Snetterton October 2001

There may be some of you out there who haven't been to Snet. If there are, then you really out to make the effort. It may seem like you are driving to the continent, but rest assured you do stay on these shores.
For us Mancunians a visit to Snet constitutes a 5 hour drive in the transporter and we set off in late October for the Cloth Cap enduro meeting. (We're suckers for invites, it massages our egos no end)
It was a dark and stormy night, well no, it was a sunny evening when we arrived and as not many others had, we erected the awning and cracked open a beer until BBQ time raised its head. It can be a little eerie at Snet when the sun goes down, its bomber flying base heritage suddenly rearing its head and you half expect to see a ghostly plane come taxing down the main straight.
Interrupting us in our reverie wasa guy called Neil, who had arrived in advance of his car and was looking for a plug point. Suitably hooked up we dragged him in for a beer or two Neil apparently races a TR4 full race jobby and it was being delivered on the morrow by Cambridge.
It was just about warm enough to sit out so after Neil had dived off for food; we dug the telly out and watched the BTCC Touring cars from 1988. (OK we had a couple of whiskies as well, alright??)
Next day dawned clear and headache free thank goodness. For some reason Terry had not brought bacon so we had to go and buy breakfast. I like a paddock early on in the day. No engines yet, but trailers being manoeuvred, hands dug deep into pockets and chins into anoraks perhaps, tyres being rolled out of vans, cars rolling into garages, bonnets up, the whiff of fuel, smell of rubber, oil. Great.
We were in for 2 races, the Cloth Cap on Saturday and the Best of British on Sunday. The Cloth Cap is one hour with a driver change. Mark electing to do the whole race himself, we still had to effect a driver "change" in that he had to get out of the car and stand by it. We practised this remorselessly until we could do all his belts and have him on hi sway in about 30 seconds - much to the amusement of a group of people who stuck their heads round the awning at one point.
Mark was quickest in class, in fact 5ht overall ahead of some mighty full racecars. The Lotus 11 is not trouble free yet, but we know its foibles and can handle them. Come the race and Mark had a good start, held his position overall but drew away in class. What a mixed bag, a full race E type Jag, a Lola Mk6, which would be a real handful in anything but bone, dry conditions. They even had the wrong gears in (for Le Mans) just to make it more difficult! Several TR's, TVR's and about 5 Lotus 11's. After the pit stop, which went faultlessly, I might add, he was left to stroke it home a full lap and 52 seconds clear in class and 7th overall. The weather had changed and was not as pleasant as it might have been, but our 3rd win in a row after the 2 at Spa gave us a lot of pleasure, particularly as there were a number of other Lotus 11's in the race. Our car is now officially the fastest 11 in the UK.
As darkness fell, the plot thickened. Mark had to go to a wedding on Sunday so Andrew our engineer would come down and drive on Sunday. Except he rang up to say he wasn't well. OK, we said, a few beers and an early off tomorrow, would see us home just after lunch on Sunday, much better. Except at the bar, as I was buying whiskies, up pops Mark Hales, he of the might pen and much racing experience.
Someone's celebrating, quoth he, eyeing that lovingly prepared golden brown, malt.
I recounted the tale and barely had my mouth stopped mouthing when he said, "I'll drive it!!"
The rest as they say is history. (Our) Mark agreed and the early finish evaporated.
Come Sunday and Mark popped round to sit in the car. He is taller than our Mark so out came the seat. The guy is a racer of course so with a bit of hasty padding on the roll bar he was quite happy to sit on the floor to drive the car. He didn't like the handling at first, but did OK in qualifying and was fastest in class after only 5 laps.

The Best of British was the last race of the day and by that time; God had decided to have one of his practices for The End of the World. The rain came blasting down the pit straight, so that on leg was soaked and on leg was dry (well almost). I dreaded hanging out the pit board in case it slipped from me numbed grasp. (but it didn't). Mark did a superb job and as in the previous day, won class by over a lap. His only incident when a TR4 outbraked itself and attempted to take a bite out of the rear bodywork.
Mark H still thinks there is a geometry problem; we do need new rear shockers, but he adored the engine, which would blast him down Revett Straight past all the TR's.
So rather soggily we loaded up and blasted off to Manchester. At the end of the season, 4 straight class wins, what better way to finish?
And it would probably have rained anyway.