Yes yes yes, I know, sorry, the Britcar 24 hour race finished many hours ago, but this is the first time since that I’ve been near a keyboard with my eyes open.
How did we do? Very well. Our near production-spec Mazda MX-5 race car (featuring the same 160bhp engine and six-speed manual ‘box as the road car) finished 16th out of 59 starters in a field that included some proper exotica (such as an Aquila SR1).
“Chuffed” doesn’t quite do it justice.
We managed it because an MX-5 uses next to no fuel and because our car, out of an entire day, only spent a total of six or seven minutes stationary when we didn’t want it to be.
Those few minutes were all the time it took for Jota Sport, which looks after these Mazdas (including the forces charities one) in a frighteningly professional manner, to replace an entire front wheel hub after a bearing failed. The hubs, like the rest of the suspension save the springs and dampers, are production parts, and the job included removing a baking brake disc. I’m not sure franchised dealers of any marque work to quite the same timescales.
The rest of the time our MX-5 was, other than when it was refuelling or having its tyres changed, being pedalled at consistent and repeatable speeds around Silverstone’s Arena GP circuit while other cars fell off or broke around it.
We’d qualified 49th, and some of the few cars behind us were fast metal that had had difficult qualifying sessions. So the car is by no means fast.
But although we troubled no lap records, I found that this MX-5 was among the most enjoyable racing cars I’ve ever driven. Its inherent balance is impeccable, it moves around in predictable, telegraphed and adjustable fashion. It is, in short, dead easy to drive near its limits for hours on end and that, when it comes endurance racing, is critical.
Even so, 16th overall was a surprise to all involved. Mazda has a ‘GT’ race version of the MX-5 which is far less standard, and much quicker, albeit this weekend beset by mechanical gremlins. Had that placed 16th Mazda would have been pleased. For the production-based car to finish where it did was a hell of a thrill.
What’s my point? I’m not sure I have one, except to say: bloody hell, that was one of the best weekends of my life. Racing is mega. Night-time racing, spectating or competing, is one of life’s most invigorating experiences. That it takes place in Northamptonshire every year is fantastic. I’m very grateful, and utterly buzzing. Cars, eh? Aren’t they wonderful?