One of many things to like about the SR1 Cup is the quality of the circuits it has visited this year. We’ve had the full, most challenging layouts at Silverstone, Oulton Park and Snetterton, and Brands was no different as the full Grand Prix circuit was in use.
An epic track it is, too, one that dare I say it is even Nurburgring-esque with the gradient and camber changes, kerbs you can attack, and the sheer speed in which you can tackle corners like Hawthorns and feel that lovely downforce of the SR1 at work. Throw in Paddock, a fairground ride you want to keep buying a ticket to, and you’ve got surely the UK’s most exciting race track.
Slow starts have been the norm for me this season in learning the tracks but not so in the morning practice session, a thorough video session with coach Roger Bromiley the night before, and the perfect set-up being found from the outset (a disconnection of the rear anti-roll bar allowing for more rear-end grip), allowing me to be on the pace straight away.
I ended up in fourth place behind the three outstanding drivers this season in Dave Morgan, Rob Watkins and Mark Richards. Might a challenge for a podium place be on?
Erm, no. One norm of the season that was repeated was my ability to balls up qualifying and never get a clear lap in, a combination of safety car, yellow flags, and slower cars being encountered on flying laps the trio of excuses I’m using for only managing ninth on the grid for both races. My best time was 1.1sec slower than my best in practice that morning, a time which if repeated would have put me fourth on the grid for the race.
Another norm that was repeated was a terrible start in race one. It’s tricky to get off the line at Brands, the brake needing to be covered to stop you rolling down the hill. The red lights also seemed to stay on for an age, and when they came off my reactions were slow and I emerged from Paddock in 10th. At least everyone made it round.
What followed next was the most enjoyable battle of the season. I was fifth in a group of six cars vying for fifth place. One by one I managed to pick off four of my rivals, every single move happening up the inside of Surtees heading out onto the back of the circuit. Then came the move for fifth at the same place, but my move up the inside blindsided my opponent as he cut towards the apex at the last minute. We banged wheels, I spun and was back down to 10th again.
Still, the clean air allowed me to put in lap times that were over a second quicker than those in the group I’d just been in and was now chasing again, proof that perhaps if I’d have been a bit more patient I’d the chance to pass would have arisen again and a fifth place, what would have been the best finish of the season for me, would have followed.
Ninth was the result though at the end and no prizes for guessing where the pass for that position on the last lap was made. Five out of six at Surtees wasn’t bad, I guess, and by the end the group were tantalisingly within sight again despite me having been facing the wrong way a few minutes earlier. Just one more lap…
To race two, then, the last of the season and a first corner which ended up having a bit of a non-school uniform day at the end-of-term feel to it. The car in front of me on the grid had a terrible start, and I got boxed in and was near the back of the field heading in Paddock.
I held the inside line, but the car to my outside got a bit of an Alain Menu-style wobble on with cold tyres (I know the feeling also, from my very first corner of the season at Silverstone), and crashed into my side.