On Saturday the 29th of August Chris Brown headed to Brands Hatch to compete in the Cannons Motor Spares Tin Tops championship on the Indy circuit over that weekend. This was his first ever race weekend in his new Fiesta XR2. The only ‘bum in seat’ time Chris had before this weekend was one hour of testing on Tuesday 25th of August. He was looking forward to debuting his new car to see how well it would perform.

Qualifying took place on Saturday afternoon on a damp track as the rain began to fall, the weather caused problems for the drivers as most of them opted for the dry set up as it was dry prior to their time to go out qualifying. Some drivers ended up spinning off and retiring at the side of the track and others just couldn’t get the times they wanted due to having wrong set ups on. Most of the other competitors completed 15 laps, Chris only managed 10.

When they left the waiting bay it was grey and overcast but no sign of any rain falling. Chris was precautious and put a few extra PSI in the tyres however dropping it down to not fully dry but cold conditions just before he headed out to the grid. This was the time Chris could see exactly how well the Fez Bomb could drive and qualify in comparison to the other cars out on the track in the same class. He used lap one to warm his tyres and brakes up. Lap two he was pushing harder to get the best lap times he could, just after starting his third lap the rain started, the track soon became greasy rather swiftly and the car was too stiff and understeering to get any sort of decent lap times to prove what it was capable of. Still pushing to see what he could get, he wasn’t going to take the chance. The third lap in the rain Chris felt his throttle pedal stick down as he lifted to go round Mclaren, he hoped it was nothing to worry about as it was only a slight stick. Round Mclaren and Clark and along the straight, up to fifth and foot buried to the floor, he comes up to Paddock Hill, stamps on the brakes and it cut out and locked all the wheels up. At this point the throttle was stuck open and Chris was fighting to keep the car pointing in the right direction, a dip in the clutch and once he had scrubbed up enough speed he bumped the car back into life, he then took it easy back into the pits to have a look over the car and see what was wrong.

When back in the pits, he climbed out the car and began checking the car over on his own. When he spanner checked the linkage during his pre event check over he thought that the linkage was a bit loose so tightened it up. Whilst he was in the pit lane a random mechanic from one of the kart teams came out and kindly offered to give Chris a hand to find what was causing his problem. They soaked the linkage in duck oil and it seemed to solve his problem for the remainder of the qualifying session. With qualifying over, Chris was ecstatic, he had qualified 3rd in class even with suffering the throttle jamming. This was the best he had ever qualified, he was so happy he literally danced his way out of the briefing room with happiness and a big cheesy grin on his face.

Sunday was race day, again the weather looked unpredictable, with the miserable looking sky nobody knew what to expect. Chris was hoping that with the amount of rain that fell overnight race day would be dry, all he could do was wait and see what the weather brings. Race one came round and it was still dry, Chris started 11th on the grid but 3rd in class. He was determined to bring home his first piece of silverware. Chris started on the inside line, all he needed to do was get a good start so that 10th place couldn’t cut him off. The lights went out, he got a good start and held onto his place until a spinning Honda Civic in the hands of Carey Lewis in front of him meant he was forced onto his brakes which let a car nip by on the outside where it was clear. Chris was gutted he had lost the place he had fought to keep off the line but he was adamant he would not give up and he would fight with all his might to gain that place back. Due to the Honda being stuck deep in the gravel at paddock hill in a dangerous place the safety car was brought out for three laps whilst they recovered the stranded car, he was so deep in the gravel the marshals could only just about open the car door to check he was okay. The safety car pulled in and we were on to lap 5, another Citroen Saxo managed to carry far more speed through Paddock Hill and up towards Druids than Chris could. This put Chris down to 5th in his class, then the rapid Fiesta of Dominic Ryan flew past on his mission to climb up the grid. From then on Chris held on to his 6th place until the end of the race.DSCF1415

(Chris battling hard during race one) Picture Credit: Tilley Photography.

When looking at Chris’ lap times you can see how much he has improved in himself as well as how much more he has to come from the car. Here are his lap times from race one:

Lap one – 1:22.041                 Lap two – 1:54.260
Lap three – 2:10.061               Lap four – 1:34.736
Lap five – 1:01.628                Lap 6 – 1:00.176
Lap seven – 1:00.130               Lap eight – 59.716
Lap nine- 59.252                   Lap ten – 58.914
Lap eleven – 58.678                Lap twelve – 58.479
Lap thirteen – 58.753
Another thing you can see from his lap times is that his fastest laps are right towards the end of the race, which shows you that the car was beginning to speed up and show what it is capable of.

On to race two, the weather stayed dry once again, Chris was due to start this race from 14th on the grid out of 23 cars. Chris went out to line up on the grid ready for the green flag lap and on his way out to the grid lit up the front wheels to begin getting heat into them in second gear and it popped out of gear. He assumed it was his fault for not putting it into gear properly but he did it again making sure he put it into gear properly and it slipped out again. That wouldn’t cause a problem as he doesn’t use second gear out on track during the races anyway. The green flag lap began and on his way up to Druids he suddenly heard a knock and a few thumps under his floor pan. He didn’t see anything come off the car in front or anything on track that he could have hit, then when he looked in his rear view mirror he instantly recognised his solid front gearbox mount bouncing down the hill behind him. That was the end of Chris’ second race before it had even begun. He went up to the marshals after the race, described what he was looking for and by a miracle they had found it, they even had the bolt and plated washer too.

After collecting his gearbox mount, bolts and washers it didn’t take long for Chris to jack up his gearbox and refit the mount with a new nut and this time he put some JB Weld Threadlock on the bolt. The reason it annoyed Chris the most is because in his pre event check over he had actually tightened them up to make sure they were secure.

After a DNF in race two, this meant Chris would start dead last in 23rd on the grid. This is not where Chris wanted to be but he didn’t let it phase him, the only good thing is this could prove how well the Fez Bomb can drive during races. Chris’ aim was to overtake as many cars as he could to get higher up the pack. Green flag lap went well he got some heat into his tyres and breaks ready for the start of the race. Lights went out and away he went, by the time he got to Paddock Hill bend he had already overtaken one car, by Druids he was past the second car. Just after Graham Hill bend he overtook a third car. He was having the time of his life, he had not driven like this before and was loving all the progress he was making, storming his way through the pack. Lap two he made more progress by overtaking another two cars by a cheeky dart up the inside of Surtees.

From then on he was getting more and more confident of what he could manage to do. He continued to make progress and overtake more cars, he was driving astonishingly to fight his way up the pack after his DNF. Unfortunately that was when Chris’ luck was about to run out. His cockpit started filling with smoke, he looked in his rear view mirror to see smoke bellowing out the back of the car, it was clear to Chris that he needed to get the car back to the pits as soon as possible as he knew he had a serious oil leak. He took the escape road into the pit lane and killed the engine quickly. When he opened the bonnet it was clear to see that the whole engine bay was covered in oil, the oil pressure was still good so hopefully this means it hasn’t caused any damage to the engine.

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(Chris before the oil leak filled his car with smoke) Picture Credit: Tilley Photography.

Chris was so happy with how the car was performing even after two DNF’s he was still smiling and happy. He’s got more confidence now that he knows the car has the pace to be battling up front. As a package he knows he has the potential to fight for podiums as well as having close battles with the fellow competitors in that championship. He knows where he needs to make improvements to continue with his progress, but he is still trying to find the limits of the car so he knows how hard he can push. He is looking forward to the next round of the Cannons Motor Spares Tin Tops which come back to Brands Hatch on the GP circuit on the 12/13th of September.

© Fay Tilley 31st August 2015.

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