Nancy James at Spa
Follow this link to a description of the D
Sports race car built and raced by Ted and Nancy. They
have sold that car and are finishing a new one.
For more info on hte car Nancy drove visit the Radical Motorsports
website at www.radicalmotorsport.com.
Nancy at Spa - A Radical Adventure
My husband, Ted and I arrived in Frankfurt on Saturday the
28th of April 2001, Ted trying to remember his high-school German
from over 40 years ago. I couldn't give him any help, as I only
know a little Spanish and some Japanese. We stayed at an airport
hotel for the night, getting up the next morning to reserve a
Budget rental car for our trip to Belgium. Armed with our trusty
Michelin road map, off we went in our A-Class Mercedes diesel.
The drive to Belgium is a pretty one with lots of rolling hills
and farmland. The highway signs were quite easy to get used to
and very well marked, with speed limits in excess of 90 miles-per-hour.
I must say that the quality of drivers in Europe is quite different
to that here in the States!
We decided to stay in the city of Liege, which is some 35
miles from the track. It's a large city with cobblestone streets,
and the car tires made a thumping sound when going over them.
We had a little map from the Internet explaining directions to
the hotel, but drove around the city for some time trying to
find it. We finally got settled in, then walked around a bit,
trying to get our bearings and looked for places to eat.
On Monday, we drove to the track hoping to make contacts with
the track personnel, and to possibly get a tour around it. I
was keen to see the layout of the track, as my sole knowledge
of Spa Francorchamps was no more extensive than playing a F1
Grand Prix game. When we arrived, a Ferrari track-day was in
progress and many types of street cars from the illustrious Modena
company could be seen in action. In the end, I succeeded in getting
one lap as a passenger before the session was over. As I was
being driven around, I was trying to remember the sequence of
turns from the game and to absorb the more significant landmarks.
It was a fun lap and I learned a lot.
On Tuesday, we returned to the track to see if I could drive
our rental car around, only to find another test day in progress.
This time, it was with some of the racecars that would be competing
at the weekend. We spent time with some Radical people that were
with another race team, and watched the cars at a couple of the
turns visible from the F1 pits; the Bus Stop chicane and La Source.
We were back at the track on Wednesday and managed to persuade
a track official to let me take our street car out on the circuit.
Driving very slowly I succeeded in negotiating 10 laps of the
famous Ardennes circuit before quitting.
On Thursday, the Radical factory transporters arrived and
they started to unload and set up for the weekend. I needed to
be fitted for the car, but someone my height had accomplished
most of this at the factory. There were just a few things that
needed fine adjustment and the car was ready to run. I was to
drive a Radical Super Sport, which is equivalent to the C-Sports
Racer that I will be driving this year in Sports Car Club of
America events. This Radical Super Sport has the 1500 cc Suzuki
Hayabusa engine, with rear wing and front splitter and additional
front winglets. It was beautifully turned out and even had my
name on the side of the cockpit.
Friday began with a two-hour test session for all classes.
I went out and completed four laps, and came into the pits to
discuss with Ted what I thought the car was doing. He made an
adjustment and sent me back out again. I managed to get to the
left-hander at Malmedy before throwing it in the gravel trap
along with four other cars. Apparently, someone had blown an
engine, and there were no turn-workers present for this session
to show an oil flag. The session was stopped so that the cars
could be returned to the pits. I came back red-faced, admitting
my mistake, and was sent back out again. My first qualifying
time elevated me to 14th fastest in a field of almost 50 cars.
I figured it wasn't too bad, but was six-or-so seconds off the
top driver's times. Ted, as usual, can't leave things alone.
He changed the rear bar and rear wing and shocks, because I'd
said I'd experienced a little high-speed understeer in Eau Rouge,
and some low-speed understeer in Malmedy. The car really responds
well to changes. I had another qualifying session on Saturday
Saturday's timed practice was scheduled for 0910. This was
a 20-minute session and I felt I needed to get going faster.
I was amazed at how the car had responded to the changes Ted
had made. The top drivers didn't improve their times and said
the track was slower than before, but a couple of us got faster.
We had to attend a driver's meeting to explain the rules of the
race, which was quite extensive. All drivers were required to
appear and register for the meeting. Now all we had to do was
to wait until Sunday for the two 50-minute races. In the meantime,
a priority for me was to find a way of identifying my crew, James
Boyden and Ted, on the wall with a pit board. This is something
I hadn't done since my days of driving in the Mini Indy races.
Sunday, Race Day
On Sunday morning we were lined up in the pits for a warm-up
lap. We were then brought around for our grid positioning on
the track before the race, and then given an additional 'recon'
lap to get things warmed up for the rolling start. The start
was on the declining front straight rather than on the back as
in F1. There is no human starter, but green lights go on when
the field is considered ready to race. It was quite a fast start,
and I was a little caught out because the car in front of me
hesitated just a second after the green, so I didn't get as good
a start as I'd hoped. The Pro Sport class (1300cc) and the Super
Sport class (1500cc) were required to make a pit stop between
22 and 30 minutes during the race. The first pit stop went rather
badly as it took Ted and James two and a half minutes to get
me going again, which relegated me to 27th position. However,
I worked my way up to 17th overall finish, and first in class.
For the Sunday afternoon race - the second and last of the
day, Ted and James changed their pit strategy, devising a procedure
that would prevent us from getting in each other's way. The race
start was better for me this time, and I was able to keep up
with the front-runners quite easily. I was given the pit sign
to come in for our stop. I was quite lucky this time, as the
entire track went to yellow with a safety car situation about
three turns before the pits. This stop went really well and I
was able to get back out in 4th position overall. I finished
the race in 6th position overall and first in class. At the end
of the race, it was required that all cars report to Parc Ferme.
After getting out of the car, I was told by an official in French
that I was to report to podium. It took me some time to figure
out what he was saying. I followed the crowd and found myself
on top of the F1 Podium with the celebrations under way for the
other class winners. When I was introduced, I was on the top
podium spot with Mick Hyde, and the National Anthem was being
played for me! I was then presented with a magnificent bouquet
of flowers, several kisses and the most beautiful trophy I've
ever seen! I couldn't help telling everyone who'd listen about
how easy the Radical is to drive, its remarkable speed and the
fun I had while driving it. Now I know what the gold-medal winners
at the Olympics feel.
Nancy James, May 2001