Following another exciting season of Time Attack in 2010, the team left Snetterton and set about the familiar task of making further improvements to the cars over the winter months. Having competed in Time Attack for a number of years, the idea of entering a different series had already been considered, but hadn’t gone beyond initial discussions given the success and constant improvements shown by both our drivers.
After considering various different options available to us, the decision was made to try the BRSCC Euro Saloon championship. This series is very different to the style of competition any of us are familiar with, so nerves and tensions were high as we made our way to Silverstone for the first round. It’s always difficult to get back into the swing of things after the winter break, and with the exception of the circuit itself which we have visited on numerous occasions before, everything was new to us once again. Fielding just one car to begin with, Steve Linton was both excited and nervous of what lay ahead as were the rest of the team. The car had undergone a number of further changes, including the much anticipated side exit exhaust system that looks and sounds incredible. Another noticeable change came in the form of different seats supplied by Cobra, which required repositioning on the new mounts. Richard Turnbull of Triple T Services signed up for yet another season of transporting the cars to the different circuits we use around the country, for which we are all extremely grateful. Richard dropped the car off at Silverstone early Saturday morning, so it was ready to go when the team arrived. Armed with an array of new tyres thanks to the new series allowing for full slicks, we were unsure what settings we would need in terms of the suspension or tyre pressures, so we started off with the same settings used to compete in Time Attack on the Toyo R888 semi-slick we were accustomed with. Scrutineering went without any issues thankfully, so nothing was left to do but wait nervously for qualifying to be announced. With the announcement made for our series to form up in the holding area, Steve was strapped in place and made his way to the designated area. Some of the team went to the grandstand to watch the action whilst others made their way to the pitwall. What none of us knew at the time was that one team member was allowed to stay with Steve until the cars made their way onto the circuit. This would be addressed when the first race took place later in the day.
It was Steve’s first time using slick tyres and he was understandably nervous about how they would perform. The people he had spoken to that had used slicks before compared the experience to driving on marbles for the first couple of laps, as until the tyres warm up, there is very little grip available. Steve soon started to gain more confidence as the tyres warmed up, but the session was sadly brought to an unplanned end after a technical oversight. Steve had managed to post a best lap time of 1min 9.847secs at this stage, which qualified him back in 27th spot on the grid.
With the car fully prepared and tweaked to include the necessary alterations raised during qualifying, Steve took his place on the grid ready for the first door to door race of his life. Sandwiched amongst the Clio’s and Civics at the back of the grid proved to be an interesting experience for Steve, who lost a further couple of seconds when the rolling start commenced and he was caught off guard. Determined to give it his best shot Steve found himself much quicker on the straights than the smaller cup cars, but struggling to keep up through the corners as the front were still not offering a great level of grip. Luckily the rears warmed up well which allowed Steve to pick off a number of the lesser powered cars down the straight sections. By the end of lap one, Steve had climbed two places and was sitting in 25th place overall. With the tyres up to temperature Steve was able to push on, and by the end of lap two he had gained a further five places and was now in 20th place. Lap three saw him up to 18th place, and by lap
four he was in 16th. He was clearly in a groove and was making great progress through the field. Steve later commented on how high the level of driving skill was throughout the grid which meant he didn’t need to take any unnecessary risks as people were fully aware of the cars around them, and the marshalls did a great job of keeping drivers aware of the faster cars that were approaching them so passing manoeuvres went without incident. At around lap ten, Steve had caught up with some of the back markers which meant things got quite busy on the circuit, but he was into a solid groove in terms of race pace by this point and managed to maintain most the speed he had managed to build up.
Catching the back markers coincided with the brakes developing an issue, so Steve had no choice but to let off slightly to prevent them from overheating, which is hardly surprising given the hard use they had been subjected to after ten laps of constant use. Steve gave the car a couple of breather laps to allow the braking system to recover before pushing on to try and catch his fellow competitors in the A class of the series. His ongoing efforts paid off and he managed to pass an Impreza as well as the TVR Cerbera of John Wilson on the penultimate lap, which saw him place an incredible 10th overall and 7th in class.
To say the experience was incredibly exciting is an extreme understatement, and I can honestly say nothing has come close to the buzz we all felt seeing Steve battle his way through the grid like that. To finish the day, we gave the car a check over to make sure all was in order for the next day’s racing and fortunately it was noted that a rear brake disc had cracked significantly, so a phone call was made to the workshop to get another set of discs brought up for the following morning.
Spirits were high as we came to the end of the first day and left the circuit on a high in preparation for another days racing on the Sunday.
Following a goodnights sleep at Steve’s parent’s house, we made our way back to the circuit with a quick stop at the petrol station for more fuel and a few other supplies. The forecast was more sun and high temperatures so plenty of fluids were the order of the day as well as sunscreen! Unlike Time Attack, there are no warm ups or qualifying sessions for the second days racing, so we had lots of time on our hands to finalise preparations before the race in the afternoon, including the new rear disc replacement and bedding in.
Steve was less nervous for this race and having experienced a rolling start the day before, he was more on the ball when the lights went out and the race began. Steve was on row five of the grid and therefore had to make do with the outside route into and out of copse which would work out well, as it would put him on the inside for the next corner provided he took a defensive line. Unfortunately, things didn’t play out as Steve might have hoped as another car was alongside him all the way down the straight, meaning he had to take the outside line through maggots. Unperturbed by this however Steve managed to fight his way up to 7th over the following three laps.
By lap eight, Steve had dropped to 8th but this was more to do with the incredible Ford Falcon of Andy Robinson which had started from the back of the grid, and charged his way up through the field (he would end up 2nd overall which was an incredible achievement given his starting place and it was absolutely stunning to watch!). Steve later commented on how the Falcon caught up with him on the back straight whilst he was under full throttle but it still easily passed him before arriving at Luffield under braking.
It was around lap three when Steve caught up with the ex-BTCC Nissan Primera of Richard Hawken. Steve successfully passed him on the fourth lap thanks to his greater speeds on the straights, but the Primera was fighting hard on both the entry into corners and under braking. An epic battle then took place over six laps which saw the two of them swapping position on a frequent basis in a display that was incredibly exciting to watch as a spectator, and even more so as a driver as Steve would explain after the race when he got back to our pit area. Unfortunately the battle had taken its toll on the brakes once again, and Steve had no choice but to back off and let the Primera go whilst he took it easy for a couple of laps to allow the brakes to cool down. Despite his valiant efforts with the brake problem they were no match for the tried and tested former BTCC car.
By around lap twelve, Steve’s brakes had cooled sufficiently to allow for one final push before the race came to an end. Getting back to the pace he had been setting at the start of the race, Steve chased down the Seat Cup car of Isla Cox and was able to pass her to gain another place. This would prove to be the last place improvement of the race, as Steve realised he couldn’t catch any of the other front runners, and needed to ease off slightly to preserve the brakes enough to maintain his position.
Steve was able to then breathe a welcome sigh of relief when the last lap board came out on lap nineteen, and he crossed the line safely in 6th place overall and 5th in class which was a superb result. The whole team were delighted with how things had gone, and with ideas already flying to address the expected shortcomings highlighted during the weekend’s competition, none of us can wait to see how Steve gets on at Donnington Park circuit in early May. One thing that can be assured is excitement and adrenalin filled action from the second the lights go out to the moment the chequered flag waves. Hopefully you can join us and see how enjoyable this series is for yourself, if not be sure to look out for another action packed report coming your way soon!
A huge thanks to all of our sponsors both new and old for all of their support. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do, and there wouldn’t be anything to write about! The next round is on Saturday 14th May at Donnington Park circuit in Derby.