Snetterton Mini Grand 24 hour race
We (Jonathan Lewis and Justin Cooper) had been asked if we would like to build up a car for the first ever Mini Grand 24 Hour Race by Andy Slade, who is Mighty Mini Champion Chris Slades Dad. It had been an idea they had at the 2011 Championship prize giving dance while very drunk! But from this came the idea of building totally standard Mini 1000cc motors and gearboxses to fit into the Mighty Minis we had and then to compete with the 2CV’s at the 24 hour race at Snetterton.
After all the usual ‘yes we will definitely do it’ there were 5 teams of cars actually signed on to the event:
SB Racing Team Chris Slade, Paul Inch, Andy Slade, Louise Inch
Larky Malarky Steve Miles, Peter Trevet, Ian Slark, Neil Slark
Lyford Racing Nick Lyford, James Lyford, Elliot Staffard, Neil Fearnley
Last Ever Works Team Chris Morgan, Scott Kendall, Ben Seyfried, Peter Crewes
Team Teds with Mini Sport and Bailey Johathan Lewis, Justin Cooper, Ian Curley, Jamie White
I am sure all the others I have spoken with would agree that if we could have got out of it the week before we would have. I had spent hours of time with Jamie White, one of the Team Teds drivers as we had become known, re-wiring the car to run a standard engine as the Mightys are fuel injection. We also had to make long distance fuel tanks and dump jugs. Paul Inch my engine builder who was entering as SB Racing Team with his daughter and Multi-Champion Louise, had built us an engine and we set to building the car up.
The time to convert the Mini Sport 4 car took much longer than we all thought, what with door number lights, horn (that was to be the best add on we did!) and all the fuel system and electrics, the car was only ready the week before, leaving no time for testing.
I managed to get my good friend and Mini Legend Peter Baldwin to put the car on his Rolling Road. This was to be a master stroke as Peter dynos most of the class one Autograss Minis in the UK and he said the Mini Grand was to the same specification with an inch and a half SU so he did his magic and we ended with a 64 BHP Mini that sounded very good. I had used oil from my sponsor Bahdal and instead of electric fuel pumps used a standard mechanical pump from the back of the motor – all things that would later come good for Team Teds.
For the drivers of Team Teds I called up my old mate, ex Mini Champion and BTCC racer Ian Curley who jumped at the chance, Jamie White Super Mighty Mini racer, Me Jonathan Lewis and the cars owner Justin Cooper. With this Team Teds was born.
I got a call from the Snetterton track management the day before the race, asking would I go and do a few laps in the Mini to see if it would stay within the noise limits as during the night of the 24 hour race they did not want to upset any locals. I jumped at the chance as it allowed Team Ted to see if the car would run on the track OK or confirm our fears as we were all thinking it would be very slow.
The car ran great and all the new Mini Sport supplied brakes, pads and parts ran with no problem, in fact the car ran extremely well and way under the noise limit, even under what the 2CVs managed so we were feeling good.
I went home, as I only live 2 miles from Snetterton, to load up our Bailey Caravan and Trucks with all the equipment we thought we would need for a 24 hour race, something none of us had ever done before!
'Setting up Camp'
We set up camp at Snetteton and started the qualifying with the other 4 Minis. We had 2 qualifying sessions with one in daylight and one in the dark. All the drivers had to drive the car and the fastest time was your grid position. I had put nearly new tyres on the car so they would last but it was soon apparent that the Slarky Malarky team of the Slark brothers were taking the qualifying seriously as they were running Super Mighty Mini Tyres which are faster than the regular Mightys but not very good in the rain (something that would bite them in the bum later). We were 3rd fastest in the daylight, so I went home and collected a set of half worn tyres from my garage and we fitted them for the dark session.
Starting in the rain with Team Teds hitting the front!
Racing a classic Mini in the dark is something I will never forget and even with the best bulbs we could get we were driving nearly blind. Some of the 2CVs had lights from modern VW cars and they gave you a tan on the back of your neck. Only Chris Morgan had fitted amplified lights of which were much better than all the other Minis although having said that I went out and we were fastest of all the Minis and faster than our daylight time… something no one could believe. I think I just know Snetterton so well I drove it flat out and turned in when I thought the corner was there haha.
We had until 11am the next morning to gain some sleep and get the car ready for what we all believed would be only a few laps, until the cars broke and started throwing problems at us over the next 24 hours! How wrong we were.
7am Sunday Morning and still going
Team Teds decided I should take the start so I strapped in for a one and a half hour stint, the longest I have ever been in a race Mini. I set off to form the Grid. We had been asked to do a rolling start half a lap behind all the 2CVs and it is worth mentioning that there were 2 classes of 2CVs, the race class one cars (standard and just a bit slower than us) and then the Euro 2CV’s which I jokingly christened the ‘Bread Vans’ as they were all fibreglass with BMW race engines in them and about 5 seconds a lap fatster than anything. So all the Minis came rolling around to start the race and just as we did it started raining and I love it in the wet! Within a lap I had dropped the Minis and was in the 2CV pack and with the 2CVs being bigger than a Mini I started to use my horn when up the inside of them so they would not turn in on me! It was the best fun you can have revving the nuts of the little Mini 1000cc motor and diving up the inside and outside of any cars in the way and far to soon my stint was up and I came in to hand over to Jamie who, once refuelled, was on his way.
Ready to go with cushion in hand!
We had the best of luck with Ian Curley bringing his mate Dave Older, a bit of a 24 hour race specialist who with his laptop was giving us all the info we needed to keep at the head of the Minis, as well as tracking what the others would have to do. Jamie is a class driver and soon his longer 2 hour stint was over and Tiny Teds Ian Curley (with his 2 cushions) was in the car for a two and a half hour stint.
We were realy getting the hang of fuel strategy thanks to Team Teds Team Manager Jamies Dad, Roger White and the computer. Ian was pulling away when our first gremlin struck. The coil went but luckily Ian got the car back to the pits and we changed the coil however this inevitably cost us time of which added up to 7 laps, so we third overall to the rocket ship ‘Bread Van’ and the other fast Mini of The Last Ever Works Team of Chris Morgan. Once fixed Ian went out and over the next 17 hours we raced that little car flat out, Justin, Jamie , Ian and I all took turns, going into the night whilst spectators and team members fell asleep.
3am torrential rain
24 hours proved too much for some!
I was coming round Coram Curve at 3am in the biggest thunder storm I have ever seen, chasing 2 standard 2CV’s and Chris Morgan, an image that will live with me forever as I even pinched my arm as I thought I was dreaming. We all chased as hard as we could but we couldn’t catch Chris Morgan even though we were the fastest Mini out there and had got the lap record and fastest lap every hour, the stop for the coil had killed our chance of an outright win. We decided to push as hard as we could to see if we could make Morgans car break or force a mistake but unbelievably all 5 Minis ran like clockwork even with all the water but we did managed to get to within 3 laps of Chris.
The race was won by the ‘Bread Van’ with Morgans team second and Team Teds a delighted 3rd. I took the finish wich was a very emotional thing as all the marshals and teams come out clapping all the cars into park ferme and I will admit to a tear in my eye. We all loved the event and will be back in 2013 and better prepared, however what we did was to prove that the little Mini can race flat out for 24 hours. What a car, what a team!
Full results and information can be found here.