As some of you know, prior to the final two rounds of the Harewood Hillclimb Championship, I was in second place prior to the weekend, and standing a chance of snatching first place from Simon Green who had led all year.
Sadly (to some) being an accountant i had spent the odd hour or two in the evenings running through various different possibilities of scoring and the impact they would have. Ideally i needed to score mid 19's on both days to put the pressure on Simon, but could get away with one score higher than 19.5 and gamble on Simon not getting within half a second of his own record.
Saturday morning soon came round, and Emma, Tom, James and I set off for Harewood arriving just after 7am to sunshine but chilly. Unpacked the camping gear and then moved both cars to the paddock before it got to congested. Just as we got scrutineered, the heavens opened, oh dear i thought, this weather benefits Simon.
The first practice run soon came, and i took it on the slicks and low boost, no traction at all off the line (no surprise really), tentatively round the first bend and down the hill the car felt unstable under braking, but i caught it and the rest of the run seemed like a damp blur, 69.71 popped up and was FTD at that point.
Dampers softened off, and ready for practice 2, and again the heavens opened, this time with more vigour. By the time i was on the start line it was very wet. Down the hill and i braked early for the esses and foolishly hadnt adjusted the brake bias for the conditions, and the backend just snapped round on me, and i was a passenger going backwards into the grass, watching for objects, thankfully nothing hit and no damage. Chuckle at the moment here http://www.vimeo.com/29277466
Timed run 1 soon came around, but we had switched to the wet tyres now, as it was raining even harder. A tentative run, with more caution down the hill and a finish time of 67.28 popped up, just 1 hundreth behind Paul.
A break for lunch was followed by T2, still on the wets, but to a drying track. Just as Paul was about to launch the red flags popped up and we had to wait for the track to be cleared. I was chatting with the start marshalls asking if we could just have one dry run today, as Pauls staged again, rain drops were landing on the windscreen, and by the time i got to stage, it was chucking it down, i launched hard, still on low boost, and there was grip, turned into the first corner and still grip, down the hill and braked a tad later than earlier and all was good, or so i though, but i was having to trail brake into the right hander, not good and i hadnt scrubbed enough speed, the car understeered to the left of the floppies on the corner, and as soon as i went on the grass i was a passenger, the only rough spot on the grass and i found it, resulting in the car going airborn and then nose diving into the ground, i came off the grass midway through the essess, hand gestured for clearance from the marshalls and got a thumbs up to carry on, 80.71 popped up as i crossed the line. As i parked up, i knew something was wrong, steam coming from the bonnet.
On closer inspection, the front splitter had dug in and pushed the whole of the rad and intercooler assembly back some 3 to 4 inches, enough for the lower fan to hit the offside wastegate and cause the fan to chew a hole in the rad. [Frown]
Day over for me, only way to repair a custom rad is to weld it. So i chose to sit and watch the rest of the day and then go and try and repair it at Davids house in Leeds. After much trying and faffing, we gave in, David just couldnt fill the hole in the tube, so we epoxy metalled it, back to Harewood in the dark and refit the rad and fill up and pressure test it. All seemed fine up to 70 degrees. Right food time, will bodge the smashed to smitherines bumper back together in the morning.
One of the great things i have enjoyed about Harewood, is the ability to have a great social evening either before a raceday. The kids go off and walk the course and fly kites and have great fun, whilst the adults laugh over a few beers.
Whilst all this is going on, i am quitely realising that if its wet in the morning, its over, and i would have to drive the doors off the car to stay in second ahead of Henry Moorhosue due to the disastrous Saturday.
At a more sensible time of 7:30, paddock had started to buzz with people arriving and walking past looking at the sorry state of the banana, commenting on the matching colour of the tank tape we were using. The car was back together in time to give it a couple of quick temperature tests before scrutineering. Steve, the Harewood commentator enquired if we had managed to get it back together, and also advised us of the weather prediction (which turned out to be absolutely spot on).
Tests had showed that the repair held out to a temparature of 78degrees, after that the pressure in the system was obviously enough to over come the repair. A cool down, and a test again showed all was good till 78 degrees.
I decided i had to do Practice 1 without running the car up to temp until the start area and gamble on getting to the end before 78degrees! Also trying to start high enough that it wasnt in warm up enrichment!
A dry, tentative, low boost P1 run, on John Stevensons tyres saw a 61.12 pop up, while Paul popped in a new PB of 59.04 on his Avons.
Stopping in pits and the car was steaming again, more so because of the rain soaked heat wrap, but datalogs suggested coolant hit 81 degrees, as i parked up in pits, crossing the line at 78 degrees. However, the fan was obviously out of balance, as it was chewing into the rad again, so we removed the lower fan for extra saftey.
I chose to skip P2, which was to preserve the Banana for T1, with various people asking if it had failed again. I kept my own council, just saying i didnt need to do P2. It was usefull watching others getting close to their PB's, which told me the track had grip!
T1 soon came before lunch, and it was dry, this was it, it was forecast for rain after lunch, so if i was going to do it, now was my only chance. As i sat in the car, i get into my zone and didnt hear the time posted by Simon, i had got into my zone, and all i could see was in front of my visor!
Turning the engine off at the top of paddock, i freewheel to the start line, and start the car as Paul stages in front of me, water temps at 64 degrees, perfect i hope. I stage and look over for the green light, see and go for it, brilliant grip off the line and hard into the first right, down the hill, and brake early for good measure, turn in over and get through the esses up to Country corner, hit the inside kerb and hard on the throttle to Willow, ealry on the power there and up into 3rd, braking hard into Orchard, bang down the box into 1st and nail the throttle on the apex, catching the mild oversteer and up through the box into 3rd, brake hard into farmhouse, too hard, locked up, but catch it and power out of farhouse, short shift to 4th and up the hill, 103mph quick, but not as quick as i have gone, brake for quarry corner and down into 3rd , then as i select 2nd too ealy the back end comes round, i catch it and select 1st and scramble round the corner over the line, just missing the floopies on the line, 58.67 pops up, and i quickly realise thats more than 19.5 points, i had done it, Simon now had to get so close to his own record to beat me. However, i didnt know what he had done.
After parking the car up, and walking to the loo, i met Simon who simply held is hand out and said well done! I couldnt accept it until i had checked his time and done the maths to check.
Simon could still do it, if it remained dry. I had chosen not to do T2, as the car didnt need to be punished anymore than was necessary. I stood at the top of the hill to watch Simon go down the slip road to the start and within 5 minutes of him starting, the heavens open up, poor Simon got drenched in his westfield, and struggled up the hill.
A few anxious hours followed as i chose to hold out running, watching the cars entertain the remaining crowds and marhsalls. Suddenly i heard Steve signing off as commentator and it was over, i had done it, being congratulated by several around paddock was great, but it wasnt sinking in, it still hasnt if i am honest.
So thats it, the conclusion to my unplanned 2011 season, Scooby Shoot Out Champion, Ten of the Best X Champion and Harewood Hill Climb Champion and 3C class record holder, unbelievable, i keep thinking someone will pinch me and i will wake up and its all been a dream.
I cant thank enough people for making this year, but will try my best to do so, sorry if i miss anyone, its not intentional.
Emma for being the rock that she is, and putting up with my endless hours fiddling in the shed.
My boys Thomas and James for their encouragement and enthusiasm and also for the mini pit crew facilities.
Mark at Lateral Performance for allowing me to use the car as if it were my own, and trusting me to not destroy it (well not totally destroy it [Wink] )
David Wallis, for being just David, always there to help, and support, no matter what time and what conditions.
Paul Martin for egging me on providing the competition, and his ally welding capabilities.
Paul Blamire at Zen Performance, for stunning mapping and unquestionable dedication to getting the map(s) spot on between runs, and telephone support when he couldnt make it.
Steve Fullbrook at bright green detailing for keeping the car looking clean, no matter how much rubbish i put it through.
John Stevenson, midnight support consultant, general pish taker and the guy who convinced me to have a go at hillclimbing, oh and he lent me his tyres for the last round.
Stevebt, Stu, Trev and everyone who has come along to watch, be pit crew and provide entertainment, cheers!
Lastly, the people behind the scenes that organise these events, and the Marshalls who stand out in all weather conditions to ensure we are safe, you guys rock!