Tony Gilham
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Andy Wilmot Blog

DTM Weekend Blog 19th MAY

This was the one Meeting I was looking forward too, its my home circuit and also the circuit I instruct at so with the supposed dry weather outlook for the weekend I was feeling confident and excited. It was also a big deal as my new sponsor was here for the weekend and had invited all his clients to his suite for friday qualifying, saturday race 1 and sunday race 2. No pressure.


Early to Brands Hatch for a pre qualifying briefing and all to familiar chat with the car to ask it to be good to me.
I was really nervous as we lined up in the pit lane, I felt like the pressure is now on as there were lots of people who expect me to be up the front. As we left the pit lane the nerves went and excitement kicked in. I completed 3 laps and came in to the pits for a tyre swap and went straight back out to set a fast lap. Within 2 laps of leaving the pits my gearbox became difficult to select 4th from 3rd and 5th but obviously had to keep pushing but then I started to lose my power steering, as I was mid corner the steering became extremely heavy and made the car difficult to control. I struggled to the end of the session but knowing I had failed to set a good time….Back to the Paddock. . . . . The Team had noted my car trouble and set to work finding spares to eliminate the problem. By Friday evening my gearbox was removed and a new power steering pump had arrived and I was to start in 10th position in race 1 on saturday.

Saturday: RACE 1

Saturday morning I had a lay in thinking that the first race was around 5:30-6:00pm but little did I know that the times had been changed and we were out shortly after 2:00pm. I arrived at the circuit around 11am and was happy to see that my car had been repaired and was ready and waiting.
Sitting on the line in 10th was not where I had planned to be but had to try and make the best of a bad situation, I was ready to make up some positions. Lights out and all at the front were fast off the line, there was rubbing,sliding,smashing, overtaking and spinning on the first lap and I had no idea what position I was in until lap 3 and that was when I realised my power steering issue had returned and was compromising my race, the vehicle was totally undrivable and the gearbox we had been given had the wrong diff so I had no traction out of corners, the smell of burnt power steering fluid filled the car so it was time to retire to the pits and accept the race is over.
I had mixed emotions and was thinking how I looked to my sponsor and his clients, clearly it wasn’t my fault but in a way it was like I had let them down. Back at the lorry I explained to the team the issues I had,The guys set to work straight away removing the gearbox and the steering rack. The gearbox was taken along with the original gearbox to have one good one made out of the pair. A new steering rack was sourced and now we were ready to go to Tony’s house for his birthday get together.

Sunday: RACE 2

I was at the track early on sunday morning, keen to see my car get put together and all well again. It was not to be because just before the cars were called to the assembly area for our last race of the weekend the mechanics noticed the new power steering pump was leaking fluid heavily, the only thing they could do was replace it with the old pump. We managed to get out on time but on the green flag warm up lap the pump gave up and I was left with ultra heavy steering and at the back of a 28 car grid waiting for the red lights to go out thinking WHY ME. I had no choice but to do the best I could, I was already starting from the back so I had nothing to loose and any place I made up was a bonus considering the circumstances. I had to stay out for my sponsors sake more than anything else. All the time I kept thinking that people were going to think that I’m rubbish and why am I driving so slow. No one watching at the time realised that I had no power Steering so I had to try my hardest not to look a complete waster.
So anyway I managed to come home in 12th position but due to a red flag incident I finished on paper 13th.

An unfortunate weekend but thats racing, I still enjoyed myself.

Thanks to all of the team for their HARD work.

Friday 6th April 2012

Got up at 6 am and drove to Silverstone for 2 morning sessions of testing in the Dunlop Ford Fiesta Championship.
The circuit was dry for both sessions and lap times were consistent. The fastest lap time I set was 3 tenths faster than the pole position time from 2011. The only drama for the test day was the boot coming up causing the car to have ultimate speed reduction. I drove home quite satisfied with my progress and had an early night ready for practice and qualifying on Saturday.

Saturday 7th April 2012

Up at 6am and drove back to Silverstone for the early morning practice session. Unfortunately, the track was wet (my worst fear) as I hate the wet as I rarely perform well when it’s wet. But I got out there and decided to try and enjoy the slippery conditions. To my surprise, I was 7th fastest and there was more to come as my confidence grew and I felt comfortable with the car. Qualifying was at 4;45pm, some 6 hours later. The track had dried out and slick tyres were at the ready. During the first half of qualifying it was hard to find space in the traffic for a clear lap, so frustration set in and the tyres got cooked where I was over driving the car. A red flag was waved due to a car in the gravel on its roof, so in to the pit lane for a tyre change and composure. The session was restarted some 6 minutes later and I was ready to start putting some good times in. Every lap I had a slow car in front of me and my times were nowhere near what I thought they should be. I looked at the pit board with 5 minutes to go and I was in 5th position. On the final lap there was amazingly no traffic in front of me and I managed to slot myself in to second to start the first race on the front row of the grid. Needless to say, I went home with a smile on my face and had an early night.

Sunday 8th April 2012

I woke up early, gathered the family together, walked out the door and saw RAIN……GREAT…..My worst nightmare and something that I could do nothing about. The worst thing was being on the front row and the thought of falling all the way back to midfield. On the way to Silverstone we stopped a number of times for various reasons and got to the circuit with only minutes to spare. All the class C Fiestas were in the assembly area ready for the first race. I jumped out of the car, threw my race suit on, grabbed my helmet,hans,gloves and balaclava and drove quickly to the assembly area. Within 2 minutes we were on our green flag lap warming our tyres. At the start line I wasn’t nervous as the whole rushing around scenario had made me forget how much I hated the rain. Lights out and I got a good start. But within 6 laps I lost my second place and slipped down to third. However, I held 3rd place to the end and gained confidence and experience on a wet track.

Race 2
Due to the reverse grid that is done in the fiestas, I was to start race 2 in 6th and with 10 kilos of extra ballast.1st position from race 1 started in 8th with 30kilos and 2nd started in 7th with 20kilos. For race 2, the circuit had dried out in most places and we were on slick tyres. The start of the race was carnage. Two cars from the same team that started in 1st and 4th spun at the first corner and caused everyone to swerve to avoid them. I was hit at the rear and my car was lifted 3ft in the air but luckily I kept my foot down and managed to come through in 4th position but my cars geometry had been compromised and the handling deteriorated as the race went on. I managed to finish in 3rd position with a very poorly car that also needed a gearbox, but who cares, two 3rd places in the first round was good with me. 3rd in the championship and only 1 point from joint second. Bring on round 2.

On the way home I stopped with the family at around 7pm for a bite to eat. We had just had our food served when I received a phone call from my Team Manager for the VW CUP, Tony Gilham. He said “Hi mate, by the way your racing tomorrow”……Errrr Surprise! So I then rushed my family with their food and made some phone calls to get the kids looked after and left the restaurant within 10 minutes. I drove back home to Dartford and off loaded the kids to my parents, grabbed some clean clothes and set off to Oulton Park. I eventually arrived at the hotel that the team were staying at around 12:30. I met Tony in th Hotel lounge and went over the Track on Youtube as I had never even stepped foot there before let alone raced there. And guess what…RAIN was forecast for the whole of the day! So, not only was I going straight out to qualify with no testing on a track on Monday and a track that I had not driven on before, but I was going to drive a car that I had not driven before in the wet. This was on my mind all night and I managed around 3 hours sleep. Up on Monday morning, Race day at 5:55 to be at the Track nice and early to go over the Track and the car. As promised by the weather man, it was raining hard. We adjusted the seat and belts in my VW Cup car and had a long talk about the characteristics of the track and car. Very quickly 9:35 came around and I was sitting in the assembly area totally out of my comfort zone. I felt like a brick layer that had been told to do a surgeons job for the day. (HOW IS THIS GOING TO PAN OUT). So the qualifying session started and it was all about learning the track. All 2.6 miles in 20 minutes and about 8/9 laps….Not easy….On lap 2 I had an excursion in to the gravel but managed to drive my way out. I was still getting used to a car with no ABS and 100bhp more than what I was used to. The session seemed to be over so soon and I still could not remember how the full lap went by memory when I was composing myself in the truck’s office afterwards. So, out of 25 cars I somehow qualified in 17th to my surprise. Before race 1 I had grown slightly more confident after a pet talk with Tony and I was ready to go and enjoy myself in the worst possible conditions I could be faced with. On the green flag lap my stomach was churning and I genuinely felt scared and was not looking forward to lining up. When the lights went out I stuck tight to the pit wall and kept the inside line around the first corner and was surprised to find myself in 8th for a short time until I was overtaken and slipped into 9th and that is where I finished the first race. Needless to say, I was over the moon.

Race 2
I started in 9th position but still felt quite anxious. By this time I had a bit more understanding of how the track went. The rain had stopped but there was still standing water, so wet tyres were still needed but the car in 7th took a gamble and went for slick tyres on the front. When the lights went out I had a good start and made up 1 position but half way around the first lap a car locked his brakes and hit me from behind causing me to spin and loose a position and him to be out of the race. The safety car was out for 2/3 laps while clearing up his damaged golf GTI. Whilst parading behind the safety car in 9th position I felt the car crabbing and rubbing at the rear due to the impact, but I carried on regardless to finish the race in 11th having to give up 2 places as my poorly car became very difficult to drive. I was happy with my progress for the first round of the VW Cup and I find myself 9th in the Championship with only 9 points off of 4th. The whole bank holiday racing was really tiring but I was very satisfied with my results for both championships. I covered over 1000 miles just driving to the circuits and home again since the start of the weekend.

Andy Wilmot AW21

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