Tony Gilham
Team Hard

Croft Weekend

Croft Weekend

After the events of Oulton Park two weeks ago, we were looking forward to giving a good account of ourselves before we went into the summer break.

One of the biggest things that we have had to deal with when we have been to Croft in past years is the weather, so all eyes were on the various forecasts that were around. And like most forecasters today, we had a bit of everything!

Thursday

Chris drove up to our garage from Southampton as he wanted to travel up with Dave, Ryan & Andy with the truck. After loading up, it was decided that to avoid any possible traffic congestion, they’d leave at 7pm.
They arrived at Croft in the early hours and crashed out in readiness for setting up tomorrow.

Friday

Guess what? Torrential rain!
The boys got soaked whilst setting up our garage, which was number 19 right next door to the TOCA Technical team.
Gary, Phil, our body repairer, Scott from Autotech and our film cameraman, Anthony, arrived around 2:30 to help with the remainder of the setting up. By this time, the rain began to ease, but the winds were really strong. So much so, that some of the other teams took down the awnings that they’d put up earlier in the day.
Whilst there, Gary & Anthony took the opportunity to go to the ITV technical bus to gather some footage from previous rounds. Anthony was in his element, so Gary left him to it.
By the time the boys had done everything it was 6:30 and time to leave the circuit and head off to the Thistle hotel in Middlesbrough. After a quick wash and brush up, the 8 of them headed off to Nando’s for dinner before retiring to the hotel bar for a few drinks before bed. Sammi, Ben, Sharon, Jada and I arrived around 11pm.

Saturday

We all left the hotel at 7:20am as we had a team meeting at 8am. For most of the 30 minute journey to the circuit, it was raining, although the closer we got, the lighter it was. After team breakfast, Gary & I went to the TOCA bus for signing on and briefing. After my race clothing and crash helmet had met with the approval of the scrutineer, it was time to get ready for Free Practice 1 at 9:30.
Although it wasn’t too cold, it was cloudy and the track was drying so we were going out on a set of used slick tyres.
Initially, the car felt good, but there was some understeer and after 3 laps, the diff preload dropped off, so we just used the session as a shake down. To compound things even more, after just 10 laps the radiator jumped out of the housing, so in order to protect it, I came in to the pits and climbed out of the car so that we could fabricate more brackets.
With most other cars doing 20+ laps, my time of 1.29:937 was only good enough for P22.

Free Practice 2 was at 11:50.
Again we went out on old tyres in order to find the balance on the car. With the diff dropping off again, I came in so that the team could torque the diff up t try to counteract it dropping off.
After a few laps, it appeared that we had gone too far with the torque as I now had a problem with braking, which was causing major understeer.

I only completed 11 laps as I came in some 10 minutes before the end of the session, but for my last 3 laps we put 2 new tyres on the front. My time of 1.27:563 was around 2 ½ seconds quicker than session one, but again only good enough for P18 Qualifying was at 15:05. The track was dry and we went out on 4 new slicks. Again, we had steering related problems which was dragging me into the apex and seriously affecting my lap times. Although I gained around another second on my previous best time, I could only manage P19 in a time of 1.26:845.
Once the car was back in the garage, we stripped it down and had to get to work on getting the car ready for race day. The big issue was that we needed to get a new steering rack from Team Dynamics base in Worcestershire. Rhys volunteered to do the 6 hour round trip and eventually got back to the circuit at around 3am.

Sunday

The boys were up early on Sunday, looking to leave the hotel at 6:30 in order to get to work on the car. There was heavy overnight rain and it was still raining as they left the hotel. The forecast though was for a dry day. At 6.30 in the morning, it looked far from dry as the circuit was very wet when we all arrived. It was so wet that the Competitors car park was closed.
Whilst the boys were working on getting the car ready, others were setting up the hospitality awning as there were guests due to arrive. At 9am Gary, Dave and I had a meeting with the TOCA officials. We emerged from the TOCA bus in bright sunshine.
At 10:20 it was time for Pit Lane walkabout, which was very busy. Pit Lane opened at 11:50 for the first race which was at 12:02 Starting in 19th place on the grid, we managed to move up 8 places to 11th as there were power steering problems, but on the 2nd to last corner on the last lap, what looked like one of our Volkswagen cup cars had a problem with braking and drove straight into the back of me, which resulted in me going wide and being demoted a place to 12th. We did lodge an appeal and the driver received 2 pts on his licence, but the places weren’t reversed as the officials thought the incident took place 2 laps from the end. However, after the race the driver did a really sporting thing by coming in to my truck to not only apologise, but also offer to give me my place back in race 2, which he did.

Race 2 at 14:25 had us starting in 12th place on the grid. The car felt really good and we managed to get up to 7th place when we were hit twice on the track and once on the grass by a multi-coloured car that looks like a Nascar, forcing me on to the grass whilst demoting me 3 places. Because of this, there was damage to the front wing and an oil leak which the boys worked wonders on in order to get the car ready for race 3.

Race 3 was at 17:12. Starting in 11th I was making my way up the grid when on the first corner I was shunted off the track and into the gravel which meant a Safety car was out. The Marshalls, who all work tirelessly every weekend, managed to push me back out on to track, so I had to do what I could to catch up with the pack. However, due to another incident, the Safety car was out again which gave me the opportunity to catch up, but soon after we began racing, I was shunted again and with further damage, decided that it was best to call it a day.

This was not how we envisaged the day to go, but with so many incidents involving my car, our weekend had been compromised. Time to pack up and head back home to Kent.



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Tony Gilham

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