Rockingham, Europe’s fastest racing circuit, is the first of four circuits comprising this season of Ginetta GRDC. With less than 10 days left until the racing season begins, the pressure is definitely mounting. We better know the other drivers and get accustomed to the track, qualifying chance to make the grid is 15 minutes flat. No more than 24 hours later, the real race begins.
Whenever I firmly grasp the steering wheel and push the weighty clutch to the metal, a surge of adrenaline takes over me. The car’s engine, a 1.800cc, 4-cylinder, produces 135bhp. Unlike standard cars, there’s no stability control, vector assistance, four wheel drive or any electronics. You have to rely on your instincts to maintain traction in those tight curbs. There’s no power assisted steering, which means that the wheels turn exactly as much as your hands are telling them to. And it gets even more interesting when you suddenly realize there’s no ABS, traction control, ceramic breaks, airbags or any kind of help. That’s right, you have to know how and when to break, otherwise you’ll find yourself in the gravel or kissing a concrete wall.
As exciting as it is, handling such basic bare bone car is never easy. I am not alone in my passion behind the wheel. Everyone else is training just as hard. So far, I drifted twice into the gravel at over 95 mph at Donington Park and Brands Hatch. Fuelled by an ambition to perfect my racing skills, I did not slow-pace my first training days and the wet tarmac of Rockingham showed me no mercy.
In a split second, I lost traction and I hit a concrete wall. Initially, I was angry for not anticipating the situation and reacting earlier – the steering wheel and the throttle were close to worthless because the wheels lost grip of the track. But then, while I was rushed with the ambulance and taken to a medic for a check-up, my mind was focused again. I needed to make the next start and improve my lines. Nothing short of perfection will satisfy my perseverance.
For a while, things seemed to be getting worse, my car was in no shape to get back on the track. The Ginetta team were sawing the fibreglass, patching and taping to no avail…
On the other hand, the red flag meant race control stopped all racing and everybody had to go back to the pits. So as luck has it, just in time for the next start, I was offered someone else’s car. They understood my thirst and gave me the chance to run again. I couldn’t believe the camaraderie! If it happens to somebody else, I will return the favour; even for a competitor. Humanity is always there.
All the while, Mike Alder, our mechanic who is learning to be a magician (assistant, linesman, data analyst…) rather than just repairman, worked assiduously to remove the gravel from the tires, under the bonnet and under the boot… what a mess. I am in his debt for the quick turnaround he managed. Thank you, Mike.
The tension is rising. Soon enough, we’ll be up against real teams with tens of mechanics, data analysts, drivers who spend weeks perfecting elaborate techniques and their truckloads worth of equipment. We may be neophytes in many ways, but we will not be stopped so easily. I can’t wait to get back on the track…
I hope you are enjoying our progress, so don’t forget to be part of our journey, have a look at our Racing sponsorship presentation. All the proceeds from sponsors will go to SOS Villages. Thank you.