Qualifying done and lined up in the Snetterton assembly area. Engineer James Mitchell (who knows what he’s doing) and Top Gear driver Piers Ward (who doesn’t) discuss the race tactics.
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Top Gear at the Britcar championship
More discussion in the assembly area. This is where Piers tries to convince James that he really does know what he’s doing, with the aid of elaborate hand signals. Fails.
Mike Wilds strapping himself in. Mike’s proudest racing moment? Winning the 1000km race against the world’s best at Silverstone in 1986.
Mike about to take the start. The Britcar championship runs a rolling start, so the pace car leads the pack for the green flag lap before peeling off into the pit lane to let the race get underway. The stock MX-5 was still at the back come the first corner.
There goes one rival. You can tell Mike, and not Piers, is driving here for two reasons. 1) His yellow helmet, and 2) he’s actually overtaking someone.
This is where the little Mazda really excelled. Many of the faster cars were actually slower than the MX-5 through the corners. Grip levels in the car are fantastic, and it has brilliant brakes.
Mike has now done an hour in the MX-5, dragging the little car up to first in class. The curly wire running down the side of Piers’ Arai helmet is for the radio connection for when he gets strapped in at the imminent pit-stop.
Pit-stop time. No need to change the tyres, brakes, or even fuel up - the MX-5 weighed so little that it could run for much longer than quicker cars. Some of the front-runners were changing tyres after 30 minutes, whereas the TG car lasted for two hours easily.
Good to go. Or that’s the theory anyway. Britcar pitstops must last at least 90 seconds, which is more than enough for Mike to exit and Piers to enter. As such, there’s a nervous wait until engineer James gives the signal to get going.
A common sight at Snetterton - a lot of very fast cars lining up to overtake Piers. The cement dust to the bottom right of the picture was to try and soak up a huge trail of oil which had been dropped earlier in the race.
The great thing about the Mazda is that because it’s relatively slow on the straights, you’ve got time to relax and think about your race more. It gives poor drivers like us at Top Gear more time to think, which is crucial in a two-hour race.
Ah, now this is definitely Piers driving. This is because there are lots of cars ahead of the Mazda. It must be him.
Chequered flag time, and a podium awaits. If ever a car proves the maxim that to finish first, first you’ve got to finish, it’s the little MX-5. Stock last at the end of qualifying, by a huge six seconds, yet Top Gear makes it onto the podium.