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Vast amounts of duct tape - A weekend commentating on 24 hours of 2CV racing

Published by Jon Waldock

2CV Racing at Snetterton
Credit: Martin Pettitt

The 2009 Professional Motorsport World Expo 24 hour 2CV Enduro (which rolls off the tongue), would  more appropriately be called the 18.5 hour Enduro. It may not have been hidden away in a forest covered area of France, but this year’s race gave all who attended an amazing 24 hours.

I arrived at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk on Friday and once I’d found my feet I spent 5 hours pounding up and down the pit lane collecting information on the teams and their various drivers. As I did my work, I noticed that in garage 22 was car #60, the Crossways Academy car, with a few guys around it working feverishly and thought that it must be a car that another team were using for spares. However the closer we got to qualifying that evening it slowly dawned on me that these guys were serious, they were building a race car in a day and as we got to and then passed qualifying that evening it was clear that the car wasn’t going to make the race. I spoke to the guys that evening and they had been told that they could qualify in the warm up session the following morning.

Awaking at 5.30am on Saturday morning I opened my tent to find thick fog and as I went for a walk down by the Russell Chicane it dawned on me that if Sunday morning was going to be anywhere near as foggy then we may have some problems. However the fog cleared and the day's racing schedule got underway and as I wouldn’t be meeting my fellow commentators till later in the day I had some time to burn. I enjoyed a nice cooked breakfast in the restaurant (which was a lot nicer than the baked beans and rice concoction I’d had for dinner the previous evening) and then sat by the Revett Straight watching the cars go by.

Just before the 2CV warm up session at 9:50am I met up with Alan Hyde and Mat James who were the pair of commentators who were going to be on the other shift during the race, I then shadowed Mat for the warm up session to just get a feel for the pit lane commentary. Warm up sorted and it was back to watching the racing with regular clock watching, having over 12 hours to fill from when I woke up to when I was on was probably the hardest bit, especially since I didn’t know anyone.

However the race soon started and once I’d met up with Lewis my co-commentator I was thrown in at the deep end. Boy, was it deep! Having never done any sort of public speaking, to go from talking to myself all day to talking to the few thousand people that were at the circuit, was quite a jump and it’s not the kind of situation you want to discover that you freeze up when public speaking. Luckily for me, I loved every minute of it, even the last hour of my first stint when I’d realised I hadn’t taken the advice to ‘pace yourself’ but even once I’d finished I still wanted to carry on. My love for the race was down to the fact that in most races you don’t get stories developing because they just aren’t long enough, but even after the first hour stories emerged of teams who could change an engine in 5 minutes and other teams who were on their second or third engine even before the race had began.

The trouble began, as I had suspected, just after I’d got on shift at 3am. When I’d woken up I could see the fog was bad, but racing continued as visibility was still okay. However, within 10 minutes of my shift starting, the fog had got so much worse the safety car was thrown and the race red flagged until the fog lifted. The fog did start to lift around 6 and we all had our fingers crossed that we could get racing again but it wasn’t to be. The racing was delayed until 8.55am, almost five and a half hours after it had stopped. The 4 hour stint that I did during these hours consisted of much debating, music playing and general rambling. Luckily the lack of racing meant I was able to get some well needed sleep once my stint had finished at 7am. My third and final four hour stint took place from 11am on Sunday and it added to the great spectacle the weekend had been. With only a matter of hours left, the cars were just being willed on to get to the finish with vast amounts of duct tape and cable ties.

Somehow, after qualifying behind the safety car during Saturday's lunch break, #60 was still lapping although no-one knew how. Once my shift finished at 3pm, I made my way back to the campsite and upon realising that I wouldn’t sleep, I packed my tent away and returned to the pit lane for the end of the race. During that last 60 minutes emotions were running high, teams were still making their way up and down the standings and just praying that the cars didn’t break down on track (there is no recovery service during the last hour).

As we got within 15 minutes we were counting down the laps, everyone clapping as the broken sounding #60 went past each time. Then with 2 minutes to go we realised there would be one more lap, for some teams it was the longest lap of the weekend and as each and every car passed us on the pit wall for the last time it didn’t matter where the teams had finished, but every car had and that was what mattered. As the cars entered into the pit lane we lined up clapping them as they went past. It really was the most emotionally and physically draining 72 hours of my life, but also some of the best. As a closing comment to show the spirit of the club and how everyone is welcomed in, this picture does tell a thousand words.

Thank you to Martin Harrold and Alan Hyde for giving me the opportunity, Chris Yates (who impressively drove his car up to second whilst the hand brake was still on) and the rest of the club as a whole for welcoming me. I have the date pencilled into my diary to come back next year.