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Spa Franchorchamps GP 2nd September 2003 with BookaTrack

After the trip to track heaven last year, I just had to go back and live the dream again! This time it was to be a two day event, with me working the pitlane on the first day and driving on the 2nd. For the trip down we teamed up with Alan Head to form a two car convoy from Dover to Spa. As usual the roads from Calais to Spa were relatively deserted and we made the trip in an easy four hours from Calais. 

It was nice to be back in the same hotel as last year and like before, we elected to pop down to the circuit to pay our respects to Eau Rouge. 

Monday morning and an early start and what turned out to be a very busy day for me as there was 72 odd cars booked on the day and with an open pit-lane format it was pretty hectic. Later on in the day when things calmed down a bit, I got a chance to have a little run out on the then wet track. My car felt like it was driving on ice, simply zero grip anywhere and just trying to keep the thing on the track was proving a challenge! Still the same 'rush' came flooding back on the first time I faced Eau Rouge. 

At some point in the day I let Alan take my car for a 'spin'. After watching him circulate for a while from the pit-lane, the next thing I know, the red lights come on and no sign of my car! As my anxiety rose, all I could think of was the worst. After a very worrying wait, my car finally entered the pit-lane towed by the recovery vehicle. As I ran to my stricken car I was very relieved to see that it was just an interooler pipe that had 'popped' off. Five minutes later with a tightened jubilee clip the car was fixed! 


DJ in the pitlane after Alan had popped a boost pipe off coming out of Eau Rouge


Weather was in typical Spa fashion, 'variable'. This was taken from where I spent the whole of Monday on the pit-lane exit, just as the sun came out following a shower.

Tuesday morning dawned and with it, my tracktime! First job was to bag a pit garage. We grabbed the one next to the BaT crew which turned out to be the Mild Seven Renault teams. Next to the garage on the right is the one I had last year with Yummy, the Lucky Strike BAR Honda garage!

The morning was very foggy and I elected to let Mark take the car out for some sighting laps as he only drove my car twice last time we were at Spa. Just when I was starting to feel the adrenaline flow as I was itching to get out there, I had the next unwelcome, shock, Mark was parked in my car in the middle of La Source! The same anxiety washed over me as though I could see that my car was in one-piece it wasn't moving! I directed Mark to come in on the pit-lane exit to save him doing another lap. The problem this time was that a gear linkage clip had popped out meaning that he could only get first gear! 

Fortunately a quick word with Scruffy in the BaT pit garage produced a large washer which along with a hacksaw allowed us to make in true bodge it and leg it style a replacement gear linkage clip. This worked absolutely fine and just to be safe we swopped an original spring clip from the gear stick end of the linkage and put that in the gearbox end of the linkage. It worked a treat and is still on the car!

Next, was my tracktime, finally! 


Courtesy of Picman I think this is going into Rivage 1 though I can't be entirely sure.

Silly me, I had put the tyres at 40psi at the rear and this turned out to be 47psi hot. Result? Excessive oversteer, it was very, very tricky and I should have paid heed to Alan's comments the day before about it being a 'Pointy, oversteering monster!' A serious reduction in tyre temps to around 34psi hot all round really helped improve grip, though having said that it was still very 'goontastic' with lots of power oversteer only a prod away on the throttle. Mores the pity that I didn't catch any of the action on film or camera, still Picman took some lovely shots.


Shot of the day! Picman captured this perfectly as the car was in something of a four-wheel drift under power out of Rivage 1, though the rear can be seen to be slightly oversteering as there is about a quarter of turn of opposite lock on. Note how near the armco is!

Once I'd done a few laps I took Paul Port out for a ride, things were going okay until I remembered something Scruffy had mentioned earlier about turning into Pouhon at 125mph. Pouhon is a double left which is downhill and off camber. Foolishly I elected to have a go and turned in at a pretty idiotic 110. The first part of the corner was okay, but by the time I got halfway round I quickly realised that there was no way the car was going to turn-in enough, which left me with one choice; lift-off, within about a tenth of a second there I am going very, very sideways, I had already hit the lock stop on the steering! As there was armco to the inside and gravel followed by armco on the outside, all I could do was literally stand on the brakes. The car is now at right angles to the track facing the inside with tyre smoke everywhere. The slide went on for what seemed like ages, but eventually as the speed was scrubbed off I roughly followed the contour of the corner and the front swung round leaving me pointing in the right direction. Phew! Serious heart-stopping moment that! I went straight back to the pits, particularly as the steering was vibrating horribly, added to which there was a distinct 'thudding' sound that worred me slightly. Here's what I found:


Difficult to see I know, but just directly here (above) is a rather large flat spot. The tread had just been scrubbed off completely.

For the rest of the day I had to drive round with front tyres like 50p's! Obviously it was horrible round Pouhon for the rest of the day as I just had no front end grip to really push it. 

Mark had another go though and I really pushed him to hang on through Eau Rouge. It was a case of getting him to try the 'Lauren' line, which briefly means running right over the left kerb on the entry and then whilst keeping it planted, then just hanging on and following the curve of Eau Rouge, sort of hanging close to the inside kerb as the camber is very helpful here, then just as you think the car is going to spin out, to hold it tighter still and just as you come to the top, the rear of the car steps out which just requires a quick dab of opposite lock to see you out the top nice and straight and close to the left kerb.


Mark really 'giving it some' in Eau Rouge. He has a slight dab of copposite lock which will bring him nicely to the kerb on the exit (nearest to bottom of pic).


Me driving this time, here I am just exiting Eau Rouge just brushing the white line on the exit with the car straightened up.


Nice shot of the car with the suspension loaded up under turn-in.


Similar pic this time from the rear on initial turn-in.


Just to finish the day off I thought i'd better get a picture of my car outside the Panasonic Toyota garage, very fitting I thought.

The layout of Spa Franchorchamps GP from: http://www.spa-francorchamps.be/en/index2.html

Roll on next year! Thanx to J5, Sarah and the crew at BookaTrack and of course Picman

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