The Crystal Palace sprint is not in the Speed League championship, but the huge crowds and carnival atmosphere make it a great event to compete in.
Due to the specific arrangements at Crystal Palace, the class structures are different from the normal championship sprints that I compete in. I had no chance of beating the four wheel drive Nissan GTR or the nimble Honda Civic type R around the narrow and slippery course.
Thanks to Andy Leivers and Paul Vallack who took these pictures at Crystal Palace.
Unchanged from Snetterton. The car sported an additional logo from Ancaster, who sponsor the Crystal Place event.
When I walked the track before the event started I noticed that the start line was extremely slippery, to the point where it was very difficult to stand on, never mind to make a good getaway. Looking closely at the track, I could see that everyone was positioning their cars over to the right hand side to get a good line into the first bend. However, as they all spun their wheels when pulling away they had polished the track surface like glass. Unlike anyone else, I positioned my car to the left, avoiding the slippery section, this helped me make a much better start.
In 2014, I competed on Yokohama tyres, which lacked grip and didn’t let me use the power of the car. ultimately it was so uncompetitive I was beaten by a SEAT Leon. This year I had Toyo R888 semi slick tyres which gave considerably more grip. I was still sliding around a lot in the early sessions, but careful adjustment of the pressures gave a good balance of grip and drag, whilst allowing controlled slides – the quickest way to get the two ton Mustang around the tight bends!
For my second (and fastest) timed run I dropped the rear tyre pressures to 27psi, to increase the amount of grip and control the level of sliding. However, on the final run I dropped the pressures to 24psi. This turned out to be too much as the increased grip coming out of the pond chicane flicked the car right round, although I managed to keep it on the track, unlike many other competitors at that point on the track!
I also noticed that most people were not taking the best line around many of the corners, particularly on fisherman’s rise and pond corners, many people were taking a very tight line. By making each turn more of a curve I was able to keep my speed up and conserve momentum.
Making a good start with minimal wheelspin, despite the nearly 600BHP of my mustang I changed up to second before fisherman’s rise. Due the torque of the Mustang I was able to leave it in second for the rest of the lap.
I braked very late for the corner to allow the car to run wide in a smooth circle and keep the speed up, touching the grass on the outside of the bend, opposite the edge where most other people were hitting their apex. I then piled on the power, running my nearside wing mirror through the bushes to use as much track width as possible, cutting over the grass as I straightened out the kink in the run down to the hairpin at Big Tree Bend. I braked a little earlier for the hairpin in order to keep the car under control, having found on previous run that with the suspension heavily loaded it was then difficult the push the car round the very tight corner.
Exiting the hairpin I floored the throttle to light up the rear tyres and flicked the tail out to straighten the car as the quickest way to get it lined up along the straight. I hit the rev limiter just as I braked to come in to the Pond chicane, again taking a different line from other cars I kept over to the right clipping the grass without hitting the marker cone. This gave me a much shallower angle to turn through the middle of the chicane and allowed me to get the power on much earlier for the second corner of the chicane onto Terrace Straight.
I absolutely flew around this corner taking a straighter line over the grass at the edge of the track and powered into North Tower Bend. As I entered the corner I could feel the track radius narrowing and all four tyres begin to drift so I had to ease of off the power. I feathered the throttle until I could see a line round the apex and then pushed across the finish line.
Despite the fact that I only came fourth, I felt I had actually driven the best race of my career to date. Thanks to the K&W suspension with the Steeda and Redline chassis mods, the car had great handling with no understeer and generally controllable oversteer which I was able to use to good advantage. Most of all the Toyo R888 tyres made the biggest contribution over previous years performance. As a benchmark, I had previously been beaten by Jim Giddings TR8 and Jason Andrews GT350 Mustang, but this year I beat them both and count this as the most important result!