|All photos: David Young|
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.