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