So, the Topcats guys had worked hard to get the car back in shape after the head gasket went. There was some deliberation over whether the head and compression were right and so a spare head was used. No track time available so we’d have to wait and see!
And off we went. I would run the first stint, Rob Wilson (Topcats Marcos driver) would go into the night, and owner Neil Huggins would do the night shift. I was held on the grid for ages as they sorted the 113 classics into position. Mindful of temp, I shut down the car at 100 degrees. As they called for me she wouldn’t start. I must have tried it 50 times before the Marshals pushed me back into pit lane. I couldn’t believe it, back to the pits before the start! As I rolled down the pit lane I thought I’d try again. Blow me she started! I cruised down to the other cars who would also start at the back. We were last. BUT RUNNING.
We were released as the last car cleared Eau Rouge. I was behind the fabulous McInnery Tuscan which basically disappeared. I did a couple of steady laps checking temps and making sure the freshly rebuilt but partially cooked 1800cc engine was ok. It pulled very well. I built the revs and speed and after only 2 laps I saw my first blue flag at the Fagne chicane. Only 2.5 laps in the leaders were coming through.
Jesus it was fast…and so low I could look clear over the roof as it flew by. Then the chasing pack. Another GT40, a Cobra, the leightweight LeMans E-Type… The best part of 7 Million pounds worth of original classic had just flashed by. It was scarey stuff.
As the laps started to pass I settled in. The lap times weren’t brilliant as I was running 100L of fuel and I was jumping out of the way of the £Million Ferraris etc but even so we picked up a couple of MGBs and even a Mustang! Just when I thought I could bag my first 911 the car feinted and I noticed a smoke trail in the mirrors.
I’d missed the pit entrance in traffic so I backed of and tried to limp round. No go. Heavy smoke at the Kemmel Kurve so I pulled in on front of a stranded £2M Ferrari.
Neil ran up and as the car cooled we discussed what to do. If it started I’d try and get if back. Amazingly it did so I limped it out amongst the 180mph super cars. EEK!
On the hard standing as much as possible I got as far as Blachement where it lurched to a halt again. Surely this was it? And within sight of home.
This time the Topcats guys came for a chat. Again they could not touch the car but with a bit of help a blown core plug was diagnosed along with a likely head gasket…but it hadn’t seized.
Again it wouldn’t start. Not surprising really, the poor girl had been through quite a lot! I tried and tried. Then tried again, and then again. It wouldn’t go. The turning over slowed as the battery drained but still she wouldn’t fire. I left her to dry out for 5 mins, reprimed, turned it over again for what must have been the final time. Bigger me it Started!!! I pulled a gear and shot out from behind the safety barrier, along the high grip and back onto the track. Home and technical assistance was near.
I made it back to the pits and jumped out of the car. Topcats were waiting and the little TVR was in bits before I had my helmet off. There was 3 hours left of the Race and they wanted it out there. Could they fix it? Did they have the bits? Was it toast?