We’ve reached the end of the 2019 race season and I’ve just completed a 500 minute race at Brands Hatch in the EnduroKa. A race which featured 35 cars on the grid and 8 and a half hours of madness in aging ford superminis!
Let’s go back to the beginning of the season and it all started in April with the C1 race club 24 hour at Silverstone. I’d been wanting to complete a 24h race for years and after getting involved in C1 racing in 2018, I knew it was the way to go! We visited Spa in October 2018 to see what the 24h would be like and it didn’t disappoint, the sheer number of cars, crazy lights and intense racing looked fantastic, so we booked into the 24h at Silverstone for early 2019.
The race weekend began with a night qualifying which didn’t exactly go to plan. First out, I put us mid-pack in qualifying but on 4th driver’s stint (no names mentioned!) the car hit the wall and sustained heavy damage to the front end.
The car was rebuilt overnight but we had to settle for the alternative gearbox as our original was damaged. This gearbox had miserable ratios so 3rd gear was more like 4th gear. I started the race and it was immediately apparent that the car wasn’t the same as when I’d last driven it. With the gear ratios sapping any power the car had, we quickly lost places and I felt like giving up but stayed out for a few hours and we gained decent ground. As I came in we were positive but from there it all went downhill. The car came into the pits with engine failure so as the race went on, the car was stripped down for a replacement engine and while the boys fixed the car I went to sleep to await my next stint.
At 3am I returned to the garage to find out the car had been back in action but had hit the wall in the early hours of the night and had only just gone back out for the next driver’s stint. I had a long and cold couple of hours to wait until it was my turn and I paced around the garage
Eventually I got back out onto a wet and dark Silverstone GP circuit. Being half asleep I immediately got a penalty for joining the circuit under a red light but I got into the stride of it and finally the daylight started to emerge along with a drying line. It was by far the best part of the race for me, the little C1 was sliding around but there was enough grip to make up time while others were being cautious with the half dry lines.
I was called in around 7:30am as it was the end of my stint and Andy went back out. Soon later he collided with another car and was recovered but continued the race. As the morning went on, it seemed like our goal was just to finish the long race, but it wasn’t to go our way again. The car came back to the pits with a rattily engine and that was it! Race over.
Back at Silverstone while performing media duties for MINI CHALLENGE, I was asked if I’d like to drive in the EnduroKa for a 12 hour race at Snetterton and I couldn’t turn it down!
I’d previously raced the C1 at Snetterton, so it was a good comparison to test out the Ka at the same venue. Also, on my team where Alex Kersten and Matt Robinson from Car Throttle who were writing about the new series along with Andy Grear-Hardy who hadn’t raced before! Alex and Matt had both driven the Ka in an earlier race, but neither were experienced so it was on my shoulders to help the team do well. Qualifying didn’t go to plan again as the coil pack failed and the car broke down on track. This put us at the back of the grid for the race start. Again, it was on my shoulders to start the race but this time the field was much smaller, with only about a quarter of the grid compared to the C1 24h I wasn’t too concerned with the grid position. I got a great start and made up a lot of places. We had minimal issues in the race and finished the race!. The 12h race was great fun and the little Ka kept going the whole way! What a great car and a fun team to be amongst.
The next race was at Cadwell Park and seeing as that’s a great circuit I signed up for that too although that race weekend wouldn’t go to plan either! We qualified mid pack and the car felt good. I started the race once again and got a penalty which put me on the back foot. In my haste to make up ground I had a coming together with another Ka and that got me another penalty! By that point I’d had enough and began losing focus. I lost the rear at Charlies and went across the grass, track, grass and into the barrier! Remarkably the car was fine, and we carried on! The race continued with the other drivers all taking turns and it was going find until about 30 minutes to go the car was smelling hot! It came into the pits with steam rushing out and that was again end of the race for us!
We reach November and the final race of the year was at my local circuit, Brands Hatch. I’d not actually raced on the circuit for a few years but had been around it earlier in the year on a media day. This time I was accompanied by Andy Godfrey and Lawrence Davey so we were confident with our driver line up. Qualifying went well and we started 15th. I again started the race and after a couple of hours we were 7th. Andy was next in the car and it wasn’t long before he had troubles. The power steering hose split, sending him spinning down Paddock Hill. The car was repaired and he went back out, only to have a huge collision on the Brabham Straight. The offside corner was a mess and it look a long time for the team to get it back together putting us almost last! I took the car back out and the car felt very different to my first stint, but I was enjoying pushing as much as I could. Eventually I was called in and Lawrence took the wheel to complete the final couple of hours in the dark.
We finished the race 32nd out of 34 so it certainly wasn’t the best result we could have had but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Overall the 2019 season has been a lot of fun. 15 weekends at race circuits and 4 of them in a car.
2020 is looking even busier with 17 weekends confirmed for media duties but I think it’s time to find some sprint races to go and do and with so many different race series available, there’s bound to be an opportunity to get back out and this time get back to winning!