American Car Fest: Brands Hatch June 2015

My 2015 season finally got under way at this fabulous event, attended by over 12,000 ticket holders and their smaller relatives, under glorious blue skies and sweltering sunshine.

Race One Speedfest

The harmonic balance ring, that had stopped me from racing the previous month at Silverstone had been replaced and the dry sump had been re-plumbing but I still booked myself in for an afternoon test session to be sure that 'Awesome Anni' was not going to let me down again.

After two 20 minute test runs all seemed well and I was putting in sub 47 second lap times but I also realised that there is no respite on the Indy circuit and my 1965 Mustang fastback is a lot more physically demanding to drive than the classic Jaguars I am more familiar with. There is no power steering and the steering box is less precise than the rack and pinion manual rack on the Jag, there is also no servo on the brake so it's all down to leg power. It makes for a tiring but exhilarating drive and the noise from the 351cu inch Windsor engine is phenomenal.

So all was set for a quiet day watching the Nascar boys and girls do their stuff on Saturday and then a busy day on Sunday with qually, a 20 minute and 30 minute race following the two feature Nascar races.

The crowds were brilliant but it made the drive to and from assembly interesting and somewhat nervy in case a three foot high fan ran out in front of the car. Qually was Ok but not as good as I hoped. A lot slower than testing two days previously and 26th on the 34 car grid but there were 36 cars on track (including two reserves) and some very quick machinery so a clear lap was difficult.

The plan was to enjoy the racing and keep out of trouble so on the first warm up lap, prior to the rolling starts imagine my trepidation as I could see the front n/s wheel of the Camaro in front of me doing its best to part company with the hub! The driver though carried on so as we began to speed up along the start / finish straight I backed right off and went last but one, not wishing to end my Mustang career after 100 yards in the back of a three wheel Camaro. He pulled off a few laps later after the safety car was deployed to allow recovery of stricken MGBV8.

Finally we were under way and I made a few overtaking moves and importantly kept out of trouble in my first race in the most expensive car I'm ever likely to own. I finished 19th as there was quite a lot of attrition, but I think that is more common when racing such classic and old machinery.

Funnily enough I never noticed how physically hard it all was, adrenaline is a wonderful thing.

Brands 2015 Approching Druids

Race two was a 30 minute pit stop affair and with the support of Ray Walsh who made sure I did check tyre pressures, refuel and generally got myself and 'Anni' ready on time, it all went swimmingly well.

Another rolling start only this time I was on the inside which means less chance of problems at Paddock but a good chance of getting blocked in so I soon found my way to the outside and made up several places round Paddock and Druids and the race was on. Quite a few quick cars that fell off in the first race came through from the back and after the pit stops I had no idea of where I was and who I was racing, but we kept out of trouble and made up some places and went quicker, though still not quite as fast as testing. During the last two laps I felt that there was a slight problem and was going to pull off when I saw the chequered flag. Oil pressure did not seem to be as consistent as previously and engine note seemed slightly different.

As it happens the Holley four barrel carburettor had worked loose but no major damage was done and it was a simple fix back in the workshop the following week.

Looking forward to our next outing in the Intermarque at Donington Park on 28th June. Once I truly get used to driving this car and getting the best from her sparks will fly but what a great weekend. I already have a rival, Wayne Langridge, racing a 65 notchback, and we are now 1 and 1 so our next on track fight should be a cracker but he will be helping me at Donington before then which is testimony to the camaraderie that exists between yank tank pilots.

Here are some videos from the meeting...