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Castle Combe

Roger Green
15 Jul 2009

Two podiums as Roger Green debuts the new Westfield AeroRace 190M at Castle Combe


They predicted showers. What we got ten minutes before the start of the race was a deluge so heavy Noah was looking like the hot favourite for the race. It stopped just before the start, and being summer (I had forgotten it’s still July) the sun came out. As the red lights dimmed I crawled off line so slowly it felt like I could run faster, but I edged past Nick Flowers and into second place. The track was like ice, every corner was taken at around 3mph with various combinations of oversteer and understeer. Russell Small got past me and set about the leader, Davison, and while the two of them eased away I began to put on a slide show for the drenched, hardy spectators.

Halfway through the rain battered down again and it became a job to keep it on the island. The chequered flag seemed to take an age to come out, but it was there in the end and I scooped my second podium of the weekend.

A big thank you to Steve and Russ (who should have dried out by Wednesday) and everyone at Westfield for allowing me to debut their new baby.

Saturday afternoon
What a hoot that was! Made a tidy start, slotted into second and then set about sorting out poleman Davison. Took the lead into Tower and came over the line at the end of the first lap in the lead. For the next few laps Chris and I swapped places twice a lap, both of us taking advantage of the tow each of gave the other on the long straights. We quickly pulled away from the rest of the field and began to enjoy our own private battle.

That was until I missed a gear coming onto the start/finish straight, which was enough for CD to break the tow. For the next few laps I set about reeling him in, but we were lapping at the same speed and I just couldn’t close him down. I was kicking myself (difficult to do while driving) and ultimately I had to settle for second. Still not a bad start, there are a few more tweaks we can try for tomorrow to try and stand in the middle of the podium.

Saturday morning
Drew back the curtains of our B and B to find it completely dry outside, which was good in that it meant I wouldn’t get wet, but it served to make it all the more frustrating that we hadn’t been able to get any dry set up work done yesterday. We had no option but to guess at the settings and as it turned out we didn’t quite get it right.

It was hard to get the front tyres to do their thing in qualifying, meaning that I suffered from understeer through the faster turns. Engine felt strong though, and Castle Combe is a fantastic circuit for the driver, it’s a real challenge and the spectators must see that too, as there were plenty of them here at 9am this morning.

We ended the session in third place, 0.4 seconds down on pole sitter, Chris Davison, which wasn’t quite as far forward as we hoped to be, but there’s still plenty from the car once we get the chassis optimised. The race runs at 4:30 this afternoon, giving us plenty of time for tinkering...  

Friday evening

I knew it was going to be a filthy day, but it seemed that every time I ventured out onto the circuit for a practice session the heavens opened and deluged the place. Castle Combe is bumpy and that upsets a car in the wet, so I spent more time going sideways than I did in a straight line. Great fun, though. The brakes feel strong and the new Duratec engine has plenty of torque so you can short-shift to keep a lid on the top-end wheel spin. The trick to getting round is to get the speed off, wait for the nose to lock into the turn and then balance the car with the throttle, you have to be careful though, as with no run off anywhere this place doesn’t let you get away with mistakes.

It’s an early start tomorrow; I have to sign on at 07:50, which sounds pretty horrible, as we’re qualifying just after 9:00. I’ve heard Combe have pre-sold over 10,000 tickets for the weekend, so it should be busy. It’s a great little circuit and it’s fantastic that it’s supported so well be the locals. Apparently the weather is supposed to be better too, but I’ll believe that when I see it…

The weather forecast for Friday looks awful, so I reckon I’m going to get pretty wet as we shakedown this brand new Westfield prior to the races on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t mind driving in the wet, but I’ll be happy if the soothsayers are wrong because it’s always easier to get a handle on a factory fresh car in the dry.
THE 190M is the car Westfield hopes will prove popular with new drivers and experienced racer alike, and after having a couple of quick runs at Silverstone and our Evo trackday at Bedford, I reckon it offers something for all. Fitted with a 190bhp two-litre Ford Duratec engine filled with tasty Cosworth parts is certainly a good starting point, and it has a BGH gearbox and new wide track suspension to get the best from it too. There’ll also be a limited slip diff on the car by Friday (which should help in the wet), although this wasn’t fitted when I tried it last week.  
I’ll be writing updates on how I get in the BARC Westfield championship races throughout the weekend (18 and 19th), but in the meantime here’s some onboard footage from last year.

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