Porsche 944 S – Race 1 – Brands Hatch Indy

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Where do I start? Your first race has to be one of the most nerve racking but at times weirdly relaxed experience. We’ve done quite a few track days now, but they are so different to races and I’m so glad our first one is all done – there’s a much better confidence for the rest of the races we’ll do this season now we vaguely know what we’re doing. Let’s run through the day.

The day before

Because Brands Hatch is so far away from us (a good 3:30hrs away by car, circa 4:30hrs in the race truck that we borrowed) we needed to get down there the day before. We were booked into the Thistle hotel right next to the circuit and when we got there to park the truck, we were amazed by all the trucks, motor homes and so on already there. Cooking away the smells of bacon, sausage and general goodness were superb in the very light drizzle that accompanied the darkness.

We left the truck and checked in. The Thistle is a good hotel and so close to the circuit its a no brainer. We then decided to do a bit of planning. As it was our first race we had the following to get done:

  • Signing on
  • Scrutineering
  • First driver briefing
  • Series briefing
  • Qualifying
  • Race

And quite a lot to do in the first few hours. Add to that we didn’t get the car back until we drove down, and as a result we had to get our numbers stuck on as well as the novice cross, and even add some more fuel! It was our first time out on the new wheels, tyres and suspension so a lot to learn.

The morning preparations

We were down by the car at 7am to get the car off the truck, stickers on, add some fuel, and try and find Steff who runs the series so that we could have a quick chat. The first hour as always flew by and we were already due to sign on and go to scrutineering all at once. Turns out you must sign on ahead of scrutineering (I was already in the queue!) so that was a good bit of back and forth.

Fortunately we sailed through scrutineering. Quick tip here – stick your scrutineering slip on your car so people can see it – no one told us this so we turned up to qualifying without it on, but I still had it in my pocket, which was good.

A quick jaunt under the bridge to race control for our first time race briefing from the clerk of the course which was basically a few quick tips and rules and only a quick 5 minutes. This was great because we had to get back quickly to get to the assembly area for qualifying. They ran the day very efficiently and as long as you make sure you’re at the assembly area 10-20 minutes before, the pace is quite calm and relaxed (unless it’s your first race)

The Qualifying

I was up for the first stint in qualifying and I was nervous as hell. I know any seasoned racers and even 3rd time racers will think this is silly, but by god sitting in the assembly area waiting to be led out is nerve racking. There are some serious pieces of kit with us in Deutsche Marque with a set of M3s as well as 944 S2s and 968s – pretty much all quicker than us mechanically really.

Out I went and did a mega slow 1.16 first lap but then things got quicker getting down to a 1.06 before the driver change. It all went by so quickly and I knew I had more time to get. Adrian jumped in and immediately felt at home with the car and set our best qualifying time of a 1.03 which was superb. Full PDF of our times is linked below in the race section.

The Gap

Between that time (circa 10:30) and our race (circa 14:30) we only had to add some fuel and change the wiper blades for ones that worked (just in case). This was a time to chat to other drivers, do our little tasks and have some food. We also did a full wander around the circuit watching each of the corners and the other series qualifying discussing the lines people were taking and what was good and what was bad. We also had the series briefing which again, was just a quick run through of what was needed.

The Race

As Adrian qualified fastest, he was going to start the race. Just before we moved towards the holding area we realised the wipers weren’t working. And it was drizzling. Add that to the fuel gauge and oil temp gauge not working and we had some electrical gremlins due to our prep guys over zealous wiring it seems. Still we procured some quick rainex and, as luck would have it, the rain stopped, and stayed stopped.

Adrian started really well gaining a few places from our back grid slot due to other poorer starters but after a few laps it had shaken itself out. We were holding well in corners, buit losing out in straights (probably due to the far too big 17s that we’d put on robbing our acceleration). Adrian did well getting putting in regular 1.04s and 1.05s before setting a blistering 1.01 before he came in for the driver change.

The driver change is a simple stop car, engine off, straps off, driver out, driver in, straps on, engine on, go affair that took us about 1.18 to do which wasn’t bad but will get better.

I was out and started to get a bit more time out the car and myself getting up to a 1.04 before the moment it all changed. Coming into paddock hill bend I carried a bit too much speed and was also a tiny bit too wide of the apex. This meant half way down towards the exit I felt I was going to run out of the black stuff. instead of holding my nerve though I made the rookie mistake of lifting off. The rear end swung straight around, I couldn’t correct the skid (it got to 90 degrees very fast) and I ended up facing the wrong way bedded into the gravel trap.

Due to my position the safety car came out to backup the pack and the tow truck came out to drag me out. Our tow eye had been replaced by our prep guys with a fabric version and it seems when the tow truck pulled the first time, it didn’t hold and it, with the front bumper, came straight off. Cue laughing from the crowd and a disappointed tow driver who found somewhere else to tow me out. Back on track I decided to go back to the pits to check out the damage – seemed superficial but the suspension felt off and with only 5 mins of the race left, I thought I’d let everyone finish their race in peace.

This was a big mistake. Because we didn’t finish we didn’t just come last but one (another guy had previous gravelled himself) but we were declassified. I didn’t know that happened I thought it’d be like F1 – so always finish the race if you can! This was a very disappointing end to the weekend, and I was properly gutted and it stayed with me most the way home. More disappointed for Adrian as well who did his part brilliantly.

I know I had more time to gain at Brands, and I really want to get back onto that track as soon as possible. Its very far away though so it’s unlikely that it will be for a while. I have thirst to master it though. A thirst!

Brands-Hatch-May12-DM – Race and Quali times


The Track

Brands Hatch Indy circuit map

Here is the track – pretty simple to be honest, not a lot of corners, but to master it is quite another thing.

Brabham Straight: We start shooting down the straight which it’s best to stay the right hand side by the pit wall to make the most of the downhill of the straight. Depending on who is where in the race though, it doesn’t matter too much.

Paddock Hill bend: A sweeping, very downhill corner. Blind right turn in over the crest of the hill. Can be taken in 4th for us, don’t carry too much speed. Stay wide to the left on entrance but tuck in towards the apex quickly so you have enough road on exit. Sweep down the hill into the spex of the dip powering up Hailwood Hill to Druids. Kev from EMC said as long as you remember to be scared for your life you will do fine.

Druids: A slow right hand hairpin at the top of the hill before diving back down to Graham Hill. Can be taken wide and deep on the left for maximum turn in and the attack the exit. Often though you will take a defensive line in the middle or to the right to stop someone coming up the inside and parking it on the apex (or you can overtake that way.

Graham Hill bend: One of the easiest on the circuit I believe to get right consistently. Stay in 3rd from Druids, brake to the end of the rumble strip and turn in clipping the apex and run wide to the exit curb powering up Cooper straight.

Cooper straight: Up into 4th and keep right for Surtees. Watch your left and right for overtaking here before Surtees of course.

Surtees: Stay in 4th. Some say it can be flat out, most lift though for a bit of confidence. Braking is not needed though. Sweep left and run over the last 6 inches of the kerb (as its flat) before kinking back right over the other kerb and then we’re into Clearways.

Clearways: Very hard to separate from Surtees. The exit of Surtees is the entrance to clearways. You’ve got over the right kerb and then brake hard in a straight line before turning in to the right. There are multiple lines through here from round the edge of turn to hitting the first apex and then accelerating up Brabham straight. You need to find the line that’s best for you.

And we’re done. Lovely track.

About Rob

I'm an average petrolhead - I love cars and get as much driving experiences as I can out in the world from test drives to track days.