THE race series for you racing Midget or Sprite

Race Report for Croft 2000


Hello & welcome FISC fans.

As usual click on a picture to expand it. The pictures of the crashed car was taken by Gary King a link to his sprite site is on the Links page. The others where taken either by my brother, Simon or my nephew Ben.

Croft is the track furthest away for me in the FISC race calendar. I drove nearly 3,000 Km there & back (about 1,800 miles). I knew it was a long way, since I have driven there before & enlisted the help of my brother, who flew to Germany got in my van & then we drove back to the UK. He was on German ground for about 10 mins - Thanks matey, much appreciated. Having said it was a long way, it is well worth the trip. I like the circuit, I love the event, there are some great cars running at the same weekend with us & I enjoy the chance to spend a few days in the UK with my family.

I arrived at the track late on Friday afternoon having decided not to take part in the untimed training available to the FISC cars. I was in the minority though, most drivers took part & got to know the circuit a bit. The weather was dry & warm. The fastest lap times where around 1:45 ( Unofficial stopwatch timings)

Steve Cooper chases Andie Baillie
Steve Cooper chases Andie Baillie

About this time I began to think it was a mistake not practicing, but I had decided to save my car for the real races. Also available to every FISC driver was the chance to drive in a 2nd Non-FISC race over the weekend. The UK based drivers could drive in the CockShoot Lenham Challenge cup & the rest of us Mainland Europeans in the "Sportscars & Saloon Challenge under 3 litre" challenge. That was to be my practice. A few cars had problems with noise levels, since the Friday was an unofficial practice day different noise levels apply & some cars got black flagged. This sent various teams & mechanics into town & around the paddock looking for extra silencers. Various "Heath Robinson" suggestions were made including filling the exhaust with brillo pads/wire wool or even using a drilled potatoe. I prefer my chips cooked in fat not in a black exhaust system. Fortunatley the allowed noise level is different over the race weekend itself & no black flags where shown, but this is a point worth bearing in mind for other practice days.

Dave O'Neill & Mark Hope fight it out
Dave O'Neill & Mark Hope fight it out

Whilst pondering about practicing & If my car was too loud or not I felt a few drops of water. "Typical bloody English weather" I thought , but no the skies were still blue & cloudless. I then got drenched by 4 high powered water pistols. Mad Dog racing ( Dave Shannon, James Bilsland & Malcolm Hoult) & Mark Hope having read my Nordschleife race report had come armed. Unfortunately the guy I had challenged wasn't there & I hadn't brought my pistol. I took it like a man though & by the time they were finished I could wring water out of all of my clothes. Be warned I will come armed to Dijon (The next race) though, and revenge is sweet. Anyone wishing to join in is welcome but be prepared to get wet !

I woke on Saturday morning to find a cloudy sky but dry track. Great ! Not too hot but dry. The car sailed through scrutineering & the race weekend was definately underway. First was practice for the "Sportscars & Saloon Challenge under 3 litre", where we were racing against things like Westfields & Sierra Cosworths. Pieter Bakker was flying & qualified in 1:46, I qualified as 2nd FISC car. I, Stephané Devoucoux & Norman Sailer all qualified with a 1:50 lap time.

Steve Waddington sandwiched between an expensive Astom Martin & a TR6
Steve Waddington sandwiched between an expensive Astom Martin & a TR6

There was about a 30 minute break to refuel & check the car over then we were out for the FISC practice. Just before the practice it threw it down, so the track was soaking. We had a couple of guest drivers with us & I saw a couple taking chances & going out on Slicks. I am not involved in the running of the race series so am not quite sure how they could do this. I have no problem running against guys on slicks. You can usually see from the tyre size that they have more grip than us & almost everyone out there knows how to use their mirrors so it's not a problem running against quicker cars. About halfway through the practice there was a definate dry line appearing & lap times started to pick up a bit. I wasn't passed by anyone but I also didn't pass any of the "Quick" guys. At the end of the session parts of the track were dry & other parts still slightly damp.

I was knocked sideways when the times were published. I had pole position by over 1 second !! Ahead (obviously) of Rupert & Dave. Usually I reckon on a place in the top 5 as good & a place in the top 10 as normal. This was my first Pole - ever. Pieter Bakker had had a flywheel problem & had only completed 3 qualifying laps. His best time some 38 seconds slower than his previous qualifying time. Antonio had lost the car & firmly parked it in the gravel, His best time was only good enough for 13th. The slick boys where also way back in 10th place & further behind. But having said that, the cars that qualified in 2nd thru 11th place where covered by only 3 seconds. 10 cars in 3 seconds, that is close ! So there I was at the front with a lot of very quick cars behind me. Unfortunatley pole position doesn't make for a good race report, but this was promising to be a great weekend.

3 Spridgets fighting for 1 space !
3 Spridgets fighting for 1 space !

After lunch on the Saturday I had the "Sportscars & Saloon Challenge under 3 litre" race, which was run under dry / warm conditions. I started in 21st place & finished in 18th with a best lap of 1:47. Pieter had a best lap of 1:45. I "only" spun a couple of times, much to the entertainment of the crowd.

Saturday night was the usual happy Spridget Café evening with another excellent meal prepared by our catering crewe & helped by Wolfgang Zoller. Many thanks much appreciated.

The Sunday morning was glorious, blue skies, hardly any cloud & warm. We were due to be the second race of the day starting at about 13:00. There was an aerobatic display involving a couple of genuine WWII planes. A Spitfire & a Hurricane, what a great display these machines gave, buzzing the race track ( which used to be a wartime airfield 60 years ago). I almost missed the race by watching these guys. So my last few minutes where spent rushing around like an idiot. I was already nervous & this didn't help.

We were lead out onto the track behind the pace car, did a shortened lap & lined up on the grid. We then had a rolling lap behind the pace car. Around the back of the circuit, it had started slightly to rain. I had removed the wipers from my car ( for a minimal aerodynamic improvement) & was running on my "dry" tyres. They have about 1mm tread on them against 4mm for my "wets". I was beginning to feel this was a mistake. I had just watched the skies for 30 mins & hadn't noticed the dark clouds rolling in. This mistake is usually made by the McLaren/Mercedes Formula 1 team, am I becoming more profesional in my approach to motor racing ? The pace car pealed off into the pit lane & I took the pace up to 4,000 RPM in 2nd gear to get my car "on the Cam". The lights went green & I stuck to my pace until the start line ( No overtaking before the start line) & then floored the throttle. First into the first bend, great !!! That wasn't as bad as I was expecting. This feeling lasted for about 1 microsecond, as I suddenly realized I had no control whatsoever over my car. I slid from the inside of the bend across the track & into the gravel. I kept the power on & drove through the gravel, the car wanted to hit the tyres used to mark the chicane, but I managed to control the slide (Ha Ha) & missed them. I slid back onto the track in about 8th place. No damage done & just about in my rightful place. Was this a blessing in disguise, maybe I could now enjoy the race more.

Dave Shannon & Ian Johnson in practice
Dave Shannon & Ian Johnson in practice

Behind me 2 of the "slick" boys had lost it & amongst their spinning Ian Johnson couldn't avoid a collision. This ended Ian's race with a wholed radiator, & rearranged the back end of Stephen Draycott's car.

Round the back of the track it was definatley wet & James Bilsland had a real "tank slapper" in front of me. ( I have it on video James & will attempt to get it onto the website one day. ) Avoiding action was quickly called for ( this is my excuse and I'm sticking to it !) so I threw the car into a full 360 spin off the track. I rejoined in about 11th place (guessing here) which meant, I had lost some 10 places in 1 lap !! I quickly passed a couple of cars & tried to settle down to my race. I was pushing Jean-Michel Guermonprez pretty hard when he locked up all 4 wheels going in to a bend. Again another great video shot since all I could do was drive into a cloud of blue tyre smoke & hope he wasn't there. Within 3 laps I had almost caught James again. Directly ahead of me I could see Ian Hulett & ahead of Ian ( some way I must say though) were James & Pieter Bakker. It was raining quite heavily now & I was having a bit of difficulty seeing without wipers. As I approached the wettest part of the track I could see 2 cars parked in the crash barriers. Pieter Bakker had lost control & hit the barrier quite hard & then James had had exactly the same accident and slid backwards, within a second or two, into Pieters parked car. Eye witnesses say there was nothing else James could do. Ian Hulett had also lost control & was sliding down the slip road, I then also lost control & followed Ian. I rejoined the track without loss of any positions & Ian rejoined behind me. Not a great way to overtake 3 cars and I don't want to repeat it, but they all count.

Steve Waddington pressuring Jean-Michel Guermonprez
Steve Waddington pressuring Jean-Michel Guermonprez

However, the race was immediatley red flagged & an ambulance sent for Pieter & James. Pieter had received a very heavy impact & although he received no injuries the medical staff took no chances & both he & James where taken to the medical centre, where James was given the OK, but Pieter was given Oxygen. Pieter apparently has no recollection of the accident ( probably a good thing ) but was also deemed fit within 1 hour. There were no physical injuries. This says a huge amount for the strength of our cars, just look at the damage to James's car below. Pieters car doesn't look much better.

Oooops
And he walked away !

At this stage Dave Shannon was leading from Rupert Douglas-Pennant. They were given the option of stopping the race there & then or having a restart. Obviously Dave (the leader) said "stop" & Rupert (2nd) said "restart". The race was restarted. My brother had run to the pits & brought me a wiper blade. This was quickly fitted & I had at least a chance of seeing something now. We ran another 4 race laps in torrential rain. I couldn't even see the track, just water lying everywhere. I was amazed at how many cars ran without their lights. Guys in the future please use them. They are not just there to pressure the driver in front, they CAN also be used as saftey devices. I am pleased to say that not a single incident occured during the second part of the race. Everyone had seen the ambulance & noone knew how badly anyone was hurt. I couldn't see much out of my car & had a spin ( boring I know !), & then passed 3 more cars. Mark Hopes car died with an electrical problem. The end results were a combination of the 2 race halves. Rupert had managed to pass Dave, but for a while he didn't have the required 3 second advantage to get overall lead. When the flag dropped Rupert did however have a 3 second lead & Dave was 2nd with Antonio having driven his way upto 3rd.

Subsequent races where delayed for about 30 mins whilst the organisers waited for the worst of the rain to pass. A very wise decision.

Clean Close racing
Clean Close racing

After the rain had stopped, there were a number of damaged cars in the paddock, as far as I'm aware however with one exception ( James - sorry mate ) all will be repaired & racing in Dijon . Every incident was deemed to be a racing accident & no yellow cards were needed. I personally am very happy about my first pole, very pissed off about my spinning, very glad noone was hurt and also glad there wasn't anymore damage. The rain was so heavy that I seriously considered stopping & talking to a few drivers after the race I was not the only one. We are not profesionals. This is our hobby & we do it for fun. If there is no fun there is no point. I will stop next time. Having said that though, that was only one 30 minute session (FISC Race) on the trace track from 4 ( 2 practices & 2 races) that I drove over the weekend.

All in all I enjoyed the weekend. Thank you to the Aston Martin Owners Club for an excellent weekend.

Till next time.


Steve.

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