Testing – Friday 27th July

Our arrival at the circuit ahead of the test day on Friday was met with 35c temperatures, with the prospect of hotter weather the next day, possibly even setting a new UK record. Well it got close, we saw 37.2c on Friday against a record of 38.5c set in August 2003. With certain confidence I will say Friday was the hottest weather I have ever driven in. I guess it’s all good preparation for the Gulf Sportscar Championship we will contest in the UAE over the winter.

Having missed out on an additional testing session on the Wednesday I was at a slight disadvantage to the rest of the field, who had tested. Never one to shy away from a challenge I was confident I could get up to speed quickly on what was my first ever race at Snetterton in a rear wheel drive Porsche 911.

Track temperatures were in the 50’s Celsius so setting the right pressures (I talk about pressures a lot don’t I) was critical for grip and to keep the tyre together. Despite being old, the tyres did a great job setting a time amongst the mid-fielders. Still plenty of time to come from car and driver, we were looking good. To see an in-car lap from Snetterton please click here.

Qualifying – Saturday 28th July

Temperatures thankfully had dropped to a more temperate 23c for the Saturday afternoon qualifying session so we were looking to set a good time ahead of what threatened to be a wet race 1 on Sunday morning. Grid position would be critical to secure a decent result for the Lordes Carrera Cup team.

Since Snetterton’s mult-million-pound makeover in 2011 it’s become an incredible circuit. 2 fast straights, 2 slow hairpins, 3 intermediates speed and 3 fast flowing corners; oh and a couple of slow chicanes. A real technical drivers’ circuit!

Running 1st in the early stages of qualifying a few cars went quicker thanks largely to the experience gained from the Wednesday test that I had missed. We held a comfortable 4th on the first set of tyres for the majority of the session, only to pipped by 2/10ths of a second as both Jennings and Eastwood had found a little extra grip on their second set of tyres. Owing to a bit of pitlane congestion with all three SlideSports team cars changing tyres at the same time, the remaining few minutes were insufficient to get the tyres in and set a better lap time. Given the rate of progression a theoretical time good enough for 3rd could have been achieved. Just means I would need another of my demon starts.

Race 1 – Sunday 29th July

Prayers For Rain - A storm passed over Snetterton during Friday night with lashings of heavy rain. This meant the track would be greener (slower) for the 9.15 morning race. Wet or dry we know what to do, when it’s neither it’s Racetrack Roulette on tyre choice.

Despite several discussions, we drove to the assembly area on slicks – rule of thumb is unless there is enough water for the tyre to pick up, slick tyres are the default. My preference was to go wet, but Team Manager Jelly was less sure. Problem is a wet tyre on a dry track will allow a few laps of race pace before they melt given their softer compound and ability to generate surface heat, but equally a slick on wet tarmac can be accurately described as “ice like”; believe, I’ve been there. We needed one or the other!

As we stuck our balaclavas and helmets on the heavens opened. The noise from all the air guns, people shouting instruction, air being released from air jacks and wheel nut guns was electrifying, but at least we now knew what to expect. With that Porsche officials were informing all drivers it would a be 2 lap green flag procedure to allow us to generate heat into the wets. With wipers and demisters on, we lined up 6th on the grid. I felt a rush of excitement as the 5 second board was shown. 6,500rpm start procedure limiter engaged, 1, 2, 3 reds and off - BOOM, we’re racing. I got a good start, limiting the amount of wheelspin delivered by the cars 500bhp 4 litre flat 6 Boxer engine on a slippery track. I had maintained 6th into Riches (turn 1) but ran wide on the slippery line and let Fairbrother past who started immediately behind me.

The conditions were treacherous with several yellows for beached cars at varying points around the circuit, testament to the unpredictability. But my car felt good, I suddenly had an endorphin release, I knew where most of the grip off line was, searching for it during the 2 green flag laps. I started lining my fellow competitor and team-mate Fairbrother up for a pass, sitting on his rear bumper to try to force a small mistake until the time was right to pounce making the move. I’d seen the car go wide a few times into Agostini, so decided that was to be the best place to make a move. Getting the car stopped into the braking zone was always going to be a task in these conditions as to pass you’re braking harder and later with the same traction as the guy you’re out-braking. I made the move into Agostini and we gently kissed wheel arches as I successfully moved up the inside.

My bag of talent ran out though into Riches, braking a bit too hard and late, locking the fronts connecting with the back of Gary Eastwood’s car forcing him wide onto the grass (sorry again Gary). I was in search of a podium finish clawing my way up to what I thought was 3rd place with 1st and 2nd place just a few car paces and 2 tenths ahead. We were mixing with the Pro-Ams but didn’t believe they were in our race. #4 had been moved late Saturday ahead of race 1 into AM class so was in fact in 3rd ahead of me. There was an email sent, but who reads emails on a race weekend? I could have passed him several times but saw no point risking the car any further off-line as I was in 3rd with 2 laps to go. However, it wouldn’t be the last time that weekend #4 would ruin my race either!

Race 2 – Sunday 29th July

Our second race for the Lordes Carrera Cup team on Sunday afternoon was resplendently dry meaning we were back on slicks. Air temp was around 22c so great for racing. Subject to any judicial hearings, Race 2 starting positions are dictated by the finish of Race 1, so the Lordes car was starting 4th. Realising I could win from here, getting a good start was an essential part of my strategy.

With the bit between my teeth my goal was singular and simple, to win. Lining up on the grid I planned my rapid escape, slightly pointing the car inwards towards where I hoped there would be a gap. When you have 25 911 Carrara GT3 Cup Cars all charging for the same piece of tarmac, anything can happen.

5 seconds board, 6,500 rpm, lights off and we were racing. My strategy of warming the tyres had worked, plus I had bought the clutch up perfectly – best start I’ve ever done – the engine’s torque and the cars grip catapulted the car forward straight into the AM lead, leaving a few of the ProAms behind in the process. That was the start I needed, clean, honest and quick. In my mind I was heading for the podium already, a fatal mistake in motorsport. I had forgotten that you’ve not won until you can see the chequered flag in your rear-view mirror.

BANG - a massive hit from behind spun my car through 270 degrees and out of the class lead down to last. The same guy that had prevented a podium finish in race 1 by moving class had struck again in race 2, this time with hefty contact. Even worse, I was broadside across the circuit at a 100mph corner. Esmee Hawkey was immediately behind me so I am grateful to her for her quick reactions avoiding me and a much larger incident. However caused, racing incident or a deliberate act of removal, it never feels good and is definitely not the way to race GTs. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, desperate to catch the pack, I incurred a track limits warning picking up a 5 second penalty. An imperfect finish to an imperfect weekend.

AM Class Championship – July 2018
1 Peter Kyle-Henney 81 points
2 Peter Mangion 78 points
3 Iain Dockerill 47 points
4 Richard Hawken 40 points
5 Shamus Jennings 36 points
6 Gary Eastwood 34 points
7 David Fairbrother 20 points
8 Fraser Robertson 13 points
9 Dan Kirby 12 points
10 David Shaw 10 points
11 Steve Gales 5 points

For our next race, we head to Scotland’s Knockhill Circuit on 24th-26th August. If you’d like to spend the race day with the Lordes Porsche Carrera Cup Team for this or any of our forthcoming races, please let us know.

24th - 26th August, Knockhill
14th – 16th September, Silverstone
28th – 30th September, Brands Hatch GP Season Finale

See you there.

Richard Hawken
Driver / Director