Croft Circuit – Here Comes ‘Blueflag Balmforth’

A week late but it’s worth the wait.

April 14th was when the race weekend commenced for Luke, whom I have mentioned in previous posts and you will have spotted him both photobombing my shots, and being sniped by me and my camera. I had the honor and chore of being his right-hand man as he couldn’t pitch up a “one-man” gazebo solo. Luckily his Caterham, which you will see quite a bit of in this entry, held up well and took the heavy trackwork in its stride all weekend so I didn’t even touch a spanner or socket which I suppose is the benefit of racing one of these solid machines; check oil level and tyre pressure, torque the wheel nuts and back out you go.

Camp set up, I left Luke to have some personal time with his car and went to wander and browse some of the cars parked up next to their respective owners’ tents and motorhomes. The variety was cool, I like seeing all sorts in the same arena which is what the BARC (British Automobile Racing Club) Northern Saloon & Sportscar series is able to demonstrate with open-wheel kit cars and V8 “supercars” pitted against each other amongst other types of vehicles, albeit with a very broad range of competitiveness. Its a pretty stark contrast to the Caterham Graduates Championship (the one that Luke races in) but I guess the mix delivers to all audiences.
Here are some of the battlers that caught my eye when walking the campsite.

Before cooking up some food and hitting the sack, we took the opportunity to go for a track-walk whilst the sun was still above the horizon. The track literally just had a well-needed resurface and Luke would be amongst one of the first to put rubber down on the fresh tarmac. It is surprising how much you notice when traversing the course on foot. Things like slight kinks in corners where the ground isn’t entirely flat and the aggressive undulations on some of the rumblestrip. These are some of the elements that you may not pick up when driving, so I can see why making the effort to stroll the circuit can be beneficial for drivers.

After the 2.1 mile lap, it was time to chill. -5 degrees Celcius made that easy…

The Saturday morning sunrise entered, almost seamlessly from the night before. I got approximately 3 hours sleep in my car, because the tent was just as frozen as I was. As for Luke, who’s probably better suited to irregular sleeping patterns due to his day/night job, he got zilch shuteye. Its not as if he needed any energy for the day ahead like…

Some more entrants rocked up early in the day, including these that I thought were photo-worthy.

My heart raced when I spotted this E46 M3 at the end of the row. Unfortunately this supercharged monster was troubling the team, I guess that comes with the territory when shooting for nearly 700 horsepower. I hope they come through strong as I caught it out on track and its Martini-livery-draped armour looked nuts. Easily wins the beauty contest of the series!

After having a nosey at the other competitors, the time had come for Luke to suit and ready up for the qualifying round. 20 minutes to set a hot lap, which then determines where you start on the grid for the initial race. The accents of blue on his car reflect the driver’s calmness, unphased by the 32 opponents he would need to fend off during Saturday’s heat.

Lapping a swift 1:30:899, Luke was content with the pace he could make on the new-and-improved Croft Circuit. To put his time into perspective, a Lamborghini Gallardo and Porsche 997 Turbo take roughly 7 seconds longer to get around the track according to http://www.fastestlaps.com. That is lightyears in comparison.

These Mini’s that had their own series looked stupidly fun, with almost every single one three-wheeling the first bend.

Next on were the roadcars-turned-racecars. These were enjoyable to spectate, each one looking different, sounding different, driving different. Their individuality is what appeals to me. How far can one go with the budget and resources they have in order to further amplify an already capable road-going chassis.

I didnt’t manage to get many keepers of Luke in Race 1, but those I did snap came out nice. I need to get around trackside quicker and experiement more with different vantage points. This section at the far end of the circuit offered some picturesque backdrops.

Coming out 5th overall and 1st in class, Luke rolled out the pits satisifed with the result. He repeated this outcome the following race on Sunday, something like deja vu. All he is fokused on now is prepare to the fullest for his outing at Snetterton in the first weekend in May. So if you you see a blue flag, Luke’s seeing red.

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More to come, especially with Time Attack season starting soon here in the UK.

As always, thanks, if you made it this far.

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