Fiona Leggate - Latest News
20th August 2007
Carnage at Brands BTCC
The BTCC returned to Brands Hatch for the second time this year at the weekend for the 8th meeting of the season. Fiona was hoping for a good event as Brands is one of her favourite circuits and she had set some good lap times there during the first meeting as well as having some excellent scraps in race 3.
After her huge shunt at Snetterton, her car returned to the Kartworld workshops for a big repair job. On closer inspection once it had arrived at Kartworld, there were worries whether the massive damage could be repaired on time. It needed lots of replacement parts as well needing to be stripped down and put on a straightening jig to get everything on the shell pointing in the right direction again.
Fortunately the repairs to the car were completed just in time and the car would be ready for the weekend. Unfortunately this meant there was no time to do any tests to make sure everything was okay. This meant the team were worried about reliability going into the first practice session.
This got underway at 9am on Saturday and both Kartworld cars took to the track. Sadly the team’s reliability fears were realised as within only a couple of laps Fiona had to return to the pits with clutch problems before she even had chance to set a lap time. The team immediately set about changing the clutch. This is quite a big job on the MG ZS as the entire front of the car has to be removed before lifting out the engine itself. The clutch is then replaced and the whole thing reassembled.
“If something is going to happen during the weekend, it always seems to happen to me.” She observed sadly while watching the work in the garage.
The Kartworld team worked incredibly fast as always and were joined by some WSR mechanics to help with the task. Even so by the time the work was completed the second session was already underway. Fiona went straight out to complete as many laps as possible trying to make up for lost track time. In the time remaining she completed 12 laps.
Qualifying was going to be tough with the loss of so much track and set up time. Fiona took to the track as soon as possible as was setting better and better times with every lap. Right near the end of the session it started to rain lightly, stopping any further improvements.
The forecast for Sunday was for rain and sure enough it was wet as race 1 got underway. Fiona took the first corner very carefully as Paddock Hill bend is often the scene of first corner incidents, but up ahead something big was starting.
Mat Jackson rather optimistically tried to take several cars around the outside of Paddock Hill bend. This caused him to spin across the track right in front of the rest of the pack as they charged up Hailwood Hill towards Druids. Gordon Shedden and Adam Jones both narrowly missed him, but Matt Neal was unsighted behind his tea mate and ploughed into Jackson’s Stationary BMW. This left Neal’s Civic stationary on the circuit and Dave Pinkney in his Alfa 156 ploughed into the back of it at full speed. There was by now no space left for anyone to get through and the rest of the pack ploughed into the wreckage and each other. This left Fiona with nowhere to go. She too slammed into the wreckage, putting her out of the race with quite heavy front-end damage. She joined her teammate Jason Hughes by the side of the track, as he also had been unable to avoid the incident, ploughing into Tom Ferrier’s Seat Toledo. The incident had involved more than half the field, 12 cars were scattered up Hailwood Hill and around Druids. Most of them would be unable to take the restart of the now red flagged race, including both the Kartworld cars.
“It was like a war zone, cars scattered crumpled on the track with the drivers just stood about dazed” Fiona commented on the incident.
There was not time to bring all the cars back to the pits before the restart but fortunately both Kartworld MG’s were among the cars recovered. This would give the team as much time as possible to try and fix the cars for race 2. The team worked as hard as they possibly could. Sadly only Jason’s car could be fixed in time for race 2. There were worries that debris may have entered Fiona’s engine through the air intake and plenum chamber. It was not worth the risk of running the car in race 2 without checking it first as otherwise the engine could blow which would be a big expense. This along with the need to let some glue set from some bodywork repairs meant Fiona had to watch race 2 from the roof of the team motor home, a sight which was picked up by an eagle eyed TV cameraman! Jason Hughes managed to help the team morale with a brilliant 8th place finish.
By race 3 the car was ready, although Fiona would have to start from the pit lane. She was extremely fired up, really wanting a good result both for herself and for the team after all their hard work. As the pack left, Fiona was released, roaring out of the pit lane determined to catch up with them. Unfortunately missing out on the two warm up laps and sitting in the pit lane for several minutes had left Fiona’s tyres completely cold. She had no grip as she pushed into Paddock Hill bend in her attempts to catch up. The car swapped ends and went backwards into the gravel trap. It had dug in very deeply; Fiona’s race and weekend were over. She apologised to the team over the radio and then headed back to the pits feeling very gutted. She had really hoped to have a good weekend to prove what she could do, but events had once more conspired against her.
Fiona’s next race will be at Knockhill in Scotland in only two weeks time. It will be only the second time Fiona has raced at the short and Hilly circuit having been forced to miss the race in 2006. With only the 2 meetings remaining she will be hoping that she can finally shed off the bad luck, which has plagued her all season long. The action as always will be on both Setanta Sports and ITV.
Report by Marc Waller
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