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My Preparation for the Race Weekend

Practice and Experience were what I needed for a strong race week-end in the car. Both of which I quickly found out I wasn’t going to get. Once I’d won the competition I explained to the organisers that I always kept my license up to date in case I ever got the chance to race. ..this meant all my scheduled practice and ARDS test with the racing school / running instantly disappeared with it. Nice.

Secondly the championship has a policy of no in season testing unless competitors are registered for the whole championship (and even then it is limited) so I wasn’t going to get to drive the car until the Friday of the event. Not good / ideal. It is exceptionally hard to get to grips with a new circuit and car on the weekend of an event, especially when your competitors will have been testing and racing all season.

As an alternative, I offered to drive my road car around the circuit so I could at least get some laps at some speed and an idea of the circuit properly (more than I had done driving the Road Clio round on the Tuesday). Rockingham were quite accommodating and allowed me to run at lunchtime on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday my car lasted about 18 laps before it cried enough and I had to stop as the wheel bearing had gone (and my right front tyre too!). Plan B was required. After some minor negotiations Rockingham offered to loan me one of their simulators, I jumped at this chance and took the machine home with me.

Tuesday and Wednesday

LFS Rockingham - Excellent Sim, Excellent practice.

Each day I spent the whole day doing laps on the simulator. The problem was that the simulator has a fantastic version of the circuit, but doesn’t have a decent front wheel drive car, so after a few frustrating sessions of sliding off the circuit due to dubious car physics, I decided to switch to the fast single seater cars. My plan was to get my brain ahead of the speed I would be doing at the circuit in the race car, this I did and I started to really get into the sim and loved it.

Over the 2 days I did around 400 laps of the circuit. I was getting my brain ready for the weekend. I found out when I gave the machine back, that the pace I was doing on this was nearly identical to some of the current F3 drivers who'd also tried it, so I was obviously getting the hang of this.

Thursday (Before the race weekend)

Could this be my Renault Clio Cup race car ?

Thursday I was required to meet the team at Rockingham. I arrived just after lunch and the team were still setting up, but I was already excited. I was introduced to the team owner Colin Stancombe (who I knew of, from his years racing Fiestas, but had never spoken to) and my team mate Paul Rivett (who I didn’t know until afterwards has won the Clio championship twice and won over 30 races!). Colin and Paul were both exceptionally friendly and open and showed me that although they take their motor racing seriously they ensure that they enjoy it too. I saw the car and it was without any race numbers or sponsorship logos, and Colin informed me that it had been in storage for a few years and they had, had to pop a new engine in it for this weekend.

I was open with Paul and Colin about everything and they were as annoyed as I was that I hadn’t had the opportunity to test the car before this weekend. It quickly became clear that they were going to do everything they could to help me and ease me into the car / seat.

The team was clearly a professional family run team, with a real family / friendly atmosphere and already I felt like I was an important member of the family for the weekend! I thank Colin and his team for this. Colin wanted to get me in the car and the seat fitted. Immediately it was obvious that I was too big for the seat / mounts. ..so Colin set about angle grinding the seat down! With the seat trimmed and fitted back in I sat in the car and it was shall we say “cosy”.

Once in front of the controls I must admit I was most worried about learning the gearbox, I’d never driven a sequential gearbox before (except on my sim at home!) and it only required the clutch on the down changes, how would I adapt? I found out pretty soon when Colin told me to drive the car around the paddock to get a feel for the gearbox. Damn, I was so eager to drive the car fast! Driving around the paddock and car park the car was horrendous, the clutch was so stiff, the steering heavy and the throttle delicate and the cockpit cramped and hot!

FINALLY ..a proper racing car ..roll on Friday practice!

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