When I arrived at the track I was in third place in the championship with a very slim possibility that I could still win. If I won my class (scoring 15 points) and carried on to the final round at Curborough with a very good result (and bad luck for my competitors) it was still mathematically possible, so I was feeling quite excited as this was the closest I had ever been in four years of sprint competition. I had further reason to be positive as I now had a new set of Toyo R888R tyres, which should give me much more grip than the worn tyres I used when I last competed against Nick.
My first setback was that Nick Horne who had just beaten me at the previous round at Rushmoor in an MX5 turbo and two drivers in an MG B V8 didn’t turn up meaning the loss potential loss of three points which I badly needed for the championship. The other remaining competitors were Andy Deeley in Nissan 200SX turbo who had come very close to my performance in the past, an Aston Martin DB7 and a brand new Volkswagen Sirocco turbo. If I beat them all the most I could score was 13 points (out of a maximum 15, or 16 for FTD).
There were very slippery conditions on track after heavy rain the day before and leaves on track under trees. Track in very poor condition, with puddles. However, the weather was looking good and as the track dried I would be able to use my power advantage over the competition.
On the first practice run I was sliding about like crazy as I expected and nearly came off the track several times. At one hairpin corner the car was facing one way, the wheels in the opposite direction and the car suddenly gripped and snapped round. Fortunately I was able to catch it and keep my foot down – that is what makes racing the Mustang so much fun! I found that I was just hitting rev limiter in second gear on the longest straight, but with only a second in this state, there didn’t seem to be time to get into third gear before the corner, although this would change as I got faster through the day.
I felt complacent after the first practice as I was in the lead by a large margin and found it difficult to motivate myself to push hard, I was disappointed to miss the challenge from Nick’s MX5 turbo that I had been looking forward to. The second timed run was slower as I experimented with third gear on the long straight and holding it round the corner, but the speed was too slow in the slippery conditions and I bogged down at low revs. Despite this, I was still leading.
Then there was a surprise! Andy Deeley beat me on the first timed lap and I suddenly realised I was going to have to try a lot harder, particularly as his time was better than my personal best at this track earlier in the year. I focused and pushed the car as hard as I dared, braking really late and only just hauling it around the tight corners in scary four wheel slides on the very narrow track with high kerbs (on which another competitor had smashed off his front wheel the year before!) I managed to get around the lap keeping the car on the track and I was shaking with adrenalin. Andy came over and told me I had failed to beat his time, I had actually gone slower! I was really upset thinking of all the effort and putting the car on the ragged edged had been for nothing. However, it turned out to be a joke! I had beaten him which was the good news, but the bad news was that he had been excluded from running again at the event due to not having an exhaust catalytic converter fitted. More of the emotional roller coaster as I had felt earlier in the day when do you don’t have a close rival to compete against.
The Rushmoor circuit is laid out in a huge natural amphitheatre which was adapted to house giant military pageants in the 1920s. From the paddock you can see half of the track, whilst the other half is obscured by trees. Around twenty other Speed League sprint championship contenders were attending the event and had set up a row of deck chairs along a ridge where they could watch the action. Rather disparagingly, they said that the Mustang sounded fantastic and looked really fast along the first straight, but looked really slow along the second straight and around the hairpin bend (where I was really struggling to keep the car on the track at all!)
Having won class on final run and having already beaten my best time from earlier in the year I decided to try and push harder and beat Nicks winning time from previous Rushmoor round. It was going well as I was fired up with Speed League contenders members comments I was determined to slide around the left hand corner into the trees more quickly and carry more speed on to the straight. I was badly out of shape as the car flicked sharply but was going much faster, I got into third gear much sooner and was roaring down the straight but was then carrying far too much speed at the end of the straight and could not brake in time on the broken track surface so I went crashing through a row of plastic barriers that marked the corner. The marshal gave me a thumbs up as I reversed out to show that the car was OK. I realised that my lap time was now lost so I might as well mess about and put on a show for the people watching on the ridge, I fishtailed wildly around the corner as I came into view and wheelspan all the way along the straight with the engine screaming. As I pulled into the paddock I was surprised no one came over to remark on the crazy entertainment I had given them, it seems that they had all gone to the burger van and no-one was watching.
So I had won the class and beaten my own personal best time, but had failed to match Nicks time by half a second. Andy was only a second behind me whilst the Aston and Sirocco had got quite close to him, closer than any of us expected in fact.
Some of the 60 speed league contenders at Rushmoor with Alex Peters (Left), Andy Elcomb (2nd from left), Andy Deeley (with EU t-shirt) and Lee Champion (2nd from right).
Whilst most of that was positive we then added up the championship points with the information available (there was another event on the same day at Debden). It looked like I had been overtaken by both the appropriately named Lee Champion who has probably won the speed league and also Andy Elcomb (both in Mazda MX5s), so I had now dropped to fifth place, my worst ever final placing in the Speed League.
1st 42 5 Alex Peters Ford Mustang – 55.99 secs
2nd 41 5 Andy Deeley Nissan 200SX – 56.94 secs
3rd 46 5 Mark Chandler Aston Martin DB7 I6 – 57.20 secs
4th 45 5 Michael Duncan Volkswagen Scirocco 57.32 secs