Race Report for Nurburgring 2001

Hello FISC fans.

The 2001 race season has finally started & what a start ! I had to work on Friday morning & so didn't arrive at the race track until just after the first training session had finished. I didn't see any of it. Looking around the paddock though, I didn't see a single pile of gravel anywhere. Everyone had managed to get round the track without coming off. What was immediately clear from the times was that Pieter Bakker has spent a lot of time & effort preparing himself & his car. Pole position, with a time that was very close to the FISC lap record. Antonio Bertini had qualified in 2nd place less than 2/10ths of a second behind Pieter. The next 4 cars had qualified within a second of each other & then the next 4 also within a second of each other. 8 cars seperated by less than 2 seconds, their average speeds differed by 2 km/h !

Having checked out the times, I then said hello to all my racing mates & introduced myself to the new guys. Jasper Bardon & Peter Hiley were both racing with us for the first time as full members.

I then "retired" to the Spridget Café, which has changed considerabley since last year. It is twice as big, with a "Sun Terrace" in the middle. The coffee was already flowing and people were warming themselves by the heater.

There were a few hours until the next qualifying session. Other than the usual checking, I didn't notice too much work being done on the cars, exceptions here being Rob Halewijn & Peter Hiley . It wasn't warm and the weather forecast was for a "white easter". It rained lightly just before the second training session.

Antonio Bertini & Simon Page qualifying
Antonio Bertini & Simon Page qualifying

I watched the training session from the pit wall. A couple of guys span onto the start /finish straight & Mark Dols came into the Pits with a flat tyre after 2 laps. With 2 exceptions everybody was slower in the second session. Steve Chapmann & Peter Hiley must have had problems in the first session since both their times improved by 11 seconds or more. What was noticeable however were Antonio & Dave Shannons times. These two were both within a second of their morning times, whereas everyone else was noticeably slower. Towards the end of the session Ian Johnson dissapeared. It turns out he had had a "moment" On the backside of the track exiting a very quick right hander, he then got into a "tank slapper", the car shot off the track & slid sideways across the grass. It has been raining almost constantly for the last few months in Germany & the earth is soft. Ian's car dug in & went into a sideways roll. The car rolled 3 times. Closer inspection of the damage, suggests that most of it is "only" the external fibreglass pannels & with Ian is expecting to race in Spa in 4 weeks. Despite other peoples ethusiasm & offers of help to get the car in a raceable state for the next day, Ian decided to pack up & drive home after the race on Saturday. A wise decision as we'll soon see.

Ian Johnson chases Jean-Michel Guermonprez
Ian Johnson chases Jean-Michel Guermonprez

They say every cloud has a silver lining. Ian Wright was lent a spare halfshaft by Ian Johnson, Johnson wouldn't be needing it this weekend ! Again no major work was needed after the second training in preparation for their early morning race (planned start 09:00), except Rob & Peter again. I didn't check but I heard that over the Friday Rob Halewijn spent a total of 8 hours repairing his car. I know Peter was replumming his brakes & removed most of the brake unions from his trailer to use on the race car. The weather was cold, windy & it was trying to snow, but it didn't stop people checking over & even washing their cars. Friday evening was spent in the Spridget Café, sampling the excellent food provided by Willem & his crew. As I went to bed I could see stars & thought nothing much of it.

I didn't sleep much. It was bloody cold. At 07:00 I couldn't stand it anymore & started the Van's engine to heat me up. I noticed the external temperature was -7C. I slept in a van. There were at least 2 team members that slept in tents !!!

It was cold !
It was cold !

When I got up I found a lot of people with slightly worried looks on their faces. I don't know how many engines it had affected but there were quite a few frozen cylinder blocks. Hot water, hair dryers & even a blow torch were being used to melt the ice. It looks like some people run their cars without antifreeze, which I can't understand. As well as lubricating the water pump Antifreeze disapates heat better than pure water & so keeps the engine cooler. As well as frozen engines various race cars wouldn't start & were being towed around the paddock. Eventually everyone got going & warmed up their engines. AGAIN an exception being Rob. This time an electrical problem had caused a fuse to blow. Poor guy was having a bad weekend ! However he managed to find & fix the problem before they closed the gates for the collecting area.

What followed must rank as one of the best races I have ever seen. From the start Pieter & Antonio were pulling away from the pack. Behind them was another group of cars containing Ian Hulett, Dave Shannon & John Faux. Then a gap & another group containing Mark Dols, Mark Hope, Stéphane Devoucoux, Ian Burgin ( 1000 CC !!!) & Simon Page. I watched by the chicane and could see from the flat-out right hander (downhill & fastest part of the track), through to heavy breaking for the chicane & uphill to the last bend onto the start/finish straight.

Lap after lap after lap, these 3 groups came round. Every lap, someone else was leading & there was lots of passing & brake locking on entrance to the chicane. From a distance, it looked like Pieter & Antonio swapped door paint, but afterwards it was proved not to be the case. There was no contact between the cars. But like Mansell & Senna there was no quarter asked & none given! The end result of this was that Pieter set a new lap record of 2:12:442 with Antonio only 0.04 secs slower ! ( don't forget this was at close to 0C or colder !). Unfortunately after 9 laps of this, Antonio's car had a problem & his race was over. From here on it looked like Pieter could coast home. However soon after this Pieter quickly dropped down the field. In their fight Pieter had completely lost his rear brakes, this caused him to heavily cross a high kerb, which crushed his exhaust manifold, almost sealing it & tore a hole about 1/2" behind the crushed area. This completely strangled his engine & left him limping round with a very loud car. He eventually finished in 4th place. This duel alone would have made a great race, but there's more.

Behind the leaders were Ian Hulett, John Faux & Dave Shannon. These 3 were lapping almost as quickly as the leaders. Whilst there was less swapping around, this in no way dimished from this 3 way duel. I know all 3 drivers and each of them is a winner. Once Pieter had been passed, these 3 they knew they were all fighting for the 1st place. As they crossed the finish line there was less than 0.6 seconds between them ( I reckon your doing about 100 MPH across the line) That's bloody close ! Ian Hulett won from Dave Shannon by 0.2 secs & John Faux was third.

Steve Chapman & Mark Hope during qualifying
Steve Chapman & Mark Hope during qualifying

MEANWHILE ! the third pack was embroiled in its own battle. Mark Dols, Mark Hope, Stéphane Devoucoux, Ian Burgin ( 1000 CC !!!) & Simon Page were all involved in this battle at some stage. It was impossible to say who would lead this pack into the chicane. The leader changed on every lap, but all the cars were racing with no more than a couple of feet between them. Simon Page has improved his driving and/or car considerabley over the winter. It was noticable how much quicker he is. But unfortunately he spin off & finished in 10th. On the last lap, it looked as if Ian Burgin in his cheeky little 1000cc car was going to get 5th place. But approaching the chicane his car suddenly slowed & got very loud. It turns out, he had broken his rockershaft & with the inlet valve on #1 being stuck open, was blowing & igniting the fuel mixture back into the carb. Mark Dols lead Mark Hope across the line by 0.3 secs, followed by a 3 cylinder ( 750 cc ?) Ian Burgin & Stéphane.

Please excuse me if I write little about the other guys out there, but these 3 battles were quite simply the best racing you could hope for. I must however say Rob Halewijn & Peter Hiley both crossed the finish line. I'm glad their work payed off. It looks like Peter Hiley ( who has won a few MG Championships ) has a bit more to do though, since in his words "I've never been lapped before !". Also well worth a mention is the fact that, despite the extremely high level of competition & fantastic speeds, there was not a single case of agressive, dangerous or bad driving.

The rest of Saturday was spent working on the cars or just socializing. Malcolm Self borrowed a diff & changed from a 4.2 to 3.9. Antonio's car was repaired & Ian Johnsons exhaust manifold was removed & fitted to Pieter Bakkers car. I know there was a lot of other work being done but it was too cold to watch or help. Sorry guys. Ian & Jane Johnson left for home, hoping to catch the Formula 1 on the TV & appologizing for missing Sundays fun.

Saturday night saw the Spridget café full, a lot of laughing & some dancing took place. The heating was on all night & everyone had a good time. As I went to bed at about midnight there was light snow falling. It was warmer than the previous night & I could sleep.

Simon Pages frogeye sticks its tongue out at the snow
Simon Pages frogeye sticks its tongue out at the snow

I awoke on Sunday morning to find at least 3" of snow everywhere. This cancelled the day. There were some drivers prepared to go out in these conditions but the organizers cancelled the racing. I guess a few frozen to death track marshalls is not good publicity ! Most people were cold enough & took no persuading to pack up. The prize giving will take place at the next race weekend. So The Johnson missed no racing.

no racing today !no racing today !
No racing today !

One final thought, that came to me as I wrote this report. Although it was extremely cold, & wet or snowy, the weekend was a great success ( except for Ian Johnson - sorry mate ). Can you imagine how it would have been without the Spridget café. Nowhere warm,& dry to sit ? Hot Coffee on tap. Warm & excellent food. Imagine 2 or 3 days with nowhere to warm yourself up or dry yourself out !... The weekend would have been completely different ( Not any fun at all in my opinion) without this free service.

Willem, gets his thanks
Willem, the FISC chef, gets his thanks

The next race is our world record attempt at Spa were we are expecting at least 60 racing Sprites & Midgets. There are still a few places left ( we can take upto 70 cars). If I had a car I'd be racing.

See you there !