The Tom Stewart Memorial Race
15th July 2011
It was a really busy week leading up to Tom's memorial race. The day had been arranged for some time, hotels had been booked, arrangements made, for the 23rd July, at Donington. A mixup meant that the race had to be rescheduled at almost the last minute ... but it didn't turn out too bad - we were part of the World Touring Cars weekend, which was a real bonus.
It was difficult to rearrange such a personal event (not least because we couldn't get a refund on our hotel!). Family and friends had wanted to be with us to support Dave racing his Dad's car (the car Dave and his Dad built together) and to support me and Jill too in what promised to be a very emotional day. But of course the 15th fell on a Friday and a number of our people couldn't get time off from work at short notice, which was a shame. Maybe there was a silver lining though because Dave already felt under pressure, emotionally, for the day so perhaps a smaller entourage was for the best.
The week had started badly. To cut a long story short, the car needed important work before the race otherwise we risked serious engine damage. It was a mad (and expensive) week. Between work and everything else, Dave needed to drive down the country to collect the parts we needed, early enough in the week to manage to get the work on the car done. We'd expected to set off for Donington late Thursday afternoon - it was after 7pm before we were on our way. We were exhausted. To be honest, I felt (and I'm sure Dave and Jill felt the same) that things were against us and questioned whether the whole memorial race thing was such a good idea! But everything was arranged so off we went.
Friday morning glowed bright and sunny and full of promise for a great day. We needed to be at Donington fairly early for signing on but it was no hardship in the blazing sun, it was just lovely to be outside on such a gorgeous day (we live in the north east of England where long hot sunny days are a bit of a treat!)
We set up our 'camp' amongst the BRSCC TVR club members, near the club's hospitality tent where we would leave our promotional literature, including literature to promote awareness about Marie Curie, the charity Dave is raising money for.
Marie Curie Cancer Care supported us at the most critical point in our lives so far. Their time and support was invaluable and we are so grateful. The service these people provide is extraordinary, they don't come in and try to take over, they work with the family to provide the help they need, which in our case was simply knowing there was an extra pair of hands, should we need them. Tom's only wish, in the end, was that he could die at home and support from Marie Curie nurses helped to make sure that Tom got his wish. Dave is running in the Great North Run for Marie Curie: www.justgiving.com/DaveStewart93
The whole day was fantastic - Tom would have loved it (and it was fitting as this is a circuit where Tom still holds a fastest lap record). Despite the race falling on a Friday, there was a full grid as people made a huge effort to support us and be part of the day. Tom loved a full race grid; he'd much rather that than a big crowd, he wanted to use his driving skill to do well and was always a little disappointed if the grid was lean.
We'd sponsored the memorial race and provided our own trophies to present to class winners. Geoff Parkingson spoke with feeling as he made the presentations and I felt moved by the kind (and funny!) words - I videoed it all. The other half of the CTS Racing team sponsored the second race of the day, SBC Ltd. Dave got third in class in his Dad's memorial race and second in class in the following race.
It was fantastic to see the camaraderie in play amongst the club members - friends all, a great bunch of people. During the memorial race Dave's car appeared to be on fire at one point ... there was much billowing of smoke (I suspect not one of Dave's most popular moments as drivers in his wake had to cut through his curtain of thick charcoal-grey smoke). Watching, we thought that his back tyre was catching the wheel arch but I'm told it was something to do with oil ... sorry, I'm not that technical ... Dave will write the race reports for the new CTS Racing website so those of you needing the technical details will have them, in full 🙂 and you can find a report on the TVR Monster website.
When Dave arrived back in the paddock (at our 'camp') the car was surrounded by helpful (knowledgeable and skilful) individuals who immediately set about sorting out the problem so that Dave could think about the next race, which was what he needed to do. I've never seen our Dave as visibly tense as he was for the practice laps and his Dad's memorial race. He was clearly nervous, clearly anxious and didn't look at all settled, which is not like him. I suppose the emotion of it all was taking its toll, and I think he felt under pressure too, to finish the race without incident, to do well to make his Dad (and us) proud ... we're already so very proud.
I was pleased that the people who could offer Dave the most technical and 'know how' support were people who were able to be there with us. I want to make a special mention - Andy Cooper - who worked with my Tom for years of MG racing and not only knows the race tracks and the cars, he knew Tom about as well as anybody could. Dave has massive respect for Andy, who seems to know what Dave needs to hear and has a true calming affect on him - Dave trusts what he says. I'd done the 'mam thing' but I couldn't give him the information and reassurance his Dad would have given him, but Andy knew what Tom would say. Andy arrived just as Dave was about to head out for the practice laps, just in time. So a big thank you to Andy.
So many others supported us throughout the day - you know who you are - we're truly grateful. We had a fantastic day.
Best regards, Julie x