Just quick update of the last Skeg meeting…
I decided to concentrate on Phoebe’s car a bit more for this meeting. We’re finding it more and more of a struggle to keep all the cars on the pace as it’s getting harder and harder to be on pace with the quick cars. It’s one thing taking a car to take part, but is becoming harder to take a car and be right on the pace.
So Frankie has decided he is only going to do shale this year so he can leave his car set up for it, so the meetings he does, he will be nearer the pace, leaving us more time to concentrate on getting Phoebe’s shale car a bit faster on tar.
The lads coming up a couple of nights through the week is still a massive help, and they set to stripping the front axle out of her car so we could go through everything and fit new brakes etc. We straightened the front axle on the press, checking for correct camber etc, then built the front end back up, fitting new discs, pads, all new rose joints and new front springs to make sure we could achieve the correct wheel weights. A full check over including new rear brake pads and we were ready for the scales.
Before lockdown we had purchased the Ben Hurdman 207 tarmac car and spares in a joint deal for a customer to do 10 quality tarmac meetings as and when it fits in with his work commitments, so it seemed an ideal meeting for me to jump in the car and check it was on the pace and everything was up to speed.
We decided to travel down on the Friday afternoon and arranged an hour’s of testing at Skegness with Rob so we could work bit more with Phoebe’s car without the stress of racing and doing all the other cars. Sam was working Friday morning so we got everything loaded and ready to leave as soon as she returned home with the snack bar.
We arrived at the track around 4 and managed to get some quality laps in, altering the car loads between each run, dialling the setup to suit Phoebe, which is a massive step these days as when you’re racing and everyone is running around fixing stuff, it’s hard to concentrate on the setup of cars and each individual car and driver.
So after a couple of hours and a bit of assistance from an ex-F1 driver on wheel changing duty (maybe some might remember him – Rob Speak?) he used to race a bit, years ago, he sort of retired coz he was too old…
Phoebe felt happy with the car and her pace seemed consistent, which I think is important when your setting any car up, especially one that does shale too. It’s no good having a car that will do one quick lap, far better to have 16 laps all the same, even if a tiny bit slower.
We were happy with Phoebe’s car so decided we would get tidied up and drive to Simmo’s campsite where we were staying the night. We got parked up and changed then out for a socially distanced meal at the local pub. After some really nice food and a few Diet Cokes it was back to the camp site to get some sleep ready for race day.
We woke fairly early and drove into Skeg to find a nice cafe for breakfast, which went down very nicely, followed by a Costa on the way to the track. We arrived a long time before the gates were due to open, but as the cars and trailer were all still inside we got straight in and started prepping everything for the meeting, getting everyone’s wheels and tyres sorted and stacked in order, as when it gets chaos it’s always easier having everyone’s stuff stacked seperately.
We checked Phoebe’s car over and got them all scrutineered and ready for practice. I wanted to watch Phoebe in practice to see how she compared for pace to other cars. It’s one thing practicing on your own and feeling fast, but it’s another thing being out there with everyone else and actually seeing what race pace you have. She was out in first practice and straight from the off you could see the confidence in her as she matched and beat some seriously expensive tarmac machines, which meant she might be a happy Phoebe when she got off track which is always a good thing coz an unhappy Phoebe means we have work to do…
We got Phoebe 4 pairs of rear tyres sorted for the evening. This always makes the tyres last longer and perform better, as they’re not getting used again while they are still hot. Phoebe has never had this luxury, as 4 pairs of good rear tyres means £££ investment, but luckily I had a couple of sets left from the Shoot Out, so I decided that as we were working specifically with Phoebe’s car then she could have all the good tyres for a change.
So with her car good to go, I thought it might be a good idea to have a run out to see if my pace was anywhere near. After a few brake alterations and a stagger change I was well happy with the car and felt was competitive enough to play with the top lads.
Phoebe was in Heats 1&2 and I was in Heats 2&3, so this meant I could watch her first heat. I find it hard watching them when I’m in the same race and should probably stop trying… She started on the second row inside, with Jake on her outside. As the green flag dropped Jake got a good start, dropping Phoebe to fourth yellow, but she was not having any of that! She was full of confidence and the first corner, in went the bumper, and despatched Jake wide and then same next corner on the other 2 yellows, one of which was Tyrone who won the final the tarmac meeting before, so she knew she had some good pace.
She opened up a nice gap to third place and started to make progress catching the leader Fast Eddie, who had led from the front since the green flag. As the lap boards came out she was still catching Eddie, and the rest of the pack including the world champion, weren’t making any progress catching her. She was probably having a new experience as her tyres would have been holding on nicely as they were nearly new, as opposed to her normally holding on for dear life for the last 5 laps of the race…
As the last-lap board came out she was nearly in striking distance. The 515 in me was saying “Big last bender, leave it all on, take the chance”. But the Dad in me was saying take your time Phoebe, second place is better than a miss and lots of damage. Fate interviened however, and a back marker slowed Phoebe in the second to last corner, leaving her too far back for a dive, but an absolutely superb second place was a massive result for her and the team and proved a big point to me that perhaps these kids still need Dad to put more time into them as they are still both developing and improving. This may need some thinking about, but it is more than obvious that time and money spent does reap rewards.
We were both out in Heat 2 and as I made my way through the field from the back I kept trying to see where and how she was getting on, but I couldn’t see where she was until we came back in the pits and my crew told me she had finished in third, another awesome result! And it obviously explained why I never saw her, coz I wasn’t fast enough…! I managed a seventh place, which wasn’t too bad considering the quick low graders we have around this year.
We altered a few shocker settings on the car for Heat 3. The car responded well and was living with Tom and Lee for the first few laps, all swapping places and making good progress. Unfortunately we all came across a couple of cars who were tangling, they got hooked together and ended up cleaning me and Lee out. Both of us getting flat tyres and retiring to the middle, leaving Tom to go on to win the race.
The Final up next, and we swapped Phoebe’s tyres round again, another fresh pair try keep her up there. All the reds were coming through in a train, and as the race went on I could see Phoebe was going really well and must have been in the top six. Paul Hines was the first red to catch her and I watched as he struggled to get onto her to try take the place. We were all going well, so she must have been well on the pace too, and it took Paul two laps to get through. He made the hit on the top bend and she dropped straight back in behind him down the home straight. Normally as one red gets through, the rest follow quickly, but as she had real good pace she managed to get back on the racing line, keeping her momentum going.
As Paul passed the starter, 3 back markers tangled with one of them hitting the pit gate post and stopping, causing Paul to swerve to miss them. Unfortunately Phoebe was unsighted to the cars until the very last second and hit one of them hard on back inside corner. She must have felt it coz it was hardly moving, and she was at full speed. An immediate yellow was thrown, and as we all came to a stop I luckily managed to be out near the fence, nearly alongside her car, so I was assessing her damage to see if she was able to carry on. Tom was at the side of her and I could hear them talking. He was saying the bumper’s fairly bad it’s nearly touching the wheel to which Phoebe replied, okay thank you I will give it a go see if I can steer… a true Wainman answer! We all seem to have the same determination to finish races, so if it will move, it will race!
The green flag dropped and Tom pushed Phoebe wide but she looked to be coping okay with the steering, so hopefully she could get a finish. Tom went on to victory and I ended up around seventh, struggling a bit for grip towards the end but still a respectable finish for the evening.
As I returned to the pits Phoebe pulled straight in to the trailer where the welder was already set up and I set about chopping the front corner out. I asked her how she got on, she said she was fine and managed to finish, but didn’t think she got in top 12. I said well done for carrying on anyway, and we set about with the porta-power straightening the front bumper. We only managed to push the bumper about an inch when the porta-power decided to commit suicide and blow apart.
Phoebe in the mean time had gone to find out what position she finished, and I could tell by her face she had obviously done okay?
“TENTH”! she shouted as she came running back, “I got bloody tenth!” She was absolutely over the moon and it lit me up inside to see her so happy, coz she managed to get a top ten in a tarmac final with a car with very little steering on board. “Porta-power Phoebe, we need a porta power, quick!” She ran over to Russ Cooper and asked them if they had one. Within minutes Russ and his mechanics came running over with everything we needed and helped us push it straight. I chopped a new corner stay, and left Karl welding it in as we were getting rushed along by the pit marshall as the other cars were already on track.
Phoebe was fastening herself in and getting sorted and we finished the welding and sent her out. Maybe we should put some fuel in my car and think about swapping wheels and stuff but unfortunately we had no time to swap or check anything, just a quick fuel stop and go otherwise gate would have been shut.
I struggled massively in the Grand National. My tyres were completely shot with nothing left, so I just hung on to get a finish. I never saw Phoebe all race so hopefully she was still in a place. This was confirmed in the pits afterwards as she got a superb seventh and I think I managed 12th. She was over the moon with her results, by far the best tarmac meeting she has ever had, and all this in a dual surface car.
We’re hoping to have a new tar car together for her next year, but as everyone can imagine, me trying to get a team of 3 drivers with 6 good competitive cars may take a bit more time yet but I’m working very hard on it.
Just like to say a massive thank you to everyone for helping out to make this weekend possible. To those who helped out with tyres and fuel, and a big thank you to the wheel changing crew for letting us test on Friday, cheers Rob!