THE race series for you racing Midget or Sprite

Race Report for Nordschleife 2000


Hello & welcome FISC fans.

My race weekend nearly didn't happen. I got a phone call late on Thursday night which meant I had a tough choice. Stay home & provide some moral support or go racing. Unfortunately there are some things in life that are more important than racing, so my planned Thursday night departure didn't happen. However on Friday morning I was given the OK & left for the race track.

I arrived just after lunch time on Friday & was just about the last FISC car to arrive. I parked between Simon Page who had had a van tyre blow out on the motorway & Dave O'Neill who had had a trailer tyre blow out on the motorway. I should have parked somewhere else as you will see...... Most of us had already decided to drive the untimed practice on Friday afternoon, where for 250 DM ( About 80) you could drive for 2 hours around the Nordschleife. I heard one driver complaining about the cost but I don't understand that. You can rarely race for 80 & a race is never 2 hours long. It struck me as great value for money & I, for one, need all the practice I can get on this track.

Dave O'Neill's tyre
Dave O'Neill's tyre

Ian Whitt turned up late (as usual ?) & immediately showed how much preparation he had done on his car when he removed his mouldy gloves from his helmet. He had put his wet gloves (from Le Mans) in his helmet & left them there for 2 weeks ! I can only imagine how his helmet smelled. During the course of the practice various car pulled off with mechanical problems. Pieter Bakker blew his engine on a fast part of the circuit. Harald Sailer blew his gearbox on another fast part of the track. Ian Whitt was crawling round with a very sick car. Antonio Bertini claimed to have been pushed off by a BMW & ended up in the gravel. Apart from that I spent my time "learning" the track. What I actually did was to try to remember where I could drive "Flat out" & try to remember where I had to brake hard. Everything else was "drive on sight". The practice session was red flagged after a "Eurobox" was seriously rolled on a very fast left hand bend. I think it was a Renault Clio but couldn't really tell, it was so badly damaged.

Pieter Bakkers Head
Pieter Bakkers Head

This is a very tough circuit, 24 Km Long (About 15 miles) very fast & with about 200 bends, very complicated. 2 hours driving here is like 4 normal races with no maintenance between !! So after we were finished practicing everyone did some maintenance, some ( myself included) just checked the car over, new brake shoes etc. & some guys had major rebuilds. Unfortunately Pieter Bakkers cylinder head was so badly damaged he couldn't drive anymore. Noone had a spare head & the only spare engine available was a 1,000 cc unit. His weekend was already over, but as is usual for Pieter, I never heard a bad word, just his usual happy self.

Pieter Bakkers Valves
Pieter Bakkers Valves

Haralds car received a new gearbox, Ian Whitt found that the cap over the jets on his Weber was missing and borrowed one for the qualifying/race.

Friday night was a great night in the Spridget café. Many happy faces & stories of Slides, Slods & Spins. Most people left early for bed since Saturday was an early start. Scrutineering was planned for 07:00. For a Brit who had arrived in Europe on the Friday, this is the equivalent of a 06:00 start. At 08:30 we all queued up for a 30 min qualifying session. This is 2 or 3 laps depending on how quick/confident you are as a driver. Most of us managed 3 laps. Stéphane Devoucoux managed to get out of the pits & drive round 2 bends before his bonnet flew off. It was quite funny watching him running up the track to pick it up. Harald was so happy with his new gearbox that he spun & hit a crash barrier. The car suffered only pannel damage & a broken steering rack. But his weekend was over. Ian Whitt's car still wasn't running properly so he called it a day. ( It turns out a grub screw had come loose in the carb & the choke was loose !) Rob Halewjin blew a head gasket & Hans Dullaert destroyed his gearbox.

The Sailer Brothers in the kitchen
The Sailer brothers doing "Volunteering" duties

With only 2 hours between the qualifying & race, all of these cars were out. The main surprises in training were Antonio ( Is this really a surprise ?) had pole position. Some 11 seconds ahead of Rupert who has just driven a 24 hr race here & must know the circuit better than anyone else . and James Bilsland was in the top 5, an amazing performance for someone who is in his 1st full seasion of motorracing. We had a guest driver with us for the weekend, Dave Walker from "Cars & Car Conversions" a UK motoring magazine. Dave also performed admirably qualifying some 1 1/2 mins quicker than the slowest Spridget.

Dave Walker in Malcolm Selfs Sebring Sprite
Dave Walker in Malcolm Selfs Sebring Sprite

I had qualified in 3rd place. Some 6 seconds quicker than my previous best lap time. Whilst this is great for me, it doesn't make for a good race report since I would only have 2 cars ahead of me for the entire race. (or would I ??) We had our usual rolling start & Dave Shannon & James Bilsland passed me without much effort on the short Formula 1 straight. They are great mates & drive as the "Mad Dog racing" team, so you can assume that they have the same engine specification & it has some power !! I was down to 5th already before the 1st bend . This is not what I had planned, but I couldn't do much about it. After about 3/4 of a lap we rounded the Karussel. For those of you who don't know, this is a 45 banked bend ( About 180) which is very quick & very bumpy, at the end the corner decides when it's had enough of the visitor & "spits" the car out. As I left the bank (With a minimum of control) I saw an almost stationary Spridget before me. It was Antonio. I swerved & avoided him, so I was now in 4th. That's more like it ! Just let one of the front guys fall off & I've got a podium finish. But I forgot that I still had 50 miles of racing & a very quick Italian behind me. Within a few Km Antonio had caught me up. I decided He would have to work for this place & kept to my lines. This was OK until we came to the "Flying Leap". I'm afraid I don't know the name of that part of the track, but it is the bit where all the pictures of "old" formula 1 cars in the air where taken. I take it at about 7,000 RPM in 4th, take off & land, then hard on the brakes & change down to 3rd for a violent right hand bend. I couldn't find 3rd !! So I put it back in 4th & tried again. Antonio passed me & I just managed to get round the bend with 2 tyres in the gravel.

"Oh Dear" (or something similar) I was down to 5th again. Towards the end of the 1st lap I just managed to get passed James Bilsland. The main straight on the nordschleife is about 3 Km long. I could do nothing but swear as James effortlessly passed me on the straight. So I was down to 5th again. I passed James at the beginning of the 2nd lap. There is a section of the track you can take on the rev limiter in 4th & somehow I had more momentum than James. We were approaching a very fast right hand bend & I decided to try round the outside. I didn't want to back off.I had to leave room for James who had the racing line. I got round it, off-line , on the limiter & ahead of James ( He may have backed off a little - Thanks). The rest of the lap was totally exhillerating, but there was nothing to report on. However I had pulled out enough of a lead on James that he couldn't pass me on the straight again.

Mark Dols in car tool kit
Mark Dols In car tool kit

On Lap 3 I approached the fast left bend where the "Clio" had destroyed itself on Friday. I then had a SLOD ( For those of you not sure what a SLOD is Click here & read the Le Mans report). This wasn't just an ordinary SLOD. It was the mother of all SLOD's. I lost the car completely whilst approaching a left hand bend, on the rev limiter, at about 120 mph, on 155 road tyres. I SLOD violently over the kerb & thought this would throw the car into a roll (remember the Clio). I tucked my elbows tightly into my ribs, but the car didn't roll ! Instead it just SLOD in a dead straight line, the car was perfectly at 90 to the track. Out of the drivers window I could see some marshalls, I was Slodding towards, running for cover & one going for a fire extinguisher. Out of the left window I could see the marshall's behind me wildly waving a yellow flag. I had so much time I could look around ! The car never span, it just went about 150m up the road sideways. I had had the nouse to dip the clutch & the engine was still running, but, like the wally that I am, in my petrified fear I had kept my foot firmly on the brakes. Once I had stopped, all I could see behind me was lots of blue tyre smoke & 4 BIG straight black lines on the track. Then I noticed a pack of about 5 cars rounding the bend. I wasn't about to give up my places so I set off.

MISTAKE !!!

The tyres were wrecked. Each had a horrendous flat spot. But did it slow me down ??? Nah !! I had pulled out a lead on these guys before & I could do it again. The car however was bouncing around like a kangaroo on heat. I had square tyres ! It was quite difficult holding onto the steering wheel in places. & driving down the main straight I had difficulty seeing straight because the car was bouncing so violently.

However I started the 4th & last lap still in 4th place. Mark Hope came out of the pits, I don't know what his problem was but he finished a lap down on us. He moved out of the way & let Me & Ian Hulett passed. Ian having pulled himself out of the ensuing pack behind me. He was now within striking distance & I considered driving some defensive lines. I then thought "No, Just give it some welly & he'll slowly drop off behind you. You've done it for the 1st 2 laps just get on with the job !" I couldn't get rid of him ! At some stage on this lap I noticed how violent the car was & got thinking about my tyres. I must be mad !! I should stop, check my tyres & decide if the car was safe, then either carry on or stop & watch. But I was in 4th place & waiting to pass one of the leaders with a problem. I just carried on. As we pulled onto the main straight at the end of lap 4, I could see Ian slowly catching me. We run rev limiters, maybe he had 100 rpm (yes 100 NOT 1,000) more than me, maybe he had a 3.7 Diff (Mine is a 3.9), whatever he was catching me. But I reckoned I could just keep him behind me till the end of the straight, then there are 3 bends flat out on the limiter in 4th, change down to 3rd, change down to 2nd last two bends then accelerate down the start/finish straight & I've got 4th. That was the plan.

Suddenly there was a loud bang from front right. The car got VERY violent & I got "worried". I lifted slightly & Ian roared passed. I knew I had a flat tyre at about 120 MPH. The track then passes under a bridge , the track dips slightly & there is a left hand bend. I turned the wheel to the left. NOTHING !!! The car went straight on. Oh Oh ! I could see Stéphane Devoucoux catching, & decided the points/position was no longer important, I just didn't want to hit the wall in front of me. I took my foot completely off the gas & waved that Stéphane should go round me. He did. Once I had slowed down enough I tried the brakes. Under braking, with enough steeering lock I managed to keep the car in a straight line. I took the last 2 bends at about 3,000 RPM in second ( just missing the next wall by about 2" ) & accelerated over the line as quickly as I dare. I was about 10 seconds behind Ian & 5 seconds behind Stéphane.

My Tyre
The aftermath of a 120 Mph blow out

It's a bloody miracle.

If the tyre had exploded anywhere else on this track I would at best be in a hospital & at worst, well.... enough said !

I will never forget this weekend.

Now after the dust has settled & I have written this report, I can't believe the risks I took. But to be honest I don't think I can slow down once the "red mist" is around & the lights are green.

I arrived in the pits & got out of the car. The aluminium wheel was not damaged at all ! I had scrubbed my way through 3 layers of rubber & 2 layers Steel wire webbing from the front right tyre. From the rear right "Just" 2 layers of rubber tread & 1 layer of steel webbing. I hadn't reached the second layer of steel webbing. The 2 left tyres both had patches without any tread at all, but no steel wires were visible. I knew it was a bad idea parking between the "Blow out Boys" Simon & Dave. You're on your own next time lads ! Stay away !

Rupert had won, with a 24 second lead over Dave Shannon, Antonio was 3rd ( 0.6 Seconds behind Dave), Ian had my 4th place & Stephané 5th. I still had 6th place & a new personal best fastest lap - Sub 11 mins. Not a single track incident was recorded. Most cars had an average speed of over 120 KM/H. This was a great weekend.

Nordschleife Winners
Nordschleife Winners. L-t-R :- Dave Shannon, Rupert Douglas-Pennant, Antonio Bertini

I had a 3 hour drive home & was there by 18:00

The next race is at Croft in North England.
Alex Whitt - Don't forget to bring your water pistol. I have a big one & you're in for a soaking ! See if you can persuade your dad to buy you a "Super Blaster"- you'll need it. Any other driver/specatator wishing to join in is more than welcome.
My entire family is coming to watch the racing, so I have to finish the race, but I'm sure I'll get a SLOD or two in !

Till next time.


Steve.