DUTCH DEPRESSION DEEPENS
This report by Ian Johnson.
It's the inane ramble again - still mid-fieldish - so settle down with a long cool drink and go for it.
For many of the Dutch competitors Zandvoort circuit is "just down the road" and they had high hopes that their home circuit would give them the edge to lever Mr David Shannon and the rest of the UK front runners off the podium.
Saturday 11:25 Official Practice. Norman Sailer was reunited with his car after " a while" - sadly on lap 4 his valve seized in its guide (at least mine had the decency to seize in free practice). Ian Burgin's 1000cc screamer was not so much screaming as mumbling - surely a Benetton team member would not be happy running at the rear of the field! Rolf Soesman, No.52, called it a day after 6 laps - he was running very hot, ominous puffs of smoke from his breather tubes did not look good for his pistons. John Faux had a half shaft shear - is it the immense power from his engine or the way he leaps over the kerbs? Jean Michel Guermonprez, No.24, had a gearbox failure - his weekend would definitely improve. Rob Bierman, one of the aforementioned Dutch hopefuls, very hopeful, only managed 3 laps before his half shaft sheared - he at least had a good knowledge of the circuit to fall back on. Andrew McGee's water pump failed on lap 7 - when they run hot the head gasket suffers (hindsight is a marvellous thing). Various drivers headed off into the gravel, James Bilsland, Mark Dols, Simon Page to name a few. Most of the grid managed 9 laps of qualifying. This circuit certainly takes some learning or was it just me. Pole position went to Ian Hulett on 2.13.20 with Dave Shannon second 2.13.40 and Pieter Bakker (Dutch hopeful) 2.13.80.
Due to several races being red flagged the Spridget grid didn't make it onto the circuit until nearly 6 p.m. Once again the field was lined up to the nearest millimetre on the grid, each car being given the same amount of time and attention - it's a rolling start so why bother!! The 5-minute board was shown "hell fire" my engine was already at nearly 80C - should I stop it? Would it start again? Decisions, decisions, what was everyone else doing. 3 minute board, aha - these weren't real minutes, relax, stay cool! Green flag and off we go - another drive round in case any changes had been made since our last lap!
Round Mitsubishibocht perfect formation - green lights and away we go. Rob Halewijn beside me was slow away whilst at the sharp end Dave Shannon had already taken the lead from Ian Hulett. Mark Dols (Dutch hopeful) passed Peter Hiley; at the rear Ian Burgin and Norman Sailer fought for last place.
Lap 2 Shannon, Hulett, No.6, Bakker, No.10 and James Bilsland, No.16 were in tight formation. Throughout the field, according to my spotter (Jane, my wife), changes were being made. I managed to get up the inside of Hans Dullaert at Tarzanbocht; No.34 Mick Hopkins was closing on Simon Page and Ian Wright. Ian Burgin, according to my spotter, was starting to sound like a tractor (her words). By lap 5 Shannon was in a different postal zone - Hulett was still leading Bakker from Bilsland. Mark Dols and Mark Hope were also in close combat.
On lap 6 Murray Henderson, No.35, pulled off with an engine that would not run. Andrew McGee, No.47, was already in the pits with a blown head gasket (remember that water pump failure in qualifying ?). Paul de Kuyper, No.53, having spun whilst being put under intense pressure in the race by car no.7 now had a two piece crank - he pulled off. Rob Bierman after 8 laps, had a car with zero volts and then naturally zero spark. Rob Halewijn pulled into the pits on lap 7 with his eighth head gasket failure of the year. Surely that must start to become annoying!!
Lap 8, my spotter on the pit roof saw that No.16 (Bilsland) was now very close to No.10 (Bakker) as they exited Tarzanbocht (oh dear!). Pieter's preferred line round Hugenholtsbocht was wide in, tight out, James' was now close enough to take advantage of the large door left open on the inside. Inevitably the two differing lines would cross, contact was made and Pieter spun out of the race, James continuing. On the last lap Peter Hiley pulled into pit lane with smoke pouring from his rear brakes. His explanation was quite involved - something to do with non-return valves, leavers and stuff. Basically he'd left the handbrake on which had caused his rear brakes to catch fire! I had Hans Dullaert close behind at Tarzanbocht - Hans tried a now or never lunge from way back - it was a bit optimistic - well I thought it was! Hans stood heavily on the brakes, smoke pouring from his tyres - I moved to the left, contact was avoided and I held onto my position. Hans now had Steve Chapman in close pursuit, whilst looking for his next chance which fortunately never came.
At the flag Dave Shannon took the win from Ian Hulett. Ian was to suffer a 60 second penalty for an on track infringement. This elevated Jean Michel Guermonprez to a euphoric second place with John Faux third - this was a fairly awesome drive considering he was facing backwards in the gravel at Schievlak on the first lap. Mark Hope's woes were due to a misfire, Ian Burgin's primrose yellow 'tractor' had a distributor full of oil and Simon Page was overjoyed to find a broken valve spring - this was surely the reason for his poor form (or not!).
The dinner on Saturday evening was awesome - Indonesian. Even Mick Hopkins (birthday boy along with John Faux) a dyed in the wool, meat and two veg, knotted hanky type, enthused. The whole meal was set off by the enthusiastic waiter service supplied by Mr P Hiley who was only too keen to slide between the tables, clearing the debris for the comfort and benefit of others, or was he trying to keep the handbrake thing quiet?
As Mr Page, one of the oldest FISC drivers* mentioned, Zandvoort and heavy rain tend to go hand in hand and a huge thunderstorm at 10 p.m. approximately resulted in Ian Hulett having to abandon his tent for the safety of the Faux Inn! The sight of Mark Hope and James Bilsland running full tilt towards the safety of the Spridget Café in the downpour was only topped by Andy (Nick Rose's mechanic) about an hour later, when the second cloudburst hit, standing in the paddock with just a towel around his waist! I did not actually see this apparition - this was once again information from my spotter! I just hoped it was at least a bath towel! For the next half an hour Mark Hope's fairly infectious giggle/laugh could be heard just above the sploshing as people waded in the swimming pool that was once a paddock, trying to locate fuel cans, spare wheels etc., that were floating to freedom past the Shannon outlook post at the deep end! Various tents were hauled up the bank to safety. Sarah, with water lapping at the front of her tent, refused to move. Did she know it wasn't going to rain anymore or is she plain obstinate - I have no idea who she takes after, but I could hazard a guess! (Sarah is Ian's daughter - Steve) Amazingly by 10 o'clock Sunday morning, thanks mainly to the sandy soil and high temperatures the swimming pool had subsided and the paddock had returned.
Race 2 - Sunday 15.40 ish. My spotter situated herself at the Nissanbocht chicane, assisted by Mr Hopkins. The large cold raindrops started to fall, not exactly what I wanted. I could see Debbie Vernon doing a rain dance next to Dave Shannon's car. Fortunately the gods were not impressed and it stopped. However, the far side of the circuit had received quite a drenching. Mick Hopkins offered to cuddle Sarah to keep her warm and dry - she was suspicious however of his motives so declined his offer. By the time the race started the far side of the track had dried out. Pole man Shannon, once again, eased himself into a comfortable lead. Pieter Bakker having started at the back of the grid, due to his "hoopla" with James was charging through the field.
Lap 3, Shannon's lead was already impressive, Jean Michel Geurmonprez still second with John Faux in third. Pieter squeezed up the inside of me, No.7 into Nissanbocht. Sadly Ian Burgin's little yellow 'tractor' with it's distributor now cleaned of oil was still sounding horrible. Lap 4, I had followed Mark Dols and Mark Hope for two laps now, as Dols rounded Hugenholtzbocht he, as usual, locked his brakes, no change there then! The car swapped ends ( no change there then either - Steve), Mark Hope and I squeezed past. Having seen the lead up to the incident I had thought I might gain two places but alas Mark was now easing away, not as I had planned. Peter Hiley was now too close for comfort - his handbrake definitely off this time.
On lap 6 Ian Hulett's gearbox called it a day and he was forced to spectate. Rob Halewijn spun in front of Hans Dullaert but caused minimal damage on lap 9. My spotter spotted 25, Norman Sailer, had a big squidge mark on the side of his car - this was apparently when he and Steve Chapman had earlier tried to occupy the same piece of track. Jean Michel Guermonprez who must have had his most successful weekend in FISC so far, was running out of brakes, smoke emitting from his rear drums. Having held off Peter Hiley for most of the race I inadvertently allowed him a small gap as we passed the stricken Hulett into the second gear right-hander. If I took the apex we would collide so I gave him room and then desperately tried to beat him into the Nissanbocht chicane. We entered the chicane side by side, I hoped he would run out of brakes. The plan nearly worked, but only nearly. Another lap and we would have caught Jean Michel who was slowing considerably due to his lack of brakes but the flag was out. I had a great race; Dave Shannon won by miles, 12 seconds, from John Faux with James Bilsland a further 6 seconds behind. James and Simon Small, No.33, were removed from the results for "car illegibility". This elevated Pieter Bakker to third, 32 seconds behind Dave Shannon.
Track winners Faux,Shannon,Bilsland (l-t-r)
Rob Bierman, No.31, once again ran out of electrics, Andrew McGee, No.47 had another head gasket failure, Paul de Kuyper who had changed the engine after the crank snapped in his first motor, found the starter motor had more power than the new engine and only just managed to return to the pits after the sighting lap! Simon Page had all 16 valve springs in perfect working order but was less than happy with his brakes, he finished 13th. The most depressed Dutch driver was Mark Dols, he really thought this was his weekend - his family was there in force, they had driven the entire 20 minutes to the circuit! And he finished 10th! Never mind there's always next year.
*To avoid any confusion Simon is one of the founding FISC racers. No inference is implied concerning the age of Mr Page who claims he is three years younger than me - appearances obviously can deceive.