 of the plug leads on the offside engine bank of the AJP.  We pulled the HT leads and found the plug caps had small cracks and were shorting to the block – that explained the poor engine performance under full load in the race then!  Having managed to borrow a couple of spare leads from Tony Saunders and having checked all the others – the engine was fired again and sounded much sweeter and smoother – problem solved!
Race 2 at 5.30 pm was the last of the BRSCC weekend meeting and it had already been raining persistently for some time –  a wet race beckoned!  My start this time was far better and I gained 4 places in the first lap.  Up to 5th overall and 2nd in Class A, I was chasing down Dean Cook in his Tuscan #20.  The weather was getting progressively worse and the rain heavier – torrential it seemed.  The wipers were barely clearing the screen and it was fogging up to an extent as well – in an open car!  Rain on my visor was becoming a problem too.  Nevertheless the car felt great, stable on the straight and in the corners with plenty of grip and with good power now too.  I was reeling Dean in each lap and lapping the back markers too.  Dean and I had some good close racing for several laps, being right up his chuff in what seemed like zero visibility was keeping the adrenaline pumping.  Finally on Lap 9, having been alongside him a few times, I got a good exit out of Becketts and with the power down earlier I passed him on the back straight and held a defensive line into the complex and around Luffield.  I managed to pull away through Woodcote where Dean seemed to fall behind each lap thereafter; he had no grip there he told me afterwards.  I didn’t ease off the pace as to be honest I wasn’t sure who was where – visibility was dire and I could barely see anything beyond a few yards in front of the car in some places and nothing behind at all except for headlights.  Rain lights really came into their own for this race!  My fastest lap was the penultimate one – with more confidence and less fuel I was getting quicker although occasionally I did have a few “moments” with the car starting to slide around some of the corners.
After taking the checkered flag, Dean drove alongside and gave me a thumbs up a great tussle between us.  There was much applause passing our garage in the pits and into the holding area.  I’d won Class A!  My maiden win in the top Tuscan class and a 4th overall behind 3 of the higher powered A+ GT cars – all in the rain too!  A great result and big thanks go to Rob & Dave Singleton at Boss Racing, Liam Churchill for his advice and not forgetting Tracey, Tim (and Tony too for the loan of the HT leads!) as well as the support from all those who made the journey to watch and sent good wishes.
KVW #88


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