My second ever competitive motor sport event was sprinting at North Weald, and it had been a few years since I’d last competed there on a sprint. The course was completely different to anything I’d done before, and after weeks of sunshine the forecast was for heavy rain. The main reason for entering was that we’ve entered our first hillclimb, and having only used the car on slower events, I’d said to Matt I wanted to do a speed event to understand what the car can (and can’t!) do and to have a little more confidence before going hillclimbing.
The day really was the perfect test, with heavy rain and standing water in the morning before dry conditions in the afternoon. Before the event, we were expecting 3rd and 4th in class as the other entries in our class were a 1.6 turbo Ford Fiesta ST and a Honda S2000. Our class catered for cars up to 2300cc and with 1796cc in a standard engine MG ZR which we picked up for £300, we weren’t expecting to be that competitive.
The first practise run was “interesting” given the conditions. Heading down the long straight into the hairpin left I really thought I’d braked early, but I locked up and there was nothing. I was heading to the wrong side of the cone and pumping the brakes (no ABS here!) but a quick grab of the handbrake and she all came back together. It felt very, very slow and scrappy but it was the same for everyone and after P1 Matt was leading the class with me second.
The rain started to relent a little for practise 2, but it was still wet with standing water. I had a good run and took just over 2.5 seconds off but it felt a much smoother drive. This event offers three timed runs, and before I knew it, it was time for Timed Run 1 – a run that would count in the results and really mattered! I took a second off my time so things were going the right way. After T1, Matt was leading the class, the Fiesta had just pipped me to 2nd, and I was 3rd, with the S2000 behind.
Conditions started to dry out, which whilst pleasing for some cars and of course the volunteers, wasn’t really going to suit us as it meant others could get their power down. We went out for Timed Run 2 and I took nearly three seconds off my previous time, and was just six hundredths behind the Fiesta – it was all to play for!
There wasn’t much (anything) we could do to the car before our final run as we didn’t have any other tyres to use or changes we could make to improve performance. We saw the Fiesta was changing wheel sizes and from list 1As to list 1Bs (all completely within the rules) and I knew it was going to be hard to pip him and for Matt to stay ahead of him, but we wanted to give it our best shot. I decided my final run had to be all or nothing, and I had nothing to lose…
I can only say that I really, REALLY went for it, and took the best part of five seconds off my time. I was delighted with my time, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough. Matt, the Fiesta and I all took time off our earlier bests and really made each other work, but it hadn’t changed our class positions. Matt finished on 87.31 and won the class, the Fiesta on 88.08 and I was on 89.13. It was an enjoyable day and met my aims of a test session, but it was very competitive in class too and pushed me very much towards my limit.
Photos thanks to Nick Cook of Harrow Car Club.