Girl Power! Plymouth High School’s Hummingbird success at Goodwood race track

Girl Power! Plymouth High School’s Hummingbird success at Goodwood race track

“Ignore the brake signs- just drive faster!” Annie, Head of Comms, said cheerfully down the phone to driver Annabelle as she tore around the next corner. With a relieved team high-fiving and celebrating from the sideline, Hummingbird flew past the checkered flag for the last time this season.

I suppose we should backtrack slightly. On Sunday 10th October, Hummingbird took to the track once more, this time at the F24 International Finals at the iconic Goodwood Circuit. It was an exciting day of number-crunching, tire-screeching, nail-biting fun. Enthusiasm and anticipation buzzed throughout the whole team as we united under one common goal: get through all four races and achieve the best possible placement. Without the tireless efforts of everyone on team Hummingbird, including those who we unfortunately could not take with us to the race, but who have put in countless hours behind the scenes, achieving this goal would simply not have been possible.

The day started early as we arrived at Goodwood, running off of adrenaline more than sleep. We quickly got to work unloading and readying the car and setting up our performance area in the perfect position just metres away from the finish line.

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Mr Thackray then took us on a history tour of Goodwood. Before becoming the iconic racing venue it is today, Goodwood started out as  RAF Westhampnett and served as a Battle of Britain base during the War. It was also the station from which RAF legend Sir Douglas Bader, who is commemorated with a statue on the grounds, flew his last sortie.

We also had a look at the memorial garden of iconic drivers, including Bruce Mcclaren and Steve O’Rourke. It was from O’Rourke’s memorial stone that Mr T lifted his primary piece of advice for our drivers: “Drive like you stole it.”

It was then time for the practise session to begin. Our Pit crew  began readying the car and driver as Annie, our comms extraordinaire, began wrestling with uncooperative headphones.

As much as I would like to tell the story of the day as a raging success start to finish, and that I had unwavering confidence in the car all day, after the practise laps the performance team were, to put it mildly, rather concerned about the lap times we were seeing. With a little over an hour until the first race, it was crunch time. As the pit crew rushed off to change the gear of the car and swap our practise batteries for our racing batteries, we huddled around our trusty 2009 laptop, calculators and hot chocolates in hand, and began to make the all important race decisions.

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During this meeting we decided that we should rip up plans A-H, which we had spent the last few weeks meticulously compiling, and opt for a new cunning plan: Plan I (I for Ingenious? Insane?).  We also interviewed drivers on what they had experienced during the practise and created the formula for the all important calculations we would be doing during the race to work out if we were on track to finish right after the checkered flag to avoid having to drive around the circuit again and wasting all important energy.

Before the race, it was time for the whole team to parade down the Goodwood straight, our heads held high (except for when we were scrambling around catching the trail of luminous blue feathers trailing from the Hummingbird mascot costume Diya was wearing.) You could feel the excitement buzzing from all the teams around us as everyone prepared for the first race.

Oh yes, I knew I had forgotten to mention somebody; our four wonderful year eight drivers. As I spent the day in a camping chair with a laptop sipping hot chocolate, I’ll let them tell you about their experience hurling round the track with over sixty other cars at high speed.

“Racing hummingbird has been an absolutely amazing experience- going to Goodwood racetrack was incredible- racing where many famous racing drivers had driven before. I loved staying with the team in Chichester, cheering the Hummingbird on as it raced past- I am so grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity. I loved every minute of it!” – Ellen

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“It has been an amazing experience to drive Hummingbird as not many people can say they have driven on Goodwood race track! It was so much fun and a great way to get involved to make new friends in school.” – Lily

And now for the bit they are all too polite and modest to shout about: each one of them drove incredibly, executing every part of the cunning plan as well as tricky manoeuvres around recovery vehicles and overtaking other cars, dealing with constantly changing plans and conditions and looking amazing while doing it. (I know I’m biased, but we have all the data to show just how wonderful they were.) This was perfectly illustrated during the third race when Hummingbird was surrounded by other much bigger cars who had realised we were driving to cross the line at the perfect time.

We were able to communicate the cunning plan to the drivers thanks to the hard work of Annie, who spoke calmly to the drivers down the phone, reassuring them, as well as the rest of us biting our nails on the sideline, and relaying data back to performance and pits.

My favourite moment of the day was towards the end of one of the races when we could see Hummingbird approaching, but the checkered flag had not yet been raised.

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As the car became closer and closer, Dr Van Es grew paler and paler as we refused to slow the car down. We all grew more and more anxious as we saw the official appear nonchalantly approaching the track with the flag. Hummingbird was just seconds away now and the flag had still not gone down. Then, right as Dr V looked like he was going to spontaneously combust, the flag came down just as Hummingbird flew over the line.

It was an epic moment to see the hard work of everyone involved in Hummingbird come to life. I think it encapsulates what our team is about: everyone using their strengths and teamwork to create something that we are all really proud of. While only those lucky few who get to drive Hummingbird will ever get to cross the finish line, the fingerprints of everyone involved in Hummingbird, both past and present, which are emblazoned on the body of the car, gets to cross the line with them; a lasting reminder of the mark they left on the team.

Back in our hotel room that evening, after a meal out to celebrate coming 11th nationally, the performance team had a Graph Party. “How rebellious!” I hear you cry, but if sitting in a hotel room drinking tea and drawing beautifully colour coded graphs sounds like the height of entertainment for a Sunday evening, please consider joining us in performance next season.

Finally, on behalf of the team, I would like to thank Miss Benwell and Mrs Warland for all their support over the weekend and to Mr Thackray and Dr Van Es for their tireless enthusiasm, inspiration and truly awful jokes.

So, that’s a wrap on Hummingbird 2021. Exciting times to come next season, to find out what, you’ll have to join us!

Reported by Plymouths High School, Frankie Baldry