Having the whole of Friday to travel up to Aintree turned out to be a very good thing. First drama of the weekend was finding a pretty severe bulge on one of my trailer tyres. A desperate ring round all the normal places confirmed my fears that NOBODY stocks trailer tyres as standard! So, I tentatively set off with the plan to drop into PRG Trailers on the way to try and pick up a spare. As it goes, the bulge disappeared on route and PRG didn’t have my imperial wheel – so I could only pick up the tyre in the end.
The detour to the other side of Liverpool turned out to be a very good thing in the end as we skirted the M6, which was being a right pig. I don’t think we saved time but we didn’t sit in stationary traffic for long!
I dropped the car off at the circuit, said quick hello’s to everyone who was also dropping off their kit and installed myself in the Holiday Inn Express for the night. My pit crew… I mean Dad… was also along for the adventure and Mr and Mrs Grubb were staying at the same hotel so we sat down to chomp on an indian takeaway. I’m still not sure that a curry the night before an event is a good idea, but Steve was certainly keen to see me eat lots and lots of it :).
Tony Stevens turned up later in the evening and we had a good time chatting and eating away.
I’m kind of used to the morning track routine now – unloading, setting up cameras, signing on etc but today we had scuteneering, track walk and drivers briefing to get through. It’s a lot to pack in a short space of time and is a complete bombardment of information.
All this lead into the first practice run of the day. Hours and hours of prep and it’s all over before you have time to blink! So much so that I can’t actually remember my first run at all! What I do know is that I got straight into the 53s bracket! (53.89) This was promising! A case of peaking far too early perhaps? It put me at the head of the field and certainly attracted an amount of attention. Still there were plenty of others that we not far behind.
Practice run 2 – I moved the time down to 53.82 – others moved into the 53’s.
First timed run – I moved to a 53.66 – however at this stage Nick Horton pulled out a stormer of a time with a 53.3. Henry Heaton also pumped in a 53.54. Nick’s time was enough for a double take and a feeling of dread! He’d got a good one in the bank. Still a podium would be OK – right?
Onto the second timed run. I hooked up a great start and, although Beachers was extremely scrappy – it was also pretty committed and I held onto the good start until the end to see a 53.13s pop up on the timing board! A quick check at the massive grin on my Dad’s face as I cam back into the paddock confirmed I’d set a new course record for the Academy class.
At that stage – I would happily have seen thunder clouds roll in, the heavens to open and Aintree circuit to suddenly suffer a bout of tarmac moles. Anything rather than wait to see if I could hold onto the lead for another run.
As it turns out, the Aintree apocalypse didn’t happen and I did indeed have to hold my nerve. My 3rd timed run was actually my best of the day. However, I had to take two stabs at the start due to wheel spin and I never recovered the time lost. I recorded a 53.14s still – so consistent times!
I thought that was it. I returned to everyone packing up their gear and cars and am very grateful for all the people who came up to congratulate me. However, it wasn’t the end of the story! The message started seeping around that there would be a 4th run available, but that wouldn’t count towards the result. That soon got upgraded to be that there would definitely be a 4th run and it would count after all!
So, emotionally, that was being taken from being the winner – right back to everything to play for again. Talk about roller coaster.
My 4th and final timed run was a mediocre start and a mediocre run to end up recording another 53.14s time. I didn’t really care about my time by that stage though – as I wanted to know whether anyone had managed to pip me… a short wait confirmed that I had indeed won the event. Phew!
So, a top step of the podium in my first car race, with a lap record to boot. It obviously doesn’t get any better than that. Surely it’s all downhill from now on!? Only 3 weeks to wait to find out at Snetterton for round 2 of the Championship.