• Rob Lee

Swapping the Orange for a Race Suit

After an overall fourth place finish last time out, it was the general goal to grab a podium this weekend. With a seemingly bombproof car beneath me, and the support of my fellow marshals lining the track, I was confident of reaching the higher end of the field once again.

Blazing sunshine and temperatures in the high 20’s greeted us on race day – ideal conditions for driving, albeit a little toasty behind the wheel. Qualifying went by without any major drama except for a little jolly onto the grass exiting Britten’s and a track limits infringement at Lodge, on the same scruffy lap. Having therefore lost a potential better time, I was lining up sixth for the first race.

[Photo credit: Paul Williams]

Happy with my starting position, nothing was needed in terms of work to the car between sessions, other than changing front and rear wheels around to combat understeer – really apparent in the hot conditions, notably at Knickerbrook and Lodge.

After rehydrating (I’m either quite unfit or it really was hot in there – my helmet was mildly moist around the edges) and watching some Mazda MX5 rallycross races from the Avenue, race one was almost upon us. As ever, just before getting in the car, it was nice to have many marshals pass by to wish me luck, or take the mick, before they returned to post. Those of you who know me will know that my race starts have been somewhat poor up until the last meeting, so it was nice to again get a good start to race one and hold my 6th place down the Avenue.

Seeing an opening for 5th, entering Cascades, I went for it. Naturally, with the pack running close, gaps closed and cars bunched, resulting in me contacting the rear of the car in front, which subsequently danced one way and then the other as we entered Lakeside. Thinking he had held the slide, I carried on past beside him, only for his car to grip and cross the track. With nowhere to go, heavy contact was made with my front end hitting his driver’s door.

[Photo credit: Paul Williams]

Luckily, we were both able to continue, however both cars were damaged, with considerable disfiguring to the XR2 which had been hit. My first job in parc ferme was to approach the other driver to offer my apology. With my helmet, still on, I offered a handshake and a sorry, to which I was told not to worry as “it happens”. Helmet off!

After a trip to the clerk, where it was deemed an accidental racing incident, we set about repairing the bumper, wing and bonnet that had been creased. My Dad got out the biggest hammer we had with us as I started pulling and polishing other bits. The front of the car eventually resembled a pack of cable ties wrapped in green tank tape.

Race two progressed with much less drama and went much better, starting 10th and finishing 6th at the flag. At least the damage wasn’t too bad and we all went home in one piece again.

(Fourth from left) I’ll be back in the car soon, once I find where i’ve parked it.

So, it’s back to Post Chiefing or Rescue Uniting now until October when I will be back out at Oulton again. Thanks to all my marshal buddies who cheer me on and will me not to crash (or crash if they want the opportunity to take the p) and to Rob for asking me to contribute to his blog. Right, where’s that big hammer again? Actually, forget that, I’ve got books to mark before the morning…

Written by Mark Noble (#99 XR Challenge)

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