On Saturday 26th March, James Alford competed in the first round of the Quaife/Canons Motorspares Tin Tops Championship at Brands Hatch. The Tin Tops were first to head out on to the slippery circuit located in Kent. Although it was not raining during the qualifying session the overnight rain had made the circuit very slippery which saw competitors getting sideways and sometimes having a spin round the circuit.

James headed out onto the circuit to try and better his personal best qualifying and lap time at the circuit. Last time James was out at Brands Hatch was in November, he qualified 24th with a lap time of 1:47.392 competing in class TP. Over the winter months James has made changes to the car including different brakes and a new diff, these changes meant James was able to do quicker lap times and has also moved from TP class to T2 class. His first flying lap during the qualifying session was a 1:18.865, already that was 28.53 seconds quicker than his fastest lap time from qualifying in November. When James was out on track he definitely seemed to have more confidence within the car than he did back in November. James was getting back used to driving the car throughout the duration of the qualifying session as he had been testing his Honda Civic EK with his teammate Blair Roebuck and Recycled Racing team at Snetterton before heading to Brands Hatch to compete in his Clio 172. James did extremely well in the slippery qualifying session, he was bedding in new brakes and testing the new diff on the car but managed to qualify in 8th place with a lap time of 1:05.026. Although he was eighth on the grid he was fourth in T2 class and only 4.192 off of the pole position time set by Rod Birley.

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Picture Credit: Tilley Photography

Race one was looking to be wet and overcast so James opted for wet tyres but the time he spent in the holding area waiting to go out to race plus the on track laps the track was beginning to dry mid race. He knew something was wrong with the car when he tried to get it into first, second or fifth gear on the warm up lap he couldn’t so he knew for the race he would only have third or fourth gear to use. James was doing well, battling with cars around him having a good race with his competitors but then bad luck struck on the last lap of the race. As James entered Paddock Hill Bend he braked and locked up, which he knew was because of being on the wet tyres on a dry circuit, this sent him into the gravel trap at the top of Paddock Hill causing him to get an instant puncture. James did extremely well to keep the car from getting stranded in the gravel trap, he limped it round to the back entrance to the pits and awaited assistance from marshals.

Once he was back in the outer paddock he was able to check over the car to see what damage the puncture and gravel trap excursion had done to the car and also see why he only had third or fourth gear. It turned out to be a broken gear linkage stopping him having first, second, fifth and reverse gears so James repaired that and gave the car a full check over ready for race two. He was satisfied that the car was okay after the earlier incident and was eager to get out for the second race.

For race two James started in 25th on the grid with Vince Wheeler alongside in a Renault Clio and Andy Hargreaves behind in his BMW 328. James got a fairly good start and began to make up places. Even after his earlier incident James still had a lot of confidence in the car and was flying. On lap three Robert Hosier went off into Paddock Hill gravel trap. On lap nine Kelly Dann was the second retiree of the race followed by Terry Waller on the following lap. After twelve laps of the race the chequered flag came out and James finished in 14th place. Over the duration of the race James made up eleven places, almost one per lap. James’ fastest lap in the dry was set during race two, this lap time was a 58.862, just 3.17 seconds behind the fastest lap of race winner Rod Birley.

 

© Fay Tilley 28th March 2016

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