29th September 2013
3rd place in my very first Rallycross event…
Round 7 of the British Rallycross Championship at Pembrey was the destination for my very first official event in this discipline. I was participating in the Suzuki Swift Juniors class run by Peter Gwynne Motorsport.
We got there on Saturday evening before the event on Sunday 29th September and I had chance to meet two of the other competitors and also conduct a walking tour of the track with the Adult Swift driver Graham Rodemark. Graham really helped explain the track challenges, racing lines and surface changes and that was really valuable for a newbie like me. A Big thanks to Graham for doing this.
Great to meet Charlie Bean and Drew Bellerby before the event too. They made me feel at ease and were happy to share their thoughts and experience and give some encouragement. One of the timing marshals that evening asked if I was the new driver and offered to show me the start light procedure the following morning before the event as I had not seen this type of start before. Again another great help and that evening just made me feel that everyone was welcoming and happy to help.
Race Day – The next morning and after signing on, weighing in and getting the demo of the start line sequence I had to demonstrate to the officials that I was good to drive at the event. 3 new drivers to Rallycross had to go at 9:00 to the dummy grid ready to commence the observation laps and practice (and that included me). I was 3rd out on the day and started slowly but gradually increased the speed and all went well, helping me understand the track better.
Free Practice – was at 10:00 in the morning which was 3 laps with my class. There were 4 of us (Charlie Bean, Drew Bellerby, Kevin Hansen and me). The order of the grid was 3-2-3 all day and the order was random which gave us all chance to start in different positions and attack the first coner from a different angle. The knowledge of the extra practice really helped boost my confidence when sat on the grid ready to start. The main practice was really close and it was my first time racing with others like this. It was also very hard to get the pace to overtake as everyone is fighting for the same racing line.
Qualifying – went brilliant and I nearly got my first overtake and started to build up some more speed and confidence after chasing the others.
Finals – were extended to 4 laps and it was both exciting and fast paced. It was against me and Drew for the podium 3rd finish as Charlie and Kevin were in front havning thier own battle for 1st. It came up to the last 2 laps and it was bumper to bumper with both of us edging forward as each corner passed. On the last lap, I made a move on the straight and passed Drew, who then took the place back on the rough surface and it was at this point that Drew went slightly wide so I took the inside line and gained the place back. There was a lot of bumping and scraping as this happened as we headed for the same line.
I managed to hold the line long enough to cross the finish in 3rd place which I was really happy about.
When I got back I found the front left tyre had come off of the rim, I didn’t know until the very last corner when turning right felt limp and heavy (see photo). All was OK though and just needed inflating again and no damage caused.
The battle for 3rd was so close that there was only 0.80 seconds between me and Drew.
At the end I waited for the awards ceremony as I was awarded a trophy for 3rd and set up with a hard to open bottle of champagne so I ended up being covered in it from one of the officials (non- alcoholic of course!!). For a moment I really felt like a true driver as I was next to the European junior Rallycross champion (Kevin Hansen) and the best junior UK driver (Charlie Bean), sorry to Drew for just nicking 3rd at the last minute, but that’s racing I guess.
A Massive thanks goes out to Peter Gwynne and the team for looking after the swift and leading the day and also huge thanks to Charlie and Drew for making me feel welcome.
A brilliant day at Pembrey, one I will not forget, I gained more experience on the track, what happens behind the scenes and met lots of great people involved in Rallycross at all levels.
That day was full of excitement, experience. A good taste for what Rallycross has to offer.