Another new season, and another new circuit for the SPC-UK championship in 2012. Colchester was the scene for rounds three and four, an abrasive and high speed circuit that was to prove a challenge for drivers as the weekend unfolded.
It became clear during Saturday practice that tyre wear was going to be a huge factor on raceday as the grippy circuit was punishing the front tyres of the cars in particular, causing excessive wear. I was finding that one five minute run was taking about a third of the diameter from the foam tyres on the front – wear that I have never experienced before. I even saw a mini chassis that had its rubber front tyres completely torn apart by the surface after one run.
This was my first experience of running my 2012 car on a tarmac circuit and was certainly a tricky start. It became clear to me from the moment I went on track that the car was going to be tough to find a balance with, and oversteer was really bad. I had opted to use Xceed F103 tyres for this meeting and quickly discovered that the fronts simply didn’t go hard enough to dial out the oversteer. Even with additive soaked rear tyres and hard fronts with no additive the oversteer was severe. I began to quickly realise that with these tyres I didn’t even have a chance of anything resembling a competitive car for Sunday.
Fortunately Adrian Parkes kindly let me try an old set of his F1 tyres that were harder and these transformed the car in to a fast and nimble performer. I was confident for Sunday, but wear was worrying me as there was little chance that these tyres which had already been used a fair amount would last the duration.
By the time I had tried these tyres and satisfied myself that I had a chance of a good showing it was geting dark. I had already pitched my tent and decided to grab a spot of dinner (there is a great fish and chip shop round the corner). Once I had finished I spent the rest of the evening chatting to Adrian and trying to warm myself on Tony Gomez’s disposable BBQ, which got a little too hot at one point as those present will confirm!
Camping was cold – very cold. I woke at 6am to a very frosty circuit and a slightly sad Adrian who had found his car with a smashed rear window. We still don’t know how this happened and it will probably always remain a mystery, but how we didn’t hear it in the night is beyond me. A bacon sandwich from yours truly seemed to cheer him up a little and it wasn’t long until the heats were upon us. By this time the weather was lovely and was looking like we were going to be treated to a very hot day.
With a low turnout things were very busy between heats with only just enough time to top your batteries up. I found the heats interesting and the pace of the cars was very high. The F1 retro class is blessed with some very good drivers and although the turnout was low the quality of driving was high which made up for it. I had swapped some of my rear tyres for some harder fronts with Adrian and was giving these a try in heats one to three. They performed well but I still had a very nervous car that was not quite as good as I had experienced the day before with the used fronts Adrian had given me. I decided to bolt these on for the final heat and go for it. The car was suddenly awesome again with these fronts and I managed to drag to get the car second on the grid for the finals which I was very happy with, and proved that the brushed G2 was a pretty good match for the brushless systems.
The first final was a miserable affair for me. I got off the line a little slowly (I think some of the brushless systems can assist the drive off the line by the looks of things) and I then made a mistake at the second corner that put me to the rear of the field. I set about fighting my way back but had a small incident with another car and suddenly had very little steering. A marshal signalled for me to stop and indicated that my race was over. After the final had ended I inspected the car and saw that one of the front uprights had completely snapped. I had never had this part of the car fail before and can only think it had been weakened from several knocks in to the pitwall in the heats. I know to check this next time. With a busy front re-build before the second final I got the car on to the grid in time which was a relief.
The second final went much better for me. I ended up fourth having been overtaken by a couple of cars and maintained pressure on third place. I could match the pace but couldn’t really catch so tried to keep pace and hope for a mistake which I duly got promoting me to third place which I was fairly happy with. I don’t think second of first was on the cards for me at any point.
Colchester was a really good days racing and I met some new people as well as caught up with those I already knew which was nice. I’m really looking forward to the next SPC-UK meeting I will be attending which will be Eastbourne in June.