Now that the season is over I have been reflecting on what has to be the oddest race season that we have ever experienced with some highs, several lows and a flourish in the damp at Snetterton.
My 2020 season started at Oulton Park last year when I realised that 2019 had been a genuine title opportunity, if only I had given it everything and had slightly better car preparation. That’s not to say that I thought I would have easily beaten Mark to the title, that was not the case, but more, I should have come into 2019 trying to win the title rather than seeing what unfolded. So, having learned the lesson, I was determined to come out of the traps flying for 2020.
I tested after the 2019 season ended and found an issue that had been contributing to me spinning. I also decided to change the front dampers in order to give me more adjustment. I also changed the inlet manifold to one of Rod Hill’s “Mystic” manifolds which showed a useful improvement on Jon Lee’s rolling road.
A pre-season test at Silverstone seemed to go fairly well and the car felt really good on worn tyres. Then Covid happened and I was away from my workshop for an extended period which was a bit frustrating to be honest!
On to Mallory for the first round and I was pleased to find that the testing pace was not an illusion and that it translated to the race track with Gerrards being comfortably flat. Two poles was a good result, but Mr Hodkin was very close and Mark strangely off the pace. The two races were exciting and I was able to benefit from Dave’s car not being fully sorted and having a bit more understeer than was helpful, so much so, that he destroyed a front tyre in race two. After the race I discovered some fluid on the rear NS wheel rim which turned out to be brake fluid from a leaking rear calliper.
One calliper rebuild kit later and I was ready for Silverstone. Again, the car felt really good in the fast corners, the first two being comfortably flat, but it was less good in the slower corners, with the rear having a “floaty” feeling on corner entry, meaning that it was hard to get the power on early. I always have liked a car with a rear end that I can really lean on, so it was slowing me a little, but fortunately, the faster corners seemed to make up for it and I netted two poles again.
The two races were really fun – some great, spirited driving from the group of four drivers behind me and me making enough mistakes to keep it interesting for the following bunch. It seemed much more under control at the circuit than it looked on Youtube! It was, however, a great advert for the formula with Josh and Marcus being generous in their praise for the racing. Four races in, and four wins, but, on inspection, it turned out that my swanky new manifold was getting close to detaching itself, so another close call!
On to Snetterton and the decision to make all 6 rounds count really put the onus on making sure that I got two good finishes. Prior to race one, by my calculation, Bob, Chris, Andy and Mark all had a chance to win the championship so there was everything to play for and a DNF would have made it tricky. Practice was horribly slippery and I was pleased to end up with two P2s with Dave having an advantage of over 7 seconds…… jeeze! Race 1 was OK and I was able to finish second after a battle with Andrew Kemp. So the job for race 2 was to net a minimum of three points…….. which, with the grid size, was more or less a finish. In the end I got my best start of the season and then screwed up at Montreal. The first lap was a succession of cars passing me and twitching and wriggling up the road. I was keen not to get involved in anyone else’s accident, so I was not too worried, but I started to close on Andrew Kemp following a couple of his grassy moments and in my attempt to get past, managed a spin at Oggies. I regained the track and then decided to properly back off and crawl round for a finish and I was hugely relieved to get there.
It was great that we had a good turnout at Snetterton and that we had a brand new car and new driver with us. Coming into next year, there are several new drivers and some new cars as well, so it does look as though we are about to enjoy a bit of a resurgence.
So, Championship number 5 and the end of a weird season. I was fortunate that Mark never seemed to get fully up to speed, that Dave didn’t race at Silverstone and didn’t get his car sorted out until Snetterton and that my car issues didn't affect any of my results. Looking to next year I need to form a plan of how to match Dave’s lap times….. it’s just physics at the end of the day……… or so they say!
Thanks to Rod for the manifold and his continued support, Graham Templeman for all kinds of insight, help with the pitboard and, most importantly, development ideas, Jon Lee for Chassis and Engine set up work and Lisa Palmer for the “excellent” tyre choice advice at Snetterton -) and to everyone for their kind wishes and congratulations, it makes you realise that we are a big family!
Have a great winter everyone, see you all next year!
When I bough the Darvi in November last year I settled into the task of stripping it down, cleaning it up and checking everything over. To be honest once it was cleaned up and checked there was just a cosmetic issue to deal with prior to the season start. Simon Boulter, at that time, was in negotiation with Peter for the Darvi Mk4/5 and we decided that we would bring back the original Darvi colour scheme (the red is not quite the same but I think we can live with that). Once I knew that the car was pretty much ready to run I set my sights on my first year back in 750 just getting to learn the car and reminding myself of some of the circuits albeit I had sprinted at Mallory over the last 20 years. A quick shake down at Silverstone in March at least gave me the indication that the car was ready and so I readied myself for the season.
Eventually we got to Mallory and I had a race on my hands in the first event, I wasn't expecting such a battle and the car was pretty competitive and stable so very pleased, first in class. The second race was uneventful but the car behaved and I was pretty pleased, second in class. The two trophies were an excellent unexpected bonus.
I have never raced the International circuit at Silverstone so that was an exciting prospect. In the first race I managed to keep up with the leading pack for a few laps and finished the race 5th, this was the point that I knew with some more development that the car can be very competitive, first in class. I think I would also have finished well up in the second race had I not spun after a couple of laps. I did manage to recover back to a respectable finish so it wasn't a disaster by any means, second in class.
It was between Silverstone and Snetterton that I was informed that my positions in race 2 at Mallory and race 2 at Silverstone had been promoted to class wins as Ian was found not to be eligible for class B as he has had a couple of 3rds in races and a 6th in the championship over the last 5 years. I am not going to complain - rules is rules :-)
So, to Snetterton, to say I was a little apprehensive was an understatement. Those who have been around long enough in the formula will remember that my 750 career finished rather abruptly in 2001 in a big shunt just after the start at Snetterton. Although neither Sue or I were to blame for this, good did come of it which resulted in Mr and Mrs Harris -)
Practise was ridiculous, lesson learned, never rely on used wet tyres that you purchase with a car., they were totally useless which you can see from the times. I have never driven the 300 configuration of Snetterton so I spent the first race in the dry learning the circuit, still second in class was enough to win the championship from Rich Jenkins.
For race 2, there were rumours that I had purchased some new wets - nothing to see here..... Starting 12th on the grid in the wet for race 2, I was just into 5th three quarters of the way around the first lap with an exceptional amount of grip until I locked a rear wheel and spun onto the grass. I can still remember the words, which I will not repeat here, that I was shouting as I was still spinning. I re-joined in last place. I could say that it was strategic spin to ensure I could stay the class B champion but truth be told it was my fault. From there I gave it everything and caught and passed many cars during the short amount of laps we had bringing the car home sixth, second in class. I had the second fastest lap time which was a real bonus.
Class B Championship and 7th overall, couldn't have asked for more than that, well chuffed.
At the beginning of the year Simon tasked me with winning the B championship in my first year back and although we could had more runners this year, I did it. I can now concentrate on developing the Darvi and see where I can get to in the overall championship. I know there is so much more I can get out of the car and I know as I get more used to its characteristics and limits I will drive it much faster.
I have had a great first year back, I don't know why I left it so long really. You guys have all been really welcoming and supportive, that means a lot to a newbie, thank you so much for that.
So, Simon, you are now tasked with winning the B championship next year, let's have a Darvi win that two years running please.
See you all soon.
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Photographs Courtesy of Jonathan Elsey