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Silverstone Birkett 2007
Report by Tony Webb

What a great day and a big well done to all our drivers for getting round without any major incident. Can you imagine the whoops of joy from all of us on the pit wall as we saw Mark make a spectacular start hustling his way past quite a large number of competitors to get us right up towards the front of the field. This set the tone for the rest of the day with much good comaraderie and banter between us all right to close of business.

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The opening lap with Marc and Mike.

As always each driver gave his all to make sure he did not let the side down. Jerry identified in his first stint that after about 15 minutes his engine was getting very hot, but despite the real possibility of his overheating engine he kept it out there. Still with the possibility of scrapping his engine he went out for his second effort knowing that we needed him to do an additional 10 minutes and was heard to tell Nigel, if it blows it blows, I was going to scrap it anyway. That's the sort of commitment we had from them all.

Graham was his usual reliable self lap after lap with no drama, but for some of us on the wall we began to wonder if he was in fact having a snooze as he seemed totally oblivious to the pit board until the moment when it said "IN" and as you might expect he responded immediately and on cue came trundling down the pit lane, scotching all the rumours about 40 winks.

Adam surprised some of us in the little Westfield putting in some very respectable times. He also had our hearts in our mouths for after only about four laps he came out of the complex, through Woodcote onto the pit straight behind a gaggle of cars. In his usual enthusiastic style he saw a gap appear and went for it to get past, the next thing we saw on the wall was him weaving to the left, then nearside tyres on the grass quickly followed by the rest of the car. Bouncing now along the grass opposite the pit wall he somehow managed to hold it straight enough to run alongside the gaggle of cars and eventually rejoin the tarmac virtually in front of us at our signalling point. It was not possible to see the expression on his face but I understand he did hang his overalls up the aire when he eventually finished his stint!!

Tim was taking part for the first time and I think was a little concerned at whether he was up to flying the flag for us, but he need not have worried for he too put up a great performance. Once settled into the rotating mass of 50 cars on the track he soon got down to business and if I am not mistaken clocked up his fastest ever lap at Silverstone so was well pleased. The beam on his face for the rest of the day said it all, he was absolutely lapping it up (couldn't resist the pun). He did warn us though that after practice he had not been able to spot our pit board so was not sure how we were going to attract his attention. In the event all the drivers responded admirably to the pit signals. This is more than can be said for The Belfast Flyers who had one particular driver (no names) who was totally oblivious to the antics of the crew on the wall. Poor David their team manager tried just about everything except climb on top of the fence to gain his attention. In the end he was leaning so far out of the fence and waving the board so frantically we all thought he would be black flagged rather than the driver.

John Dickson, what can we say about John other than he was his usual enthusiastic self. Out on the track he immediately got down to the task in hand. Most of our drivers took about three laps before putting in their quick times. John however was on the pace on the lap after his out lap and immediately vying with Mark for setting The Grunties fastest lap. This fastest lap scenario was to raise its head in another situation but more of that in a minute. John reeled off the laps with amazing consistency which helped us maintain our position for a while.

At the start of the day Nigel informed everyone that this year we had fallen foul of the handicappers, possibly due to our win last year. Unlike last year with 26 laps in hand we only had nineteen, this was to impact on us quite hard. However for the time being we were not doing too bad, then the bad news John's engine was spraying out oil which would lead to his retirement, for although Cheng and Barry had tried to resolve the problem before the race it was not totally cured.

Mark was back out on the track when Nigel had to face the decision as to how best to cover the slot now left open by John's demise. No John, Jerry overheating what was he going to do. After some thought it was decided that everyone would have to do a little extra and that way we could possibly cover the two sick cars. But hang on, Mark was out on the track how could we signal to him the situation. Did anyone know how much fuel he was carrying or how many extra laps he could put in, could anyone translate that into time which was the medium we were working with on the pit board. FIND CHENG was the cry if anyone knows he will, sure enough the message came back that at most Mark may, just may. have an extra 10 minutes but that would be all. But that was all we needed, so, problem solved and the decision was made to leave Mark out for the extra time. But no one had taken account of Mark and his professional approach to the race, to put in the best times carry the minimum weight, Mark had fuelled to do his turn with little extra. Sure enough within only a couple of laps of his allotted time Mark went missing. Five seconds, ten, fifteen, where is he, in traffic, spun, shunted off, twenty, twenty five, still no sign, dare we send Jerry out and possibly have two cars circulating. Thirty seconds, it has to be fuel, we have now reached the lap time of our normal inlaps and Nigel ordered Jerry into the fray.

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Jerry waiting for the off

Team orders had been in this situation to use the new driver to sight the missing driver and then give the thumbs up next time past the pits to say we should leave him out there as the previous driver was off the track. Sure enough Jerry eventually gave the signal, Mark was out. We found out later that Mark had run out of fuel having just past the pits and had cruise off to make his way between the two sections of armco. As is usual the marshalls were trying to get mark clear of the car and out of harms way, but Mark was having none of it. Realising he was hidden from view Mark wais trying to find a way of letting Jerry know what was happening. What better way than waving the bonnet of your car which must have been quite a sight for Jerry as he exited Copse and no doubt gave him a little smile inside his helmet. That really would have been one for the album!

Mark eventually got pulled back into the paddock to learn why he had hit trouble. Of course he had been waiting for the agreed pit signals to tell him to get ready to come in and without these was puzzled as to why he had run out of fuel, having fuelled as he thought sufficiently to complete his session. It all became clear of course when he got back to the paddock.

Jerry completed his session having taken the earlier decision that a blown engine was a possibility, and as it turned out without the need to come in early. Graham was relied upon to put in another solid display and keep the flag flying. In true fashion that is exactly what he did. Thank goodness we had Graham and 'Poppy' who we could almost rely on without doubt to go out and turn in lap after lap, giving Nigel some breathing space to look at the decisions and strategy to get us to the end.

So now the handover to Adam who having just settled into the swing of things but now in the queue following the pace car, came past the pits signalling that he needed to come in. Tim was readied and the changeover took place. Adam it transpired had got a throttle cable problem and the mechanics set to work, could they sort it for Adam to go back out. After much hurried activity Adam's car was eventually sorted ready to return.

Tim as it turned out was perhaps the unluckiest of our team out on the track. Whilst thankfully the number of safety car incidents was very small this year, Tim was the man who was out most times it happened. On one occassion Tim was right behind the safety car and had quite a few laps to devise a strategy for the restart of the race. How was he going to lead the field away after the pace car pulled off, should he do this or do that. So when the safety car lights eventually went out Tim now had to implement the decision he had made. The pack of course were now snapping at his heels anxious to get going but Tim was having none of it. In true Senna style he lead them to think he was about to go and then slowed up and as you have guessed immediately floored the throttle and was away. Now leading the field Tim came flying past the pits with a small lead over everyone else. When its your first event of this sort that must have given him a warm feeling inside (no not that sort of warm feeling, he had been before he went out) but a bit like leading your own GP. As said previously Tim thouroghly enjoyed the whole day so this must have been one of his special memories of the event.

Jerry had been waiting to take over in case of a further breakdown but as Adam's car was finally fixed, they swapped places and at the next changeover out Adam went. It was Adam that was to take us through the final laps up to the chequered flag, which he did without drama.

The day had been a good one, despite an attempt at rain a couple of times resulting in little more of a mist rather than rain the weather was kind, not especially warm but with that traditional Silverstone wind blowing from the south west it wasn't particularly cold either. So to own celebrations in the garage. Nigel hosted the ceremonies with a special tankard presented to each of the drivers from both The Grunties and The Belfast Flyers teams. In addition the two mechanics that had kept the cars repaired and circulating were also rewarded with a similar prize.

Then our ladies who this year had taken over the total running of the catering and hospitality were each called forward to receive a token of appreciation from all of us. This was a specially inscribed table clock. Every year we say thank you to our ladies for looking after us but this year was a little different. The selection and variety of food and drink on offer was something else. I had earlier in the day taken a walk through the garages of the different teams to look at the many and varied cars taking part. One could not help but notice the catering arrangements as you walked around. It is without bias that I say ours was one of the best without doubt. In none of the other garages did it appear there was such a variety available to team members. I am sure therefore I echo the feelings of all those taking part in both our teams in saying that a mere well done does not seem sufficient. Ladies you are truly superstars and this year surpassed yourselves.

During the day we also had a number of helpers on the wall, this really was the place to be, for as the day wore on the frivolity that was taking place up there was brilliant. Jane, Michael, Ralph, Nigel and others did a sterling job. It is not a job some people care to take on, but at our gap in the fence the laughter continued all day. In fact at one point it looked as if we had most of the non drivers up on the wall, all joining in the banter that was taking place.

Well that about covers things except for that situation I mentioned earlier about the fastest lap, remember? John Dickson having completed his first session came onto the wall to find out how things were going and in particular who was putting in the quick times. He was asked how his wife may take the news about the problems with the engine having only recently spent a fairly hefty sum of money on it. John in his usual jovial style made light of the situation and that his wife was so laid back that she had put him on a promise (yes one of those promises) if he turned in the fastest lap. Well what is a team supposed to do in such circumstances, how could it help the poor fellow especially when he had to face the prospect of breaking the bad news when he got home?

Well as usual the team rallied round and the decision was taken. At the prizegiving Nigel explained to everyone John's predicament and as a token of support, John was handed a hastily drawn up certificate signed and witnessed by most of the team, stating that "In the circumstances of such a promise he must surely have put up the fastest lap", . It only remains to find out if the promise was honoured, there again perhaps this will be one of those little secrets we shall never find out. Maybe those going to the dinner will keep a look out for that knowing smile, thanks John for taking all the ribbing and joining in the merriment.

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Jerry's new tactic to slow Graham in 2008

No cup this year for the team, but still good fun and enjoyed by everyone.


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