August was largely a quiet month at the race team. We
even had time to go to Poland for a friend's wedding. At the previous
round in July my exhaust started falling apart, so I was interested to
see how the new one Darren had installed would fare. We also updated the
camshaft for a stage 2 item and Darren installed his "special recipe"
ECU to manage the fuelling.
Scroll forward to the August Bank Holiday on Monday 28th, back to Castle Combe for the "Combe Countdown" event.
were scheduled for 2 Hot Hatch races. My team mate Steve Waight who
has raced car 887 had bought his own race car from Darren my team
manager. Darren had built the car from the ground up and Steve couldn't
resist. This meant that both my spare cars were free. As it happened I
had an enquiry from Ben Pemberton to use one of the cars, and we set him
up in 265, the Cooper. Car 265 is a good starter car as it is well set
up, but not overly powerful. Ben acquired his race licence recently, and
although he had tested a Puma Cup car, he hadn't raced before.
Ordinarily I prefer drivers to do a test of some kind to sample the car
and learn the track. Ben has done track days at Combe, and the Puma was
tested there too. With similar power to weight as the Mini we though
he'd be OK just to jump in.
Race day was a busy
one. Our little team have evolved to running customer satellite cars,
with Steve Waight joining Olly Kingston in their own cars, alongside me
and Ben in my cars. Darren had drafted in extra help to cope with the 4
of us. We had 2 cars to get to scrutineering at 07:30, and Ben needed to
attend the new driver's briefing at the same time.
all the I's were dotted and the T's crossed we had qualifying at 08:30.
The weather for the day was dry and warm, but small showers were a
We set out to qualify, but the
session was red-flagged due to a nasty shunt at Quarry. The interrupted
session made it tricky to find a decent flow, we spent 10 minutes in the
pits while they cleaned the debris off the track. I got times close to,
but not better than my PB. I managed to score 2nd in both races, just
behind quick George and a place or two ahead of Olly. Steve and Tim in
the other R53 Minis were not far behind, with Ben near the back, having
safely got his mandatory 3 laps in to qualify. Ben was the only
non-supercharged Mini, so was in class C, while the other five of us are
competitors in the R53 Supercharged Mini class.
had a 20 minute grid walk where the fans could wander up and down
looking at the cars where we had lined them up in race start positions.
There is usually a grid walk at lunch time, and this time we had the
honour in Hot Hatch.
At the first race start I
got a nice start but was pushed to the left edge of the track at Folly
by another car. As we all converged on Quarry I noticed Olly trying to
lunge past me on the inside. He misjudged it and locked his brakes,
clattering into another car and they both got turned round.
expected a safety car to clean up the mess and relaxed, which let George
put some distance into me. I quickly woke up and set off after him, and
sure enough there was no safety car, as the two spun cars got away
under their own steam. I held on to George, but with a 4 or 5 second gap
that I couldn't bridge. I got back to my 1:19 personal best while I
chased him. Whilst pushing to close the gap I started pushing track
limits a touch, but eased off when I got a warning flag reminding me to
behave. It's only the second time I'have a warning, the other time being
Snetterton in 2020. During the race I lapped Ben who was running well
in car 265. We gave him a target time of around 1:30 for his first
event. He had done 1:35's in qualifying, but we felt he could find more
pace as he settled in. I also managed to lap Tim who was feeling a bit
under the weather, and I got Steve too, as he had lost time due to a
couple of spins in his new car. A solid second was a good result, and I
was pleased with it. Olly recovered to a strong third, although he had
another tangle with another car at Quarry later in the race.
the pause to the second race at 16:45 I had time to think about the
season so far. We are not officially scoring points, but unofficially we
use the same system as the Saloon Championship. Hopefully we will be
confirmed as an official championship in the future, but for now we are
one in all but name. I came into this event 16 points ahead of Olly,
with 33 on the table. After race 1 I was 17 points ahead with just 22
left. George was trailing in 4th at the start of the day,due to DNF's
and skipping a round due to injury. Even though he was quicker than us
he had a lot of ground to make up.
Race 2 got
under way a few minutes late due to slippages in the schedule from other
races having dramas. I had 2 cars between Olly and me, and I was right
up behind George. I got another good start and settled in behind George
on the run to Quarry. I hung on to him for a couple of laps but then a
faster Clio levered his way past me and opened some space between us.
Another one got round me a lap or so later. On around lap 4 or 5 I saw
Steve rolling to a halt at Post 5 after the Esses. There was some smoke
or steam coming from the car. It turned out to be a broken driveshaft,
with which I am all too familiar after last year. Sadly it also
ruptured an oil line while it flailed around.
after this there was another collision, which necessitated a safety
car, but it was just for one lap while they got the cars going. The
conclusion of the race was fairly routine, with me lapping Ben and
getting Tim on the line on the last lap. The safety car interlude had
split the pack and put George out of reach once again. Although, with
the upgrades to the car, and improvements in my driving, I am
much closer to his times at this part of the year than I was at the
start of the year. I have one more chance to beat his times this year in
We chatted and waited for the trophy
presentations at 18:15. Ben had brought car 265 home second of the two
cars in class C, but second is second and he collected two trophies on
his race debut. Olly scored two third places in class E, I got two
seconds and George got the two wins.
in the points standings, George and Olly are now tied for second, with
me the class champion as I have an 18 point lead with just 11 points
What a year it has been!
huge amount of credit goes to Darren and the team. The car has been
repaired and well set up, with a few natural developments made to bring
it closer to the standard of the other cars on the grid. She's lost a
bit of weight, had her geometry done correctly, and a decent suspension
package has been installed. The latest performance upgrades have
helped too. There are a couple of items for the cars planned for over
the winter too.
We have 5 weeks before the last
round. Steve's car should be back up and running, and we are hoping to
field 265 or 887 as well.