Racing season comes to an end: a word from Recycling Lives’ sponsored driver

Back in April, Recycling Lives announced its sponsorship of Lee Bullen – Corrugated Services Manager at Board24, and a talented racing car driver!

In this article, Lee shares news and views from this year’s racing season…
“After a long year, the racing season has come to an end. Now we’ve come to the end of the 2012 season, I am happy to say that I’ve attended three test days and competed in nine events, seven of which ended with a place on the podium for me.

“The competitive year started at Silverstone when I entered the Sprint Series, which runs side by side with the MLR Sprint Series. The sprint took place around the “Stowe circuit” – a track I’d never been to before; nevertheless, by the end of the day, my lap time was good enough to put me in second place overall! This was the first trophy I’d ever won, and a really proud moment.

“After Silverstone, I entered another sprint – this time, a tarmac rally stage held at Oulton Park rally circuit. What a difficult day this turned out to be; I used my racing circuit semi slicks, which I turned out to be a mistake. The car had no grip and was bordering on dangerous to drive, so around dinner-time – and after a few close calls! – I decided to call it a day. Oh well, you live and learn!

“My next event, the first round of Time Attack 2012, was at Cadwell Park. This is the series that I’m most interested in, and I was eager to compete well against the usual championship contenders. The day was quite tough due to changeable conditions, but I managed to finish first as the highest placed non-championship contender on the track – fifth overall. My first Time Attack trophy, and another proud moment!

Out of action

The only downside to the day was some engine damage incurred right at the end of the day, which unfortunately led to me missing the next two months of events. But, although it was bad news, I took the opportunity to carry out vital upgrades to the car’s engine monitoring, oil and cooling systems. Hopefully, these changes will prevent any similar issues in future.

Two months later, and back on the road, I got straight back into things with a sprint at the Mira test facility – another circuit I’d never been to. After two months away from the action, it was tough getting back in to the zone, but once more, I managed to secure a place on the podium: third place this time and another trophy for the mantel piece!

The next event – a hill climb event at the infamous Harewood Hill – was the very next day, and brought another third place finish, as well as a valuable opportunity to get more racing practice in.

A pivotal moment

Castle Combe was the following stop on my tour – another sprint and another new circuit. I couldn’t have guessed what a turning point this was going to be. In my previous two events, I’d started to get the impression that my driving was a bit inconsistent and not very smooth, so I decided to slow things down a little (not easy in racing!) and complete very tidy, mistake-free laps. Well, it’s certainly a strategy that paid off – I finished first! What a pivotal moment for my driving career – I learnt that by trying a little less, I could manage quicker laps than ever.

My next weekend out was a long one – the final two rounds of Time Attack held at Snetterton. I arrived at Snetterton on the Thursday night, attended a practice day on the Friday, then entered the two day Time Attack weekend. To my delight, I again managed to finish as the highest placed non championship contender bringing home another first place trophy. On the Sunday I managed to familiarise myself with the slightly shorter circuit and was running in second place overall in practice – just two tenths of a second off first place. I knew I could go faster, and that all the signs were promising for qualifying and the final.

Great British weather!

Sadly, the British weather had its say and heavy rain set in after dinner. I was a tad worried because the session was declared wet and I had no wet tyres. After weighing up the odds, though, I went out and, although I had one small “off the track” excursion, I still managed to qualify in fifth place overall. When it came to the final, the weather still hadn’t improved; with standing water on the circuit, the semi slick tyres I was using were just no good.

I went out in the final and decided to circulate carefully, concentrating as before on driving smoothly and getting my tyres warm. I tried my best to put a really fast lap in but, towards the end of the lap, leaving the “bomb hole” corner and heading towards “Corams” corner, I lost control of the car and slid off the circuit. The lap times showed that I was actually 2.5 seconds quicker around the first half of the lap compared to my next quickest lap, and I’m certain that I would have completed the lap around four or five seconds quicker than my previous best lap. Once I returned to the pits and looked at the lap times I was gutted: I’d come second by eight tenths of a second!

Despite the disappointment, it had been another great weekend out in the car, mixing it with some of the fastest modified production cars in the UK. The three Time Attack events I entered during the year gave me a great base to compare myself with the championship runners, and things are looking good. On the two dry events, I came fifth overall – no mean feat in a full weight road legal car.

Brilliant results

My final event of the year was a sprint held at the Teeside Autodrome in the north east, an evening event with practice until 6pm and runs beginning half an hour later, when it was starting to get dark and cold.

On my first run, the only one that wouldn’t be in complete darkness, I was telling myself to drive like I did at Castle Combe – smoothly and with no mistakes. To my delight, I managed a 55.00 second lap which put me in second place overall. By the time the event had finished I was in third place overall, behind two semi-professional drivers. Another spot on the podium; another trophy! And, when the championship points were added up for the season: I had managed to come third in the overall sprint championship!

Looking forward

Typically as soon as I returned home, my thoughts turned to the 2013 season. I am looking at the great results I’ve achieved in a car that has no roll cage, something that would improve the car’s stability by improving chassis rigidity.

During the 2012 season, my car still had its full interior including items such as passenger seats, stereo, air conditioning, carpets and so on. Since then, I’ve been busy making arrangements for the coming season. I’ve been in talks with SW Motorsports and SD Motorsports, both of whom have agreed to assist me in my efforts in 2013. Already the car has been stripped of 85kg and, next week, we’re taking it down to its shell so that a full international specification role cage can be installed. There’s lots more happening too.

I will leave my plans for 2013 to another day. In the meantime, I would like to pass on my most sincere thanks to Recycling Lives for the help and support with my racing efforts. For me it has been a fantastic year collecting trophies all over the country and learning new tracks, the experience gained I am certain will put me in a very good place for 2013!