STILL RAMBLING - AT MAGNY - COR BLIMEY ITS HOT!!
For Team Johnson, reduced to a one car team for rounds 3 and 4, the long haul to Magny Cours was going to require an early start - so a 10.30 p.m. Wednesday night ferry was booked - sadly due to high winds and a berthing restriction in Calais, our 10.30 soon turned into 11.30. A quick tour of the Calais port found us in the camping car area where we spent the night. Breakfast entertainment was watching the refugees (financial migrants) slide under the outer fencing, run across the large tarmac area, stroll through the camping area then climb over the fence into the freight yard for the next part of their trip.
Anyway, ever onward, only 370 miles to go! The journey down was going smoothly, plenty of peage stops on empty roads. With about 100 miles to go we stopped for fuel etc. As we set off down the slip road onto the motorway a loud clonk could be heard as the exhaust on the camper split in two, with both silencer boxes on the now obsolete section of exhaust. The decibel level in the camper rose considerably, however hearing the turbo whistle compensated to a degree.
We were the first FISCies to arrive at the circuit and spent the first half an hour driving aimlessly round the deserted paddock, not knowing where to park. On about lap 3 Peter Hiley arrived and we did more aimless meandering. Finally I went to race control who showed us where to park and unlocked the paddock, obvious really. Within half an hour Pieter Bakker arrived together with Richard Evans and Simon Page. Next big discussion was where exactly to park - with in excess of 1000 square metres of empty tarmac did we face this way or that - did we want shade in the morning or afternoon - would the electric reach and what about the water. God this racing is a bit more complicated than it seems! For me meeting people from different countries and different cultures adds a certain richness to the weekend; both Simon Page and I spent an enlightening evening finding out just how folk from 'up North' (Huddersfield - Hiley territory that is) ticked.
Sadly the free practice on Friday was rescheduled for Saturday, so with a spare day the Johnson charabanc set off to sightsee Nevers with the Hiley and Page teams on board. Lunch at a pavement restaurant followed by a stroll, then ice creams for all purchased by Mr Hiley, a perfect day and a welcome change from the normal Calais to circuit and back to Calais rush.
Free testing Saturday. Almost everybody took advantage of two sessions, some even more. I was amazed how tight the circuit was, sweep through Grande Courbe into Estoril, down Golf straight, stand on the brakes big style for Adelaide, accelerate towards Nurburgring, decide on a gear, round 180 degree, another gear decision, try to avoid the curb on the exit into Imola, what the hell's that all about, down the box into Chateau d'Eau (Hiley corner) plunge down hill towards Lycee, falling over the chicane en route. How do the TV cameras make the circuit look so wide. The main casualties were Rob Halewijn who lost his brakes "again" and Richard Evans had his rocker cover come loose - still it stops the engine bay going rusty. Ian Burgin's gearbox was playing up and numerous cars went pebble collecting!!
Qualifying 1 - 2 o'clock - air temperature 31° C (that's hot whichever scale you're using!). Conrad Bos had borrowed Ian Whitt's car and not, I feel, being as careful as he should have been in somebody else's car, much too fast!! Tony Davis, builder of Conrad's white and blue frogeye, was driving said car and generally felt the engine needed more Weetabix. One or two drivers still favoured avoiding the chicanes - still as long as they can sleep at night! Pieter Bakker found the fastest time of the day at 2min 10.85 sec, John Faux 2 min 10.97 and Jean Michel Guermonprez on his home track looking good with a 2min 12.32 sec.
At 4.20 p.m. we were out again. I must try harder. Towards the end of lap 3 Pieter Bakker was deep in the pebbles at Hiley corner. Rob Halewijn's woes continued as he holed a piston. Michel van Kooten, despite actually admitting to spinning at an alarmingly high rate managed to qualify one higher at sixth on the grid. Jean Michel managed to knock one second off his time. Antonio Bertini who clearly had a disaster in the first qualifying session planted his tricoloured midget (with old style roof) on pole. John Faux (Mr Consistent) once again filling out the front row. My vastly better time sadly only moved me one place up the grid, still alongside Conrad Bos.
On walking round the paddock I saw Rob Halewijn looking very despondent. His season has not started well at this point they did not know the engine problem was piston rather than yet another head gasket. However, he was fairly upbeat saying "that's racing" they would fix the car no problem. He was feeling low because Im, his wife, had been unable to attend the race weekend due to a prior engagement and although Rob loved his racing, this race weekend felt incomplete without Im to share the good times and the bad. He missed her!! Another Dutch guy missing was Hans Dullaert, his car was intact and he was sitting quietly alone in his camper, talking to his wife, Anneke, on the phone. It was their 26th wedding anniversary - he had wanted to spend the weekend with her but she had insisted he went racing, even if it meant without her.
Race 1 - 6.50 p.m. Who races at 7 'clock in the evening? Still at least it was cooler, at least down to 28°C. Pieter Bakker found himself back on pole after a scrutineering dilemma. The field rolled round at perfect pace, the lights flashed green and off we went. Large amounts of oil absorbent had been laid all around the track, especially Estoril and Chateau d'Eau (Hiley corner), but before we made it to the first patch Ian Burgin, whose Bridgestone tyres had just failed to reach working temperature was off, or at least nearly off, he was still on the tarmac but using more than his fair share. I squeezed through an every decreasing gap to safety. Simon Page and Michael van Kooten spun in sympathy, or avoidance. On we charged, I passed Jean Michel Guermonprez under braking at Adelaide, then at Chateau d'Eau Peter Hiley found himself on the oil absorbent and around he went. Once again I was safe. According to my spotter Ian Burgin completed the first lap behind the doctor's car!!
Lap 2 - Pieter Bakker was still in front; Antonio Bertini slid past Richard Evans, John Faux and me - how did that happen? John Michel Guermonprez exited the Esses backwards, Hans Dullaert, Tony Davis and a recovering Peter Hiley taking advantage of the situation.
Lap 3 John Faux was at the front with Robert Evans, Pieter Bakker and me. Michael van Kooten made error at Lycee allowing Simon Page and Ian Burgin past.
On lap 7 Antonio was back in front of John Faux and Pieter Bakker. Richard Evans was dropping back as was I, but I was still trying. The front three continued to swap places. I was glad to see clear track behind. Conrad Bos was battling with Ian Wright; Simon Page was spotted spinning out (Hiley corner) and not spotted at several other corners!
With three to go I was catching Richard Evans. On the last lap I had caught him and as we exited Adelaide I could see his rear tyre deflate, what bad luck I thought and overtook him. Antonio took the win from Pieter Bakker and John Faux. I was fourth, Robert Evans continued with his rim to just be pipped to fifth by Conrad Bos at the line.
Winners race 1 Magny Cours
Peter Hiley found his thrust release bearing had shattered and Ian Wright's gearbox had failed. Peter Hiley loaned him a box so he could continue for race 2. John Faux had managed a 720° spin at Hiley corner and continued with little loss in time.
Sunday Race 2 12.25 p.m. and hot 31°C+. With plenty of time for fiddling all cars were back on the grid. John Faux had loaned Rob Halewijn a new piston and rod so he could join in the melee. The timing at Magny Cours was spot on, no hanging around, just form up and go - perfect.
John Michel Guermonprez dropped to the back on the rolling lap with a sick engine. At the start a degree of confusion ensued. I was on the fourth row with Conrad Bos again on my right. We rolled towards the lights led by Antonio Bertini. They turned green and we accelerated away. I stayed level with Conrad until we reached the line, John Faux seemed to be slower away, Peter Hiley and Michel van Kooten stayed to the left behind John Faux and round the outside we went. As we crossed the line to complete lap 1 I was behind Antonio Bertini. I was shocked! And so I can imagine were others. John Faux, Pieter Bakker, who had started last, Conrad Bos and Michael van Kooten in close pursuit. John Michel Guermonprez seemed to have lost the most - his engine was dying!
Lap 2 race order much the same, still second "hell fire", Simon Page was spotted spinning out of the last turn in front of Hans Dullaert. On lap 3 my spotter said, "Antonio Bertini now has a huge lead over No.9" - a bit harsh, I was peddling as fast as I could! In my mirror Pieter Bakker had his lights on - it was midday, he must have knocked the switch! Conrad Bos had Peter Hiley in hot pursuit.
On lap 5 I had a huge moment at Hiley corner, allowing John Faux past "damn"! Pieter Bakker had also passed me earlier, I had in turn out-braked him into Adelaide but sadly he passed again and I was unable to return the compliment. Peter Hiley was still battling with Conrad Bos and Richard Evans likewise with Ian Wright.
On lap 8 disaster struck, my throttle cable came adrift somehow - I continued round switching the engine on and off, not ideal. I pulled into the pits where Ray Davis saw the fault and signalled my race was over "Bugger!"
Peter Hiley unbalanced the car on the kerbs on lap 9 and spun, and to show it was not a fluke did an exact copy on lap 10. Michael van Kooten was continuing, minus his bonnet, and Ian Burgin had blue paint down the side of his car - this was no coincidence. Michel, I believe, had spun at Estoril leaving Ian not quite enough room. Antonio Bertini was still in front of John Faux, Pieter Bakker was now losing ground. Things were changing fast!
On lap 11 John Faux was now in front of Conrad Bos and Richard Evans with Pieter in fourth. Ian Burgin had a moment at the Chicane whilst fighting with Peter Hiley and Ian Wright, allowing them both through.
The chequered flag went to John Faux, Richard Evans just in front of Conrad Bos, a coasting Antonio Bertini, Peter Hiley and Ian Wright, Ian Burgin, Hans Dullaert and Pieter Bakker. Another great race with its moments and no badly damaged cars apart from Michel van Kooten's missing bonnet - it needed painting anyway.
A degree of confusion ruled over the start and the race length hence these results are provisional. However, Sarah's lap chart shows 12 laps and Peter Hiley's in-board trip showed 12 laps. That's racing!!
Disclaimer - Any offence caused is entirely intentional!! Anybody finding anything offensive in this article in any way, shape or form please let me know as this will verify I'm going in the right direction!