Jonny Fletcher looks forward to the new Time Attack season and reveals the updates he’s made to his Direnza-backed Vauxhall Astra GSi
So Jonny, what have you done since last season ended? Presumably you haven’t sat around with your feet up…
I have had a bit of down time, actually – I needed it after the roller coaster that was 2018. However, I have also been steadily planning and getting on with jobs on the car for the 2019 season.
What are you aiming to achieve this year? The first Time Attack event is scheduled for May 6th at Cadwell Park – are you looking forward to it?
My aim is to get back to the right end of the standings after what was a disappointing 2018. That should be achievable, as long as everything goes right. Of course, I am looking forward to it – I can’t wait to get back out on track again. It’s a long time between the last round of a season and the first of the next.
What changes have you made to your Vauxhall for this year?
I started by refreshing and updating the front suspension/steering set up, as this area caused the majority of my headaches in 2018. This should be the main thing that finds me the seconds in lap time which were missing last year. As well as that, the car will receive a check over from front to back, to make sure everything is as it should be, and that it’s ready to rock on May 6th. I’m sure there will be other ideas I will have along the way, though.
What Direnza products are you running on the Astra this time round?
This year, I will be starting off the season with a Direnza radiator and wheelspacers, but I am always open to adding more parts as the season progresses.
Looking back, what got you hooked on Time Attack? And when was your first event? Was it a success?
The buzz of competition was the first thing that grabbed me, as well as the feeling of camaraderie in the pit lane. Everyone involved – competitors and organisers – help each other in anyway possible, be it at events or outside them.
My first event wasn’t a complete success, as the gearbox on the car died during the day, but the experience was enough for me to get bitten by the Time Attack bug. That was back in 2011 and I have entered events ever since then. I may have entered the most consecutive seasons in Time Attack history…
How did you end up running the Vauxhall? A twist of fate, or something else? How long did the transformation into a competition machine take?
I had wanted a Mk4 Astra GSi from a young age and eventually got one when I was 20. From there it has just been an evolution over time, from a completely standard road car to the machine it is today. That would make the transformation a near 12-year project and counting.
As for it being a dedicated track car, that was more accidental. On the day I bought it, my actual words were that I was leaving it standard. That decision lasted about four months! Over time, as the car developed I made a decision to take it from a fast road car to a dedicated track car, so that I wasn’t limited by the needs of a road car. Saying that, the Astra would still pass an MOT now if required.
What are the Astra’s best features from a Time Attack perspective?
There isn’t one thing in particular – it’s more the overall package. The perfect blend of power and handling will always be key to a competitive Time Attack car.
How did yourself and Direnza cross paths?
It happened by chance a few years ago. I was looking to replace a worn out part of the car and, following a search on the internet, I got talking to Direnza and the relationship developed from there.
Lastly, if there’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone considering competing in Time Attack events, what would it be?
The main thing I would – and do – say to anyone considering entering Time Attack is, just give it a go. The car classes cover everything from road cars [standard or slightly modified] to full blown racers, so there’s opportunity for everyone to compete. You won’t know if you are going to like it, or be competitive by sitting at home thinking, ‘What if’.
Even if you aren’t quite up to speed in your first event, the experience will give you an idea where you need to be and what changes you need to make. Also, with the new ‘Run What You Brung’ class, it’s even more accessible for first-timers.