Third time lucky! 2019’s Race of Remembrance [RoR] ended with a literal bang. Before my first stint, the owner of the car lost it into Rocket and crashed heavily into the marshal post. Thankfully, he walked away with only a broken shoulder. It was a BIG ONE! This led to a lot of comments along the lines of “You spent all that money and you didn’t even get to race”. Yup! With the owner OK, RoR 2019 was one of the best experiences of my life. Yes, I’d rather have raced but the event is so much more than racing. Being a part of it had a profound impact. I made friends for life and was included in something so special I lack the words to describe it.
When 2020’s RoR was announced you can be sure I was hustling hard to get a seat. And, get a seat I did. Thanks to three friends vouching for me, Richard Brunning [Rich] from Bad Obsession Motorsport [BOM] offered me a drive with him, a friend of his, and some guy called Rick Parfitt Jr. Then a lockdown occurred. RoR 2020 was cancelled and the BOM team generously donated the car to Mission Motorsport [MM].
Take three! As 2021’s RoR was confirmed I was hustling even harder. In talks with five teams. Slowly but surely the options evaporated. From being ghosted by the MX5 Owner’s Club to a friend deciding Harley Davidsons are cooler than racing (to be fair, he has some seriously cool ones). As five became none, I emailed MM and played my “I know Jim” card: “Any seat. If at all possible”. Jim is James Cameron, the founder and CEO of MM. An all-around incredible human being. The MM team generously replied, “Yes, we can do something but we can’t confirm until closer to the event”.
Closer to the event the MM team confirmed I would be in Car #102. A C1 run by David Stubbs, a veteran and main sponsor of the event. Buying my seat enabled a beneficiary to race so it was a win, win. We would be in the same garage as the MM teams. Mega!!! A friend shared an epic Anglesey video and I made sure to watch it daily. I also significantly upped my fitness and went karting to help ‘get my eye in’. GAME ON!!!!
During the build-up and throughout the year I’d been chatting to Rich and knew they were going to be in the BOM car with beneficiaries. Despite not managing to get in the BOM car I was still looking forward to being in the same garage and sharing their first RoR experience.
The drive up through Wales was quite something and we arrived at Anglesey circuit early Thursday afternoon. Towards the middle of the afternoon, a member of the BOM team dropped out. Double booked they were gutted but unable to make it. Living up to my name of asking for more, I pinged Rich to ask if he’d mind if I tried to swap teams. Rich replied, “Go for it!”. So I emailed Adam of the red trousers [Adam], Mission Motorsport’s COO, and pleaded my case, “On the off chance there wasn’t a reserve driver, could I swap teams?”. Adam replied at 9:30pm, “This was one for Jim”. I guessed this might have been the case and I wasn’t going to ping Jim on the eve of one of his biggest events of the year. I left it, grateful to have a seat and be part of RoR 2021.
Arriving at the circuit early Friday morning, the BOM #69 car is there and so is #102. To be fair, #102 is a tidy looking C1. A neat build. I’m excited! Even more so when as Jim is about to start his MM briefing, Adam pops his head into the garage, points at car #69 and sticks his thumb up. I float through the briefing.
I can’t get the smile off my face and the adrenaline is ramping up in my body. We head off for a coffee and debrief at the cafe. I can’t take it in. I sit at our table slowly sipping my coffee. Then the penny drops. The element I hadn’t considered. BOM are YouTubers. They are going to make a video of this…
The pressure hit hard in two different ways:
1) The level of responsibility and risk Jim had underwritten by letting me go in this team (I guess rolling it and being on fire would have been good YoutTube footage…)!
2) I don’t cope well having my photo taken, how am I going to cope with a video camera floating around?
It’s time to switch on! The above doesn’t help, and more than the above, this isn’t about me. Nor will the video be. I’ve prepared as best I can, I’m in good shape, and I am ready to give everything I’ve got to not let anyone down and make the most of this pinch-myself-moment. Our drivers are Rich, I and two beneficiaries: Matt Stringer (multiple RoR entrant and owner of Matt’s Wraps) and Ben Norfolk (GT4 racer and also an RoR vet). Ben also raced #69 this year at Snetterton. I latched on to both and tried to soak up all of the advice they had to offer. Ben kindly took me aside and talked me through the car. The number 1 thing he imparted was to look ahead, as far as you can possibly see.
The BOM team were due to arrive after practice, which meant practice was just Matt, Ben and me to get a feel for the track and car. Given I’d only done 16-laps of Anglesey up to this point, it was a welcome opportunity. Matt and Ben both delivered competitive times and it slowly ticked round to my go. I’ve spent my track days driving low powered momentum cars. I’ve raced C1s and KAs. I’m feeling confident I can drive this C1. Then I stall it as they release me. OH FFS! Once the crew finished nervously laughing, I am safely released again and on to the live circuit.
At this point, I felt no nerves or pressure. I explained to our team boss I’d be going steady, checking the marshal posts and re-familiarising myself for my 5-laps. Asking to not take this as a time of all I can do. Car #69’s digi-dash had a lap timer, predictive lap, and LEDs that lit up to inform how your lap was going: All red for down in sector, and one green for each tenth up. I settled in and did a 2:13 on my first lap. Slow but within the confines of what’s OK. Then the dash showed a -3:33:33 and that was that. Without the lap timer, I just kept it smooth and tried to take it all in.
Coming back into the pits, I jumped out and started with my list of racing driver excuses. I could see lots of time lost at Seamans, Peel and the banking. Our team boss had a wry smile on his face and greeted me with a “Perhaps you’re not a useless a f**k-stick…”. I am, but I’d gone fastest and that was deemed the end of my practice. The team figuring to save the car for the main event.
As much as I’d like to lament I am a naturally gifted driving god and Chris ‘Monkey’ Harris has already been in touch re: Top Gear… Neither is sadly true. The above came from just how epic car #69 is. It just did exactly what you needed/wanted, whether you realised it or not. Every input did something to help you. Everything happened naturally. It was effortlessly fast and flattered the driver’s ego hugely.
#69’s initial turn-in didn’t inspire confidence but if trail braked you could trust it to stick with no hint of understeer. From mid-corner on it was a delight. Stable but easy to manipulate and correct. Small inputs directly affected the line and car’s attitude. All the ingredients of a great and well setup car.
Rich, Nik and Ben/Dan [the man behind the camera] from BOM meet us at our garage. I nervously took a bit of a backseat. Or, as much of a backseat as a nervous extroverted introvert can. When an opportunity presented itself, I let Rich know I was up for any and all feedback. He found a moment to talk me through his fastest lap to date, a 2:02:8. I can see my assessment from practice is close. A few tweaks at Seamens and on the banking should see me right.
It’s all a bit fourth dimension, meta. Having watched all of Project Binky it feels like I know Nik and Rich. But I don’t. I’ve not had this experience before. It’s an unusual feeling. However, they are ace and we’re soon starting to feel like a team. Banter is being bandied about. It helps Ben has raced #69 and Matt is an experienced RoR-er. The banter extended to Nik winding up Aston, MM’s chief mechanic and our team boss, with some ‘interesting’ suggestions for how to set the car up. I backed Aston as best I could. The car felt great in practice and Nik’s suggestions are on the side of out there. Ultimately, we lost the argument and our mechanic Larry started going to some extreme measures. Qualifying was going to be interesting…
On the subject of upsetting Aston, Rich then asks “How do you brake?”. I looked bemused because he elaborated further, “How do you find the brakes in the C1?”. They’re fine. The same as other C1s I’ve driven, not a lot of feel. Occasionally I was over-eager and triggered the ABS. A fractional lift seems to work better than letting ABS do its thing. Rich said, “Just push through the ABS. It’s counter-intuitive, but the pedal feel will come back!”. Aston looked about to cry. Doubly so when Rich then decided it was something Ben/Dan needed to film and the whole team needed to know before qualifying.
To race in RoR, each driver must complete three laps during qualifying. The team’s overall fastest lap determines the starting grid position. Qualifying is split into two sessions, day and night. To be eligible to race at night drivers must complete three laps in night qualifying. Because of my not so humble brag of setting the fastest time in practice, I am almost chilled for qualifying. Rich will likely set the fastest time. Therefore my goals are to:
1. Bring the car home safe
2. Learn as much as I can in five laps, and feedback on Nik’s settings changes and Rich’s braking strategy
3. Improve on my time, using lessons learnt from practice and coaching from Rich
Our running order is Ben, me, Matt, and then Rich. Let’s go!!! Ben hopped out and explained it’s much like practise. He’d managed to find four seconds! Pleased for Ben, however, this added a side order of pressure. It also confirmed the revised car setup and braking technique. As I rolled to the pit exit, this time without stalling, the sun was shining. I was feeling good! I felt the warm green embrace of the pit exit light… But what is that red light underneath it? OH F**KING SH*TTING HELL BALLS!!!!!! It’s the tag system and, rather than being on my wrist, my tag is in my kit bag. My kit bag on the Mission Motorsport trailer.
Tag systems are not my friend. I’ve yet to be stuck at one but I’ve seen plenty of people who have suffered that fate. The system cruelly makes you sit and wait for what feels like an eternity. Waving your wrist at it whilst trying to remain cool. Before it finally relents and goes green. Or, in some terrifying cases, just stays red. The tag system tracks who’s in the car and logs lap times and penalties to the driver. There is a certain amount of wiggle room if the system fails or stays red. But that wiggle room is delay and hassle we could do without. Qualifying is less pressured than in the race. In the race, it’s 10x’d stress because every second counts. Now is the time to make this mistake, but not making it in the first place is betterer…
With my tail between my legs, I looped around the back of the garages and arrived to everyones’ surprise. Quickly explained the error of my ways and described both my kit bag and its location on the trailer. There was no time to find and attach a proper wristband. Out came the insulation tape and I paid for my mistake removing it and half my arm hair later that evening. Doubly paid, because Dan/Ben caught it all on film…
Tag firmly taped to my wrist, I trundled down the pit lane again. The former sunshine is long gone. It’s overcast and started to rain. This helped as it offered the experience of the car in the wet and removed any pressure to set a ‘fast’ time. It was harder to assess the setup changes but the car still felt good. The ABS trick was a joy. Exactly like Rich said, push through the ABS and you actually get some pedal feel. The weather put some cars off so there wasn’t as much traffic. Lots of space to experiment and work on my lines. I’m torn between second and third for Seamens. Bringing it home I let Matt know it’s greasy, the ABS trick works well and it all felt fine. He also goes out and also finds four seconds. Things are looking good! Rich brings the car home. His first go, a bit damp, and he’s a fraction slower than Ben’s time. Which goes on to be our qualifying time. Thanks, Ben!
Seamens is tricky. You approach it downhill, slightly off-camber, with all the weight on the front wheels, and the crucial bit is the exit. It’s uphill with a reasonable straight to reflect on how you wish you had preserved more momentum and braked a fraction less. We approach it in third from Peel’s exit and it’s not an easy down change to second, whilst picking the right turn in point and managing the brakes. A mistake here is going to be costly. Leaving it in third doesn’t feel as controlled. It feels like you’re sliding and tyre scrubbing more. But it’s significantly less stressful than trying to find second. No one is confident which is quicker or better, so we park it for night qualifying.
Note: lap after lap, quicker is more about consistency in an endurance race. Second feels a fraction quicker but is the risk and effort of the extra change worth it versus leaving it in third and consistently getting round. This is a corner where you could easily have a big off and lose a lap or more.
Between day and night qualifying we have seat runners fitted to allow Matt to get more comfortable. Let’s say Matt isn’t over 6ft and the other three of us are. Ben significantly. How Matt managed to this point I don’t know. Aston changed the running order to Matt out first to try the seat, then Ben, me and Rich to bring it home. We’re not anticipating going faster in night qualifying so again the pressure is off. However, fitting the seat rail doesn’t exactly go according to plan. With a lack of time to make a bracket, we end up eating thirty minutes of qualifying. It’s going to be tight to get us all out. Pressure back on.
For RoR 2019, night qualifying was the big unknown and where I felt significant pressure. The unknown combined with the not wanting to let the team down. This time around I didn’t feel the unknown element but it’s still a wild ride of emotion! If Spinal Tap did track events, they would be at night! My night goals were the same as day qualifying:
1. Bring the car home safe
2. Learn as much as I can in five laps
3. Improve on my time
Thankfully it was dry, and the forecast for the race was looking dry too! That typed, this is Anglesey. Forecasts are best guestimates not featuring enough wind and rain. Here is me at my favourite tagging station. Just as it has gone green to confirm it picked up my, insulated taped to wrist, tag and I am now the registered driver.
Because of the time pressure, I was released behind the safety car for my out and first lap. I volunteered for this as it’s the least I can do to ensure we all get our laps done. My first flyer felt great. Nik’s settings and Rich’s braking technique worked even better in the dry. The initial turn-in is improved, less need to trail brake, and it’s even more stable mid-corner. But I still couldn’t crack Seamens. Second felt the best approach. Rich had his laps to do and the clock was ticking. So my focus was on the pit board and lap counting. Except it wasn’t ticking. We didn’t realise time under the safety car is added at the end of the session. Rich completed his laps and we were done!
Saturday: Race day, or rather race night
RoR is a Remembrance service wrapped in a 12-hour endurance race:
– The race starts 1500h Saturday
– Racing until 2100h
– Restarting 0900h Sunday, with the same driver
– Stopped at 1045h for the main the event
– Resumed at 1130h with the now legendary “Let’s go RACING!”
– Checkered flag at 1545h
– 1730h drive home to Cornwall with work the next day (mistake)
I find race weekends are a time paradox. Everything happens both fast and slow. You wait for ages to start. Then it’s somehow five minutes to go. And, then it’s over way too soon. It’s the same when you get in the car. A ninety-minute stint feels like the longest short time going. Once out of the car it feels like it happened in the blink of an eye. The anxiety builds and is worst in the final five minutes before getting in the car. I find these final five minutes brutal.
As race time closed in, our tactics and running orders are discussed. I’d love a night slot, but I am the plus one and keener to just fit in. The order is decreed:
1. Rich to do the start
2. Matt to do light into dark
3. Me all dark (Get in!)
4. Ben all dark, 2100h close and the subsequent restart on Sunday
Rich did some ‘Tubing in park ferme. While we started to gather in the pits. RoR is a rolling start behind the safety car. We’re not allowed on the pit wall until the safety car is in and the green flags are waved. As the flag waved we ran across. There was a real buzz, a blend of rivalry and teamwork. Excitement in the air, and then so was a lot of tyre smoke. Wow, that was a lock-up! That’s not good on the first live lap! I felt bad for the car and team involved. Then Rich appeared limping around the corner with a cone trapped under the front bumper. Oh…
Rich came into the pits and the team are all over it so we hung back to avoid getting in the way. While the team put new tyres on and Rich debriefed, a safety car was called out. This appeared as a blessing! The new tyres are on and Rich is released to get out in front of it. Getting us one lap back if he can catch the safety car before it came in. However, the safety car was out to live recover a Honda Civic with a snapped steering arm. It was being recovered via the pit exit. Rich just had to wait. For an agonising ten minutes. The safety car did a further three laps and we are finally released. Seven laps down and in last place. Rich went on a charge. The lap times tumbled. Despite a lack of ABS he was lapping two seconds quicker than our qualifying time and out of nowhere came a 2:00:8. Consistently lapping around 2:01-2:02 clawed precious time back. The Civic is now last and we’re catching other C1s. Rich hands over to Matt and explained the ABS is shot, there is no feel and if the car locks up you will flat-spot the tyres. If not too badly flat-spotted, the tyres will wear down and stop vibrating after a couple of laps.
With Matt out, Rich came straight over and explained the whole ABS situation. If the car locks up you have to get right off the pedal and just deal with it. If you stay on the brakes you stayed locked up and won’t be slowing down anyway. You’ll just be flat spotting the tyres. Jem, a friend who came along to experience RoR, made the observation I’m used to driving cars with shit ABS systems so this should be fine. After what didn’t feel long, the paradox in action, Matt is done! He’s done a mega stint, nice and consistent, no offs. He hopped out and explained I will lock up, the vibration will go after a few laps and good luck. I’m released, tagged and on the live circuit in the dark.
It’s everything I hoped for, but it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t find a groove. I overdrive the car and the relentless traffic messed with my lines and flow. Sometimes you get in a car and it’s just effortless. The flow state we all crave. Everything else evaporates and you are just driving. Single focused meditative bliss. Professional drivers must be able to switch this on and JFDI. This felt more like a reminder I am not a pro-driver. But it was exciting, full-on, and mind-bending! Everything turned up to 11. I can smell an mx5 burning oil, lock-ups and brakes. Despite feeling like I am driving with the interior light on and having to be ultra-aware of the faster cars it’s brilliant. I can see from the lap timer I am equalling Matt’s pace but I am just not feeling it.
Then, about 20 minutes in, Aston stuck his thumb out on the pit wall and it all changed. It’s on! Flow state unlocked. I’m no longer thinking about anything other than reeling in C1s. My times dropped and I get into some decent battles. The top of Rocket and Peel become my hunting ground, including catching out a few of the Minis and a Clio with the pace of the mighty #69 in the corners and even under braking. About halfway through I’ve been reeling in a C1 for three laps. I get a good run out of Church into its slipstream, just as an MM Morgan goes to overtake us both. I predicted the Morgan would push the C1 off its line and open a gap I can also go through in the Morgan’s slipstream. It works well. Too well, because I’ve approached Rocket faster than normal…
Too fast. I braked as much as I dared but as the C1 neared the crest the weight started to transfer and I locked it up. Priority one is avoiding the Morgan so I take a wider later line into Rocket. This puts me on the marbles and unused track, adding to my woes as the grip is significantly reduced. Remembering Rich’s advice I am right off the brake pedal and ‘just deal’ with it. Which translates to throw it in and slide sideways off the track. Just before sliding, I can see the top of Rocket is concrete and not grass. I also use this time to work out I’ve got 2-3 car lengths on the C1 I’ve just overtaken and nothing else is around. Gathering the car up I safely rejoined the circuit and thanked my lucky stars. The rest of the session is thankfully all on the track and soon the pit board is out and I am in. I’ve gained a few places and given it literally everything I had. My helmet and suit are sweated through and my watch recorded a heart rate peaked at over 180 BPM. No prizes for guessing at which point.
Reflecting, I can’t tell if Aston’s thumb was up to question if I was OK or to denote I’d already started going faster. What I can tell you is the first twenty minutes, up to the thumb, were hard work and time went slowly. The next seventy were easier but no less intense. Time went FAST. I kept coming back to Ben saying “Keep looking ahead”. As far as I could possibly see, using the side glass as much as the windscreen. Picking off the next C1 quarry. Reeling them in. Enabling me to maintain as much momentum as possible, and as mentioned above, in some cases surprising a Mini or Clio with a counter-attack.
At some point, the other City Cup Car, a Toyota Aygo, overtook on the exit of Church. I had defended for a third of a lap but it’s clear the driver was quicker than me and I was curious to see where and how. I jumped into their slipstream and held on through Rocket but got caught by a couple of cars and the Aygo escaped. Kudos to them, they were consistently fast all race!
The other standout memories are just how effortlessly classy Rob Boston’s Elise is and how cool the Morgans are. It’s a privilege to see them come past. Rob Boston’s Elise effortlessly scythes through the traffic. Every time, they get passed without slowing or compromising my line. Other drivers excitedly flash or make a point of slamming the door shut and robbing precious momentum. But their Elise just breezed past. A quality act.
In my tired state, I handed over to Ben and re-iterated Rich’s point “If the ABS triggers get fully off the brake pedal ASAP!”. Jem explained something I hadn’t considered, if you flat spot a tyre then each lockup will make it progressively worse. Because the flat spot’s reduced friction compared to the rest of the tyre means it will likely lock there again. Each iteration increases your flat spot and woes. Ben is off and did a great job to 9pm’s end of session flags. Saturday done. We’re not last, we’ve all made up some places and we’re hungry for tomorrow. At RoR, unlike some events, cars aren’t locked in park ferme. Aston, Nik and Larry can work on the car in the garage. Overnight they fixed our ABS issue. It’ll feature in the BOM video so I’ll link to that instead. Rich and Aston summarised it well.
This is what I look like after 97 minutes of racing in the dark. Sporting an improved tag attachment mechanism. Engineered and green taped by Nik. A sweaty adrenaline-fuelled contented mess. Describing the Rocket off to Nik, Matt, Jem and Richx2 (Rich B and another Rich, another friend who came along to experience his second RoR and like Jem got stuck in too). Struggling to comprehend what had just occurred.
Sunday, part deux
We’ve agreed on Seamans, with or without working ABS, is best in second. The extra control mid-corner and pace on exit made it a worthwhile risk to down-shift.
Ben took the restart and did well. From the pit wall, Ben/Dan videoed a great move Ben pulls at corner 1, Target. Hopeful that will make the video. A slipstreamed brave on the brakes squeeze. Ben handed over to Rich and he jumped back on Saturday’s pace and consistently rocked 2:01-2s. Thanks to Ben and Rich’s efforts, we’re moving up the C1 rankings. Whilst we are watching Rich’s lap times, Nik sidles up: “Now Olly, what are we thinking for today?”. Given the context of standing in front of the timing screen, I replied “A 2:02 <<pause>>”. Turned back to look at the timing board, ah f**k it… “A 2:01”. Nik nods and said, “That’s my boy!”. There was my goal. My fastest to this point was a low 2:03 in the dark. So only 1-2 seconds to find…
The flags come out to halt the race for the service and Anglesey went quiet. The contrast between cars racing and a quiet circuit heightens the mood. Not that it needed any heightening. It’s less of a punch in the feels and more of a Street Fighter-esque Hadouken. It’s both the highest and lowest moment of the weekend, all of the feels. I wholeheartedly encourage all readers to attend and experience it for themselves. Followed by Jim’s sweet release, “Let’s go RACING!”.
Rich is straight back on it while I got suited and booted. As his stint is done, I’m on fire extinguisher duty and get a good look at the rear tyres. They are not going to pass an MOT. Shagged doesn’t cover it. I mention this to Aston and in no uncertain terms, I am told we have two tyres left and they are for Matt to bring the car home. Oh, and by the way, all that stands between Matt and bringing the car home is your stint. No pressure. Rich was buzzing, he tells me Peel is flat but warns it’s “emotional” and suggested the gearbox wasn’t the happiest. And, that was it! Back via my favourite tag machine and on to the live circuit.
Approaching The Banking from the pit lane it’s obvious this is not the same C1. It’s tired, the crisper turn-in is gone and the back is LOOSE. I make The Banking but pretty sure from mid-corner to the late apex I used more opposite lock than lock. Second to third it crunches and Church feels quite emotional. I don’t turn so much as course correct and try not to breathe. A fractional pause between second and third seems to stop the crunching, I can work around that. On the brakes, into Rocket it feels exactly like my former Clio Cup. When you brake hard the back starts wagging its tail like a dog. Hold the wheel too tight and try to fight it, you will overcorrect and risk spinning. You have to hold it loose enough it won’t spin and tight enough it doesn’t get out of your control. Once you’re used to it, it’s actually helpful. The reduced rear stability helps turn-in and initial rotation, requiring less steering input and you can be quicker to get the steering lock off and back on the accelerator. Ninety plus minutes of this is going to be interesting. I don’t think a 2:01 is going to be forthcoming. For the first ten minutes, I found my feet and managed a ‘flyer’ with minimal traffic. A solid 2:03. I parked any thought of 2:01s and cracked on. It’s too much fun. It feels like chess with 80-90MPH moving pieces. Again, Ben’s advice echoes in my head “KEEP LOOKING AHEAD AS FAR AS YOU CAN!”.
This Morgan promo photo offers an idea of how busy it was and what I mean by chess. It’s hectic, frantic, nirvana. You cannot afford to think about anything else. While the pic above is a highlight… This next bit was a definite low… Remembering Rich said Peel was emotional, I built up to taking it flat in the first few laps. At my skill level, I am not convinced it’s faster. Flat it’s very sideways! vMin is no doubt faster, but I am not convinced I am going any faster on the exit. However, I managed to overtake a C1 fully sideways and the feeling of ambition over talent slowly creeps in. Except at the time, it’s more the delicious delusion of “I AM A DRIVING GOD!”. It’s an epic feeling, I am sure most reading this can reminisce about the last time they felt it. Or, their favourite ‘dab of oppo’. When a car is moving and you are either ahead (pro move) or at the very least with it. No speed is lost and you may even be moving faster as a result of your ‘epic’ driving skills. You just know you have it.
You know until you don’t. Until something comes along and shatters the illusion. My illusion shattering moment presented itself next. Coming into Seamans, I observed there was nothing around me, picked my usual braking and turning in points and the back just went… I’m too slow to catch it and smash into the lock stops trying to force it the half-turn more I need. Whilst on the lock stops I’m too slow to get the lock off, it regained grip and spat me the other way. That feeling of being behind the car is the antithesis of the aforementioned driving god feeling. IT SUCKS. You’re supposed to be the driver, not a passenger. Mostly luck, with gratitude for two days on the MM Thruxton skidpad and a deep fear of letting Jim and the team down, I somehow keep it mostly on the black stuff and only briefly leave the circuit. Taking a cone with me down the entrance to Corkscrew. Sheepishly rejoining the track under what I assumed was the glare of three marshals reaching for flags. The speed it went made me think it was an issue with the car, or I’d killed the moribund rear tyres. But all seems fine around The Hairpin and I continued on my ego-checked way. Contented to be a mere driving mortal and still in the game. Mindful it could have been a lot worse. As I cautiously came around again the marshals have their yellow and red flags out. They’re comforting, but my ego is still checked. That was too close.
The rest of my stint goes all too quickly. The pit board is out; over ninety minutes, 99% on the track and I just don’t want it to end. I hopped out and briefed Matt to not rush changing second to third and that it felt less confident on turn-in but still stuck. I’ve no idea what times I’d done and Aston’s just excited to see me because the car is in one piece for Matt to bring it home. As I awkwardly removed my helment and HANS, another friend and team boss of the Morgan #666, Neil was enjoying a well-managed rest in a camping chair. He asks, “How was that?”. I replied, “F**KING AWESOME, apart from one minor blip…”. Neil informed me I’d managed a 2:01 and was only a little slower than Rich. Confirmed by Jem at the timing screen. Much like my night stint, there appeared to be a moment where Jem said “Olly’s woken up” and the lap times dropped from there. Goal achieved! Even two weeks later it still doesn’t feel real. But the story has a further element equally as difficult to comprehend…
Matt does well, we’ve managed to get from last/51st place up to 35th-ish. 4th or 5th in the C1s. After our ABS issues, with seven laps to makeup, a podium wasn’t a realistic goal. But then neither is an IT geek racing with Veterans and a YouTuber in a 12-hour endurance race. Then, much like the driving god illusion, our podium hopes and chance to finish dissolved. With thirty minutes to go, we heard over the tannoy “Matt Stringer in car #69, the Bad Obsession Motorsport team, has come to a halt just off the circuit”. The safety car was deployed and Matt was towed back to the pits.
Jem did some maths and worked out we could be out of fuel. Aston is convinced it’s an electrical issue. The vibrations from the flat spots had taken out our in car camera and now the ECU and fuse box were loose. Aston agreed with Jem to fuel it while we are in and also reattached the fuse box that was bouncing around the engine bay. With these fixes in place, #69 started and Matt is released. We’ve lost a few places but by this point, the finish is the goal and we’re relieved. Had this happened fifteen minutes later the pit lane would have been closed and we’d have been retired instead of being able to fix and add fuel. With that done, Matt brings it home!
We’d done it, we’d finished the 12-hours of Race of Remembrance. Even a podium or coming first would not have added much to this feeling. Massive thanks to the whole team and all of the incredible MM team and marshals. I’ve said it before but endurance racing is it for me. I will try sprint racing but endurance racing gives you the competition, camaraderie and long magical stints. That’s what I crave. Lap after lap battles. Mixed classes and night racing add to it even more. It’s hard to fathom being here. I am under no illusion that I’m here because of luck and a little persistence. Matt and Ben are far more deserving of this feeling and I am beyond privileged to have got to know them and been part of this team.
This photo is taken before the next bit hits home. Peak happiness has been achieved. As we gathered for the prize-giving, my mental maths put us 5th or 6th. But the C1 class is called out and Team Torpedo, our incredibly fast rivals in the City Car Cup Toyota Aygo, aren’t first. On the entry list we are down as two separate classes:
1. Other C1s = Class AC1 – C1 Racing Club Cars upto 85BHP/tonne
2. Us = Class ACC- City Car Cup Cars upto 85BHP/tonne
I look at Rich and mouth, “Does this mean we’re going on the podium?”. He shrugs back. Then it’s announced, second in class car #69… My mind refuses to compute it and Ben, Matt and Rich are equally in shock. So now on my desk, I have an amazing handmade pen and, as long as no one asks how many in class, we came second in class at the 2021 Race of Remembrance. Not that it matters. To have finished and had this experience was worth more than any finishing place. The event is so much more than where you finished. In my first year, even finishing was academic.
If you’ve enjoyed any of this please consider a donation. The link is currently down so I’ll edit/update with a new link. And, consider attending RoR ’22 and the mega fun skid days and future MM events. I swear, while I didn’t catch the track offing moment, the days on the skid pan allowed me to keep my cool and stop it big a much bigger off. DO IT!
Fire away with any questions or feedback :D.