I question the validity of any sport that involves early morning starts. Sadly that seems to include most of them, so at 5am I woke up, startled myself by spotting a grumpy looking animal staring back at me from my mirror, and bumbled out of the door to drag my trailer to somewhere in Nottinghamshire. Somewhere that I wasn’t too certain of how I’d find it, but thanks to the wonders of sat-nav and Stuart Tranter – fellow competitor who was out to enjoy a day on the other side of the safety fencing – I reckoned we’d stand a chance of making it.
And we managed it with a mere three u-turns and one sandwich stop. Incredible!
Arriving in the early morning mist it struck me that it was a truly beautiful location, set amongst parkland that fringes Sherwood Forest I was impressed as the hall loomed large over the paddock. I had a little more trouble when it came to parking, however, as the Saab’s tyres are pretty much at the end of their life and geared towards sports driving – not towing a trailer off-road. Thoresby isn’t blessed with a nice tarmac paddock, and while grass is pretty it’s not easy to tow on when wet.
After inadvertantly trying to rip the number plate off the Lotus while unloading we were all set for the day. Thanks to Gary Thomas, Stuart and others for their help in saving my number plate. A shame that they weren’t watching when I loaded up at the end of the day… Still, the Elise looks nicer without a front number plate, so it can stay off…. If anyone knows where I can get one of those neat stick on plates, please let me know.
The track itself is short and incredibly tight, with three first gear corners and two chicanes. All corners are also marked with barrels topped by tennis balls – for each ball you knock off you lose a second. I did wonder whether it’d be worthwhile simply barging through the barrels and accepting the points, but in the end I settled against it as not being in the spirit of the competition. More to the point, it might scratch the car even more than it already is!
The class was a specific Elise class with four entries. I had to do well to stand a chance of winning the Liverpool and Chester Championship where I was runner-up last year. I needed Andrew Dobson to either do very badly or drop out, and I had to score 98 points or more. In other words, I needed to be have a competitive time wherever I came – you get 100 points for second, 100+your lead for first, and 100-your difference to second for third.
First practice didn’t go too well when I stopped at the corner called Fiveways. I learned why it’s called this and couldn’t work out which of the five ways to take. No, of course I hadn’t walked the course before practice – that would have involved getting out of bed even earlier…. Thankfully one of the marshalls charmingly gave me some directions and I set off in the right direction.
Second practice… slightly quicker, but I was still miles off the pace set by Gary Thomas and Fred Simcox Jr. I didn’t expect to win here, but I wanted a competitive, brisk time. Which is a shame really looking at my next two competitive times – both two seconds off the pace around the 56s mark while the others were running around 54s times. I looked set for around 98 points, but Andrew cheerfully got around the awkward slow corners (they can be problematic for single-seater race cars) and I knew then that I’d come second in the championship, whatever happened. Sadly I couldn’t find Andrew before leaving so I couldn’t congratulate him. I’ll say it now instead – well done Andrew!
In the meantime I had one last run to complete. I wanted to set a respectable time – more for my own pride than anything else. And I gunned it. I was delighted to set a 54.62 – only 0.6s off the fastest pace. But it was a close class and it left me in third place behind Gary and Fred. But for a first visit I was reasonably content with my efforts… just such a shame that I then got awarded a 1s penalty for knocking one of those tennis balls off, resulting in my time becoming a 55.62. Well done to Gary for his first place and Fred in second, and Martyn who’s new to Elises did great with a neat 57.17 to take fourth place.
So not the best placing ever for me, but a jolly good day out in beautiful surroundings. Next time I’ll take the camcorder and record the track for posterity.