When a shove from Alain Menu despatched Kelvin Burt’s Volvo 850 thundering into the Cascades earth financial institution within the 1996 British Touring Automobile Championship spherical at Oulton Park, leaving the 1993 British System 3 champion closely concussed, Tom Walkinshaw Racing wanted a substitute driver for the following spherical at Snetterton.
Happily it had a ready-made candidate within the type of its System 3 rising star Jamie Davies, however the 1994 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner by no means made it to the beginning line after a puncture prompted the most important accident of his profession in a pre-event check.
Utilizing the Vauxhall-Speiss engine with which Oliver Gavin had gained the 1995 British F3 title, Davies had made a flying begin to the 1996 season with TWR’s new F3 arm by profitable two of the primary three races. However the 12 months went downhill thereafter when the squad made the fateful resolution to take engine improvement in-house, leaving Davies distinctly unimpressed with the end result – “they completely destroyed the factor” – and tumbling down the pecking order.
However his early season type had been sufficient to persuade TWR that it want look no additional whereas Burt recovered, and it was deliberate that Davies would fill in at Snetterton.
Along with his solely earlier tin-top expertise coming in a rear-wheel-drive Schnitzer BMW that he’d track-tested for Autosport on the Nurburgring the earlier 12 months, Davies had no actual reference for the front-drive 850. Whereas the BMW “responded in a really comparable strategy to a single-seater, you may be fairly easy with the automobile and carry a variety of nook velocity”, he discovered the Volvo particularly nervous in his first check at Silverstone.
“I used to be capable of wring a laptime out of it and be pretty fast immediately, however when it comes to it feeling snug, they had been fairly tough automobiles to drive,” says Davies, who beat the likes of Richard Westbrook, Jonny Kane and Peter Dumbreck to the 1994 MABA prize.
Burt’s Oulton Park shunt created a emptiness for Davies, who discovered the Volvo significantly edgy to drive
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“Being front-wheel-drive, it was very troublesome to generate tyre temperature on the rears. It was very edgy, I had conditions the place you’ll flip into the nook and it will begin pivoting across the entrance, the rear feeling very insecure.
“However saying that, it was fast! It had a superb entrance finish and offering you had the right tyre temperature, and the right set-up, it labored very nicely and it was clearly a really aggressive automobile and satisfying once you did a fast lap.”
Come the Snetterton check, Davies was constructing confidence within the automobile when his left-rear tyre deflated on the method to the quick Riches right-hander on the finish of the pit straight. He tried to catch the slide and preserve the automobile on the highway, however to no avail. He hit the ploughed subject sideways, tossing the Volvo right into a sequence of rolls during which he was knocked unconscious.
“On the time, I used to be so targeted on single-seaters, it by no means even entered my head that I may do a profession in touring automobiles. It wasn’t one thing I checked out as a result of System 1 was my aim and all of my focus was getting into that route” Jamie Davies
“I awoke within the automobile with an oxygen masks on, a brace all down my again and a drip in my hand whereas they had been transferring me from the automobile – it was a reasonably large one!” he says.
As a result of severity of affect, a few of the reminiscences of the crash stay hazy. However Davies reckons his touring automobile inexperience exacerbated the incident, as he nonetheless retained the mindset from single-seaters of making an attempt to maintain the automobile on monitor in any respect prices.
“You set a single-seater within the gravel and also you’re within the pits for an hour whereas they’re cleansing all of the crap out of it,” explains Davies. “But when I had simply steered it to the sphere and are available to a halt, then they might have introduced it again to the pits, sorted out the tyres, given it a dust-off and off we might have gone. It was the actual fact my single-seater mind was considering, ‘attempt to preserve it on the monitor’ that I used to be nonetheless correcting the slide.
Davies was knocked out within the accident, which he believes was exacerbated by his single-seater mindset making an attempt to remain on-track
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“As I went via the nook, I used to be reverse lock, full-throttle. However they’re so low and so tight within the wheel-arches that there’s solely a restricted quantity of steering lock that you simply get and it was nowhere close to sufficient lock to have the ability to do something about it.”
The automobile was written off, and with Burt’s chassis additionally unsalvageable, there was no spare for Davies to race that weekend. Burt was match sufficient for the following race and Davies headed again to F3, destined by no means to race within the BTCC, though he would construct a sportscar profession following a race-winning stint in System 3000 that yielded the Le Mans Sequence title in 2004 and second general in that 12 months’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
“It was a disgrace as a result of I can nonetheless bear in mind now, I used to be P4 earlier than I went off which is I assume fairly good for a rookie leaping in,” says Davies, who at the moment runs the household machining enterprise, Turnspeed.
“On the time, I used to be so targeted on single-seaters, it by no means even entered my head that I may do a profession in touring automobiles. It wasn’t one thing I checked out as a result of System 1 was my aim and all of my focus was getting into that route.
“It’s a kind of issues that maybe later in life you’ll be able to take a look at it and go, ‘I may have executed one thing there’, however on the time once you’re youthful and also you’ve acquired that focus, you don’t see that.”
Davies (proper), raced and beat Kristensen and Montoya in F3000 however lacked finance to succeed in F1
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