Another great weekend of racing, thanks to all for the organisation and great times, let alone the excellent racing!
best regards Jez Clark
p.s hope to return next year, with a quicker engine!
On behalf of Team Stingray (Car 90) I would like to send our thanks for what was a fantastic weekend of racing and I'm sure that I can speak for the rest of the team when I say that (as novices with the 24hr as our first ever race!) it was an experience that ranks up there with anything else that I have ever done.
We are all tired..... make that exhausted, but we have great stories to tell and can't stop talking about it.
Please pass on our thanks to all involved.
Team Stingray Report 10th June 2005
On the last bank holiday in May (28th-30th) Team Stingray took part in their first BARC sanctioned motor race....... and what a motor race it was! The four man team of Jeremy 'pieces of eight' Brett, Oliver 'Ben Grim' Hall, Simon 'its worth half a second' Leith and Stuart 'stupid' Williams embarked on a 24 hour race in a Citroen 2cv, backed by the 'spanner men' Simon 'hairdresser' Ford and Carl 'that’s not and oil leak' Hemp. You may laugh, but the field of 30 2cv's were 'race' prepared and the racing was very competitive (and with long stints behind the wheel, very tiring).
Team Stingray were one of a handful of novices among a field of seasoned 2cv racers, some who took things very seriously (3 spare engines and a mid race engine change taking only 7 minutes!!). The Team Stingray car (90) was just about competitive with a strong engine, but (as was found out at scrutineering) was rather heavy, carrying in the region of 60kg more than most of the other teams (add Oli to this equation and the poor engine struggled to pull the 15 tones or so that the brick man brought to the car).
The team made up for their novice status, by sporting matching race-suits (the talk of the paddock), the largest motor home in the paddock and one of the largest barbeques on earth (Simon extravagant??). The theory would go on to be proved correct though, however the team did; they would at least look fast!
Practice and qualifying was carried out on the Saturday in an early afternoon and a dusk/dark evening session to acclimatise the drivers to driving at night. All drivers took to the track in a bid to give the team a good grid position for the race, but the talk in the camp was of the endurance nature of the race rather than who was first into the first corner....... there is no hard evidence in the photos, but it seems that Simon may have had his fingers in his ears while singing 'la la la la la la la la' at this point. That said, Mr Leith posted the teams fastest time in the 1st qualifying session and Team Stingray lined up 20th on the grid of 30.
After a quiet night with all of the 'athletes' making sure that they were in A1 condition for race day (!!!!!) the cars took to the grid at 4pm. The order of drivers into the car for the race would be: Leith, Brett, Williams, Hall and the plan was for each driver to do between 1h 30mins and 2hrs behind the wheel before coming in for a driver change, re-fuel and obligatory check over for the car by the trusty mechanics.
The race started well with Simon taking the team up to 12th position in the first hour, but then disaster struck! Simon had 'an altercation' with a fellow competitor coming through the bomb hole and although, upon inspection, the damage looked cosmetic (forget the adage that they don’t build cars like they used to, 2cv's are made of paper and pipe cleaners), but under the surface a major problem was brewing. The explanation of the 'altercation' has changed somewhat over time, 'he ran into me' has changed to 'it was a racing accident' via 'it was 50:50' and 'maybe I was a little aggressive'.
Regardless of the above and after a brief pit stop, Jeremy was sent out on his first stint with a worried look on his face and with his last words being 'this car always seems to break when I'm in it, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed'. Mr Brett’s luck was not about to change and following some strange noises and rattles, the steering arm snapped on the approach to the Russell chicane and he was left as an immovable object on the racing line. The team could only watch as the other cars narrowly missed the stranded car and many laps were lost while the helpless (and frightened/pissed off) Jeremy sat in the middle of the track. After what seemed like an age the safety car was deployed and a tow truck unceremoniously scraped Car 90 (with Jeremy still onboard) off the tarmac and back to the pits.
This is the first point that Team Stingray learnt about the true nature of 2cv racing and the comradery and spirit involved. The team had no spare part to mend the car and the mechanics were still learning about the finer points of 2cv...... Mechanics and drivers from all around the pit lane flooded into the Team Stingray garage and the necessary parts were given and work was carried out by a troop of helpful 2cv'ers. These guys were our competition and some of them only had minutes before they were supposed to be behind the wheel of their own cars, but they were amazing and got stuck in with only one thing in mind, getting car 90 back on track.
Jeremy’s got back on track and had no further problems before coming in to change with Stuart. The pit stop was like all others, with the exception of the insertion of a booster seat tailor made from foam to help the vertically challenged Mr Williams to reach the wheel, pedals and buttons. The seat was bolted in, so there was no movement the help Oli with his 'knees by ears' driving position or Stuart with his 'odd job' length limbs.
Stuart had a faultless session until......... he was shown the 'pit in' board and headed towards turn one on his final circulation. The team sat anxiously waiting as the seconds and then minutes ticked by, something was clearly amiss. Eventually the call came through on a pit marshal’s radio, there had been a spin at turn one by XL racing (who were, incidentally, sharing a garage with Team Stingray). Stuart had apparently misread the 'pit in' sign and mistaken it for 'spin backwards at full speed into the nice Irish chaps, thus rendering both cars useless', you may argue that a 'misread' of this magnitude would be impossible, but looking into the background of Team Stingray it became apparent that Stuart was the only member to have failed his eye test when getting his medical....... perhaps he had forgotten his glasses for both the eye test and the race.
The car returned to the garage on the back of the recovery truck yet again. No sooner had it touched the cold concrete of garage 23 did the (now familiar) army of helpers stream in armed with club hammers, body panels, lights and wheel adjusters. They set to work on what all within Team Stingray thought would be a lost cause, while Oli (the only driver not to have been behind the wheel) paced up and down the garage, apparently seeming to become larger and burst out into bricks. Eighteen minutes later and the car was back on its way, with the significant ballast of Mr Hall on board.
Night fell as Oli continued on his first stint. The accidents and problems had dropped Team Stingray to last place, some laps behind their closest rival and light-years from the front. Consistency and keeping out of trouble was now of key importance, as other teams were sure to have problems and his race was turning into a war of attrition.
The night was amazing and only the drivers can fully understand the sensory overload that is racing, not just driving, a 2cv at night. The tiredness within the camp, especially with Ford and Hamp (poet?) was obvious during the night, as drivers took what sleep they could while not behind the wheel and the mechanics (sponsored by Phillip Morris and Red Bull) kept the night vigil getting no sleep at all! The team held it together during the night and were consistent. A few places were made back and the new target became the top 20, it was a big ask (or at least that’s what Oli thought they said), but the team needed something to keep them focused when the intermittent inclusion of words like '8OO85' and 'P3N15' on the pit board were failing to work.
From dawn to finish was a blur of tiredness and adrenaline. It rained intermittently and heavily which suited the cars setup and Simons driving style and for a period, Simon’s times in the wet were second only to that of the number 1 car. The rain and wet conditions did lead to most drivers (how did Oli avoid ever having to drive a stint in the wet?) having a few 'grass track' experiences, but none of the scenery was collected and the car soldiered on.
After 24 hours of racing Oli brought the, very second-hand looking, car across the line in front of an elated team and the most fantastic atmosphere. 30 cars and over 100 drivers had driven hard, fixed broken cars and worked together to ensure that everyone finished, even if they were many laps behind. The sense of achievement was like nothing else and the buzz blocked out the enormous tiredness. Team Stingray finished 22 out of 30 and although everyone involved will have a different story to tell, all will agree that it was an experience that ranks highly on the lifetime experience list. Champagne was sprayed and brief celebrations were had, before most of the team of drivers and mechanics fell into a comatose sleep dreaming of 2 cylinder engines and turn of the century French technology!
The pictures ere give a snippet of what it was like to be there, but nothing can beat the noise, the excitement, the comradery, the barbeques, the motor home and the fun that was had. Team Stingray will be back next year to do it all over again, so you will have your chance to see it first hand. It’s an amazing weekend, so put it in the diary and join us next year!
team stingray 10th June 2005
… My first race
It seems very surreal now - two seasoned Caterham Graduates racers, two novice drivers and a mechanic with a bag of parts, all trying to keep a borrowed 2CV going for a full 24 hours. This was to be a truly memorable and emotional experience for us all.
Seeing the car for the first time with Mick carefully unloading it from the truck, I was struck by the fragility of the dark red tin snail on its four unbelievably skinny tyres. When the rest of the team arrived the car was checked over, stickers applied, fuel sorted and finally scrutineered. One rear light bulb and some electrical tape later she was all ready to go.
Mac gingerly rolled out of the pit lane onto the track to join a field of twenty nine other cars for free practice. He stayed out for twenty minutes before coming back in to hand over to Martin, then Keith and finally me which would be the order we would keep throughout the weekend.
Speed is not a feature of these cars and handling is very neutral with understeer being the biggest issue from the teeny tyres, especially on the exit of a corner. The weather for first practice was sunny and dry so Richies could be taken flat; I preferred to tuck it in early and take the double apex approach, giving the tyres the least resistance for a clean exit to Sear. Then it was hard onto the brakes, trying to maximise the momentum for a nice wide exit to Revett Straight. A slight lift at the bridge and very late apex trail braking into The Esses with early power for the best speed through the Bomb Hole, round Coram Curve and into the biggest braking point, Russell Bend. The car was surprisingly grippy through the corners, its' low weight and lower-than-it-looks centre of gravity probably helping.
The first qualifying session went well enough and we rolled out during the late afternoon to set a time which would put us around 20th on the grid. The second qualifying session went even better and despite the pitch black of night I managed to bump us up 5 places, bang on the stroke of midnight on the final lap, chipping a third off the gap to first place.
The race started at 4pm the next day with a rolling start, Le Poulet Rouge managing to keep a good pace. However the oil cap popped off shortly afterwards sending oil spraying over the engine bay. A quick stop and clean up got us going again albeit a few laps down.
It was uneventful for the next couple of stints but it wasn't to remain so when I snatched second gear instead of third at Sear. I didn't catch it in time for the exhaust valves to only just meet up with the pistons. It took a while for anything to happen and I had started to think I'd got away with it but a few laps later the car started to loose power and I had no choice but to bring it into the pits.
20 minutes later we were back out using our second engine but it seriously lacked power and a hellish noise at speed turned out to be the wheel arch rubbing on the tyre which forced another short pitstop.
The car was very slow indeed, an additional 20 seconds per lap in fact. On the pit straight it took until the corner marker at Richies before fourth could be picked up and then the revs stayed where they were. We were passed by all and sundry. A lot of time was lost before the third engine was prepared and eventually changed and although the replacement was a vast improvement it suffered from fuel starvation through Richies and Coram.
Night racing was certainly an experience and a full two hour stint in the rain even more so. However mechanical problems still plagued us - a bumpy sideways moment through Russell popped an already hastily repaired wing and pulled an electrical plug stopping the engine and preventing it from starting. Luckily the marshals managed to push us into the pit lane without the need for the safety car scrambling.
We would later have to change the coil, replace a snapped clutch cable and repair the exhaust where it had come loose from the manifold. All these problems meant we eventually dropped 129 laps behind the leader.
My final stint was uneventful. I started to short-shift and began to take Sear in fourth, striving for longer life from the engine and transmission, willing the car to carry on. I was still pushing hard though, an almost perfect drive for a full two hours saw me pass several cars, only letting the quicker class cars past with a wave from the window.
What a fantastic introduction to racing this event was. We crossed the finish line in 26th place, 129 laps behind the leader. With crowds and marshals waving and cheering it really felt like a win. Driving through an avenue of people lining the pit lane into Parc Ferme and standing with the car that had completed a 24 hour endurance race was incredibly emotional and, with a tear in my eye, I now have a strange affection for that little Red Chicken.
We all did a wonderful job and deserve a huge pat on the back for all 5 members of team Le Poulet Rouge (drivers; Mac Apostolides, Martin Amison, Keith Britnell, Dave Wilson and our top mechanic; Mick). Finally and most importantly, we owe a huge thank you to Trevor Williams who loaned us the car.