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Driver's view

Freelander Challenge … Team X retain their title for 2017

Pat masters and Team X hold on to their title as championship winners for the second year running in the Britpart Freelander Challenge. Even with a heavy roll during the last round, the team were so far ahead of the competition, the trophy was in the bag. No one was injured during the mishap, but the car took a beating, and a refit will be on the cards for the winter months ready for the 2018 season.

Here it is, in the words of Pat himself…

And so to the last round of the 2017 MSA Freelander Challenge season – Walters Arena….

Walters has a reputation for being a car breaking venue, the very reason that it is left until the last round every year in fact! As it turned out this year was no exception. 

Checking the weather forecast leading up to the event saw the ever closer presence of storm Brian promising 60mph wind gusts and driving rain.

Arriving at the site on the Friday night we found it to be calm if a little wet, but decided not to put up the awning just in case. This proved to be a good call as about 3am the winds picked up and the rain started with biblical force. This was the pattern then for Saturday with dry intervals punctuating the horizontal and storm blown wind at all other times.

As the championship had already been decided in our favour we had no need to race for points so we were in a relaxed mood as we decided to service pat-masters-team-xalongside our friends in the Race 2 Recovery team. After discussions I was drafted in to sit in the navigator seat with ‘Mad Dog’ Andrew Bracey for the sighting lap. Drivers briefing followed and then off to race…..

Lap 1 – We set off tentatively as I had not driven the sighting lap so had no feel for the grip levels of the course. Walters proved up to its past and the course was extremely rough and unforgiving with low levels of grip on the first half of the lap. The terrain was that of hard rock with very little opportunity to get speed up without risking damage. We completed the lap and I was quite pleased at how the car handled on standard dampers.

Lap 2 – This time we launched off the line faster and the car slid about on the wet rock as we carried more speed through the first section of the lap. Sadly as we approached third distance we entered a corner a little fast over a slight crest. This unweighted the car and reduced the grip level further, far enough that I couldn’t scrub quite enough speed off to get around the next bend. As the car understeered around the outside of the turn we ran up a small bank at the edge of the forest, this bounced the driver’s side of the car up into the air.

team-x-freelancer-challengeAt first I thought we had got away with it as I turned the wheels into the corner but then, as the road we were on was dropping away, gravity took over and the car rolled all the way over coming to a rest on its roof just above the windscreen and the tip of the bonnet.

I turned the battery off and made sure Colin was OK before undoing my harness and crawling across the roof (now floor) to exit the car on the navigator’s side. Colin and I checked we were both fine if a little shaken. Luckily for us a competitor in a different class had broken down just up the road and had seen us crash, he was there almost before we finished rolling and helped us out of the car and ran up the stage to warn the next car coming.

The stage was stopped and the recovery team arrived to tow us back to the pits. We assessed the damage, the car restarted fine and seemed to drive without issue but the bodyshell was very bent at the top of the windscreen and to continue would mean removing the windscreen. Colin and I discussed things and decided that as we were not chasing points we would withdraw from the event.

The car was loaded and we returned home, slightly melancholy that the car that has carried us to two British Championship wins was now damaged, possibly beyond repair. 
After further inspection the decision has been made to reshell the car as all the internal safety equipment has not been affected by the roll but the body requires too much work to make it economically viable.

Both Colin and myself would like to express our gratitude to the rescue unit for attending the incident, righting the car, returning us to the pits and feeding us flapjack to make us feel better…..Thank You Deborah Burndred

So that was our 2017 season finished, we set off to retain our championship title and we have done just that – plans are underway for our return in 2018 and attempts to make it 3 in a row……

Throughout the season we have been supported by the some amazing people who I will be contacting soon to thank personally, but to all who have helped in whatever way this year.
THANK YOU!!

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Images;Pat Masters & Songasport

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