The groups were drawn and we were to face Waikato and Stratford. Both good teams with plenty of experience so it was going to be a challenge for our inexperienced team, but we would do our best as always.
Pete decided to run me, Lee, Bobby, and Karl in the first race. Me and Bobby to run, and Karl to be number 4 blocker with Lee in a floating role to help block but switch to running if me or Bobby got damage.
Me and Bobby got away fairly well, while Karl and Lee set about dealing with the Waikato runners.We were in a good position, Bobby was leading and I was sat nicely behind him in second place, so was looking good for plenty of points. But one lap to go and a Waikato blocker managed to get away from Lee and took a good swipe at me on the way past, breaking my back shocker and leaving the car limping to try get home.
Sparks were flying from under the car as something was obviously not right. A0s there were 13 teams entered this year it all depended on points to qualify for the top tier so was important to try get all cars home if possible.
Bobby managed to still win the race but my car wasn’t able to make the finish line so our points were down a bit to what were hoping for. On further inspection of my car we found the driveshaft had nearly worn through because it was rubbing on a seat bracket after the shocker had been ripped off which had then heated the rear seal in the gear box causing the box to start leaking.
We only had a few races to try sort all the damage so Bernie and the crew were up against it. We had to make a decision as they were calling us for our second race. It was decided my car would not be fixed up enough to be reliable, so the decision was made for me to jump in Frankie’s car and he would take my car out onto the line up to keep them all guessing.
Unfortunately the second race didn’t go as well as the first one, I was on blocking role in the 555 car and was loving every minute of it until a massive hit ripped the wheel gaurd off, which resulted in me being excluded from the race.
The other lads had also all had a bad run. Karl received a massive hit when he missed seeing a Stratford car coming, and spent rest of race trying to get his breath on the infield.
We managed to get a couple of cars home but qualifying for the top tier was over. Luckily we got enough points to make the second tier giving us a chance of getting third place on the second night.
That was it for first qualifying night, and time to pack everything away and get the cars to the garage ready for repairs morning after.
After a full day doing repairs and checking cars over, we were all ready to do battle again. Pete decided he wanted to run Frankie against Wellington in the first race to give him some real experience of proper teams racing. I was excited and nervous for him but knew he would handle it like a pro which he did!
For the second time this weekend I received a massive hit on the wheel guard, forcing another unwanted retirement for me. As I pulled onto the infield and parked up, I jumped out the car so I could watch the rest of the team, hopefully they could do okay.
It was then that I noticed that Frankie was positioned in the pits corner behind 3 Wellington cars, just leaving one a bit further down straight behind him. This relaxed me a bit until the officials started moving not one, not two, but all three of them back behind Frankie…!
So my son in his first proper teams race was sat just in front of all four of the Wellington team. He had to keep his calm make a good start on the green and get him self repositioned so they couldn’t get him to the wall and over. I’m not sure who was most nervous, Frankie, me, or Sam! But as the lights went green Frankie was gone, instantly repositioning himself, and he even got one of the Wellington cars as they came across him. A calm head and good instincts meant he handled the situation perfectly. His own words afterwards “You and Pete didn’t bloody prepare me for that one!” I knew straight away he could handle the pressure of teams racing.
Unfortunately after my wheel guard was ripped off, Wellington managed to hold on for the win, and they went on to beat Palmy and finish third overall so a massive congrats to them.
With a fair bit of damage on three of our cars, that would be Team GB’s last involvement for 2019, but the six lads that put their names forward did the team proud. We vowed to do a big push on fund raising this year so we can put some serious money into the team cars over there and try and make them faster and more reliable to do the job.
As for me, I totally enjoyed every minute, even the massive hits, and am already looking forward to 2020. The only negative that came out of 2019 was some comments on a NZ discussion board accusing me of picking the wrong drivers, etc, etc.
To clear this whole situation up once and for all. Team GB is picked by Pete Falding and Guy Parker. For 2019 only 6 drivers put their names forward for the team. All 6 of them drivers took part. As team captain it is my job to ensure the safety of my team, to help them understand their roles and advise them in any way I can.
I have actively spoke to many top drivers over the years inviting them to take part in Team GB, but only a handful ever have. I can’t force drivers to take part in Team GB and I would always use a driver who listens and does as he is asked over a driver who does as he pleases, even if the first driver is a low grader compared to the second driver.
It is a massive undertaking for us to take part in the teams, and as the quality of all the teams and cars goes up every year, I think it is time we started raising some serious funds so we can invest into the cars and start giving our drivers a sporting chance.
I would just like to say a massive thankyou to everyone who helps make this all happen, from the sponsors who help fund it all, to the car suppliers who have the trust to let us team race their cars. We will be back and we will be stronger and one year we will do the unthinkable.
Frankie Wainman, a very proud British Lions captain.
Thanks to Palmy Pirates for the videos and Benjamin Le Prou for the photos.