28th April 2008

Team PH turn into weather predictors, we wont give up the day job

Defending into the complexApril showers. It has been a while since this phrase was applicable to April, but for this year it has been. As the Texaco Havoline Ginetta Championship - like quite a lot of championships these days - has a controlled wet and a controlled dry tyre (both supplied by Michelin) this makes April a tricky month for the British racer.

Formula one teams have dedicated weather personnel studying the latest data from satellite imagery. Team PH were nearly as sophisticated using the looking up at the sky method, checking out the BBC’s rainfall chart on a phone and calling someone’s aunt who lives nearby to see if it was raining there. Maybe we should start a topic in the PH forums on race day and get everyone to submit their current climate readings. That would be one step ahead of the F1 teams...

Team PH lack awning and motorhomeThe first race on the Saturday was free from the dreaded showers, with the sun even making an appearance at the Croft circuit. The day started with some even sunnier news as it was revealed two of the first three at the previous meeting at Knockhill had been excluded for breaching the regulations. This elevated my result in the second race to a third place and a call to the trophy cabinet maker was due. One podium already this weekend and I hadn’t even turned a wheel yet.

Free practice and qualification saw a gradual improvement in the times and placed the Team PH car 9th on the grid for both races. The car was brilliant through the fast corners but was suffering from understeer through the slower turns and in the complex was costing me nearly a second on the quicker guys. Turn in was good, so we stiffened the front end up to try to stop the mid-corner undesteer for the race.

The race one start was perfect with Gary Simms running slightly wide at the first corner leaving a gap for me to slip through and elevate myself up to 6th in the first lap. The resulting mix-up at the first corner forced the safety car out and brought the Ginetta field to a two lap procession. On the restart Simms got the slipstream and nipped up the inside and back to 7th I fell. But in the next couple of laps Russell McCarthy broke an alternator bracket and fell back to 6th. Meanwhile in the distance I could see an ailing Phil Sykes stuck in 3rd gear.

Dignan Racing Met Department at workFor some reason it is easier to chase down a prey than to escape, and as my focus set on a struggling car I increased the lap times to try and grab a 5th place. You always have to question why you weren’t driving that quickly at the beginning but a target always seems to make me focus harder. On the last lap I was within striking distance and coming out of the last corner I got the run and slipped by into 5th, just a tenth ahead of the disappointed Sykes.

Race two saw the Team PH meteorological department in full flow. With everyone looking up at the sky, even talks of microbursts came from distant geography class memories as the wind picked up and the sky darkened. So the decision was taken to go out on the wets on a predominantly dry circuit, one of only three cars of the twenty-nine field to do so.

The advantage of the wets if it stayed dry was going to be at the start as the tyres would get up to temperature quicker than the competitors. So off the start Team PH jumped to 7th, gaining one more before the chicane to 6th in the first lap. The wets (in the dry) were still working well and another place gained into lap 3, but by lap 5 the tyres were slightly struggling and as the pace dropped to preserve the tyres, I dropped back to 7th. All was looking good for a top 8 finish as our bunch had moved 10 seconds ahead of 9th place, though the expected rain had not come.

Defending hard on the wet tyresInto lap 6 and going up through the gears from Tower I changed from 3rd into 4th and suddenly no drive, the car just revved. I tried 3rd again to see if it was gearbox but unfortunately nothing. Drive had gone from the wheels and I had to watch the rest of the race from the infield with a broken half-shaft.

With racing you need a bit of luck with the weather, but sometimes you need luck in the race too. This time I had no luck in either - maybe next time!

Race 1

1 28 Kieran Vernon Driver 20:13.679
2 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB + 0.822
3 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport + 0.911
4 9 Gary Simms Optimum Motorsport + 7.981
5 74 Peter Dignan Pistonheads + 12.336
6 99 Phil Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 12.437
7 51 Russel McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport + 18.702
8 4 Paul Marsh Tockwith Motorpsort + 20.087
9 58 Martin Jones Hepworth International + 24.697
10 17 Neil Merry Speedworks Motorsport + 25.623


Race 2

1 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport 16:10.319
2 28 Kieran Vernon Driver + 0.522
3 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB + 3.233
4 21 Richard Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 9.293
5 99 Phil Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 17.714
6 9 Gary Simms Optimum Motorsport + 21.214
7 46 Andrew Smith Driver + 27.342
8 35 Tom Jones Jones Motorhomes + 36.102
9 17 Neil Merry Speedworks Motorsport + 40.408
10 14 Paul Morgan Driver + 40.602
DNF 74 Peter Dignan PistonHeads DNF