Mini Challenge

Mini Challenge

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Power issues improve at Brands Hatch Festival

All photos: David Young
Ever confident, I went into the Rockingham race weekend (June 17-19th) with high expectations of some good results, secretly hoping to take my first win of the season, despite having arrived home from Canada the day before and being extremely jet lagged.

Testing seemed to go strongly, but it’s always hard to tell where you stand on the test day. No one at the front will you let you follow, so it’s very much every driver for themselves. I hadn’t been to Rockingham before, but liked the challenge of the highly technical circuit, situated not too far from Silverstone in the Midlands.

Qualifying was tricky. I struggled with traffic and wasn’t able to make the most of the new tyres when they were at their best due to shuffling around in the pack. The long straights at Rockingham meant that grabbing a tow was crucial, particularly in the Cooper class. That I didn’t manage on this occasion, but still lined up 4th. 

The race kicked off early afternoon and I soon dived into 2nd position behind a new polesitter in Sam Weller. Weller defended, which allowed Max Bladon to catch up, who overtook the both of us, and made a small gap whilst I found my way past. From then on it was ‘cat and mouse’ as the gap stayed at approximately a second throughout the race. The tow had been broken and it was impossible to make any inroads. So a decent 2nd place finish to begin the weekend.

From then on it all went slightly downhill. I seemed to have the pace at times during Sunday’s first race but I kept missing gears and losing time and sometimes positions as a result. I ended up a disappointed 4th. It became apparent that there was a serious issue with the gearbox during the final race of the weekend. Having started 1st due to a reversed grid of the top 4, I soon slipped back to third, then lost out to a delighted James Goodall in the final stages of what seemed to be the longest race of my life, as 3rd gear refused to make an appearance. Still racking up the points, but need to find something extra!

A shell became available prior to the Brands Hatch meeting of 15-17th July so I rushed down to the workshop to help transfer the parts onto the new shell, in an attempt to find some extra pace. The car felt good after we’d ironed out some teething problems on the test day. Qualifying was very close, and I lined up 3rd on the grid for race 1. My start was fantastic, new gearbox seeming to have done the trick! I shot past 2nd place starter, Max Bladon, and soon managed to find a way past Simon Walton at Graham Hill Bend to take the lead. A battle commenced behind and I started to build a gap. But Bladon soon found himself in 2nd again. I kept it smooth and consistent but was soon caught and passed, and had to settle for 2nd.

Race 2 of the weekend was set to be a thriller in front of the large MINI Festival crowds. Although after 2 red flags (I got into the lead at both starts), one of which caused by an incident between myself and one of the slower of the Open class cars, the race was cancelled. I was given part of the blame for the incident (even though I completely believe it wasn’t my fault, of course) and this would mean I received a 4 place grid penalty for the final race of the weekend.

Starting from 6th I gained 2 places at the start at the same time as losing one to Adrian Norman who got away very strongly. I quickly dived up the inside into Graham Hill Bend on the first lap and set after chasing the lead 3 of Bladon, Weller and Mike Bamber, but the safety car come out and stayed out. 

Once the safety car was back in there was just 5 minutes of the race remaining. Just enough time to set up Bamber for a pass going into Paddock Hill on the last lap. Unfortunately there was some contact, but it was deemed a racing incident, and I crossed the line 3rd.

A big thanks goes out to Coastal Racing, who built and set the car up excellently throughout the weekend. Also a big thank you to CSK Dyno Services, who’ve had the car on the dyno after Brands Hatch. We’ve made some good developments and look forward to Oulton Park MINI Festival on 20th August even more now.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Competitive start from the new kid on the block

It's been a while since my last blog entry. I've been extremely busy with multiple university examinations and mechanicing at the weekends, let alone the racing. Since I last wrote in I've competed in the first two weekends of MINI Challenge Cooper Class action. 

The season got underway at Donington Park with a track day on the Friday prior to the race weekend to get my head back in the game. The test went well, and was confident going into qualifying. 2nd on the grid was the outcome. 

For the first race I tracked Max Bladon, the pole sitter, hoping to make a move towards the latter stages in the race, but in the end couldn't find a way through. The second race of the weekend on Sunday (24th April) was a very exciting affair. Spits of rain and a changing track whilst on slick tyres made it very difficult for whoever was out front. Bladon and I swapped places for the first half of the race, until I caught water going into Macleans resulting in a huge slide and the loss of two positions from the lead. From then on it was catch up. I made a move past Coastal Racing teammate Kyle Reid, making his debut in the MINI Challenge after winning multiple races in the hotly contested Scottish MINI Cooper Cup, and chased after Bladon. By the last lap I was all over him and we crossed the line side-by-side, losing out on the win by a matter of inches. I was gutted, but so pleased at the same time. It was a confusing mixed bag of emotions. This race led to the realisation that something may be up with the car as I was lacking speed in a straight line.

The final race of the weekend sees a reverse grid - this time the top 6 was reversed so I started 5th. It didn't take long to get the front - but unfortunately it didn't take Max long either too. In fact he got the jump on me at the start and led by the time the safety car came out just as I was beginning to make the move for second. This cost me a little time, but I got my head down and tried to close the gap, but it stayed at about 2 seconds for the rest of the race. I can't really complain about 3 podiums on my first weekend back, a win would have been nice though!

Before the Silverstone race, a little work was done to the engine to try to find some extra straight line speed. It seemed to be better on the test day, and qualifying was okay too. I lined up 2nd on the grid... again. I didn't get a great start off the line but chased the leader in the early stages, before fading in the middle of the race. The car was set up perfectly and nothing changed. That is, except for my speed in a straight line. 3rd and 4th place drivers caught me quickly and drove straight past me. I was a sitting duck. I tucked into the tow and just held on behind them to finish 4th. Saturday night was a difficult one for the team. My engine was found to have had a much larger problem than anticipated and was on the verge of blowing up, so the decision was made to replace it with a standard engine from a road car to see out the rest of the weekend and hopefully score some decent points. Damage limitation it was then. 

Starting from 4th in race 2 I was struggling for speed but kept consistent and sat in 6th at the back of the lead group, waiting for any action to happen and hopefully make a place or two. Action did happen, but it wasn't to my benefit! The electrics shorted in the car, and with the engine switched off I had next-to-no brakes. I locked up into Maggots, flat spotting my left tyre, and lost a lap whilst fixing the problem. 

So, I'd have to start from the back of the grid for the final race of the day. In the opening stages I picked off car after car, moving up to 6th place. Unfortunately, I couldn't pull away from the cars behind and a fraught battle ensued. I gritted my teeth and held on to 6th, the car a little battle scarred from some rather ambitious moves by a driver who failed to finish and was later disqualified. A big shoutout to my brother competing in his first race weekend. He finished 7th, right behind me at the line having also finished 7th in the first of Sunday's encounters.

I'm looking forward to Rockingham this weekend. Coastal Racing will make the car right, and I'll be at the front again if all goes to plan. I haven't been there before so it will be a good test of how quickly I can learn a track. Bring it on.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

King of the Cooper Class

So, this is my first racing blog entry for love:mini. I'll start by introducing myself for those who have no idea who I am. I'm Josh Gollin, 21 years of age and will be racing in the MINI Challenge Cooper Class this year. Having two previous seasons experience in the class the aim for this year is to wrap up the title and to win the Best of British shootout at the end of the year between all of the class champions. The bar is set high, but with a strong team behind me in Coastal Racing I believe we have a strong chance in a very strong field.