Click Thumbnails to Enlarge
Racing in a Nissan 370Z: Jethro Bovingdon's race report
Stuff We've Done
08 June 2010 21:45
This is one of those lonely moments. Sat in the collecting area, hearing the drone of other racing cars circulating and then the sudden quiet as the chequered flag drops and they cruise back to the paddock. You’re next. At least it’s warm and sunny and rear-drive should help me jump off the line more quickly and get amongst those pesky Astras…
Oulton Park looks narrow when it’s filled with chunky road cars. You don’t really notice the lack of run-off area, not when you’re pointing straight. So all around me is metal, the red lights go out and I launch from about 3500rpm. It’s maybe a touch too many revs but I don’t lose ground and quickly find myself being sandwiched between the other Zed to my left and the 3rd-placed Leon on my right. I make contact with the Leon, but it’s just a friendly rub and then I burst out of the first corner ahead of both, in 3rd.
The car feels terrific. Maybe there’s just a shade too much understeer through the quick stuff, but the sticky tyres are great for traction and I can hang with the Astras through the quick corners. Only trouble is there’s an almost dead-stop right-hander, followed by an uphill acceleration run. The torquey Vauxhall’s pull at least two car lengths. The Leon has dropped away and I’m secure in 3rd. The Astras apparently lose their brakes as the race progresses, too. Patience could see me with a fitter car for the last 5-minutes or so of the 20-minute race. Unfortunately I don’t find out. A Corsa VXR has a heavy collision with the barriers before the fearsome Druids corner and the race is red flagged. So my return to racing nets a podium! A cheap, not-very-satisfying podium, but I’ll happily take the result.
Now I’m pretty determined to get between the flying Astras and make their lives more difficult. I get a good launch from 3rd on the grid but can’t split them. It’s like a re-run of race one… only this time the race is long enough for them to stretch into the distance. I start to claw them back in as they squabble for position, but then my brakes go soft. This is the worst thing that can happen in any racer: your confidence disappears, your entry speed always ends up being too fast, which then overheats your tyres as they scrub off speed laterally… and eventually – after one or two scary moments – you resign yourself to just staying on the track and cruising to the finish. I do, as others catch and pass me with no effort, and trundle home a dejected 9th.
So the final race and I’m 9th on the grid. But a quirk of the rules means I’m just behind the fastest runners (the top 7 from the previous race start in reverse order). I reckon we can steam through the pack and have a real tussle. In fact I’m thoroughly looking forward to it. Until I fluff the change from 1st to 2nd off the start, disappear backwards and then frantically have to make up lost ground as the others break free and scoot to the front of the pack. My brakes are better but the pedal remains very long and I just seem a bit out of sorts with the car, struggling to find a decent balance. Crappy racing driver excuses aside it’s still terrific fun and I manage to pass a few cars (admittedly sometimes through their mistake rather than my genius!) and end up 6th. I’m gutted not to have followed through on that first podioum with two strong results… but racing never quite goes to the script in your head. Bloody great way to spend a Bank Holiday weekend, though. Can I have another go please?
>> Been racing? Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know how you got on