dan horne

dan horne

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Mighty Dan @ Silverstone

It’s been a while since I wrote about Rockingham. I had to miss two rounds over the summer, at Brands Hatch and Castle Combe, which was a massive shame. I’m on such a tight budget this year that it only takes an unexpected bill to leave me with some difficult decisions to make. I had hoped that I’d have been able to use some of the money saved by not going racing to try to improve the car. Unfortunately the Mini had different ideas!

The brake problems I had at Rockingham turned out to be more severe than I anticipated. After stripping the brakes down in the garage at home I found I needed to replace the master cylinder, servo and one of the rear wheel cylinders - none of which were on my original shopping list! After putting the brakes back together and replacing the lost brake fluid I was finally happy with how the brake pedal felt! I think Meg was almost as relieved as I was, as it meant she didn’t have to come home from work and then spend the next hour helping me bleed the brakes again! Unfortunately my ‘improvement’ budget had taken a massive hit. I was left with just about enough cash to treat myself to some new rear swing arm brackets which would allow me to adjust the camber on the rear wheels. 

Fitting them was a very straightforward affair. Jack the car up, remove the wheels, whip off the old brackets, fit the new ones and away you go! Setting the camber on the wheels was much more time consuming. I was setting the camber on the front and rear wheels. I would also need to set the tracking and the ride height as adjusting one thing would change the others. We are allowed to run 1.5 degrees of negative camber on the front, I don’t think (without re-reading the regulations) there’s a limit on the rear but I had been advised that somewhere around 0.5 degrees negative camber would be a good starting point. My first few attempts didn’t really go to plan as I was getting different results every time I measured something and was becoming increasingly frustrated. Given the importance of getting it right I persevered and eventually started to make some progress. It took a few attempts and a long day in the garage but eventually it was done.

Given the break I had between races it should come as no surprise that I was organised and ready to go well in advance. I’d taken the Friday off work as well as the weekend so I could pick up the transporter and get everything packed and loaded up ready for an early start Saturday. Being so organised I spent most of the day sitting around feeling very nervous about the weekend and checking the weather forecast every few minutes. It had forecast rain earlier in the week but now said it was going to be dry. Meg had booked us a room at the ‘Snoozebox’ hotel just outside the circuit on the Saturday night and my sister and nephew were coming up from Cornwall to watch as well.

The alarm went off at 0500 Saturday morning. We were on the road for half past. At this point I would like to apologise to my neighbours, the only way to shut the driver’s door on the transporter is to slam it - hard. Even then it rarely shuts first time. I can imagine that went down like a lead balloon at 0530 on a Saturday morning.

I wanted to be at the circuit for 0830 to give me plenty of time to get unloaded. We had a driver’s meeting to attend at 0945, qualifying was at 1030 and our first race at 1430. We arrived and unpacked. I went to sign on and then joined the queue at the scrutineering bay. The driver’s meeting was next. It included a word from the officials about driving standards. Apparently there had been some issues at the last race meeting and we were told in no uncertain terms that there was to be no contact and if there was we would find ourselves in front of the officials explaining ourselves! Once back at the car we were called to the assembly area for qualifying.

We were using the National Circuit at Silverstone. I have never driven the track before, but I’d done a little bit of homework prior to the meeting. The layout consists of three long straights which, given my previous lack of straight line speed, could be problematic for me! My plan for qualifying was the same as usual - get my minimum 3 laps done and then try to improve with each lap. Ideally I’d try and stick with the other cars and try to get a ‘tow’ from the car in front to give me a little help along the straights. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep up on the straights and fell back. Not a massive problem, I’d thought that might be the case. I just kept going around, trying different lines, trying to brake later and just getting used to the car and circuit. I came across a couple of other cars as the session went on, which was useful as I could see where they were braking and what lines they took etc. I seemed to be able to keep up in the slower corners but lost out on the straights. The chequered flag soon came out and we went back to the scrutineering bay. The cars were all weighed at the end of the session. There is a minimum combined weight for the car and driver of 738kg. I have to confess that I had always assumed my car would not be underweight but had never actually got around to checking it for definite. It turns out I was right, my car was not underweight. It was over. Quite a bit over, 14kgs to be precise!! That’s never going to help with straight line speed/acceleration. It seems me and Martine need to go on a diet! The results eventually came through and to my surprise I wasn’t last! I had qualified ahead of someone! I can only assume that the car starting behind me had some sort of mechanical issue but still, it was a nice change!

Race 1
We had a couple of hours to have a wander around the paddock and watch some races before being called for the first race. We were sent out onto the circuit and lined up ready for the start of the race. I took up my grid position, now two from the back! One of the drivers had been underweight by a couple of kilogrammes at the end of qualifying so was at the back of the grid with a penalty. The lights went out and we were off. I was passed on the straight before Copse Corner. I’d half expected it. I was cautious into Copse and Maggots in case of any collisions ahead. I was surprised to find myself keeping up with the cars in front, still a couple of seconds back but not dropping away. On lap 6 I noticed the engine temperature starting to rise. Not great. I backed off a bit, the gap to the car in front started to increase. The engine temperature also started to increase! I dropped back some more. I always run the car with the heater set to hot, I don’t have the blowers on as I don’t particularly want to cook myself. On this occasion and with the temperature still rising I didn’t have much choice. I’d need to switch the blowers on to try to cool the engine. Unfortunately, once I’m strapped into my seat I can’t reach the switch for the blowers. At full stretch my fingers are a good couple of inches away from the switch. I tried to loosen my belts a bit, I still couldn’t reach. I loosened them a bit more, still no joy. The needle was nearly at the top of the gauge. I tried again but I still couldn’t reach. I was getting worried now. I waited until I was on the straight and tried to flick the switch with my left foot, I managed to get my foot up to the switch and then got cramp in my hip, it was agony!! I had to drop my foot, on the next straight I managed to get one of my belts loose enough for me to reach the switch with my hands, the blowers were finally on and the engine temperature started to drop. What a relief!! I’d dropped back quite a bit. I was about 10 seconds behind the car in front. I started to try to pick up my pace. With each lap the gap in front started to come down, 10 seconds, 8 seconds, 6 seconds, 3 seconds, chequered flag! I’d run out of laps! Gutted!! I felt really good though. I’d kept up for the first few laps until the car started to overheat. Once it had cooled down a bit I’d started to catch the car in front. Still a long way to go but things are moving in the right direction! I’d improved on my qualifying time by 2 seconds.
I’d start race 2 where I finished race 1, in 19th position although I’d be starting just ahead of a non-finisher from race 1.

Race 2
I woke early on Sunday morning. Our race was at 1030 and I wanted to get to the circuit early and check the car over. I left Meg in the relative comfort of the world’s smallest hotel room and headed to the circuit. I double checked the coolant level after yesterday. It was ok. I checked the oil, brake fluid, wheel nuts and some other bits. All ok. I was ready to go. I sat on the grid with the blowers already switched on! The lights went out. Again I was passed before the first corner but as before I’d expected that. In hindsight and having watched the video back I think I was far too cautious going into turns 1 and 2 which meant I started to lose a bit of ground on the next straight. The next two laps saw me dropping further back, ending up 5 seconds down on the car in front.

On the next lap as I approached Copse I saw the marshals waving yellow flags. I lifted off and as I came around the corner I saw the problem, there were 2 cars sat in the middle of the circuit facing the wrong way, one on the edge of the track and one a bit further down re-joining. It looked like a big hit from what I could see. A few corners later and the safety car board came out. I slowed down and eventually caught up with the rest of the field being led around the track by the safety car. As we came back past the crash again the marshals were hard at work clearing the track. On the next pass the cars were almost clear and there was just debris left to be swept up. I got the occasional glimpse of the safety car but couldn’t see enough of it to know if the lights were on or off, so had no idea when we would be going racing again. I tried to stick with the car in front of me to give me the best chance of keeping up at the restart. I had one car behind me to think about too. The cars in front slowed, I just caught sight of the safety car. The lights were off. We were about to go racing again.

I managed to stay with the car in front. As we came around Copse Corner and headed down towards Maggots, Laura Harris in car 30 was close behind me. I was too busy concentrating on my mirrors and realised too late that I’d left a massive gap on the inside of the corner and Laura came past. To be fair though, given her pace relative to mine I think she’d have come past on the next straight anyway!! The next few laps saw me dropping back again, the gap increased from 1 second to 4, as I came around Luffield on the next lap the tyres started to protest they were overheating and losing grip. In hindsight I should have taken more notice of that! Onto the main straight and starting the next lap I turned into Copse and the back end started to come around and I started to slide. It felt a lot more dramatic in real life than it looks on my on board camera but I managed to get it pointed the right way again. I’d lost another couple of seconds but I had to back off a bit to try to cool the tyres. I’d more or less lost sight of the car in front and a few laps later I took the chequered flag some 13 seconds behind the car in front. I felt a bit disappointed. Not counting the overheating issue, Race 1 had felt much better. We came back off the circuit, back through the scrutineering bay and then back to the paddock to load up the transporter. As I pulled up after the race there was an ominous hissing sound coming from under the bonnet and a little puddle of water on the floor.  

All in all it was a good weekend really. I really enjoyed the circuit. The car was still in one piece. My times improved over the course of the weekend. My best time was a 1.23.637 in Race 2 compared with 1.23.924 in Race 1 and 1.25.184 in Qualifying. The car felt better in Race 1 until it got too hot. I need to do some work on it to find out what the problem was and try to rectify it. Unfortunately my onboard camera didn’t work for Race 1 which is a shame, it worked fine for qualifying and Race 2 so I’m not sure what went wrong. If you watch the Race 2 footage you will see me glancing at the camera every so often to make sure it’s still recording!

As with all the meetings so far this year the races from Silverstone should hopefully be broadcast on Motors TV in the not too distant future. Past races can be found online at


I’ve also uploaded my onboard footage to YouTube so if you’re weird like me and like to watch that sort of thing you can!


I’d also like to say thanks to all the marshals for their hard work over this and every race weekend!

Unless I win the lottery in the next few weeks, Donington is the next round for me on October 17th and 18th. There is a meeting in September at Cadwell Park, I’m going to hopefully go and watch and may even try my hand at marshalling if they’ll let me and I can afford to get there!!

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