Historic Sports Car Club Finals Weekend Race Report!

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Hi Everyone,

I couldn’t resist one last run out in our 1961 Lotus Formula Junior before the season ends for the winter so I entered the Historic Sports Car Clubs ‘The Finals’ weekend, mainly as I wanted to give the car one more shakedown after its restoration and get some more seat time before we embark on a full season next year.

Friday Testing

I’d done loads of laps on the sim in preparation for taking the Junior round the Silverstone National layout and it really does help get you up to speed quicker, and to be honest it was just as well I did as the weather was so bad on the Friday that we only got one dry 30 minute session, which had 3 red flags in it, so in the end we did around 20 minute of dry practice but even with just that I still learnt a lot, basically I need to figure out what gear to be in at Becketts as with these older cars you really need to drive them, you can’t rely on the power to get you through corners, you have to be in the right gear which keeps you in the 6-9k rev sweet spot or the engine just splutters along, so after the Friday session I went back home and did more testing on the sim as the next session will be Qualifying tomorrow.

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Saturday – Qualifying and Race 1

As I said this weekend was all about ironing out any problems before next season and it turns out we had a couple to deal with, firstly we didn’t actually get to qualify as our car failed the noise test, luckily the guys from Road to Race who are running the car had a silencer in their van but we didn’t have time to fit it to get out for Qualy so we would be starting race 1 and 2 from dead last, 28th I think it was, we certainly get big grids in Formula Junior. So although we didn’t qualify I still had to prove to the clerk of the course that I was capable of driving so had to complete 3 laps in another session, luckily I was put out with the front engine juniors which are a similar speed, we were only supposed to do 3 laps but I stayed out for the full 15 minutes and did a time that would have put me around the mid pack if the time was valid, but overall I was happy with that.

Driving into the pits after this session I was then pulled over to one side by a marshal and was told that I had to go to race control to report to the Clerk of the course, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done wrong, so feeling like a naughty school boy off to see the headmaster I walked down the pit lane to race control to find out more, luckily it was just to say that my transponder that records times wasn’t working so even if we had made qualy we would have still started last as I wasn’t being timed.

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Race 1

Well I’m a firm believer that all things happen for a reason and it turned out that starting from the back wasn’t a bad thing which I’ll come to shortly. In true 2023 fashion as we were sitting in the holding area waiting to go out on track for our race a big black cloud appeared, now I had been checking the weather all week and Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be dry all day, but no, just like every other car event I’ve done this year rain looked imminent. This was to be my first standing start since 2018 as everything else has been rolling starts, So we did our out lap with plenty of swerving to get the tyres up to temp then took my last place on the grid, engaged 1st gave it around 6000 revs then the lights went red, then green, I pulled the clutch up and then the car nearly died and I spluttered away at a ridiculously slow pace losing the whole pack, looking back I was glad I wasn’t mid pack as that could have caused some real chaos, it turns out this was due to a slight engine issue but more on that later.

Anyway at least we were up and running but really last now, I got my head down did one lap then the rain hit, no surprises there, I came round Copse with a few cars off and pointing the wrong way, so I slowed down, kept things calm then after the shower the track dried pretty quick so we spent the rest of the race getting quicker, had a couple of good battles and ended up 21st, not great but I learnt that at low revs and pulling away there was something wrong that needed to be addressed.

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Sunday – Race 2

We were out around midday for race 2 so I got to the track around 8am but was worried about the start after what happened yesterday so I went to speak to the organisers to make sure I was starting last again as I really didn’t want the same issue and to get rear ended, so with that done I went back to the garage and we started to warm the car up which turned out to be a real blessing as one of the other teams mechanics heard our engine and thought it sounded like it was only firing on 3 cylinders, a quick check and it indeed was, so a clean of the spark plug and that bought that back to 4 cylinders, also this mechanic checked out the twin carbs and they were well out also, this really reminded me of Biasing a valve amp, as he got out his carb tool and spent 20 mins setting the carbs so both were at the same level, just like balancing the left + right channel on a valve amp, now I couldn’t wait to get out on track to see if that sorted the engine issue out.

Thankfully this race looked dry for the full 20 mins, we did our out lap again and I took up my last place on the grid, selected first, upped the revs and waited for the green light and hoped for a better start and yes off we shot, the car accelerating beautifully and we overtook 4 cars before the first corner, this really fired me up to give it full beans, we had some great racing coming through the field, I even went 3 wide into Brooklands, came out in front but then heading towards Copse I missed a gear and lost both places but then a lap later took them back again, it was brilliant racing and we ended up making 11 overtakes, unheard of for me really, and bought our little Junior home in 17th which I thought was pretty good from where we started.

So overall another great weekend where we learnt a lot, better to get these niggles out the way now ready for next year, but I really can’t wait to do a full season now.

I have to say that after trying a few different racing disciplines I feel that I have now found my motorsport home with Formula Junior, firstly everyone is so nice, I mean the fact another team helped sort our engine just shows that but also the racing is clean and gentlemanly, exactly what I was looking for, I’m not looking to be the next hot shot, I just love being on track and to do that in a single seater Lotus with like minded enthusiasts is a real pleasure.

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Roll on 2024.

Finally I just want to say a big shout out to Aced It Images who took most of these pictures, we met through Instagram where I saw he had posted a stunning pic of the 24 Nascar at Goodwood this year, so we got talking and he came along to this event to take most of the pics in this blog, he really has a great eye, makes it look like we are driving really fast, the first pic just looks like a video game capture to me, you can follow him on instagram at the below –

https://www.instagram.com/aced_it_images/

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Cheers,

Paul.

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