Having sorted out the engine so that the car would do more than 6 laps on a track without blowing up, it was time to go racing. My first race was at Cadwell Park at the end of June. Things went pretty much to plan - I qualified last, I finished last, and got lapped during the race! However, I did at least finish. Even if I got disqualified afterwards for failing the ride height test....
In fact, I qualified last by some time - 13 seconds off pole, 6 seconds off the next competitor. Yup, pretty damn slow! Happily, the race showed a marked improvement in my speed - my best race lap was 6 seconds faster than my best qualifying lap, so although I got lapped, I only got lapped once. And I did have an excuse for my slow speed during qualifying - every time I turned right at the hairpin (we were using the short circuit) there was a loud banging sound. And the car was starting to smell of oil. It turned out that I'd left a litre of oil, a bottle of coolant and a car of tyre-weld in the back of the car during the qualifying session. Doh.
The next race was at Mallory Park - a much simpler circuit than Cadwell, although the weekend did have its complications. The main one being that, contrary to all the weather reports, it was looking distinctly damp. And I only had dry tyres (ACB10s) with me. Qualifying was damp, and although I span at the Esses, I didn't qualify last. OK, so I qualified second last, but it was an improvement as I wasn't miles behind the rest like I had been at Cadwell. Before the race it really rained hard, and I was starting to feel more than a bit nervous about racing in the wet on a circuit I didn't really know, in my second ever race, with dry weather tyres on.
As happened at Cadwell, I screwed up the start a bit - I got good initial traction, but got neutral going from first to second. This is something I'll have to improve on if I ever get back on track.... Anyway, I was quite a way back from the pack going into Gerrards for the first time, but to be honest I was quite relieved as I was happy at this stage to be at my usual place at the back. However, after the first 2 laps, I was feeling confident and had already pulled alongside 2 of the cars in front - I'd always backed off when crunch came to crunch, but, DAMN IT, it was time to overtake someone! Despite the fact that it was binning it down by this stage, and the fact I was on dries, things felt pretty good.
The plan was simple - I was much faster through Gerrards than the 2 cars in front of me. So, gain speed through Gerrards, up alongside them on Stebbe Straight, inside line through the Esses. As long as I could sort out my braking into the hairpin, I should be OK. Well, that was the plan. As it turned out, my exit from Gerrards was just a little *too* exuberant. I lost the back end coming out of Gerrards, flat out in 5th, and started heading backwards towards the tyre wall on the inside of the circuit. On the grass. As I skidded along the grass backwards, I had a while to think 'Oooooo, this is really going to hurt'. Then the car hit the tyre wall, and I blacked out.
When I came round the car was upside down and my head was up the wet grass. There was a distinct smell of petrol. I grabbed the FIA master switch, turned everything off, and waited for the marshalls to flip the car up so I could get out. By this stage I was already aware that the left hand side of my back was hurting. The marshalls took me to the Medical Centre where I was reunited with my girlfriend, Zena (who had been through hell and back - at one point the staff at the Medical Centre had told her to sit down, a counsellor would be with her soon) and told that I had earned myself a trip to hospital.
When we got to hospital, it quickly became clear that I almost certainly had some broken ribs and was definitely going to end up staying overnight. The doctors were concerned that I may have ruptured my spleen, which would, apparently, have been bad. The night in hospital was not particularly pleasant - at one point I had 3 IV lines in me, one in each elbow, one in the back of my right hand. I also had my blood pressure checked every hour or so to make sure I had no internal bleeding.
Anyway, I was back home the next day and ended up being off work for a week. At the time of writing it's just over 4 weeks after the crash and although my ribs are still sore occasionally, and I'm definitely not back to normality, I'm feeling a lot better.
Thanks have to go to Zena for not killing me on the spot when she found out I was still alive, my brother for generally being a good bloke, Leicester Royal Infirmary for being so kind to someone so stupid as to hospitalise himself racing! Also, big huge thanks to Geoff Northcott - I'd borrowed his trailer which ended up being left at Mallory Park with my car on it. Geoff recovered both the car and his trailer despite the fact that he was emigrating to Australia 4 days later.... Thanks also to Hoops for helping to get the car off the trailer when it got back to the garage.
The Fury will live again (probably). Whether or not I go racing again is a different question....
This document maintained by Dan