EnduroKA Donington Park 5hrs | PH Competes

New car, first race of a new season and no team manager. What could possibly go wrong?

By PH Staff / Saturday, May 1, 2021 / Loading comments

We learned three new things on the weekend, none of them good. The importance of a team manager, that Matt Dell knows his way around a medical centre better than anyone on the EnduroKA grid and what it feels like not to finish a race.

The last round of 2020 started with disaster and ended with elation; this round was the opposite. We’d managed to get a new car built and ready by the skin on our teeth, collecting the last few pieces on Friday ready to fit onto the car on Saturday morning ahead of the race. Those being a freshly serviced fire extinguisher, some stickers and a new set of braided brake lines after discovering our nearside front brake pipe was chafed. The latter being rather pivotal to this story.

Everything was looking good. We’d been out on track the week before to give the car a shakedown and see how the new Gaz coilover suspension and Toyo R888R tyre setup worked together. We played around with tyre pressures and rebound rates on the track day to settle on a fairly neutral balance, certainly stiffer and more composed than our previous Ka.

Despite having to wear a facemask and sanitise almost everything we touched, it was marvelous to be back on the grid and in the paddock with so many familiar and new faces. 51 Ford Kas heading out on track might not be the most exciting prospect to a spectator but to racing drivers of all ability – including 24 hours of Le Mans winner Nick Tandy – it was enough to make us feel fuzzy with excitement.

RacingPete placed us P9/51 during qualifying and quickly moved up to P7 within the opening laps of the five-hour race. This is where our first lesson of the year came in, the lack of geeks in the paddock acting as team manager meant that we forgot to replace the damaged front brake line. I’ll let Pete take over from here.


One thing Ben forgot to add to the list, and something we have struggled with for two years is decent pit-to-car comms. As I sat on the grid in 9th place I radioed to the pits “the brakes don’t feel brilliant”, the reply on the radio came back with “say that again, Pete?” – several attempts later I just replied, “doesn’t matter” and went about the first 20 mins of the race.

After a brief battle with the aforementioned Nick Tandy in the opening laps, I settled into a nice gap in 7th place and was starting to pick up the feel and pace of the Ka to bring back the gap to 6th and the battle for 3rd about 10 seconds up the road.

On the third lap I was a good 5 tenths up on my previous laps and desperate to get back in the tow I pushed the braking as late as possible into Robert’s chicane. The brakes gripped for a nano-second and then suddenly the pedal went to the floor, I grabbed the handbrake to try and get some control while simultaneously slowing it down and working to hit the gravel trap as straight as possible to stop it rolling over.

As I ground to a halt in the gravel trap, I instantly knew what had gone wrong. The Excel sheet we created on jobs before the first race still had ‘Not Done’ next to the brake hose replacement. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, all the cliches rolled in as I waited for the local snatch to free me from the beach.

An agonising age of being pulled out, stuck on a low loader, transferred back to the pits, and into the garage – all the time I just sat there in the car, despondent, visor down, and ultimately annoyed at myself for not remembering to do this change in the countless opportunities we ran out of time with prior to this predicament.

We fixed the brakes, in a more depressed state speed than full-on race mode, resulting in lap 13 of the race for us being 54 minutes long but at least we were back out on track. The conversation in the garage while running the repairs was about us getting something out of the day – a bit of time in the car, get the feel, no risks, get the car back in one piece etc.

It was an enjoyable 40 more minutes back in the car, we were one of the quickest on track and some really fun overtakes along the way made me feel that we wouldn’t go home completely empty handed. Which is where Matt enters the story.


The car was handed over to me at the two-hour mark with the team in 47th place and 35 laps down on the lead car. At this point, we decided the race was over, so as Pete suggested, the plan was to go out and enjoy the weekend and get comfortable with our new car. I went out for my hour stint and for 55 minutes I put in some of the best lap times I’ve ever done in competitive motor racing, this being only my fourth race.

The brakes were in the back of my mind as occasionally on the first corner at Redgate they weren’t slowing the car down consistently; sometimes they would bite immediately and other times they would take their time, leaving me to turn well past the apex. At the 40-minute mark for my stint we had a safety car for what felt like an eternity but was probably around 10 minutes. When we got the green flag to go racing again, the car was in top form, presumably because the brakes had cooled down during the safety car period.

For the next three laps I was being held up ever-so-slightly by the car ahead and I could see the cars behind me gaining quickly. After getting a good exit out of the chicane leading to the pit straight, we were nearly bumper to bumper by the time we passed the start finish line. Instinctively I turned right out of his slip stream to overtake on the inside line. All I needed to do was brake hard into the corner and hope that the other car didn’t have a better exit speed.

Of course, that isn’t how it turned out at all. I hit the brakes and they didn’t bite. Oh fudge, I said. Except I didn’t say fudge. The car in front was getting closer. I tried to turn harder into the apex which only made the tyres lose traction and cause the brakes to lock-up. At that point it was inevitable. I bumped the rear of the car in-front, causing the rear of his car to slide out. Experience now tells me that I should have just continued braking to stay well clear of the car ahead. But I didn’t do that, I tried to escape the situation which meant that I put my car behind his and when he eventually gained traction his car drove backwards into mine, bending both of our rear beams and ending the race for the pair of us.

I sat there in the gravel, turned around to face the other cars on track still enjoying their weekend, accompanied by the other driver I just punted off the track. It was my second visit to the gravel trap in as many races, but this time it actually was my fault. I couldn’t believe this had all just happened, especially knowing I was about to be called in to change drivers in the next lap or two.

I had time to collect my thoughts before the JCB came over to pull me out – how much damage did I just cause? Is the car still drivable? How am I going to face the team? Is the other driver going to go all 1982 Nelson Piquet on me? Should I quit racing altogether now?

As a precaution we had to go to the medical centre and I was given a lift in the same ambulance as the other driver. He wasn’t aggressive, but undoubtedly pissed off with me. It was then he informed me that he was the race leader when I tried to overtake him some 35 laps his junior. It wasn’t a proud moment.

And so…

There you have it. We retired around three hours into the race, just as I was about to jump in for my stint with Olly to follow. We left Donington with our tails between our legs with some serious lessons learned; now we have four weeks to get the car repaired in time for Cadwell Park.

Ultimately, we all agreed that we’d go into this process on the basis that we might write the car off and need to rebuild it. Which we did to continue for 2021, but a second rebuild might be beyond us, both in terms of funding and frankly willingness after not being able to complete one race in our new car before a fairly major incident.

Fingers crossed it’s all repairable and we’ll return to high spirits. But round one has been a blow and a bit of a reality shock for us given how well we’ve performed up until now. Finally on behalf of the whole team, we sincerely apologise to car number 20 and team Kit Kar for robbing you of not only a race finish, but potentially a win. Watch this space for better news soon!

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