Snetterton Cockpit View – May 7, 2005

by Tony Beesley  

I did the last sprint at Snetterton about 15 years ago in a Mk 1 Gp4 BDA Rally Escort owned by my brother Allan who lives just a few miles up the road in Bunwell. In fact that actual car – ONY2L - was only sold by my brother a couple of years ago is now being rallied in classic stages by Neil Parsons. On that day we did almost two laps – one flying lap and then in after Corum. It was organised by WECC. It was great being able to ‘do’ the chicane and then wave to everyone as you blasted down past the pits. Similar lappery as we did at the recent Brands sprint I guess. Be great if we could two laps next year (?) I remember the parade lap 15 years ago so well. It was a cold and wet day (so nothings changed!) and my brother had wellies on when I joined him as a passenger to queue up and play follow my leader. Trouble was that the guy leading us round – Peter Russell, sadly now departed – had a tuned V8S SD1 Rover and blasted away in front. We thought we were going to just cruise round and therefore didn’t bother to belt-up or wear helmets, but brother Alan had to drop a couple of cogs and try to catch up! The BDA was screaming down Revett straight towards the Esses and I was getting a bit nervous when I thought that I would have been lifting off if I was driving. When he did finally lift it then suddenly accelerated – size 12 wellies don’t just fit on the brake pedal, as he hit the throttle too! It was total luck how we got round those Esses – I have never seen my brother work so hard keeping it on the island! Great memory.

At least this year we managed a 'sensible' parade lap, two practice and one timed in the dry, so we did get a fair crack at it before the heavens opened. I was parked next to the effervescent Neville Thompson who sat in my Jedi at a recent North Weald event, got the bug and went all the way to the Channel Islands to buy one. Just don’t ask Neville about VAT which he didn’t realise he had to pay until he got back to the mainland - ouch!

Have they made the right hand corner after the left into the Esses tighter over the 15 years? First time out in practice I went screaming down Revett Straight – it was just hitting the 12k limiter flat in sixth – sounded wonderful – before I chickened out and braked – but not enough! Got through the left OK but was going far too fast into the right and memories of brother Allan dancing all over his pedals and wrestling with the steering came flooding back. I went sideways over the kerbing and did some autocrossing on the rough and just managed to keep it going forwards and back on track. Should have stopped and checked it over really – well, you just don’t do you? Got through the Bomb Hole OK, but Coram is daunting isn’t it? The G-force is amazing on sticky slicks as you gradually go quicker and quicker and then have to brake hard for the chicane with everything still leaning left. I would really need many, many laps of Snetterton to get any of it right.

Sitting in the pit lane waiting for my second timed run, the heavens just opened – it was awful and bloody freezing. One of the proper (!HSA) drivers came over to me from the comfort of his pit lane garage(!) to warn me that he had just been out and that because of so much water on the track that he was unable to go any faster than about 70mph down Revett Straight because of aquaplaning, “So be very careful!”. However, when my cockpit started to fill up with hail stones the fun of being in an open single seater suddenly evaporated, so I pulled out of the queue and went back to the paddock and the 'comfort' of my trailer(!)

The weather wasn’t getting any better so I went to Race Control to register that I was aborting the last two runs. As I was blown through the door with my umbrella inside out, I was greeted by the ever-smiling Boro19 team all nice and warm and cuddled up behind the counter. Well, they deserved it didn’t they after all their organising effort! I just felt for all those guys outside manning their posts – they should have been awarded all that silverware at the awards presentation – they deserved it more than us.

I just hope that its not another 15 years before I get another crack at Snetterton. Is there a Class for Zimmer Frames ?