Snetterton Sauna Race Report
As temperatures rose this weekend, I was set to participate in two races back with the Porsche Club Championship at Snetterton. I haven't raced at this circuit for three years and whenever I have come here to race, test or watch Andrew rallying it's always absolutely boiling!
This weekend was no different. Testing on Friday was hot but I knew it was forecast to be five degrees hotter on the Saturday and I was already struggling with the heat in the cooler testing sessions. Usually, my car has air conditioning as we've left in the standard climate control equipment which came with the car in it's road guise. Because of my injury, I have lost the ability to sweat or get goosebumps as my internal body thermostat is not connected to my brain. Your body temperature is controlled by your Autonomic Nervous system which is located at around the T5-6 level of the spinal cord (mid thoracic) and any injury of the spinal cord above this level usually results in this system malfunctioning. I am injured at C6/7 which is above the thorasic levels and results in an inability to control my body temperature properly. I've been injured nearly 19 years now so I manage the short-comings of this nervous system very effectively and anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm always cold and that I love the heat! However, I do struggle in prolonged periods of extreme heat and hence the discison to leave the air conditioning system functional in my race car.
This air conditioning system hasn't been working properly for a while and no one can seem to fix it despite everyone's best efforts. The diagnostics system told us that a faulty sensor was the issue and we'd been unable to get one ahead of the race. However, Dave from Strasse, who always helps me out in a crisis, arranged to have one bought up from his workshop for Saturday morning. Al, my mechanic from EMC, fitted it Saturday morning ahead of qualifying and although it wasn't fixed as such, the air did seem to be coming out of the fans a bit cooler. Quali was at 9am and it was only 17 degrees so although the car seemed hotter than I'd like, it wasn't an issue. My times were fairly average and I qualified 15th on the grid with it all to do in race one.
We kept the car under the awning ahead of the first race and I agreed with the officials that I would be the last into the holding grid so I wasn't sitting in the sun for too long. My Walero fireproofs were put in our mobile fridge ahead of me getting in the car. Their kit is an absolute must in weather like this and helps me enormously when it comes to competing. However, nothing could keep me cool when the fans starting pumping out hot air as soon as the engine hit full revs! Fixing one faulty sensor in the system seemed to create another problem and for the first part of the race the fans were pumping hot air into the cockpit before they cooled down and started to pump out coolish air again. I tried to ignore this new problem and actually had a fantastic start to the race and managed to make up three places on the first lap. A further retirement saw me 11th in the race until a push-to-pass manoeuvre by the driver I was defending against would see me slip down the order and after he passed me I was forced to start defending heavily from the two drivers behind. As the cabin temperature rose to 40+ degrees, defending became harder and a lapse in concentration saw both drivers pass me within a few laps from the end of the race. I finished the race in 13th position and spent the next 20 minutes dowsing myself with cold water to cool down.
Race two was at 4.30pm, the hottest part of the day and we followed the same preparations as we did for race one in terms of keeping the car and me cool. I didn't get a great start in the second race and when the fans started pumping out hot air again, I decided to retire and save my brakes and tyres for the next round. I felt a bit defeated but it was the right thing to do, I'd lost the pack and had nothing to gain from staying out. I was pretty disheartened but reasoned with myself that this situation was unique to the unfortunate circumstances and I'd make it my priority to fix these problems ahead of my next race at Brands Hatch.
I've driven many different Porches over the years and my Cayman remains my all-time favourite. However, I think the Caymans probably suffer from the hottest cabins due to the engine being right behind you in the car, albeit hidden under a cover. The drivers of the 911s and Boxsters have more protection from the engine heat with them being located outside the cabin space but I think we were all feeling the heat this weekend!
One thing I decided to take away from this weekend was the inspiration I got from seeing a plaque about the legend that was Archie Scott Brown. If you don't know who this incredible man was, please read about him here. Archie Scott Brown was the first disabled racer to compete in international racing. Born without a right hand and legs that were formed backwards, he never grew above 5ft in stature. After Archie won two races at Snetterton Sid Green of Gilby Engineering noticed that Archie had an unformed right hand and brought this to the attention of the race stewards. Archie was then banned from racing for two months until his licence was reinstated. He then went on to race in F1 that same year. Archie was killed at Spa in a racing accident which would see disabled drivers banned from competing in motorsport for over three decades. This man was an absolute legend and I’m so thankful that he proved it could be done all those years ago. Despite a bit of a challenging weekend, I'm taking away a bit of Archie's legacy from Snetterton which I'll use at my race at Brands Hatch in two weeks time. Archie, like many other legendary racers past, present and future is proof that in racing Anything Is Possible and I'm hoping to reiterate this fact with another good result at Brands.