We’ve all heard someone say it after driving in bad weather: “I literally couldn’t see a thing.” These people clearly have not driven in a wet motor race before.
My word, the run down to the first corner in a wet race is an experience. It’s a combination of terrifying and exhilarating.
Far from literally not being able to see a thing, you can see actually see plenty of one thing: a dark spray, which is not very helpful as it blocks out the stuff you want to see. You know, important stuff like other cars (not even their rain lights from a few feet away), the track, the corners.
This was at Snetterton on Sunday in the second race of the Radical Sprint Championship. Unlike in the dry races before and after it on a changeable day, remarkably, everyone behaved themselves into the first couple of corners and for much of the race.
I have new-found respect for those drivers who specialise in making it look so easy in the wet; it’s a skill like no other, being able to push a racing car in such conditions.
Those at the front had their lap times hit by around 20 seconds a lap compared with in the dry, but for me it was between 25 and 30 seconds. Every time I tried to push on more, a spin felt imminent, as I’d done three times in the damp qualifying session that morning. So once sight was lost of the car in the front, it was time to make sure the car made it to the finish fourth in class. Ever the competitor.
This entry into the Radical Sprint Championship on Sunday was designed as a taster for what those in the Radical SR1 Cup can do with their cars as their two-year stint in the novice championship comes to an end. Namely, put some slicks (or wets) on it and go racing against the big boys in the bigger, more powerful Radical SR3s.
More on that another time, though, as round three of four in the SR1 Cup was the main event for me this weekend on a baking hot Saturday at Norfolk’s second-best sporting venue.
A day of testing on Friday had finally led to a confidence-inspiring set-up ahead of race day. It had taken longer to get the set-up right alongside mechanic Will Maddison, as this was a new chassis; a crash at Oulton Park three weeks earlier had sadly done for the original car.
All was well with the new car, though, and for the first time this season the 20-minute qualifying session largely came together. As is the case with pretty much everything in racing, experience counts for so much. With qualifying, it pays to be comfortable to push as early as possible, because you never know whether, later in the session, you’ll encounter yellow flags or traffic, both of which happened at Snetterton.
Still, a lap good enough for fifth on the grid was in the bag, a lap that was only 0.051sec off third.
The racing was just as close, but another bad start meant I wasn’t initially part of the action at the sharp-end of the grid. It was an unusual feeling for the first two corners; it felt uncomfortable being so close to other racing cars again after the Oulton crash, and I was far too respectful and safe.
A couple of laps in, though, and the voice inside my head changed its tune to saying these folk weren’t going to hurt me, and ideas were promptly bucked up. I made up a couple of places, before a spin pushing for another put me down to 12th.
A red flag and restart was the ideal opportunity for credibility to be restored for a finishing position to match the starting one. A much better start and a few scuffles farther up the grid led to a sixth-place finish overall.
Race two from eighth on the grid, and another bad start meant there was more work to be done. A quite brilliant battle emerged for fourth place between Lewis Gee, Peter Tyler, Markus Thomas, Sean Maloney and myself for the second half of the race, coming to a head going into the penultimate corner at Coram, where we weren’t too far off four abreast. Running sixth, I made a move for fifth, failed, got bogged down on the exit and ended up being outdragged to the line and came seventh.
It was immense fun, though, and back in parc ferme, perhaps the most memorable part of the day was reliving it again with my fellow competitors. A real camaraderie and respect has developed in the few short races we’ve done, and getting to know the other drivers and their driving styles allows strategies to be developed on how to get past from circuit to circuit.
I’ve got the pace to run in the second group, which is behind the class-of-the-field trio of championship leader and team-mate Dave Morgan, Rob Watkins and Mark Richards.
But I don't have their levels of racecraft, making them hard folk to pass. It all comes back to that word 'experience'; it’ll come from continuing to mix it with some very good drivers, and the beauty of the SR1 is that the more familiar you are with it, the harder you can push and the more you can progress. Hopefully that’ll be the case after a couple of months' break before the championship rounds off at Brands Hatch in September.
Read the Radical race diary entries