Last weekend saw all the finest racing drivers crowned champions; My beloved Sebastian Vettel once again became F1 World Champion, Tommy Hill walked away with the BSB 2011 gong, and my good friend Pip Hammond deservedly became 750 Motor Club’s Stock Hatch second time title holder.
After a shaky start to the weekend, Pip battled through to prove just why he is a star in the making, and so I couldn’t resist the chance to ask him to blog for me. If ever anyone deserves a crack at a career as a racing driver, it’s undoubtedly this man. Congratulations Pip.
I couldn’t believe it when I heard. Though Donington – one of my favourite tracks – had been axed as the season finale, the 750MC decided that rather than the usual go-to of Snetterton (already the host of three races this season) we would hold finals weekend at my local circuit, Cadwell Park.
Cadwell would be my favourite regardless of where I lived, but this meant I wouldn’t need a day off work to travel and arrive the night before – greatly appreciated by my bank balance.
Given the drama that preceded my previous season in 2009 – an overnight engine change for final race – I was pretty calm. Andrew Lightfoot dropped a few of his usual backhanded compliments but he wasn’t going to psyche me out this time. I don’t do a lot of testing, Cadwell is the only track I’ve ever tested at and I was confident carrying a slender six point lead into the last meeting of the season. Matt Rozier, my rival all season long, had been quick all year but here I need no warm up.
However it didn’t quite go to plan…
I rolled out in qualifying feeling good; I had new pads to ‘bed-in’ but a few cheeky runs up and down the circuit entrance road had gotten most of the job out of the way. I passed a couple of cars and found some room to go after laptimes. Having qualified on pole in the May round here I was expecting a front row position after recently struggling at previously unvisited circuits, but towards the end of lap three I shifted for 4th gear and… Nothing.
At first I thought I had just missed it. Missed gears had been my weakness all year – costing me victory at Mallory Park amongst other issues, but this time it was more serious so I cruised back to the paddock. Every possible ‘easy’ solution was sought, but the reality was that part of 3rd gear had cracked, preventing selection of 4th – despite full use of all other gears. I have another gearbox at home but it is out of a Vauxhall Cavalier, and the ratios would be wrong.
So I did what I spend a lot of my life doing: grovelling.
This time I grovelled to Nick Carter – driver of the only Vauxhall Corsa in Class A. The Corsa and the old Nova have many common parts so I asked him if he had a spare gearbox. Fortunately he lived locally and thought he “had a spare somewhere around the back”. So my most useful friends started stripping the old box while I rode out with Nick to his [rather nice] house to dig out this gearbox. Around the back of a wooden shed was an old engine and a ratty- looking gearbox. It looked about right so we threw it in the back of Nick’s car and headed back to circuit.
There, with the help of my friends (by which I mean, they did 99% of all the work) one good gearbox was made from two damaged ones, and all work completed with 10 minutes to spare. Once more up and down the access roads to try all the gears and straight to assembly for race one!
It’s impossible for me not to feel smug about the race. Starting 11th, I threw myself into the wet race, and found myself up to 3rd just two laps in! Of all the moves, the most tense was approaching the Mountain alongside Martin Cayzer. I got to his inside, but with two wheels on the grass. I managed to get the car turned and just rubbed his door on the way past.
Eventually I caught the leaders, and, making the most of their battle, I passed them both on the same lap to win by just 0.37 seconds, giving me an eight point lead with one race to go!
After the emotions of Saturday, I knew that Sunday needed to be calmer – if only to prevent my parents from having coronaries. I was starting 7th, (750MC qualifying rules saying the race 2 grid is set on 2nd-best times in qualifying) in the dry this time and needed another brave first lap. After a good getaway, it opened up in front of me to take 4th position, which was all I needed to guarantee the title.
However, we were only a lap into the race and I was able to catch and pass the leaders and make it up to 2nd at the flag! Championship secure, and my second title in just two and a half years of racing!
It has been a great year for me, and I’ve rode my luck at times but it has paid off at last. I don’t know yet what next year holds for me, but I’ll be racing something – you can bet on it! Big Love to everyone who has helped and supported me. Check out my YouTube channel. I post videos from every race so don’t be shy!
If you’d like to help me out, I’m trying to make it big so link this blog and my videos around the world! I’m working on a new program for next year and I’m going to need a lot of help to do it. If you’re interested in getting involved, or just want to say hello message me on YouTube or join my facebook page.
Thanks to Ruth’s Racy Adventures for the support and the guest blog!