Race Report for Dijon 2002
Due to Steve Waddington being up to his armpits in house building you'll have to put up with more of the midfield ramblings. This weekend I felt good - buoyed by the Magny Cours results I thought a good podium chance was at hand, then life slapped me round the face and normality returned.
The excitement started early Thursday morning. We had slept the night at the Calais docks alongside a group of racers all heading to Spa. Five refugees had stowed away in two of the covered trailers - they had thought the cars were returning to the UK, so when they started to head into France four refugees jumped to freedom at 30 miles an hour! The other guy was hiding in the trailer beside us.
We set off on the 350 mile journey at about 9.15 a.m. and arrived at the circuit Dijon Prenois at about 5.00 p.m. Ian Whitt's sat. nav. had never heard of the circuit and spent the whole weekend convinced they were in the middle of a field. Peter Hiley, having got ever so slightly lost met a man on a scooter who guided them the last five miles to the track. Most of the grid made it at some point on Thursday whilst one or two appeared Friday just in time for the Euro.45 testing which sadly turned out to be Euro.100 - a little too hot for some whilst others just dug deeper in their pockets. Dave Shannon had decided to drive this weekend, sharing the car with Mark Hope, with a completely new rear end - the car that is, not Mark.
Pieter Bakker put the little green frog on pole for the first race. John de Groot said that although Pieter had been one of the cars out in the free practice, the pole position was down to perfect car preparation - would that preparation last? Dave Shannon proved he still had the touch; despite being the proud owner of the loudest spin into the double left-hander. Richard Evans pushed hard for third - so hard he also fell off! John Faux's octane booster was causing the car to emit a strange bonking noise - mainly because the empty container was rolling around in his boot! Antonio Bertini was the cause of the pebbles strewn over the track on the last fast right-hander - he had lost it and would start the first race from the back of the grid. Jasper Bardon's crew told it to him straight "too bloody slow!" Ian Wright melted No.3 piston - his weekend could so easily have been over but in true FISC fashion Peter Hiley loaned him his spare short engine and Koon donated a cylinder head. He missed the second qualifying but he would race. Ian Burgin seemed to be collecting clutches, 'why?' whilst Rob Halewijn had no problems and had put the normally head-blowing midget in sixth place. Some new ducting seemed to have transformed the car. Rob said driving the car was now better than sex - Im, his wife, said that at least the qualifying had lasted 20 minutes!
After two hours of fiddling time we were out again for second qualifying. I found myself falling over Ian Burgin. He would nip in front in the twiddly bits then I'd drive past up the straight. Logic says back off and find some space, but the heart says 'beat the bugger'. Peter Hiley cooked his tyres, backed off, and then managed to make a horlicks of every remaining lap. Mark Hope was to be found on lap 8 deep into the gravel with a flat tyre, after a huge spin, 'which caused what' was debated at great length in the paddock. Simon Page had his niggling misfire return and once again suspected fuel pick up. Jasper Bardon's crew recorded an improvement, whilst Chris Evans was still lost and Michel van Kooten having wasted two tyres in qualifying 1 in a spinning moment, was now more than happy with his grid position. Jean-Michel Guermonprez, having changed his cylinder head found himself on pole, 0.5 seconds clear of John Faux, Pieter Bakker and Dr. Rob who was feeling more than pleased with himself.
Once again the Spridget Café, after a splendid meal, was to see much merriment into the night. Ian Whitt's crew topped the consumption table whilst the Dutch contingent demonstrated a sense of rhythm and timing not seen since the last time.
Race 1 - Saturday. The field formed up on the grid and followed the pace car round. Pieter Bakker was on pole with Dave Shannon alongside. As the lights flashed green a third car appeared in the middle of the front row. Jean-Michel had not quite understood the start procedure rules - he would be removed from the results, but now he was off and running. Rob Halewijn was going slowly, his rear brakes stuck on. As we exited the second gear uphill corner Pieter Bakker was way out to the left in a cloud of tyre smoke. Next man off was John Faux, also way to the left at the penultimate right-hander - you know the one before the last one!
I overtook Simon Page and Ian Burgin on the start straight having already passed Michel van Kooten. As we headed for the first corner I saw Michel to my right - his car swapped ends and he shot backwards behind me, which must have been exciting for Simon and Ian. On lap 3 I was in fifth place; Peter Hiley was in fact driving like a granddad. In fairness, his girl-friend Nina had celebrated the birth of her grand-daughter a night early, her balance had become impaired to the point of not being able to lie down, or move far from a bucket, the result being Peter was a little short of sleep, and although only a pseudo-granddad was now not at his sharpest. The next time down the straight I'd have him. Antonio Bertini was right behind, filling my mirrors - once we had passed Peter the pressure would be off. As we turned into the left-handed at the top of the hill Antonio must have missed his braking point. Fortunately I was able to retard his progress, avoiding a possible nasty accident, and once my engine decided to re-start I rejoined the circuit.
Rob Halewijn pulled into the pits and in disgust undid his seat belts and removed his helmet. By then Koon had rectified the situation - a stuck balance bar. Then more time was wasted getting Dr Rob back into race trim before he could rejoin the race.
By lap 5 John Faux was up into fourth place, Peter Bakker was also on the move in tenth. For eight laps John Michel held the lead until he succumbed to the Dave Shannon effect. Richard Evans was comfortably in third until John Faux joined him. They changed places until the last lap, John taking third from Richard as they exited the last bend on the last lap. Ian Burgin had a fantastic race with Ian Whitt. Ian Wright's clutch had problems (in reality the flywheel was falling off!). So, a win for Dave Shannon, ahead of Jean-Michel and John Faux in third. Sadly Jean-Michel was bumped off the leader board (rules are rules) for the optimistic start procedure elevating Richard Evans to third.
Sunday 10.45 a.m. Race 2. I lined up on the grid beside Mark Hope; my oil pressure gauge was not behaving in its normal fashion and you could convince yourself you could hear a rattle! The car had flown yesterday and I was looking forward to a great race with Mark as at Zandvoort. Jean-Michel led us round, the start procedure now clear in his mind, and off we went. Amazingly my head over-ruled my heart - the engine was sick so after one lap I pulled in - it's cheaper to fix whilst it's still in one piece!
On lap 1 Simon Page had run so wide at the corner John Faux had cocked up in Race 1, that many people thought he would have to show his pass to get back in! They were even more amazed at the amount of grip he had found whilst deep in the rough. Simon was a little worried as to how much 'rough' was sticking to his tyres as he entered the very fast right-hander.
Sadly Pieter Bakker's race lasted no longer than mine. As I looked under my bonnet to check for any obvious reasons for oil pressure loss, the little green frog pulled up (that's the car - not Pieter, 'cos he's Dutch) outside the Spridget Café. Having removed his helmet he took a bottle of water and without talking to anybody walked swiftly off - I can only assume he didn't want to miss watching any of the track action - he did however seem a little tense!
I joined Jane on top of the pit lane garages. From there John Faux seemed to have established a comfortable lead. On lap 4 something seized in Jean-Michel's car, locking the rear wheels solid - ouch, that's got to be expensive! His race was over. This left Richard Evans in a lonely second place. On lap 6 Michel van Kooten was up into third place, although Dr Rob and Granddad Hiley were right with him. Peter had been awaiting developments e.g. would they knock each other off? (Accidentally of course). However on lap 13 Dr Rob pulled off - he had spun earlier in the race whilst battling with Peter and Michel and flat-spotted his tyre down to the steel - the vibration was now too much. With 3 laps to go Peter Hiley upped the pace, passing Michel for third.
At a very early stage Peter Hiley had hit a cone, sending it into the path of most people; Mark Hope hit it and lost his headlight and part of his wing; Ian Burgin hit it, his bonnet was damaged. As the speed of the 1000cc screamer rose, the pressure under the bonnet rose, causing the rear of the bonnet to rise, resulting in Ian not being able to see. Ian would then have to reduce the speed to reduce the pressure to reduce the height of the bonnet to a point where he could see - not an ideal race situation.
Ian Wright, with his borrowed engine, was having a good race with Ernst Daniel. I had asked Ernst during the weekend, on several occasions, whether anything exciting had happened to him - his reply was always the same - "Nothing". This was about to change. The left front wheel was unhappy with Ernst's progress so decided on the twelfth lap to go it alone - three wheels on the exit of the last bend has to get your attention. Now that's exciting!
See you all at Le Mans, providing I fix it in time.
As most people will know by now Hans Dulleart's mother died this weekend. I know I speak on behalf of every FISCie in offering my deepest sympathy to Hans and his family.