To end our 2016 campaign, RTV headed down to Brands Hatch for the annual non-championship MSVR Vee Festival at the weekend.
This is always a great event with loads of track time at a great price – qualifying and 3 races – which attracts star drivers from other series alongside a few who only ever do the Festival and no championship rounds. Stephen Morrin brought an Irish spec 1600cc Leastone over, whilst there were a few rather older vintage cars in John Bowles’ Hawk and the even older Appal driven by Erle Minhinnick. Gavin Buckley was also over from the Irish Championship, but this time in a UK spec Vee hired from Team Carbrooke Racing, and there were a few new faces at the track, too.
James put the Sheane 12th on the grid in qualifying out of 21 cars, but unfortunately had to pull off the track after losing all the gears.
Fearing a very short weekend, Ben Miloudi offered his spare gearbox to us, which would have at lest got us back on track for Sunday – luckily Glenn found that it was just a circlip that had come off. This was fixable, except it was a struggle to get the shaft back out to replace the clip. A little help from John Bowles soon got things back together, and the car was ready about 15 minutes before we were called for the first of the three races.
Knocking a second off his previous best lap times, James fought hard to stay with the leading pack, but dropped back a little not quite able to match the pace until a big crash between Ian Buxton, Ian Jordan, and Charles Merrill stopped the race.
Buxton was taken to hospital after going into the wall backwards at Paddock hard enough to bend his flywheel, but was seen hobbling around the paddock on Sunday morning to spectate. All three cars suffered fairly extensive damage and so were out for the rest of the weekend.
After the restart and a 2 lap sprint, James brought it home 10th – the perfect place to take advantage of a reverse-top-ten grid for the next race.
Sunday morning brought thick fog and ground moisture, testing the confidence that James had built up overnight ready to lead the field into Paddock for the first time.
After a slight delay, it was deemed safe to see a sufficient distance, and the Vee’s gridded up, with the yellow RTV Sheane lining up in the number 1 spot.
Despite his confidence, James bogged down a little at the start on the camber, which was enough for Stephen Morrin to use the 1600cc and lower gearing of his Irish spec car to get ahead into the first turn.
There was never any real hope to storm away from the pack, but some good, clean driving was again displayed as the faster cars came through to regain their natural order, with James back to 6th at the end of the first lap, but still giving his all.
He managed to knock another 0.5 seconds off his best lap times, but again didn’t really have anyone lapping at the same pace to scrap with.
Claiming another 10th place, this race held yet another first experience as James caught a bunch of hard-fighting back-markers and had to lap through them, still carried by the extra pace gained from being up with the front runners for the early part of the race.
Starting 10th again for the 3rd and final race of the Festival veteran racer and Formula Vee legend John Bowles was all over the back of James for the first few laps, forcing him to give it everything until he finally eased clear to safety.
We were again expecting to end up in a somewhat lonely place in the middle of the pack, but James was still working hard despite aiming to bring the car back safe and sound without risking too much.
This paid off as Jamie Harrison went straight on at Druids into the gravel, and then Irish Vee regular Gavin Buckley (on his second visit to the Vee Festival, but this time hiring the British spec Team Carbrooke Racing Sheane) went onto the grass to avoid tangling with Paul Taylor.
Coming down the hill from Druids, James saw Gavin rejoining the track and shot past, just about holding him behind to cross the finish line on the next lap in a best ever 8th place overall.
This also carried with it the unofficial Class B victory (although no classes were officially recognised for the Festival) – something that James will need to find another 2 or 3 seconds a lap to repeat in the regular season!
Massive congratulations to John Hughes who won the 2016 Vee Festival despite barely racing this year, and then failing to make the track for qualifying – everyone will agree that he drove amazingly all weekend, and has re-affirmed that he’s a very fast driver capable of big things next year.
Also congratulations to Craig Pollard and Pete Belsey for 2nd and 3rd respectively, having also barely driven in Vee this year!
Huge thanks again to MSVR for hosting the Festival for us – I know a lot more cars would have been out but had some unfortunate damage to them or the drivers which stopped them racing.
And that will be the last time that RTV will turn a wheel in anger in 2016!
It won’t be the end of the updates, however, so make sure you click to like us on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. There are big plans for 2017, and lots of work to be done in the off-season.
2017 will also be the 50th year of Formula Vee in the UK, so all eyes should be on what is already a respected and hard-fought championship – with rumours that the Vee Festival will be held on the full Brands GP circuit with some star names jumping back in a Vee.
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As ever, all the action from the weekend was captured on the excellent JooVuu X and Mobius action cameras supplied by JooVuu, and you can view them on YouTube: