17-18th Nov 2018
Brands Hatch 'Into the Night
Brands Hatch - An amazing end to end the season!
Given the fantastic team result of last weekend, this ALP Racing Newsletter is slightly longer this edition – but I think you will enjoy it!
The last round of Britcar is always the night races at Brands Hatch and given that they take place in November, the weather can be a bit fickle.
Testing on Friday had been a mixed bag. It was drizzly and overcast all day – the classic ‘too dry for wets, too wet for slick’ track conditions, so we tested on both without much success and waited for darkness to fall so we could experience what driving at night actually felt like – and also to make sure that the lights worked!
Brands Hatch is notorious for fog, and right on cue as we started the night familiarisation rounds it got really foggy – but the track was now dry, so slicks it was. Trying to drive as fast as possible, in the dark and in the fog is a bit tricky, especially when you have 25 other cars trying to do the same thing, but all was good, the car was driving brilliantly and Saturday was forecast to be dry – and fog-free!
Saturday tried to be sunny. It was another day that suited no-one’s tyres and so we actually didn’t bother to turn a wheel until qualifying mid-afternoon. We had identified our main competition as 2 of the very fast cars in our class and the GT3 Ferrari in class 1. We were hoping we could qualify well and David Brise obliged, sticking the car on the front of the grid in P2, setting everything up nicely for the race in 2 hours time.
The start of a night race looks spectacular. The cars are all fitted with backlit numbers and they have intense headlights reaching into the dark night – very atmospheric. The rolling start thundered past us as we stood watching from the pits and after a couple of laps the GT3 Ferrari, being piloted by Ross Wylie, used its class 1 extra power and started to gap the Saker.
Undeterred, David put in fast lap after fast lap and managed to pull out a good lead over the quickest of the class 2 cars, a Ginetta 55 GT. Then came the pit stops, and this is where car positions can become a bit confusing.
Alan came out of the pits knowing he was behind the Ferrari and in front of the Ginetta, but not sure by how much in each direction! As it turned out, he was 51 seconds behind the Ferrari (over a lap at Brands) now piloted by David Mason, and just a few seconds in front of the Ginetta, which had benefited from a shorter pit stop (we had carried success penalties over from our previous races). The race to catch the Ferrari was on!
After 2 laps, the Saker had unlapped itself and was eating into the Ferrari lead by 3 to 4 seconds a lap. Frantic calculations were being carried out in the garage to see if a miracle really was possible and with 5 laps remaining the Saker was still 24 seconds behind the Ferrari – a seemingly impossible task.
To add to Alan’s troubles, he had also been caught by the very quick driver in the Ginetta and was trying to hold him at bay, whilst chasing the tail lights – it was now in view – of a very big Ferrari – all at night.
On the third lap from the end, with the Ferrari virtually within touching distance, a momentary lapse of concentration allowed the Ginetta to squeeze through at Surtees and what seemed a very difficult ask now looked impossible. However, that was not how this story was supposed to end. Alan threw everything into one final push, managed to get around the Ginetta on the outside of Druids (you get extra bonus points for that apparently) and was now stuck to the Ferrari’s rear lights. 2 more corners to go on the penultimate lap and both cars arrived at Clearways neck and neck – but Alan stuck the Saker in a gap (that later he admitted probably wasn’t there) and attempted to out drag the Ferrari all the way up to Paddock Hill, keeping the inside line to out-brake the Ferrari into the corner. The final lap seemed to take ages, as knowing that 1 small-slip would mean the end of everything, but seconds later the Saker flew past the chequered flag – it’s first ever First Place!
For the record, we finished a second in front of the Ferrari and 4 seconds in front of the Ginetta.
The scenes in the pit would have made a grown man tear up (it did actually!) as all the other team crews came out to applaud the Saker as it made its way to the ‘1st’ board, parked proudly under the podium.
David and Alan obliged with the traditional champagne spraying from the top step and all of the team went out for a well-earned curry.
What would Sunday bring? We knew that to repeat the heroics of the previous evening would be nothing short of a miracle, however, we were going to give it a shot.
Due to winning the previous evening, the car started on pole, with the Ferrari starting on our tail. David did all the heavy lifting in this race, putting in a blistering stint to keep us competitive, but the success of the night before added another 15 seconds to our pit stop and we just couldn’t quite pull it off – but we still finished first in class and second overall!
At the end of the weekend the trophy count was a massive 9, including the Driver of the Day trophy that Alan was awarded by the Brands Hatch commentary team for his drive on Saturday. Even though it is the drivers who get all the glory, none of this would be possible without the massive effort that is put in by the team to prepare the car and run it over the weekend.
Steve Brown, our Head Mechanic had prepped the car to within an inch of its life and it performed faultlessly over the 2 gruelling races. Steve was as pleased as everyone that the car came home top in its class both nights – quite an achievement bearing in mind previous years.
Also a big thank you to all our sponsors who help to make this all possible:-
· Capital Consulting International
· Failure Analysis & Prevention
· Buchanan Clarke Schlader
· Jed Wulfe Design
So race fans, that’s it for this year. Our new season starts on 30 March next year and we have committed to racing in all 8 rounds of Britcar, with our aim being to win the whole championship – and also run Saker 2. Watch this space!
And finally, I couldn’t resist putting this bit in – with apologies to Frankie Valli:-
Oh what a night,
Mid-November, no-one could foresee,
What a very special race for me,
So much to remember - what a night!!!
See you all in 2019 and thank you for your continued support!
Background image courtesy of Eat My Pixels