Why people should
It sounded like a good idea when I was reading my email back in December
or January, a return to Monoposto with a race at Spa. How hard can it
be to step back into a Dallara after almost two years and win Spa. Yes,
it was late at night in New Zealand and yes I had been drinking at the
As the months went by and I was back in the UK I slowly realised that
we had better take my car out of storage and prep it for Belgium. This
meant Nemesis replaced the floors, repaired a starter motor, and re mapped
the engine for a 25mm restrictor. We also raised the ride height to 40mm.
A quick shake down at Mallory Park in the wet (still at F3 ride height)
raised some questions. I couldn't remember how to start the car and almost
pressed the extinguisher by mistake. "Are you sure Spa is A Good
Idea?" was all Jeremy Bennett had to say.
So off to Belgium it was with Jody as mechanic as Jeremy was running a
car in a historic F3 race at Brands Hatch. I don't get this new love Nemesis
have with old race cars. I mean isn't the choice between a Dallara and
a Brabham a bit like Keira Knightley vs Barbara Windsor? It's just not the
Preparation for Friday practise involved finding the right way out of
the circuit to get to the Racing Hotel and making sure Nemesis was not
out done by Magic at the bar. Some game was on the TV. Rounders I think
so we ended up making the trip to the pub a regular evening event over
the weekend. Practise one was a case of feeling my way back in. It seems
not only had the Bus Stop and pit straight been re profiled since my last
trip to Spa but someone had made Eau Rouge steeper and Blanchimont a lot
tighter. The result was a lift where the 'old corners' had been flat.
Mark Harrison also found the track had changed and used his old wet line
through Eau Rouge.
6th fastest wasn't all that bad so for Quali two we kept with the old
F3 tyres that had started life with us back in summer 08 but cranked a
bit more front wing flap on. The runs went without any problems and I
had some nice dices with Geoff Fern and Graham Reed. 7th on the grid for
the second race.
I should have known luck was changing. At the end of the second practise
our car was checked for eligibility and when trying to re-start the car
to get back to the pits the starter motor clutch broke. When Jody went
to change the slicks for our race tyres the left rear stub axle thread
was damaged. Then to cap off our bad luck when Clare, Neil and I were
riding the paddock bike up to the pub we ran out of petrol. I was left
wondering why bad things happen to good people.
Despite Neil Harrison reliably informing us all that it was going to be
rain and thunderstorms for the race we woke up to baking hot weather and
a slight hangover. By the time we were taking the grid it felt more like
Melbourne than Belgium and I was worried that the engine would overheat
and that we would not be able to re-start with our damaged starter motor.
Fortunately the green flag lap was quite fast and I got a nice reaction
time on the green lights. I was past Neil and a few others into turn one
and chasing the lead pack down the hill. As I exited Eau Rouge I noticed
some pressure on the back of my head. As I went further up Kemel straight
I realised the head rest was not fitted properly at the back and was being
lifted with the air pressure. This was forcing my head down so that by
the time I got to the 100m board I could only just see over the top of
my dash. I considered trying to drive around the problem but as it repeated
again on the back straight I came into the pits for a quick repair. After
that my race was pretty much over and I just tried to regain as many places
as I could.
When I heard about the retirements of Jeremy Timms and other front runners
I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon walking around with a Jim Blockley
smile on my face, convinced I could have finished on the podium if I had
not needed to pit. In all likelihood I wouldn't have but that rational
doesn't come into your head when a beaming Neil Harrison is trying to
spray champagne down on you.
Sunday's race start was even better and I was up to third place by the
exit of La Source. I lost this on lap two when Peter Venn came flying
past me at the top of Kemel. I was geared to 166mph and hitting the soft
limiter so Peter's top speed was very impressive. I spent the rest of
the race trying to pass Peter who was faster than me through Eau Rouge
and Blanchimont but slower at Pouhon and Stavelot. Traffic pushed us apart
and then closer again so that by the end of the race we crossed the line
only two seconds apart, Peter retaining third and I was fourth overall.
I had the third fastest lap time and gone 9 seconds faster than the day
before so it was quite a pleasing end to the weekend for me.
I had a great weekend of fun and was reminded of how friendly the Monoposto
people are. I would like to say a big thank you to team Avit for repairing
our stub axles and team Magic for fixing our starter motor. Another big
thank you to Jeremy Timms and his crew for helping Jody and I out all
through the weekend, without these people and their help we would have
been stranded in the pits and not out racing. I have a bit more respect
for a certain German who is making his own racing comeback and whilst
I don't doubt his decision to come out of retirement had less to do with
Steinlager than mine, I think he's doing a great job. My tip to him though
would be to follow the advice I got by text message late Saturday night.....
ditch the Sparcos and get a pair of lucky brogues. The shoe choice of
Keira Knightley (Dallara)
Barbara Windsor (Brabham)
Or...some of us (I can name them...) might equate a Brabham
more with Joanna Lumley rather than Barbara Windsor.
With this analogy you can begin to recognise Jeremy's reasoning
The author in his Dallara 304
Jody fastens in the low flying Kiwi
Out for practice
It may have been borrowed, but this is closer to silverware than
some other legends have got when attempting a comeback...