The Return of Captain Chaos: Ian Higgins #29

I have been asked to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard as it now is, about my recent return to racing an F1 stock car. Having been involved with the Stoxkarts Formula for the past few years I have had very little involvement in the F1 racing. However when I put my Stoxkarts race truck up for sale F1 driver Paul Montague #381 purchased it, and while the deal was being done he offered me the chance to race in his F1. As it turned out his car had engine problems so I ended up using Tony Smiths #91 car.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29 back on track at Coventry. Photo Colin Casserley

License was applied for to race the Christmas Coventry as I thought it would be an ideal chance to race with not too many cars on track and I also thought it would be a very wet meeting so the cars would probably be slower. I got that wrong on both counts!

On the day we set off at 7am to Tony’s Yard, when we got there my youngest lad and me stuck some vinyl lettering on Tony’s wing. Tony and Josh arrived and informed me that I would have to drive the wagon to Coventry. We got loaded up and set off in plenty of time. After queueing for a short while we were in and unloading. There were a couple of jobs that needed doing on the car so Phil and Young Monty got on with those jobs while I ended up chatting to lots of old friends and it seemed that most the Stoxkarts Drivers had turned up to either support me or take the mickey out of me!

The first time I sat in the car was to take it for scruitineering, the sound and feel of the big block Chevy was fantastic. Since I had last raced over 10 years ago a lot of things have changed, Hans Devices, Goodyear Tyres being 2 of the main things. As I had no idea on tyre choice I left it up to Josh to put the correct tyres on. The Hans Device felt very strange and really effects the side to side movement of your head. I drove the car to the holding lane and watched heat 1 from in the car.

As I drove on to the track I got quite a few blasts on the air horns which was good. I gave the throttle a quick blip as I went on track and felt the back end flick out, I caught it and then gave it a little bit more to go round the bend.. it felt great!

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29 on track at Coventry. Photo Colin Casserley

I am not really going to go into a race report, more about how things seemed different from when I last raced an F1. The last time I raced an F1 at Coventry was 1999 I think, the World Final that Murray Harrison #97 won!

The track was in great shape and I found it quite grippy although if I gave it too much gas I could feel the rear tyres break traction. The Goodyears are a lot wider than what we used to run on and to be honest I did contemplate running a Rally tyre front outside but the team assured me the smaller Goodyear was the tyre to run (not even sure if you can run a Rally tyre on the front to be honest).

I found the steering very light and did not get much feel from it and also the steering wheel was much smaller than I used to use.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29 without power steering. Photo Paul Tully

My last F1 never had power steering so that took a bit of getting used to but it did make it a lot easier to drive, especially when you went over lock and needed to get it back, If it was my own car I would have probably put a bit more Castor into the front axle to give a bit more feel through the steering.

Unbeknown to me the car last raced on tarmac and I soon discovered that the brake balance bar was set to front brakes for tarmac. In this car you cannot adjust it in the cab, although there are two Bias Valves that shut the rear brakes down or the front outside. For the first few laps in the heat I struggled to work out which one did what, all the time I was playing with these valves I also had to remember there was a race on and a novice in the old Dave Berresford car was giving me a good race passing me one bend then going wide the next and I would re pass him. Eventually after about half a dozen laps I felt I had got the brakes as good as I could. Unfortunately the car developed a problem and I had to pull off with no brakes.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29 back on track at Coventry. Photo Colin Casserley

Back in the pits we realised that the back inside disc had sheered and snapped the caliper. Time was against us, we managed to fasten the disc back on but could not sort the caliper out in time so the mechanics blanked the brake off which only left me with one rear brake. I wanted to do some other adjustments to the car but we did not have time. We ran the same tyre set up for the consolation, but with no rear brakes the car was a real handful!

If there was no traffic I could’ve throw it in, but if there was traffic the car just pushed and I lost so much time. I managed to finish the race in 5th place which meant we were out in the final! I had a big ride up the wall going in to turn one and I told the mechanics that the car just did not respond well so they checked the front end and saw the axle was bent and the steering box was loose! We changed the 2 back tyres to give us more stagger to hopefully get the car to turn in better but that was all we had time to do.

In the final the car was definitely better, but again I struggled to get the car into the corner if there was traffic around. We managed to finish the race with no damage so decided that it would be best to miss the Grand National so Tony’s mechanic Phil could race in the mechanics race.

So has much changed in 10 years? I would say not really, the cars did not seem any faster, but I think there are more top flight cars throughout the grades. The tyres I could not really say if they were better or worse in the few races I did. I think a lot more people have a grip on car set up and I think if you do not have the car well set up you will struggle more than we used to before on shale.

This sport still has some of the best fans around and I loved every minute of the day. I would like to thank Tony and Josh Smith, Phil and Young Monty and the rest of the team, Will I race again? Well I now have a 2012 license so we will see, I have been offered quite a decent sponsorship deal if I buy a car and do a few meetings but to be honest with my commitment to the Stoxkarts Formula I do not think it will be possible although I have decided to see if I can raise some additional sponsorship to buy a car and if that comes off then we will give it a go…

Captain Chaos… Ian Higgins #29

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29 as a blue grade. Photo Paul Tully

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Ian Higgins 29. Photo Paul Tully

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