There were several surprises during my trip to Scammonden Dam for the 6th round of the TJ Services Northern Speed Championship yesterday.
First up was the distance. I hadn't realised how far it was - the round trip was 490 miles. I travelled down on Saturday night and camped at a site behind a pub near the village of Marsden. After a good night's sleep, I awoke to blue skies and brilliant sunshine - great!
After a run through some lovely West Yorks countryside, I arrived at the venue and nearly had a fit when I saw the paddock arrangements. We had to park on a slope, on 2 foot high grass. At least it was dry.
The scrutineer came round and gave the car a very cursory once over and it was time to walk the course. Then came the second surprise......
The hill is unbelievably steep! It might only be 550 yards long and have just 4 corners but the gradient is a real test of grunt. Or in my case, a real test of lack of grunt!
Practice runs were a fact-finding exercise. I found that snatching second gear just before the first corner gave a faster exit and enabled a quicker run up to the second corner which was a very steep, tight right hander. This second corner was crucial because it was at this point that the gradient really kicked in. Getting a good exit here would set up the car for a good run up the rest of the hill.
My competition for the day was Paul Rigg and Dennis Hope double driving the MGF. Chris Harris in the Elise was a no show. For a while it looked like it might be quite close. By our fourth run, Dennis had done a 31.9, I had done 31.7 and Paul was on 31.5 - all quite tight. On run five, Paul pulled out the stops and managed 30.44. I was stunned. I couldn't see where I was going to make a whole second on such a short course. Worst of all, Dennis was at my heels. I desperately needed to beat Dennis so at least I could claim 24 points and stay joint top of the class in the championship.
I hadn't completely given up hope of pipping Paul so for my last run I decided to give it all. So, I'm sitting at the start line and just as the light went green there was this enormous rumble - it sounded like the big end had gone. Undeterred, I floored the throttle and took off up the hill. Up to second gear and round the first bend. I noticed the marshalls looking skywards????? I carried on up the hill as fast as I could muster and all the way up I noticed the marhsalls and spectators looking up. Why weren't they watching me????
I got to the top to discover that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had just flown past with the Lancaster and Spitfires - nae wonder folk weren't watching me in my poxy Mazda!
Anyway, I posted a time of 31.06 - not enough to get near Paul who did 30.3 on his last run but good enough to claim 24 points and keep me in contention in the championship.
My next competitive outing is at Elvington on 2 August but I've got a trackday at Knockhill to test a few things before then..........