Rain starts play! – the 96 Club’s first track evening of 2020 beats COVID and the weather
SImon Duval Smith
Brands Hatch saw the first Track Evening held by the club in 2020, after we were forced to cancel earlier events, Brands Hatch reopened on June 4th with some strict but sensible measures including online sign-in and briefing videos and a well-enforced social distancing policy.
Some 55 people and 30 cars gathered in the paddock at Brands Hatch under threatening skies and occasional rain storms but even without Simon’s traditional lucky shorts being worn, the skies slowly cleared and the track dried out as Club members and special guests took to the circuit.
A remarkable variety of cars sped, slithered and occasionally spun on the track, from the fabulous ex-Gerry Marshall Costin Amigo racer of Clive England and Elsie Van Allen to Peter Hogan’s Bentley Continental GT, a truly diverse coterie of machines that circulated for some two and a half hours.
Other classics included the lovely Fiat X/19 of our favourite blogger, Take to the Road’s Niall Julian, who bought a new battery for the occasion, delivered by yours truly – all part of the 96 Club service!
Highlights included several Caterhams, from experienced drivers Ian and Ben Barkaways’ car to two Caterham Academy cars, the drivers of which had bought their cars and paid for the 2020 season’s racing; due to the lockdown this was their first opportunity to get on to a track. One of them, Peter Lawson, who had no track experience, showed great progress as he intelligently upped his pace (without any mishaps) and it was gratifying to see him really get to grips with his new car – definitely my choice for Most Improved Rookie!
It was not all new cars – Adrian Pritchard’s £400 Audi TT had a set of new tyres fitted but unfortunately they are of the WPM (Why Pay More) brand, their lack of grip made for some entertaining understeer, oversteer and sometime no steer in his hands and also when I tried it out – my choice for Bargain Fun Car of the Day, along with my own Nissan Micra 1.2 auto which showed a clean pair of wheels to a few far more expensive cars, much to the entertainment of the other racers and their passengers and engineers.
In the all-embracing spirit of the Club, I ‘paired up’ several drivers with co-drivers and some new friendships were forged – new member Reginald Warlop kindly shared his Porsche 911 GT3 RS with longtime member Raphaël Caillé, even letting him loose in the car on his on the track. Reginald wins my informal Spirit of the 96 Club award!
Competition cars included the recently completed and very quick Triumph 2000 saloon racer of Andrew Sharp and James Sohl’s e46 BMW 325ti Compact Cup racer; they got some valuable shakedown track time and said they found even more speed than they had expected!
Our own Kevin Haggarthy was on hand to dispense invaluable tuition and help; he held several excellent impromptu ‘classroom’ briefings in one of the garages – all part of the 96 Club’s offering.
I want to extend a big thank you to the fantastic team at MSV and Brands Hatch: Nick Rice, Michelle Parker, Chief Instructor Remmy and especially Sue Morphey who manned the sign-in desk with great patience and diplomacy.
And of course, a big hand for the marshals who make it all possible – thank you Big Roger and all the guys!
After the great success, both on the track and socially – with social distancing of course – of the 10 June event, we look forward to many more Track Evenings in 2020 – watch this space!