MG Midget Racing

Update: 22nd June 2009: Brands Hatch double-header by Rich

Double header and a 3hr drive from home meant our first stop-over in the paddock. John did the packing so the food comprised pork pies and sausages justified on the grounds of having 'been good this week'. The new gazebo/party-tent went up pretty easily and was quite sturdy when we tied it down properly, no partying for us though - it's a serious business this racing. Not really much sleep either though as some of the others in the paddock hadn't got the serious memo and John hadn't got the don't snore like a damn chainsaw memo. Tired.

Qualifying on Saturday: We tested out a new rear anti-roll bar on the car. The idea was to help stop the body roll without having too much springing. FAIL. The back end of the car was very twitchy and when I took a bit too much kerb on the entance to Surtees on qualifying lap 4 I got launched across the track sideways. I managed to keep it out of the barrier ending up on the grass on the inside of Clearways - a bit of grass came through the window! After a stop at the pits (and a pause while I flooded the engine) I got back out and put in some very tentative laps to make sure I was on the grid. Unfortunately, the qualification session was for races 1 and 2 so back of the grid for both races.

Race 1 - Saturday: First job was to get the anti-roll bar off the back - 5mins, no big problem but I then had no idea how the car was going to handle. The programme was running 30 mins ahead of schedule so we were called into assembly early but just after we got there a StockHatch car managed to roll down Paddock Hill and we were stuck all suited up for 20mins while the marshalls scraped the wreckage away.

Back Off Back Off Back Off Back Off

When we got on the grid we were waiting for 10mins - my battery was flat so I couldn't kill the engine in case it wouldn't start and the temperature was rising in the car. After a bad night's sleep and a disaster of a practice the extra time got the adreneline flowing and I finally felt like I might be able to drive properly... I missed the start light. Slow away off the line, I didn't clear a single class C car ahead of me and tiptoed the first two laps past oil flags while I got used to the car again. Brands is much harder to drive quickly than Castle Combe, it seems that every corner has 10 different lines and they're all slower than the guy ahead. I made steady progress up the field on a really slippy track with oil from the compression after Paddock Hill all the way to Surtees. The car felt planted and I got up from 20th to 12th courtesy of spins, failures and my improving lap times. On the last lap I finally saw the back of Marty's car but he was a good 5 seconds up the road and going at the same sort of pace but at least I'd made it cleanly past all the Cs and stayed on the blackstuff.

Grid: 20/24(9/9 in class). Finish: 12/24 (6/9). Best lap: 1:00.24

Race 2 - A slightly better night's sleep after a few well-earned beers and I was determined to get a good start. I'm sure the light pattern was different from the day before but I dropped the hammer when they changed and got away much better making up a couple of places on the run into Paddock Hill bend before getting a bit boxed in. The car felt great and with no oil on the track I got going and put in five decent laps to pass all the class C cars as well as John Collinson and Marty. Just as I closed up towards Phill Attwood and Holly Panter I locked the outside wheels on oil braking into Paddock Hill and tried to take the off-camber corner sideways and too fast. Needless to say it didn't work and I ended up (again) on the grass. This time I popped the clutch and kept the engine running but by the time I got back on track I was dead last and 15 seconds adrift of the class B battle. A few decent laps towards the end and a last moment dash to pip David Pymm for 18th was all I could manage.

Grid: 21/24(9/9) Finish: 18/24(8/9) Best Lap: 59.68

So not a great result in race two but I learned a lot and my times were quite respectable. I guess its going to take a season to learn the tracks and the car before I can hope to get near the quick guys, at least it's a fun learning experience!

Update: 11th July 2009: Silverstone by Rich

MG Midgets at the MG festival at Silverstone! Very exciting, getting to drive one of the most famous circuits in the world - even the guys in the office have heard of Silverstone - no more "Castle What Now?". With a Friday practice and Saturday race it meant a proper 3 day weekend too - excellent.

The organisers had laid on extra practice sessions on Friday morning so I planned to take full advantage and get a few laps in as our short qualifying session combined with the long International circuit meant I'd only get about 8 in later. We hadn't really touched the car since Brands other than to wash all the oil off the front but the starter motor shorted and we had to borrow one from John Collinson. With a practice session I felt we could test out my spare set of slicks on the rear to see how much grip they had. 2 Laps into the session and I discovered they had more grip than the drive flange had to the half-shaft and I lost all drive right at the far end of the circuit. Very disappointing and my first tow home :(. James Bilsland very generously lent me a half shaft with flange still attached and I was ready for qualifying... sort of.

Having had two mechanical failures, not knowing the circuit at all and with my confidence very low I wobbled around to get a dismal grid slot 30th of 33 (16th of 16 in class). To be honest I wasn't looking forward to the race as I didn't have a clue about the lines on any corner.

Race day came after too little sleep and we were first race of the day. As we were called to assembly the weather was overcast and I saw a few spots of water on the windscreen but it started to lighten so I kept my fingers crossed. Unfortunelately, just as at Brands, there was an accident just before we were supposed to go on track. In the time it took to clear it the heavens opened and those of us on slicks had to go and change tyres. Luckily John twigged what was happening and met me in the paddock so we got my wets fitted. The wets I bought second hand, fitted to a set of very second-hand weller wheels and then left under my bench all year. Not exactly premium rubber.

I must admit I took it pretty easy for the first couple of laps but as I got used to the way the tyres wandered across the track and started to learn some of the corners I started picking my way past a few people. Looking at the laptimes I PB'd every lap - if only I'd started at that pace I might have done a bit better! In the end though I made up 11 places pretty much by being sensible and not spinning. Certainly not my finest or most enjoyable drive but I'm very happy to have got a wet race under my belt.

Grid: 30/33(16/16 in class). Finish: 19/33 (11/16). Best lap: 2:01.14 (Wet)

End of Season by Rich

Due to moving house and family commitments I didn't make it to another race this season. We're already planning the 2010 campaign though - new tyres and a new helmet to start with but more importantly a bit more experience. Hopefully 2010 will be even more fun. Thank you to all the people that helped me out this season with advice and spare parts and of course to John for all his hard work getting the car built and putting up with me shouting at him!