Pembrey Race Report 3rd June 2017

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2017

Pembrey 3rd June

 After the Anglesey double booking problem Paul was forced to look elsewhere and he did very well to secure an entry for the Class for this British Sprint Championship weekend at BARC Pembrey.   Again this was a mixture of a two day and one day meetings and we were just doing the Saturday.

As we have grown accustomed to at Anglesey there was a track day running at Pembrey on the Friday but what took us all by surprise as we rolled up to the circuit during the afternoon, after braving the Friday afternoon traffic on the M4, was that, unlike Anglesey, we couldn’t actually get into the paddock until the track day finished.   Botty, making a welcome return to the Championship, arrived first just after midday and as we all gradually arrived during the afternoon we had to wait until after 5 o’clock until we were let through to take up positions in the Paddock.   At Pembrey the paddock is in the middle of the circuit and with no tunnel or bridge that was inevitable.   We did agree that it might have been useful to know that prior to our arrival though the later you arrived the worse the M4 traffic became.

With the track then closed it was the opportunity to walk the course.   The event for the Saturday was to use the original track layout and would consist of just over one and a half laps.   I think everybody appreciated that it was a very fast circuit and a lot were worried about gearing, particularly when running along Park Straight on the way to start the ‘second’ lap.   In the event it wasn’t as bad as I was fearing, though with more time at the track getting faster though Honda Curve on to the straight it might have.   I was peaking at 8300 before braking for Hatchett’s Hairpin.  However, I know June did have big problems which really compromised her performance.

Unusually these days we were just one class, rather than the road and race splits.  Though, of course, that’s fine and the norm for our handicapping.  

As well as Botty we had Tony Wallen back with us but we were missing quite a few of the regulars.   Malcolm Thorne’s 15 Buick engine was still not ready so he brought his lovely (but bloody noisy!) 24 BRM.  Malcolm and Sarah had been to Pembrey before as had Geoff Stallard (a long time ago) in his TVR.   To the rest of us it was all new.

The forecast for Saturday had been for a dry day but that forecast seemed to change every hour and now featured some rain.   Indeed as we lined up in the holding area for a our first practice there were some ominous clouds on the horizon but the track was dry and grippy.

Dual drivers Steve Millward and Graham Pattinson went off first.   Steve Millward decided to try the new Sunday course on that first run and didn’t make the second left hander heading up to the Esses but still recorded a time.   Graham Pattinson set a 149.98.

It was then Tony Shute and, not surprisingly, he went very quickly for a 124.00.   June was next and you could hear the engine fluffing on the rev limiter at several places for a mid 146.    Paul then set a low 136 and Dave Hampton a mid 130.      Sarah set a high 137 and then Malcolm a low 133.   Clive Buffey is starting to get to grips with the 61 and set a mid 143.    Local boy, Tony Wallen (actually he lives over 2 hours away and had never driven at Pembrey) set a mid 137.   Keith Wilford recorded a really good first time of 135.30 and then Stephen Palmer, with a lot less power saw a low 147 in his 23B.

Jane Millward set a low 152 and then Botty, inevitably a bit rusty, a mid 156.   Ian Parmenter had a big spin (the biggest of his career he later declared)  but with space to recover carried on for a mid 159.   Geoff Stallard set a mid 141.    Grayham Parker saw a mid 145 but it had started to rain about half way through his run.   I was waiting on the start line as I saw spots of rain on my screen.   Oh super!   It wasn’t too bad however until I rounded that first (Hatchett’s) hairpin and then the rain was straight at me and I was scrabbling for the wipers.    Not being able to see a great deal on my ‘second’ lap I was much too late braking into Hatchett’s but just got round on the wet black stuff and finished the run with a 146.03.   Keith Bristow behind me had an obviously equally wet run for a mid 147 and last man, Steve Hopkins, splashed round in a low 157.

As we got back to the Paddock the rain started to get worse and soon it was tipping it down.   Steve Hopkins had felt and heard a problem from his nearside front under braking and in the monsoon, with waterproofs lent to him by Geoff Stallard, investigated and found that the backplate of the brake pad was fouling the heads of screws holding the disc to the bell.   It was only as the pads had worn down that contact became possible.  Some tedious filing to relieve the foul was made much easier when some kind soul from another class appeared with a portable battery powered angle grinder.     By the time Steve had sorted both sides of the car he missed our second practice run.

Though the rain had stopped for some time the track had plenty of wet or damp patches and all those who had enjoyed a dry run first time round were slower except Ian Parmenter who without a spin this time set a low 152.   I recorded another 146 but Keith Bristow was quicker with a high 144.

So Paul and I sat down to try and make some (any) sense of the handicaps.  With obviously no history, some dry first runs and then the damp second runs it was not going to be easy.   Paul had enquired as to representative times from a variety of cars and with this in our mind we set to it.  It looked like it was now going to be dry and so that was our assumption.   We assumed that if it was dry that with a couple more runs to get more used to the track layout that we would be between 10-20 seconds faster.

Despite the (late) lunch break being quite short  it was getting quite close to 4 o’clock as we lined up for our first competitive run.   Thoughts of a late trip home, for those that were going back on the night, were certainly building and with a European Football match at the Cardiff Stadium  we were worried about the M4.

Steve Millward set a 141.37 (8.37 over) and then Graham Pattinson a very impressive 134.84 (6.84 over).  Mr Shute was his normal fast self and the 118.86 was just 3.86 over.   June was still struggling with lack of available revs in too many places but could go through the corners quicker but the 141.72 was nearly 20 seconds over handicap.    Paul set a 131.41 that was 15 seconds over and then Dave Hampton with a 121.51 that was 6.51 over.   Sarah was going well in the 61/69 and despite this the 133.42 was 11.42 over.    Malcolm wound up the 24 to a 129.61 that was 14.61 over.  Clive Buffey set a 137.92 that was 15.92 over and then Tony Wallen a 123.99 that was 8.99 over.    Surprisingly Keith Wilford’s 133.68 was only a little faster than his first practice and that was 15.68 over.   Stephen Palmer was only 3 seconds behind Keith and with a 3 second easier handicap was also 15.68 over.

Jane Millward wasn’t a happy bunny with a 147.91 leaving her 14.91 over.   Botty set a 140.60 that was 8.60 over and then Ian P, a 142.39 that was 8.39 over.   Geoff Stallard and I had the same 127 handicaps and he set a 132.89,  followed by Grayham Parker with an excellent 132.19 that was just 4.19 over –  the circuit and the sequential gearbox obviously suiting the Elise.    I followed and now with a first dry run and getting some idea of where the circuit went set a 132.17, 4.17 over.

Keith Bristow’s 133.79 was 11.29 over.   We had set Keith a 122.50 target based on a fast 2 litre Elise doing 125-126’s.      Steve Hopkins only second run was an impressive 135.62 that was 6.62 over.

It was about 5:30 when were lining up again, well back in the queue, and there was an incident which resulted in oil being dropped and quite a delay in clearing up.   It wasn’t Jane this time(!) but as the time ticked towards 6 o’clock we were told there was only a few more cars that could run before the attending medics would have to go to Cardiff to support the (bloody) Football match.   The frustration was that it wasn’t a circuit curfew but that key people had to leave.

So we returned to the paddock and started loading up.  We were all a bit annoyed with the circumstances.   Like most I felt that I could have gone quicker and got much closer to my handicap.   Both Keith Bristow, Geoff Stallard and Grayham were denied a go at me for our normal scratch battle.   Similarly Dave Hampton couldn’t have a go at Mr Shute.

The BARC were going to use our handicap results to award 5 trophies.

So after just that one run it was Tony Shute first, from Grayham and then me.   Geoff Stallard and Dave Hampton picked up the 4th and 5th trophies awarded later.

In race scratch it was Mr Shute from DH and then Tony Wallen.     In road scratch I was first (by 2/100ths) from Grayham and then Geoff Stallard third.

A few of us managed to get to the bar first before the presentation of our trophies, much to the annoyance of those who were looking very thirsty because they  hadn’t made it in time.

Paul has asked the organisers if we can come back to which they have agreed but Paul has also asked if we can be earlier in the running order to try and give us a better chance of two timed runs.

So in the Championship after 4 rounds it is current Champion Tony Shute leading on 33, from Geoff Stallard on 30 and Jonathan Bibby on 25.

In race scratch it’s Mr Shute again on 18 from Dave Hampton on 14 with Paul on 6.

In road scratch it’s Geoff Stallard on 16 with Keith Bristow and I joint 2nd on 14..

So it’s Prescott next on the 24th.