#6 First time in the car
This time I pack my bags, fire up the Challenge (the JCW Challenge road car) and head across the breadth of the UK to Snetterton. Snetterton is a small village in Norfolk with a whopping great race circuit next to it. It was formerly once an RAF airstrip. I drive down the night before and check into a local B&B next to the circuit.
The next morning I meet the team at the track. I sign on and attend the driving debrief. No overtaking in the corners and pass only on the left when its safe to do so. Got it. I borrow a helmet and jump into the car for the siting lap. I have no race wear, just my jacket and scarf. Very Jackie Stewart like.
The moment is fully appreciated when I’m being strapped into the race seats by my mechanic, Jon. I’m now in full control of this race car. This race car I’m about to take out for the first time. On track with other race cars. I look to my left and I can see another fully sup’d up Mini Challenge race car. This one being driven by Stu Lane, my team mate.
Tristan is there with his camera, and this is the first time we've filmed together. I feel like Steve McQueen or Paul Newman but seriously less cool.
Everyone’s taking this in their stride, as you would expect. They’ve been here many times before and this is just another day at the office for them. For me, I am a fish completely out of water and being dried in a fluffy towel. I have no idea what I’m doing. Luckily, my team principle Aaron is on hand to instruct me. “Go out on the siting laps, take it easy and bring it back to the garage in one piece. We’ll leave the first half hour for the track to calm down then we’ll send you out.” I can do that.
On the second siting lap I hear a huge bang as I address the exit of one of the hairpins, Aggys. I bring the car back to the garage and explain the situation to the team. I’m pretty sure it was a big enough bang to mention. Turns out it was so the guys get to work. Five minutes later the car is fixed and ready to go. Now I wait. Eagerly.
“You can go out now”.
OK. Remember your training. Relax. Build up your confidence. Ease yourself into it. Don’t go too hard too soon. Let faster cars go by. You’re not interested in them. Concentrate on your own pace.
And so I did.
At the end of the day I was lapping in the late 2m16s. Turns out that was exceptional pace for someone who had literally ‘just got in the car’.
A promising start I thought. Next up was testing at Donington.