Greenpower South West Regional Heat
On Thursday 22nd June the GP team went to Newquay airport for the South West Regional Heat where teams from all over the UK come to race for a spot at the International Finals. Never knowing what developments or new teams may be competing, the Sir Jim’s team had rebuilt Retro Rocket’s bodywork with lighter material and a slight development to the tail section. All moving parts were cleaned and re-oiled, stickers applied and batteries charged; we would be ready to take on all.
We arrived just after 7am; a team set up the workshop area while another prepared Retro Rocket for scrutineering. Batteries were fitted and covers secured but we discovered that there was no power to the motor. The motor was hot-wired and ran so we knew it was a wiring fault. Within a few minutes (that felt like an age) the fault was traced to a pulled cable on the accelerator button which was soon repaired and the motor fired into life.
The practice race was cut very short due to a landing aircraft so all teams had to change drivers and with only 15 minutes of track time, very little testing was done. The two practice drivers explained the track as best they could as it is the most treacherous in the series.
The first race was incredibly close, a very slow pit-stop caused cost us vital time. We were catching the leaders but had a way to go. The team managed to sort out the second pit-stop by halving the previous time; Retro Rocket stormed out of the pits with Will Hooper at the wheel chasing down first place.
Will posted some of the fastest laps of the day according to our new member and timer, Oliver Fanson. The live data/timing had lost internet access so no-one knew where they were position wise out of the 30 cars on track. The team did a few sums. I came up with the idea if we passed car 97 twice we thought we could win. The bright yellow of car 97 crept into view down the straight but how far behind was Retro Rocket. We noticed the 97 was slowing considerably up the hill as Will came into view about a quarter of lap behind. I don’t know how the science works for shouting/screaming and whistling as our car goes by but somehow that encouragement seemed to keep Retro Rocket going. When the cars rounded the corner at the bottom of the straight again, Will was just a hundred meters behind. The team erupted as he passed, halving the gap as they went out of view again.
With eyes glued to the bottom corner, after a couple of minutes had passed, the glinting silver of Retro Rocket came into view - Will had passed 97. Will passed to a sea of waving, but where was car 97? It still hadn’t come into view, a good few minutes had passed and nothing. If Retro Rocket could get another lap in we may have won.
The 40 minute workshop time between race 1 and 2 is always crazy; even more when one of the GP judges decides to watch us and talk to the team about what we were doing as we frantically changed batteries, fixed up the back panel that had dragged for a few laps and tightened up 8 bolts on the rear axel that had rattled loose due to the harsh surface. I listened as Dan Blackwell told the Judge about the modifications we had made. She asked what he felt made us so fast and before he could answer several members shouted that it was a secret!
Following this question, one of the Dad’s ran down to the data tent and came back with good news; the data was up and running again and car 27, Retro Rocket, was at the top.
The team decided on a change to drivers putting a new driver from Year 7, Rachel Hicks, into the second driver slot. The winner of the Kit Car class is decided on the furthest combined distance of both races so Retro Rocket was in a good place but anything can happen in a race.
We were running in the top three at the first change over as Rachel went out. She had listened to all the driver’s tips and knew what to do. Rachel ran the second fastest lap of the day for Retro Rocket on her second lap and continued to lap very fast indeed. The team decided she should stay out and keep notching up fast laps. Car 97 was running very fast indeed.
The team was surprised when Rachel darted into the pit slip-road; they rushed to the pits ready for the change-over but the car didn’t arrive! I ran down to the slip-road to see a mass of people around two cars, one of which was Retro Rocket - there had been a crash. Rachel was pretty shaken up as the car was pulled into the pits; thankfully she was Ok, more upset that we had lost some time but knowing she was alright the team bundled Will into the car and sent him off. Rachel returned to the team feeling better and ready to carry on knowing how brilliantly she had done on track.
We had lost nearly two laps which was what we had won by in race 1 so the final 8 laps or so fell on the experienced shoulders of Will again. The team were on tenterhooks as car 97 was really fast and was well ahead. If they could pull another lap on us they could be the winners.
As with any race things started to heat up during the last few laps. Will had overtaken car 97, as again it dropped off the pace as so many cars do in the final laps where Retro Rocket keeps going at a constant pace. The chequered flag dropped at the 90 minute mark and Will rolled in about half a lap later; it was going to be another very close finish.
We packed up the area and gathered for the prize giving. The thanks and claps for all involved went well and trophies started to be handed out. After a slight mishap over trophies, the explanation of the best presented team trophy, of “even wear caps and belts to get the look” comment we knew we had bagged the trophy. The trophy for Kit car winner started with 3rd place which was a Somerset team, then 2nd for Devonport Boys School, another new team that was doing very well. The usual top cars were not on the podium. Had a new team got the top spot, had the crash dropped us off the podium?
And then …. “This year’s Kit Car South West Regional winner is……………car number 27 Retro Rocket Sir James Smiths School Camelford”. The whole team nudged through the clapping teams to collect gold medals and the trophy. Oliver Fanson was jumping around laughing and smiling his head off, only a little more than his mum and sister who were in the crowd watching as he was awarded his Gold medal. Proud parents, proud team and a very proud Mr Langton. The team worked brilliantly and the new members had a taste of success and were hungry for more.
So, Retro Rocket is in the 2017 International Final with new teams and much faster racing at regional level. The team will be modifying, developing and testing in the coming months to prepare for the big event in October.
Well done to the team who all worked so well together and of course, well done to Retro Rocket too.