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Caterham Graduates - Pembrey meeting 17-18 May 2014


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I have a few, errrr, technical problems with the blog at the moment, so if no-one minds I'll pop the text up here before I forget what happened.  Here's the post for race 1 on the Saturday.

 

 

Well, I didn’t go to the Anglesey race last month because it was too far away.  I went to Pembrey last week instead, which is an interesting form of logic if not an entirely consistent one.  I really had no idea the M4 was that long.  It is an interesting moment to join a motorway at junction 4A and be told by the Satnav to exit at junction 48.  Yes, Four Eight, Forty-Eight.  I made it in time for dinner, though, but only via the cunning plan of calling the restaurant and asking them to put my dinner reservation back an hour.
 
Pembrey is an interesting place, and this was my first visit.  Imagine a beautiful setting (provided you don’t look towards Port Talbot), with panoramic vistas of mountains in the background as you approach, vast acres of woodland, great sweeping coastlines (but look away as you go past Port Talbot), and the majestic M4 sweeping off endlessly into the distance.  Then, turn off when you eventually get to junction 48 and onto the smooth wide dual carriageways that will take you all the way to the racetrack… wait, no, my mistake, you follow the A road to central Llanelli, navigate through its narrow streets and tight turns with your trailer behind, then eventually leave Llanelli on the other side, and turn off onto a small farm track that leads to a sign saying “Pembrey, the home of Welsh Motorsport”.   Then follow the dirt track (almost) across what used to be an airfield to the track in the far corner.  Drive over the track itself (wait – what?? No bridge? No tunnel??) into a paddock that is probably the most literal interpretation of the word “paddock” I have seen so far – mainly grass with the odd bit of hard standing.
 
After three days there, I can honestly say that it is a fantastic track, staffed with lovely people, set in a beautiful bit of the world, and crying out for investment.  Come on Wales, if you can find £280M for the “Circuit of Wales”, you can get Pembrey sorted.  A tiny fraction of that would give Pembrey a bridge, a car park, and some changing rooms for the drivers.  Maybe even a road…?
 
Anyway, the racing…
 
Race 1 started well but sadly didn’t continue so.  The start itself was unintentionally hilarious; we were on a mixed grid with two classes and subject to separate starts.  The faster class (at the front of the grid) were meant to start via the usual system of red lights, and we (at the back of the grid) were meant to start when we saw the national flag being waved.  One of our number got a little confused, and went for it when he saw the red lights go out.  He drove past the entire length of our grid (to maximise the embarrassment factor) before realising.  Sensibly, he pulled over onto the grass to wait for us to start and then join on at the back.
 
I managed to do one of my trademark leaps off the line (note: after the official starting signal had been given) and took a few places immediately.  That left me heading into and through the hairpin at the end of the start/finish straight with the lead group of properly quick drivers, which was an interesting if novel feeling.  I drove the infield section just behind Scott, winner at Donington, which was nice for me but probably a little disconcerting for Scott.  They managed a better exit than me out of the second hairpin (probably why they’re the quick group…) and I fell back a little along the fast back section of the track.  Heading into the hairpin for the second time, Chris had begun to catch up with me and the quick lot were pulling away, so feeling under some pressure I tried to leave the braking to the absolute last moment.  Inevitably, that led to me going round the hairpin with quite a sideways slide.  Opposite lock went on to control it, but for some reason I decided the slide was over some time before it actually was – probably more through hope than anything else – and relaxed the dab of oppo to see the car swing round through the full 180 degrees.
 
Oooh look, there’s Chris and everyone else coming directly at me.  Please don’t hit me…
 
They didn’t, thankfully, but I rejoined the race from the back and quite a way behind.  So the next ten or so laps were spent chasing the group down, which (gratifyingly) I managed to do.  That’s a bit repetitive, so I’ve cut those laps from the video, which picks up when I caught up with Paul.  The remainder of the race was spent trying (and failing!) to get past Paul.  With about one lap to go, I thought I saw a chance at the first hairpin to slip past on the inside… I just needed to brake at the very last possible moment.  That would either result in me sliding past Paul, or put me into another spin and let Paul vanish into the distance leaving me stone dead last and with no chance of catching up again.  
 
Go on, guess which one happened…
 
It was good fun, though.  Worth all the effort getting there, although with hindsight my joke rear numberplate ought perhaps have been something more optimistic?
 
(pics to follow)
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