The Reckoning 

Last night I did not sleep well. Re-enacting yesterday’s events and to be fair not believing what I did. I disobeyed FIA rules and regulations by ignoring a flag during a race at the British GT Championship (one of the UK’s most spectacular racing serie) in front of 10,000 spectators, 15 people in Race Control watching 24 screens with replay capability and my peers.

I know the best way to go in for the judiciary is to let the team manager support the driver and deny everything point blanc, fight tooth and nail. It’s a dog eat dog situation. Induce doubt in the Clerk’s mind so as to lessen the penalty.

My wife and kids have already read me the riot act. It has been quite an exercice explaining to my kids what happened and I need to show them that we have to take responsibility in life.

I have sinned and I will take whatever comes my way; that is my destiny. I am at peace with myself.

Lesley, my wife is driving us to Brands Hatch. I have 2 races today. But I still don’t know whether I have a car ready to roll…but for now I need to see the Clerk for yesterday’s mishaps.

I walk into the Ginetta hospitality and recognise many faces waiting to be called in. Phil, Rob, Richard, Jack, Jon, Shawn…everybody is putting a brave face and nobody seems to know why they have been called in…I do!

Andy, the Chief Clerk is not in a good mood. John and I get called in, we watch the videos and Andy asks for comments. I step in, explain what happened and admit guilt. I apologise to John and we shake hands.

Judgement: 3 points on my license. I sign the paperwork and waive my right to appeal.

 I don’t feel good, I would rather go home now. Yet I know the worse is yet to come! 

I get called back by myself for the second offense – the serious one. Once again I explain without trying to dodge. For him either I did not obey, not see or not know what the flag meant. None of these lead to palatable outcomes. 

We talked about 3 subjects that annoyed him further:

1) Confusion: Some drivers saw the flag once, or twice, while others saw it up to 5 times. Drivers argued whether it was the number 15, 10 or both that were shown. David Holloway, number 15, thought he had been given the flag and lifted, then carried on… About 8 drivers asked me what the flag meant but that’s another story! Suffice to say, there was some confusion in Parc Fermé.

2) Rules: I could not understand why no other Marshall waved any flag at me. Incidentally the Blue Book (our rules and regulation’s Bible ultimately controlled by the FIA) also states that Race Control will communicate with the driver at the start/finish line. That sounds crazy as an unsafe driver can still legally race nearly 2 laps between the incident and exit in the pit lane.

3) Equal treatment: in Zandvoort, they allowed a competitor to race with a bonnet completely up, with strictly no vision; who went on to smash into another competitor. That event was deemed safe! I did not like to be told that every situation is different and that there are other rules in Holland. We all race under the same set of rules and regulations!

Yes I will take responsability, all I ask is to be treat fairly. My heart is pounding, there is no smile on my face; I am ready to hear the judgment:

  1. 3 points on the license
  2. a fine
  3. a deduction of 30 points in the championship, leaving me with a net -23 points for that race!
  4. a loss of rank by being pushed back to the end of the grid

This is the worst penalty given that I know of. I think it’s a bit harsh. I go for a walk and a think. Now I’m officially a criminal! Ray reminds me: Touché!

I remember the words of my skydiving instructor: small mistakes lead very quickly to a harsh reality if not stopped in time. Always remain calm in order to let your brain make the right call. How true…it will never happen again I swear to myself.

Being a referee is the hardest job there is. You always have people complaining and nobody thanking you. All the while, you are actually there to make sure that everybody has a good time and is safe. So I thank him for doing that job.

I take this opportunity to officially apologise to the clerk, marshalls and my peers.

fe582113 044b 40fe 8032 1a0a2dde52ba - The Reckoning 
Melvyn has repaired the bonnet, I’m grateful and Phil added his pizza box: Dominos. It’s funny but fails to make me laugh under the circumstances.

I had it coming – Race 1 Lap 2

We are coming around Paddock Hill Bend for lap 2 and I get another good launch. I am overtaking Portlock easily on the inside, he is my focus. Stupid decision number 1.

He breaks and and I break very shortly after, he is mine. This seems too easy…

I have forgotten that I am driving at 85mph, faster than him whilst benefiting from a lot less grip (he is on the dry and I am on the wet line). Add a shorter radius to adhere to for the upcoming corner (I am on the inside of the hairpin). And sprinkle some old brakes and tyres and you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

But no, he is not the problem, all would of been fine if it was not for John Wall.

John comes into my vision, whilst unsighted during the overtaking manoeuvre, I should of remembered that he was there somewhere ahead of us with Phil Ingram. I had a clear view of them coming down Paddock Hill! No excuses there either I’m afraid. I went into a tunnel vision. Bad decision number 7.

This is his corner, no if’s no but’s. Plain and simple!

I hit the brakes and my wheels lock and I slide into him. He is thrown spinning, as I am. In two years of driving, this is the first crash I cause: I am frustrated and mad with myself. How could I do that? Was it greed or did I just had a brain fart?

Clearly not my finest hour – after the race I would go straight to him to apologise and he was very gentlemanly about it. Shrugging his shoulders he said:”no worries, it’s racing mate, I did not know it was you who hit me!”.

This is bad driving I’m afraid – I know it and I’m not proud of it. Being brave is one thing, being stupid another. I have taken some undue flack this season as all grievances were rejected by the officials as racing incidents or they found the other party at fault! I don’t have any points on my racing license, clean as a whistle. Is that about to change?

We are both on track, easy targets waiting to be collected by another driver and there is a real chance that this could become a multi-car pile up. I have been on the receiving end of pile ups twice this season… this time I am the culprit! And it is only luck and my colleagues’ good skill that prevents a bigger catastrophe.

The crash looks way worse from the spectators point of view. One of them told me afterwards that it was an “ambitious move”…you don’t say!

I hit John at 51mph and luckily he is alright and his car is not damaged. My bonnet flew open and was flapping. This impaired my vision somewhat ;o).

screen shot 2017 08 09 at 13 10 37 - I had it coming - Race 1 Lap 2

Now, stop laughing and consider this: I am not the only one able to drive with a restricted view…thanks to my cousin Said for pointing it out.

img 0359 - I had it coming - Race 1 Lap 2

I hit the throttle and continue racing. Stupid decision number 2.

Video link below:

 

 

Rebel without a cause – Race 1 Lap 1

The weather had turned in the morning, it had rained badly but the track is drying off now. The sky is blue with some clouds. Parts of the track are dry (the racing line) and the others wet. I will have to adapt and make a mental note of it although I never tested Brands Hatch in the wet. Bad decision number 4.

We line up on the grid. The pressure mounts, the light go off and I hit the throttle as quickly as I can.

Nothing happens for a while than the car decides to get out of bed! My hart is pumping. I am mad with myself for not checking yesterdays probable causes for the lack of ignition! Bad decision number 5.

screen shot 2017 08 09 at 12 41 43 - Rebel without a cause - Race 1 Lap 1

I am already last; this is where I live for most of the races this season for one reason or another.

With only one thing on my mind I implement my plan straight away and make some gains. I am up 3 places before the first corner is over.

I overtake Ben Low in between turn 1 and 2. I try to go around everybody on the hairpin and pick up another 2 places before turn 3. I even overtake Phil Ingram, who it has to be said, went strawberry picking! (To be fair he must of had a coming together with someone). I pick up another 2 places by turn 4. I am climbing up the ladder once again, it’s deja vu. We are back on the straight: breathe, say your mantras and focus.

Portlock defends well and slows me down. This gives Phil Ingram the opportunity to easily overtake me on the straight; I don’t block him and focus on the low hanging fruits in front of me.

Eight places up, one down. Not to worry I’m on fire! Or so I think…

Video link below:

 

Getting ready

Unfortunately my mechanic Kevin took his leave for a private matter. There are more important things in life than racing. My thoughts are with him at this time.

So I turn up on my own at Brands Hatch for testing with a broken car, the damper needs to be changed. I keep thinking that the parts are badly made, but maybe we just push them too hard. Melvyn, Triple V’s mechanic, kindly steps in and sort me out in between jobs.

img 0355 - Getting ready
I have a good testing session and try attacking on Paddock Hill Bend on the inside line. Basically Paddock Hill Bend might be just the most impressive bend of all the UK circuits. Certainly memorable for the driver as well as spectators with as much overtaking as crashes or runs into the gravel.

I need to simulate tomorrow’s race and decide how far is too far…only one way, trying it! Well as you can imagine, it was a step too far and once committed you cannot change the car direction or speed until you reach the bottom. You might as well go for a cuppa and see what happens: straight in the gravel with a spin. Duly noted, I will not try that this week-end.

Now I need to get my hands dirty, the hoover out and remove all the gravel from the car and wheels. I think about changing the brakes and tyres but cannot be bothered…I think they are OK. That will prove a costly mistake, you cannot cut corners in this sport. Bad decision number 1.

So my strategy is set, be brave on this bend get some speed behind me and overtake on the next hairpin Druids. For Druids, I train different lines. I am getting better on the Indy circuit (the short version of the GP circuit) and although we will be racing the GP circuit, I still feel that I master the worst part quite well.

My friend David Holloway and even Phil Ingram seem slower in the first sector (not overall though). How funny! I have never been able to mach their times during a race and they are so far in the Championship that I need an altimeter to check where they are!

As Kevin is not with me, I had to drive the racing truck down myself and I am stranded at Brands. David kindly drops me to the nearest train station in order to make my way home. Tired and distracted I miss my connection and arrive home at 22:45.

I did not take a hotel to see my family over the week-end, but I will only be able to kiss them goodnight. As a result it’s a waste of effort, time and money. Bad decision number 2.

The next morning I have to drive all the way to Brands so I get up at 6:00 am.
You cant come to a race meeting tired, deep down I know it.

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