Apr 302011

Having recently sucessfully completing the ARDS test at Castle Combe earlier in the year this race weekend was to be a continuation of a long list of firsts for me:

First time in the car (with the exception of a few laps at a track day several weeks before on 1A tyres); first time with double the horse power that I am used to; first time on slicks; first time driving Silverstone National; first qualification session; first spin; first rolling start; first Did Not Finish; first broken power steering pump; first retirement; first race finish (unfortunately not first overall though!).

We arrived at Silverstone for the event having completed a small amount of testing several weeks earlier, due to mechanical issues after on 1.5 laps (Mark at Owen Developments was able to fit a replacement power steering pulley belt and pulley after the belt was shredded by the explosive failure of the pulley). We had also several untested alterations to the car going into the race weekend including Alcon brakes, borrowed from my road car due to cracked AP rotors, different spring rates, and new geometry settings.

It would be safe to assume that I was both very excited but also quite apprehensive due my complete lack of experience! Looking back at the in-car footage of being strapped in, the nerves were clearly visible. I was quite surprised, however, that this lasted only a few moments after my brother-in-law Jonathan closed the door and a concentration took hold.

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - Silverstone

Qualification didn’t go to plan and got of to a very embarrassing start. I immediately entered a spin at Luffield and ended up pointing in the wrong direction facing Gary Prebble who was bearing down on me in his Evo! I was fortunate enough to dip the clutch allowing the car to roll backwards towards the infield and was able to restart quickly once the traffic had passed. I picked up speed and proceeded to follow Ilsa Cox in her Seat and attempted to keep up with so that I could follow her lines around the circuit – this resulted in my best qualification time of a 1:08.

However, I was not able to complete the full qualification session when my car lost power and I cruised into the pits. Some head-scratching followed but the issue was finally identified where the turbo had become completely disconnected due to the rotation of the compressor housing. Again a big thanks to Mark Harrison from Owen Developments who was there to come to the rescue, although I did decide to move away from the car when he came back with a 10 inch cold chisel from fellow competitor Nick Williamson to fix the issue!

The first race soon came around. Although we started at the back of the grid I enjoyed moving my way through the pack. It’s amazing how much time was lost on the opening laps being so far back. I was determined to finish well so that I would have a better grid position for the start of Race 2 on the next day. Unfortunately this was not to be. Under braking coming into Brooklands there was a cracking noise, I lost steering and was greeted by a horrible mechanical grinding noise. So I parked the car at the marshalls post safely out of the way to observe the rest of the race along with fellow competitor Andy Robinson who had spun, stalled, and couldn’t restart earlier in the race. After being towed into the pits it became clear that the power steering pump pulley had sheared off. Thank you to the Westlake Seat team (car 1 Nick Hayes) for helping with getting the car onto the trailer.

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Ian Roberts - Car 33 - Euro Saloons - On Track - Silverstone

Again Mark Harrison (Owen Developments) came to the rescue and replaced the pump with the one off my road car by working late into the evening but at least we were all set for the next race day.

Arriving at Silverstone early afternoon we unloaded the car from the trailer and were ready for the race. Again starting from the back of the grid due to the DNF I made my way through the field and made it to the end of the race to finish 7th in class, making up around 16 positions along the way!

That concluded my first race weekend! It was great to have caught up with Brian Cox (the previous owner of my car) and the other competitors who were all very friendly and welcoming even though I was clearly new to it all! The whole experience was amazing and whilst writing these words a big smile is on my face as I recall the weekend. I am looking forward to the next round at Donington in May and, with a bit of luck, I may be able to improve my finish position.

A big thanks must go to Karen (my wife) for putting up with me, Jonathan Faull (brother-in-law) for being on trailer duty and supporting me throughout the weekend, and to Bettina Gallagher for supporting me on the Sunday on her day off. Also thanks to Mark Harrison and all the Owen Development team who not only spent time preparing / fixing the car but also working with / reassuring me in addition to advising me in the lead up to and during the event.