Craggy's Croft

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Croft is a 'home from home' for Stephen Craggs. Photo: Jakob Ebrey

As we look forward to Croft this weekend, we thought we would get a local view on the North Yorkshire circuit. For Ripon based Stephen Craggs (#47) this is the one meeting of the season that won’t require a long and tedious journey! Stephen recalls some of his favourite memories of Croft and talks us through a lap of the track…..

 

As we look forward to Croft this weekend, we thought we would get a local view on the North Yorkshire circuit. For Ripon based Stephen Craggs (#47) this is the one meeting of the season that won’t require a long and tedious journey!  Stephen recalls some of his favourite memories of Croft and talks us through a lap of the track…..

For me, Croft has a lot to answer for…it gave me the motor racing itch, which then took over 30 years to scratch! Croft was as good as we had in the frozen north when I was growing up in the 1970’s and as a kid I would go with my Dad to watch whenever we could.  The racing was almost a “run what ya brung” format where there was a class for everyone and everything.

Spectators would enjoy David v Goliath races with F5000 and F3 cars sharing the track with Mallocks and Formula Fords. Silhouette race cars such as Chevy V8 powered Skodas and Beetles would be out-handled  by Lotus Europas and Hillman Imps.  I have a vivid memory of a 20” wide rear wheel and slick coming off the Beetle, hitting the banking at Hawthorns, flying over our heads in the stands that were there at the time and going through the glass sunroof of a spectator’s Ford Granada!

Needless to say, as this was 1976, the race continued, the wheel retrieved and the car was out in its next race. Not long after that a certain Mr Hunt made a guest appearance with his World Championship car, did a few demonstration laps and disappeared in a cloud of something accompanied by a couple of Marlboro girls.  Being a racing driver held a certain appeal but I didn’t think it’d take 34 years before I’d have a go (at driving, not the Marlboro girls).

Croft in 2010 was my third Mazda race weekend after passing my ARDS and, true to form, when we invite friends and family along to our local event it was what you’d classify as “mixed fortunes”. A Best Improver (or Worst Qualifier) Award followed by being punted into the tyre stack in the complex by someone who, at the time had a reputation for such activity to uphold!

2011 and 2012 were relatively uneventful but racing a MX5 is never entirely a relaxing occupation so here’s a few highlights from someone who is at best a midfield runner, in the depths of middle-age and generally teetering on the edge of greatness (in his mind, at least):

The Start.  To their credit the grid marshals at Croft are a disciplined bunch, form everyone up quickly and at least everyone gets to see the lights at Croft…no silly gradients (the whole place is as flat as a pancake). There’s room for 4 abreast at least until you get to the first corner, Clervaux. On subsequent laps this is quite a buzz, grabbing third and drifting nonchalantly in front of the cheering thousands in the stand!

On lap one the biggest challenge is not getting elbowed into the gravel on the outside - the consolation being that if this happens, keep your wheels straight, foot down and you’ll pop out the other side.

Then you have the looooong right hander before flicking left through the chicane and regular scene of Mazda carnage.  Jim Edwards Snr end-over-ended his car here and I can think of at least three other Safety Car incidents on the exit to the chicane in 3 years. Gulp.

Assuming we make it through there is drafting up the straight (or time to light a fag) to Tower bend which I NEVER get right. The kerb on the exit has a drop on the other side deep enough to hide Shergar in and an Observer who will take great delight in radioing-in a penalty should you survive your fall into it.

The fun bit is coming up now though because we’re soon into 4th and taking it flat through the Jim Clark Esses with the huge run-off area on the outside where the Mazda racer’s challenge is just how many millimetres of front offside tyre can be left on the white line before the Observer decrees he is four wheels off.  Buttocks clench as we aim at the tyre stack on the inside of Barcroft  before reining it in for Sunny In and hoping the guy on your inside overshoots and ends up on the grass on the exit (he never does….).

Rattle over the kerb into Sunny Out and we’ve a little time to wonder what the hell’s going to happen in the Complex. Croft’s Marshals are not used to seeing many position changes on this bit of the track.  Except when Mazdas turn up.

The left hander is supposed to only have one racing line but somehow cars get into overtaking positions for the tight right hander that follows it.

Then there’s a second gear valve-bounce into UK racing’s slowest corner the Hairpin which will accommodate 3 Mazdas side by side (evidence pictured inc Yours Truly), all of which then ruins exit speed and makes me a sitting target down the Start/Finish straight. Again!

 

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Last Race

Donington Park 14th - 15th Oct 2017

Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Will Blackwell-Chambers 2218 2044
2 Oliver Allwood 2130 2000
3 Joshua Jackson 2168 1976