|PHOTO: Stephen Colbran|
My brother Andrew Deviny informed me that I had volunteered to be team captain, this involved attending the briefing and relaying the information to the drivers then standing on the pit wall for 6 hours trying to work out what the hell was going on and hopefully getting the cars out to do their stints.
In 1966 the team consisted of Colin Youle in a 1293 S, Nick Faure in his the 970 S, then four 850s Bob Fox and Gordon Line in Mini7 rules cars and Julian Vereker and Phil Wick in who's cars had sleeved down S engines.
Our team consisted of Steven Hopper, David Robinson, Darren Thomas, Steve Trench, Andrew Deviny and Julian Proctor all driving Mini 7 spec cars.
With 70 teams entered this year it was going to be a tall order to replicate the result from '66, in the those days Minis were, if not reliable, but probably as reliable as the rest of the field - the team that won this year was three pretty much standard Hyundai Coupes - ideal for this event, but then who wants to race a Hyundai Coupe.
For those who don't know the race is run on a handicap system based on your fastest previously recorded lap times, each driver has to submit a lap time then the handicappers give your team a number of laps to be added to your total, and by coincidence we got 37 laps the same as the team was awarded in '66, albeit on a different track layout.
Every car has to do at least 3 laps in qualifying, they call it qualifying but how fast you go in this session has no impact on your grid position, it would only make a difference if you were much faster than your submitted times in which case the handicappers may reduce your handicap, so three steady laps are all that is required.
It was decided that we would put one of the fastest cars out to start the race, the thinking being the cars in front would pull away and with us starting 69th on the grid out of 70 (only the smart cars behind us!) the fastest cars would take some time to lap us, and our car could get in some fast laps without too much traffic, to that end Darren was chosen to start the race.
The race starts behind the safety car, it was explained that the lead car should continue after the safety car had come in at the same speed until it crossed the finish line (timing line) but it appeared to be going pretty fast at that point so starting at the back means its quite a while before you cross that line to start your lap.
Darren was doing well and had overtaken some of the "faster cars" his best time being a 2.43.5 I left him out for 10 laps, with hindsight I should have left him out for another couple of laps but was unsure how the petrol / tyre situation would be, as it happened petrol wasn't an issue, the tyres though going off would have been ok. Next out was Dave Robinson, as soon as the car coming down the pits has passed your garage you can release your next car unlike the '66 race where you had to physically pass on a sash to the next driver. Dave set off but we almost immediately began getting reports that he had retired, we agreed before the race that someone would always be ready to go out as soon as the previous car had left the garage, so Steve Trench set off, it turned out that Dave's trigger wheel had come adrift .
Steve did a solid 11 laps his best time being a 2.48.7, he was then followed out by Andrew Deviny, Andrew was going well his fastest lap being a 2.42.7 so I left him out for 12 laps, then Julian Proctor did 12 laps his best being a 2.49.32 then it would have been Steven Hopper out next but it was decided to send out the now repaired car of Dave Robinson to complete his aborted first outing. Dave did another 8 laps with his best being a 2.57.5 followed by Steven's 10 laps with best of 2.50.7.
We were then back to Darren. I intended to send him out for a least 12 laps to get some fast laps under our belt, this however didn't go to plan as he was slow coming round on his 5th lap then he appeared coming down the pit lane with his near side front tyre off the rim after another car had run into him, this meant Steve went out and did another solid 11 laps improving his best lap time to a 2.48.5, Andrew was next and was going really well posting a best time of 2.42.5 even with tyres that had absolutely no tread left and down to the carcass, I left him out for 13 laps I think one more would have destroyed the tyres, Julian followed with another good 12 laps.
We had been slowly working our way up the leaderboard despite the hiccups getting as high as 10th with that in mind I asked Dave if he didn't mind if I cut his next outing short a bit so I could put out Darren for another go at a longer stint to which he agreed, he did in fact later say he would forgo his outing completely if it meant we could get further up the leaderboard, this generosity didn't pan out in the end as Darren only managed another 6 laps before a crank pulley came apart and cut the water hose, it was then left to Steven to complete the race, some of it behind the safety car.
So in the end, after 120 laps, we finished only three laps behind the leaders and two behind the second place team, we had effectively two laps in excess of 6 minutes due to breakdowns without which we could easily achieved another 3 laps, the handicapping system is such that 16 teams finished on the same lap as us, so even a few extra seconds saved can make quite a difference to your final position.
It's interesting to note that Andrew's best time of 2.42.51 was faster than the best times of 54 cars including a Golf Gti a Porsche a couple of BMWs and even a Ford GT40.
Everyone agreed it had been fun and expressed the will to do it again next year and from the level of interest from other drivers it might be possible to run two teams, I, despite being on the wall for six hours, enjoyed it too (might be a different story in the rain) and have identified several areas where we might improve so who knows top off the podium next year, maybe!