Now, the last thing I was expecting to see in the rear view mirror was the Gulf Porsche (AKA 917K). I nearly lost my breakfast (from the wrong end) when I saw what we and the old Mk1 MR2 were up against in the morning practice session. It turns out that it was a replica but it all means the same thing on track. At least our 'banger' now looks the part with some stickers on.
Lets rewind to two days earlier. We went to test the car at Snetterton circuit as we would be racing there. The weather was atrocious. The first session was so bad that it was red flagged, but the second session was drivable so least so we've got some wet weather driving in, but not much good practice for the glorious sunshine that would greet the us for the rest of the weekend (a rare treat in the UK).
The Saturday was spent sorting the car and there was a lot to do. The headlights needed changing, which is not the simplest job the first time round on a car with pop-up headlights. Furthermore, the age of the car is such that rust is pretty much a part of life, even when doing simple things. Hopefully we can improve that situation over the season. Most of the day was spent doing trivial things: roll-bar padding, stickers, getting gas, fixing the small trailer I got for carrying all the bits we need...
Race day. Up at 4.30am, load the gear and drive for 2 hours. Park the car in a garage, change to the race rubber, get the car scrutineered, attend a drivers briefing, get our helmet / race gear checked and then sit down for some serious trailer envy. It seems most have a nice awning or at least the comfort that if the car needs scraping off the tarmac they can still get the thing home on the back of something. We are currently driving the car to the track and back, so we have extra incentive not to prang it.
Snettertons garages aren't as big as I'd thought they'd be, especially once you have 2 cars crammed into them.
In the garage next to us were a pair of cars from the SR> class and they would be sharing the grid with us. They looked like oversized, really old and run down kit cars on first glance. But a second good look showed then to be equipped with factory fresh alloys, AP racing brakes and Chevy V8s. It turns out that the green 'monstrosity' is an Allard J2, a car that finished 3rd overall in Le Mans in 1950.
In practice / qualifying, each driver must complete 3 laps of the track (rather, they must cross the timing beam 3 times) if they've never driven that particular configuration of circuit that year. Rory went out first to get his practice stint in and it was then that I saw all the other cars that we would be racing against. As mentioned earlier the SR> race cars would be sharing a grid with us. So rolling out of the pits: MX5, Integra Type R, mk2 and mk3 MR2s, MGF, RX8 (nothing unusual there) Lotus Europa, Jaguar XK, Porsche 917K, Ford GT40...WTF?!
This symbol means that we're n00bs, but there were plenty of us. Not always reassuring as novices can be unpredictable, but everyone drove pretty well. We managed to qualify in the top half of our class which is a great result for us.
I was going out in the first stint which meant that I had to take to the start grid. There would be no green flag lap so after being held in the assembly area we were led straight out to the grid to start the race. The guy in-front of me didn't take to his grid slot so the marshal directed me to the wrong position. It meant I then had to reverse back down the grid – not the easiest thing to do strapped into a race car. I was also really caught out by the race procedure as I could see the 30, 20, 10 second boards in the distance but they only seemed to hold each one up for a few seconds.
Suddenly the lights were on and I raised the revs. The lights went out and I just didn't know what happened. I don't know if I got a load of wheel spin or just a lot of clutch slip, but the start was terrible. I think I nearly dropped back to last place. I could see the orange MGF lock up further ahead going into the first corner, and fearing a crash in front of me (and also remembering that we have to drive the car home!) I completely bottled it. Now I think I actually was in last place.
Everybody's tires were cold at the start so going into the next corner (a hard braking zone into a hairpin / chicane) all the cars were fairly cautious. I managed to pinch a few places back. The next few laps were a bit of a blur but I pinched a couple more places. About 5 laps in the leaders came past to lap us.
To my surprise the green monstrosity thundered past at (what I heard later was) 180mph, a full 80mph difference to us. Then one after another the class A and the SR> cars, including the 'Gulf Porsche,' came flying by. I wouldn't describe watching it bear down on me in the rear view mirror as fun, but you certainly sit up and take notice of it! It was great that we got to race alongside such fantastic machinery.
After that I got stuck behind one of the class B MR2s. I could absolutely monster him into the corners, but was left for dead on the straights. I even managed to overtake him a few times (and get nobbled on the straight again) before it was my turn to hand over the car.
Rory did a great job and bought the car home not last and in one piece. But not before the Porsche came crabbing into the pits only to park itself at the pit entrance. At least they could tow it home. I would never have predicted it at the start of the day, but the green monstrosity won the race.
Big shout out to Maz who helped us all day and at short notice. Mega day, mega fun.
And by the magic of the internet you see the view of from Rogue motorsport, find us if you can!: