15th April 2008

An adventure across the border for Rounds 5 and 6 of the Texaco Havoline Ginetta Championship

See ya later, white GinettaThere are many firsts when it comes to racing. The first time you race, adrenaline pumping, nerves crumbling. The first time you overtake someone, elation at the pass which turns into concentration to defend the position. The first time you spin the car, when for some reason everything turns into some kind of Matrix time force and slows down. And the first time you race abroad.

Well technically some may argue that Knockhill is not abroad, and for those Scottish PHers it is home, but for someone living in the south of England it certainly seems that way. I did a little bit of expense maths – you know where you stick in the distances online to work out your petrol money – so let me put the 444 miles to Knockhill into perspective.

Spa is a mere snip at 328 miles, 376 of your English miles to Le Mans and a hoon to the ‘Ring is only 419 miles – all mileage of course if you live in my small flat in London. But the delightful Knockhill is worth every one of those extra miles when you get there.

No, Pete's not on the grassSurrounded by the most stunning scenery, with views to the forth bridge, it is one of those tracks that you just couldn’t design. It merely seems to have evolved out of the landscape, the wind revealing tarmac where it feels like. The track also has its own micro-climate, with the weather unpredictable from bright sun and t-shirt weather to a sudden snow storm. It all adds to the excitement.

As rounds 5 & 6 of the Texaco Havoline Ginetta Championship kicked off with free practice, the track was still wet from the night’s rain. So the daunting task of learning the track in the wet was required, remembering the warnings of keeping off the kerbs as they act like ice in the wet.

The sun kept shinning into the qualification so the circuit dried out and thus it was another learning curve to tackle the circuit in dry conditions, but at least those that hadn’t been before knew which way the corners went this time. Something must have been right for the qualification as I put the car on 7th and 6th place for the two races which gave me a good chance in the races.

It wasn't long before it got wetThe first race was a disaster. Coming off the start line the clutch slipped more than the wheels and the efforts of qualification turned into 11th place by the third corner, and then running slightly wide out of Carlube the car suddenly snapped right and yet again I had fallen off on the first lap. The struggle back onto the track left me lying 17th place and wondering why I even bother do qualification. The usual fight through the pack started again as I picked my way up to 9th place for the finish and thus registered my first net loss from my qualification place.

Despite the billing with the big boys of British GT and F3 the championship still maintains a friendly rivalry with drivers still helping each other out. Spencer and Russell McCarthy aiding the Team PH car with setup and brake advice and Michael Ralph lending all the tools I forgot to bring along.

Wetter...As we waited for the second race the Scottish weather turned from a sunny day to a sleet shower and suddenly the race was declared wet. With only 5 minutes before the start the decision was taken to change onto the wets, even though the rain had stopped and the sun had come out again.

Once again the championship’s racers willing to help each other came into force as mechanics and drivers jumped onto all the cars and changed the tyres in times NASCAR mechanics would be proud of.

The race was less eventful than getting to it with the correct tyres on, as the first lap swappery ended with myself in 5th place, which I managed to keep for the rest of the race in a little gap of my own. Not quite the first place that I keep dreaming of, but shows gradual improvement for the championship, and hopefully as I learn the car more I can get a win for Team PH very soon.

The circuit gets steep at times...The first TV coverage of the championship is on tonight on Sky Sports Xtra at 5.30pm covering the first two rounds at Oulton Park. A good chance to see the closeness of this championship if you haven’t been to any of the races, and hopefully will give you the bug to come and watch the next race at Croft in two weeks.


Race 1

1 28 Kieran Vernon Driver 20:13.970
2 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Technology Services Ltd + 0.382
3 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB + 2.128
4 46 Andrew Smith Driver + 11.495
5 51 Russel McCarthy Driver + 11.677
6 4 Paul Marsh Tockwith Motorpsort + 20.372
7 21 Richard Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 22.846
8 18 Paul Sheard Speedworks Motorsport + 22.960
9 74 Peter Dignan Pistonheads + 32.452
10 6 Matthew Flowers Optimum Motorsport + 32.776

Race 2

1 18 Paul Sheard Speedworks Motorsport 15:01.795
2 99 Phil Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 3.878
3 21 Richard Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 5.433
4 4 Paul Marsh Tockwith Motorpsort + 11.165
5 74 Peter Dignan Pistonheads + 16.082
6 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB + 23.929
7 28 Kieran Vernon Driver + 28.935
8 19 David Jackson Speedworks Motorsport + 29.763
9 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Technology Services Ltd + 30.275
10 5 Steve Rigby Reflex Racing GB + 33.727