The 5th annual Race of Remembrance was held on November 9-11, 2018 at the beautiful Anglesey Circuit in North Wales. The 12-hour endurance race is run as the aggregate of two 6-hour periods - 3pm to 9pm on Saturday and 9am to 3:45pm on Sunday - allowing for a 45-minute Remembrance Day service in the pit lane. I was thrilled to have been offered a seat to join the Jaffa Cake Racing Team for the weekend.
My travels for the event began on Wednesday, November 7, from my new home in Kazakhstan. An early departure, and quick connection in Moscow, had me arriving in London by mid-morning. Unfortunately, progress towards my final destination was halted by UK immigration - I was detained for about 30 minutes, presumably while they determined I wasn't returning to work, having just given up my UK work visa a month earlier.
When I officially arrived in the UK, I discovered that my checked baggage had not. In what now appeared to be a stroke of genius, I'd left all of my racing gear at the office in the UK, so the missing suitcase only contained items that could be replaced with a little trip to the local Sainsbury's.
Once outfitted, the journey onward to Anglesey was uneventful. I got tucked up in a local bed and breakfast and watched the weather move in.
Thursday was my opportunity to adapt to the new time zone. After a full Welsh breakfast, I did some exploring in the area, ending up at the South Stack Lighthouse to snap a quick photo as the pouring rain continued.
The balance of the team - drivers and support crew - arrived later on Thursday afternoon and we set about preparing the car. On Friday morning, with decals fully in place and drivers safety gear available for inspection, we headed to scrutineering where the only issue found was with the badges stitched (with Nomex thread) through my suit. An hour (and one cut finger) later, that was resolved and we were cleared to hit the track.
The team owner elected not to participate in the Friday practice sessions due to poor weather and risk to the car. That was probably a good call as evidenced by the team sharing our garage who took off a nose and splitter during an off track excursion by one of their drivers.
The qualifying format for this race required all drivers on a team to safely complete three day and three night laps each. The fastest time overall set the grid position. My first turn driving around the Anglesey Circuit occurred during day qualifying on a very wet and windy track. In preparation for the race. I spent a lot of time looking for markers that would be visible in any conditions (dry or wet, light or dark) to help with braking points, turn in, etc.
As there were 6 scheduled daytime qualifying sessions and only 4 drivers on our team, I was fortunate enough to get a second stint to help me catch up with teammates that had all raced here in prior years. While the times didn't count, I was able to close the gap to our 3rd fastest driver and within 3 seconds of the fastest.
As the weather continued to deteriorate, two of the four night qualifying sessions were run behind the safety car, including mine. Even at reduced speed, it was my first experience with the limited forward visibility and blinding reflection in mirrors from cars behind. The video isn't very exciting, so below is a screenshot to get a sense for the challenge.
We managed to slot ourselves into the 31st grid position of 45 cars participating and 5th in our 1600 cc class = the front-wheel drive Mini's with which we were competing had a significant advantage in these wet conditions.
Unfortunately, the rain and wind didn't let up on Saturday. During pre-race preparation in the morning, we had plenty of company in the garage as anyone and everyone sought shelter from the weather.
We had a plan laid out for the race with stint lengths of about 1 hour. I got the second stint of the race from about 4pm in daylight to 5pm in near darkness. After my first cautious green flag lap, I found myself behind the safety car. Three very slow laps later, I was leading the field of 45 cars down the main straight for the restart. With a focus on staying out of trouble, I was quickly passed by a few cars from the faster classes.
I enjoyed several laps of clear track before a swarm of Lotus' caught me on the back straight. About 23 minutes into my stint, I caught and passed one of our class competitors - car #81 - only then to be overtaken by another - car #11. I was able to keep in touch for a few laps until he pulled into the pits.
The remainder of the stint was mostly uneventful - other than getting myself stuck behind a Citroen C1 at 36 minutes and another safety car period at 42 minutes. I spent the last few minutes stuck behind a Morgan that was faster on the straights but slower in the corners.
My best time of the stint was 2 minutes and 10 seconds matching that of our closest rival in car #11. Compare the beginning and end of the video below for a sense of day vs. night.
My second stint on Sunday afternoon ran from 12:15pm to 1:45pm - a full 1.5 hours behind the wheel was the longest I'd ever spent in a race car. To help me, team boss, Sam, offered some "encouragement" before I headed out onto the track.
I was fortunate to have some of the best weather of the weekend coincide with my time in the car. As I entered the track, car #11 was just ahead. The track surface was dry or drying, but curbing was still covered with water.
Proving that I was still a rookie, at 42 minute in, I turned on the wipers to clean up some spray from the car ahead. All I managed to do, however, was smear that spray all over the windshield and worsen my visibility for the next 50 minutes or so.
I thoroughly enjoyed the long stint. With so much seat time, I was able to try different lines, different gear selection, and push hard enough to set the fastest lap time of the weekend for our team of 1:53.6 - helped, of course, by the improved track conditions.
At the end of the stint, I was able to catch and pass car #11, which also ran the same stint length at the same time. Below is one of my favorite highlights from the weekend - some rolling chicane Citroen C1's - as well as the full video from my second stint.
The Jaffa Cake Racing Team managed a 3rd in class finish among 7 competitors at the 2018 Race of Remembrance. We lost out on 2nd not due to pace, but due to strategy. An after-the-fact analysis showed that car #11 in second place made better use of safety car periods to execute the minimum number of 4-minute pit stops.
Bring on 2019!
Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.