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Driver profile: John O'Brien

Championship: Lancaster Insurance MG Owners Championship
Car prepared by: Paul Streather Motorsport
Sponsor: Professional MotorSport World Expo

 

John's blog

Rounds 15 & 16, Oulton Park, 28 October 2013

The season finale took place at a decidedly warm and sunny Oulton Park. With car-preparer Paul Streather away at a VLN race, we were effectively flying solo this round. Something was bound to go wrong, and did.

First, qualifying didn’t go to plan. On the first flying lap, the car felt good, raising hopes of repeating last year’s podium performance. But as I attempted a second one, heading down Lakeside toward Island Bend, I did what I have done so many times this season and missed a gear. Instantly the car lost power.

Crawling back to the pits, the car felt like it was trying to pull twice its weight around the circuit. The immediate diagnosis in my head was a bent valve, but there was no tell-tale cloud of destruction in my rear view – unlike at Cadwell Park last year. Making it back to the pit lane, there were no leaks, no visible signs of under-bonnet explosions or anything awry. This then led to several frantic hours of head-scratching, compression tests, sensor changes and plug changes, all in the hope that the car would be ready for race one. That one ‘flying’ lap had been good enough for 6th on a grid of over 30.

Unable to pick up enough speed on the access roads and empty sections of paddock to see whether the problem was fixed, we took to the grid anyway. As the lights went green, I seemingly made a good start, springing forward towards row two, but then the power ran out and the rest of the ZR field went away. By the time we hit Cascades, I was already being hassled by the MGBs. At this point, I decided to call it a day.

As the majority of the MGOC paddock gathered around the PMW Expo car, enough offers of tools, parts, and any form of help were banded about to make us think the problem had been rectified for race two. It hadn’t. However, amongst the tool swapping and ridiculing of my inability to change gear correctly, the problem was correctly diagnosed as a blocked catalytic convertor.

As the lights went green, the car repeated its race-one performance. Knowing the problem wasn’t terminal, I decided to continue, and this time through sheer stubbornness and defensive driving, I managed to stay ahead of the chasing MGBs for longer. Jim Baynam and Philip Churchill finally passed me, but I was determined to stay with them. Hounding Churchill for three laps, I eventually retook the place under braking for the Knickerbrook chicane.

And that’s where I stayed, nursing the ZR home as best I could. Not the ideal end to the season, but considerably better than the conclusion of the 2012 season.

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 13 & 14, Cadwell Park, 7/8 September 2013

Thankfully, the tight Lincolnshire circuit saw Class Z separated from the slower Class A, B, I and F cars. With a bumper entry of 14 ZRs, the twisting, undulating circuit was set for a very interesting weekend. Qualifying, on paper at least, was a disaster as I lined up a lowly eighth for both races. The timesheets showed some solace however, in that less than 0.9 of a second separated me from third place.

Race one saw me on the wall side of the grid. Making a strong start I took to the pit-lane exit, slightly, to navigate around Nick Golhar, before slotting in behind Mellor for the run through Charlies and out on to the fast sweeping section of the circuit. Heading in to the Gooseneck, lead man Palmer span off, narrowly avoiding the tires, rejoining briefly before retiring due to electrical issues. Lap two saw Mellor, who was marginally in front of me at this time, drop a wheel on to the grass heading through the flat out Coppice corner. Snapping the car round, it hit the barriers hard, twice, destroying both the front and rear end of his ZR. The race was red-flagged immediately and in amongst this, Robb Addison had also retired due to snapping the crank in his car.

The restart saw me make another strong start off the line. The hole now punched in the grid left a sizeable exit route just to my left. Snatching second, I fluffed the gearchange, dropping me back and once again being swamped by the surrounding pack. Ian Evans made a superb start; springing from a tenth place grid slot, up in to fifth place. On lap two, Evans made a move on Nick Golhar under braking for Park. Cheekily hooking on to Evans’s rear bumper, I followed him through, up into fifth. Up ahead, Lee Sullivan had a moment of his own heading through the Hall bends, heavily damaging the front of his car and dropping back down the pack. Now up in to fourth, and with Evans now third he set about making his ZR as wide as possible. This allowed for Jamie French to close on to the back of us, and once again, another fluffed gearchange by myself handed French a place under braking for the Mountain on lap three. Lap six, and having had a much stronger drive down the Park straight, I was able to close right on to the back of the pair for Park corner. A failed pass by French had left him out of sync on the exit, and I went for an ambitious move around the outside through Chris Curve. Pretty quickly I ran out of tarmac and launched the car in to a spin. Rejoining as quickly as I could, I was relieved to see that the heavily damaged car of Lee Sullivan was still soldering on, and being made as wide as possible meaning I didn’t lose a place. Admitting defeat, now that fourth place was several seconds down the road and that laps were quickly running out, I was surprised to see French’s ZR parked up at the top of the mountain just one lap later. In an attempt to head around the outside of Evans on the last lap, French had downshifted early, over-revved the engine and bent the valves. Fourth had been handed back once again.

Race two was late the following day and once again I made a good start. Lining up behind championship returnee Fergus Campbell, I copied the move I had made on Nick Golhar in race one and took to his outside heading through Coppice. With several absentees on the grid, by the time we headed out on to the Park straight I was fourth. Heading out through Chris Curve, ahead Vince Pain’s bonnet came up, leaving the stricken ZR heading for the grass. As the pack slowed to avoid the blind ZR, it bunched, causing contact between Mark Halsall and Robb Addison – who was driving Ian Evans’s car due to his snapped crank in race one. The two cars hit the barrier hard, effectively destroying Addison’s borrowed car. The race was red flagged again, and a 30-minute wait ensued to repair the damaged barrier.

Having messed up the restart again, things went from bad to worse on lap two. Turning in marginally too soon at Hall bends, I clipped the inside curb hard, launching the car onto two wheels and pitching me off onto the grass. I was now last, six seconds behind the pack with four laps to go. As we headed onto the last lap – having made several further mistakes overdriving the car in a frantic bid to catch up – I was just over a second behind the dueling pair of Adam Jackson and Harjinder Bhambra. As we headed towards the Mountain for the last time, I was right behind them. Jackson attempted a maneuver similar to French’s in race one and ended up taking to the grass, rejoining halfway up the hill. Caught out of momentum, Bhambra passed him and I caught up to his back bumper just as we were turning in for the first part of Hall. Late braking, I slipped up the inside and tried my hardest to catch the ZS sedan of Bhambra. Unable too, I crossed the line in 8th, and had to reflect on what had been a missed opportunity to gain some big points. However, with several ZR shells destroyed as well as several damaged K-Series engines, it could have been a lot worse.

Next race: Season finale, Oulton Park, 28th October

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 11 & 12, Thruxton, 17/18 August 2013

After last year’s debacle, Thruxton posed a serious mental problem for me this year. A blown engine, smashed windscreen, bonnet and roof had meant that I never really got to grips with the circuit, and I certainly didn’t put a flying lap in.

Qualifying took place beneath yet more sunshine and relatively warm temperatures, and resulted in a respectable 4th and 5th place grid slots for the two races, helped by a tow off Lee Sullivan on the last lap, down the Brooklands straight.

By race one, the weather conditions had changed dramatically. Standing water was scattered across the circuit and the rain continued to fall – our first wet race of the year. Qualifying had been dominated by Ben Palmer, who converted his qualifying speed into race pace. A battle for third place emerged between Robb Addison, myself, Dave Mellor, and newcomer Andy Rodgerson. Nose to tail, and separated by just over one second for seven laps, the train of four cars began to get restless on lap seven. Putting a move on Addison into Campbell, I slipped into third, with Rodgerson following me through. The following lap, Rodgerson attempted to repeat this move on myself, but under pressure from Dave Mellor behind, he ended up with two wheels on the grass. Unable to slow down for the tight complex, there was heavy contact. Despite being collected, I gathered the car and retained position, but the loss of speed through this section had meant that both Mellor and Addison were ready to pounce. Mellor passed Rodgerson and was closing rapidly through the sweeping Noble and Goodwood corners. On the run to Church, Mellor made a lunge before backing out. The loss in momentum for both of us allowed Addison and Rodgerson to draft each other around the outside of both of us. The fight continued right down to the flag, but the positions were already determined. Palmer won by an impressive 16-second margin, with Addison, Rodgerson, myself and Mellor crossing the line just 0.7 seconds apart.

Sunshine returned for race two. As the five-second warning board was raised, my engine began to pulse. Almost stalling, I had to bury the throttle just to keep the engine turning over, leading to wheelspin off the line and losing places to both Mellor and Rodgerson. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one experiencing technical issues with third-place man Lee Sullivan retiring almost immediately. Down in sixth place, and with Rodgerson ahead the idea was to sit tight and wait for any irrational moves from the pack ahead. It didn’t happen. What did happen was I missed third gear coming on to the home straight on lap three, dropping off the bumper of Rodgerson and into the clutches of Jamie French in seventh. Having not adjusted the setup sufficiently to take account of the dry conditions, by lap five, tire degradation meant chronic understeer through the low-speed sections of the track, meaning I was unable to shake French, or catch up with Rodgerson. And this is how it pretty much how it stayed, until I survived a last-lap attack from French at the final chicane.

Next race: Rounds 13 & 14, Cadwell Park, September 7th/8th

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 9 & 10, Snetterton, 13/14 July 2013

Another new set of tires adorned the ZR ahead of Snetterton; locking up during the fluid spill at Brands Hatch had burnt through the laminate of all four tires, as well as separating sidewall from carcass on two.

Supporting the FIA/CIK European Superkart Championship meant that we would be using the Snetterton 300 – meaning my class record on the 200 configuration would stand for another year – which is just as well, as polesitter Robb Addison was shifting, taking pole from Lee Sullivan by over a second.

Race one was hectic from the word go. Getting a good start, I jumped Vince Pain off the line, and headed up towards Riches right behind the bright yellow F of Simon Kendrick. Thanks to the differences in drivetrain, I had a stronger run through the sweeping right-hander, and up towards Montreal. On the run up to Palmer, I made my move, positioning the car to the left of Kendrick. Due to me losing my mirror in the off-the-line fracas, and an error in judgment on my behalf, I didn’t leave Kendrick room on the exit of Palmer and cut across his nose. Unsettling the rear of the ZR, it forced me to get out of the throttle momentarily. With Kendrick forced on to the grass, and the ZR caught off guard, Pain capitalized and gained the two places before the pack swarmed through the tightening left hander.

The lead six ZRs quickly made our escape, lapping some three seconds quicker than the rest of the pack. Up front Pain and Sullivan continued to trade paint for position, whilst Addison set about disappearing into the distance. The battle for fourth between Palmer, Mellor and myself went on for three laps, with the two ahead going offensive and defensive in to every corner, I was able to latch on to the back of them. All was going well until, desperate to slow the car at the end of the Bentley Straight, I decided to slam the gearbox into second. With the needle bending around the stop at the top of the rev counter, I quickly knocked it back in to third hoping that any damage had been avoided. However, this fumbling with the gearbox allowed Palmer and Mellor to wiggle free. With the next guy down the road some 11 seconds back I nursed the car home, conscious of the impromptu downshift. The following lap, I was greeted with the smoking ZR of Lee Sullivan, whose head gasket had failed, handing me fifth place.

Race two was somewhat different, the blistering heat of the day before had subsided, and we were greeted with a more comfortable day for racing. Feeling confident with the car’s pace, I made another decent start, picking off Kendrick again before turn one. Carrying much more speed through Riches, I lined up on the outside of Mellor for the run up to Montreal. Briefly passing Mellor, I was up to fourth for all of a second, before the inside line paid its dividend and he regained the place. Next time around, the gearbox problem that surfaced briefly at Brands Hatch showed its ugly face once again. Continually popping out of third, it was taking three and four attempts to select a gear; meaning changes were measured in seconds rather than being instantaneous. This carried on until lap five, when the gearbox decided it had had enough. A broken selector is the preliminary diagnosis, but thankfully there is now a five-week respite before last year’s bogey track of Thruxton…

Next race: Rounds 11 & 12, Thruxton, August 17th/18th

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 7 & 8, Brands Hatch, 29/20 June 2013

With temperatures soaring to near 30°C, Brands Hatch was going to be baking hot. It was also going to be, on paper at least, a less eventful weekend too as the ZRs had been allocated a separate grid away from the Fs and classic MGs. New front Yokohamas were fitted for qualifying. The odd ambient and track temperatures meant that they took time to bed in, and clean flying laps around the Indy circuit were proving hard to come by thanks to traffic. Nevertheless, I qualified 5th in both races, with little over a second covering the top seven cars.

Race one saw me make a great start, but after an aborted move up the inside of Vince Pain’s slow-starting ZR, I fell back to fifth. Following the unfortunate destruction of his MGF at Castle Combe two rounds ago, Robb Addison had had a new ZR built from its ashes, but owing to a catalytic convertor problem in qualifying, he had started from the back of the grid. His impressive pace meant that he was now breathing down my neck. Taking more curb through Surtees and McLaren, I waited for Mark Halsall to scrub wide on the run in to Clearways. Diving up the inside, I emerged ahead at Clark Curve before the start of lap two, dragging Addison through with me. But I only managed to keep him behind for a lap. Within four, my tires were badly overheated due to a too-soft setup. Combined with me repeating a questionable line into Paddock Hill, that meant that the lead pack pulled away. I remained stuck in 6th place until the flag dropped some 14 sweltering laps later.

Ramping the rebound damping up several clicks for race two meant the car was a lot stiffer and more appropriate for the climate. Dropping the tire pressures and advice from Vince Pain on my line into Paddock Hill, only boosted the confidence higher. On lap 7 however, someone’s engine let go on the run through Paddock. This collected several of the midfield cars, including Harjinder Bhambra’s ZS, which finished up in the infield barrier. When the leaders came through half a lap later, it was disappointing to find that no warning flags were being shown, with the result that almost the entire field was collected by the oil and ended up in the gravel trap at the bottom of the hill, myself included. Most cars suffered damage of varying degrees but unfortunately Mellor’s ZR hit the barrier hard, destroying the front and rear of the car. Luckily I escaped without a scratch, and I’m still not sure how as the car came to rest just off the rumble strip as four more cars attempted to make the turn.

The restart saw the remaining, now rallycross-spec ZRs line-up for a five-lap dash to the flag. Having lost Mellor, I lined up P4 on the grid and made a great start, hanging off Palmer’s exhaust through Druids, and down through Graham Hill bend. Turning in, he parked on the apex, catching me unaware and forcing me wide, allowing just enough room for Addison to wiggle through.

The following lap, and seriously overdriving the car in an attempt to reclaim the position, the car had a huge moment going through the same corner, spearing me onto the infield. With this the gap opened up, and with the top five completing the closing three laps within 0.8 seconds of each other, very little could be done to make up the lost ground and rather annoyingly I came home fifth. The tweaks to the car, and the revised lines through the early part of the lap meant I was running with real pace. My racecraft just needs some work now!

Next race: Rounds 9 & 10, Snetterton, July 13th/14th

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 5 & 6, Silverstone, 8/9 June 2013

The week leading up to Rounds 5 & 6 was glorious, and the weather report predicted more of the same over race weekend. What greeted us at the Northamptonshire circuit was a light drizzle, clouds and a biting wind.

Having raced the full GP circuit last year, the triangular National circuit shouldn’t have posed too many problems, but free practice saw all the ZR drivers complaining of chronic understeer and a general lack of grip. My ZR was seemingly the worst affected, resulting in dismal qualifying slots of tenth for race one, and eight for race two.

By the time race one came around in the late afternoon, the track had bedded in thanks to some five races having taken place between the two sessions. Tweaks to the car’s dampers and inside tire pressures meant that the car felt much more balanced, too.

In race one, the lowly grid slot meant that a good start was vital. Despite the tires nearing the end of their usefulness, I managed not to light them up and got away cleanly, clearing Stuart Philps from the line and having a strong run up into Copse. Mark Baker’s MGF head gasket had shown signs of failure after qualifying, and rather than risk full failure, he chose to sit out the two rounds – handing me another place – whilst in the mad dash round the first two corners, I also managed to pass the F’s of Stephen Williams and Peter Higton.

The bright blue ZR of Dave Mellor was my next target, but without causing a sizeable accident, but there simply was no way past. The two of us spent the next 10 laps nose to tail. On lap 12, the spinning Midget of Chris Pollard decided to rejoin the circuit in front of our two ZRs. He headed straight for the racing line, cut me up and then held me up through Luffield. Mellor made quick his escape and the gap increased from 0.2 seconds up to 1.4 seconds. Race over, sixth place.  

Race two was the following day, and prayers for better weather fell on deaf ears. Baker’s still-absent F gifted me a grid slot again, whilst Mellor chose to let Rob Addison use his ZR for race two. The sanctioned driver change meant that Mellor gave up his sixth place on the grid and Addison would be starting from the back of the grid, thus moving me up to sixth.

Lining up on the grid, the reshuffle moved me to the outside, and the absent Baker’s car left a sizeable hole to my right, and right in front of Philps. As the lights went out, I couldn’t repeat Saturday’s strong start and immediately lost out to Philps. On the short run from Brooklands up to Luffield, on lap three, I had a much stronger run than Philps and used the momentum through the corner to position myself on his inside down through Woodcote and on to the National straight. By the end of lap 5, I was just 0.2seconds behind the next-placed car, Peter Higton’s F.

The following lap, I went to replicate the move I had made on Philps, again getting a stronger drive through Luffield. Heading up towards Woodcote, however, Higton had other ideas as he began moving, across squeezing me towards the pit wall. With me unable to go anywhere other than straight on, Higton continued coming across, and made contact right on the apex and I span him toward the pit wall. Higton collected it and did well to keep it out of the barrier, at a point with very little run off. The next man down the road was Kendrick, in yet another F – the lead pack of ZRs was just in front of the bright yellow roadster. Unfortunately, in the little time that was left, it was looking impossible to catch Kendrick, let alone Pain, Palmer and Sullivan upfront.

Heading on to the Wellington Straight for the final time, still just over 1.1 seconds behind Kendrick, a cloud of smoke filled the Luffield section – leader Lee Sullivan’s engine had let go in a monumental way, leaving the stricken ZR to limp to the line. Passing him coming through Woodcote, I gained another place, taking me to 4th overall and 3rd in class.

Next race: Rounds 7 & 8, June 29th/30th, Brands Hatch

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 3 & 4, Castle Combe, 6 May 2013

After my lackluster opening round to the 2013 season, Castle Combe had to go well. The MGOC had not visited the circuit for over 12 years, and the fact that this round was televised live to most of Europe on MotorsTV only added to the nerves.

Friday testing in the MG is banned following the two eventful sessions last year, so I took my road car over to the Wiltshire circuit for a trackday two days prior to the event. Out of everything I was told that day, one phrase stuck with me until the Bank Holiday meet: “Castle’s a flowing circuit; get the rhythm right and you’ll be fine. If you find yourself fighting the car to go quicker, you’re doing it wrong.”

Holding those sentiments dear, I lined up in qualifying behind the ZR of Vince Pain. After Vince’s two sterling drives from the back of the grid at Donington, I knew his car was quick enough – stick with him in qualifying and a decent grid slot was guaranteed, on paper at least. Nevertheless, assembling at the front of the pack, we had a clear track for a good few laps before coming up behind the straggling Locosts, who had missed their own qualifying session and proceeded to block the leading pack of MGs, oblivious to multiple blue flags and three ZRs filling their mirrors. Poor form whichever way you look at it. A red flag for an accident involving two MGBs left just two laps left to squeeze in a decent time. The times I posted were good enough to put me fourth on the grid for Race One and third for Race Two.

Race One saw an interesting opening lap. The ZR of Pain pounced from fifth place and challenged for the lead come Quarry. However, due to a suspected ill-fitting fuel cap, under braking the rear lost all form of grip and sent Pain into a sizeable tank slapper. Spinning to a stop right on the apex, the following pack did its best to avoid the ZR – and Pain was down to last by the time he rejoined. Lee Sullivan continued his dominance from Donington, and with this fracas splitting the pack, he was able to build a sizeable lead.

Meanwhile I was caught in a battle with Ben Palmer and Dave Mellor for third place. We all benefited when Sullivan slowed due to a wiring loom issue, but the same lap saw me make a mistake heading through the exit of the Esses, which gave Mellor a run up the inside. Luckily for me, he repeated the mistake the following lap, handing me back the place. Now back into third, and with Mellor’s bright blue ZR firmly affixed to my rear bumper, we set about closing the seven-second gap to Addison’s MGF. With track and air temperatures as high as anything the middle of summer threw at the championship last year, the tire’s operating window was narrowed considerably. By lap 7 the car was far looser than anything I’d felt up until now – the only saving grace was that the car behind me was suffering too, and the car in front suffering even more so. Despite this, the gap to Addison was too much to close, and the three of us crossed the line with a little over nine tenths separating us.

Race Two started similarly to the first, with Palmer dropping back off the line, and the fast starting F of Addison making the most of this. Bogging down off the line myself allowed Pain to jump me on the run to Quarry. Slipping back to fourth, and with Palmer filling my rear view, Race Two looked set to be as exhausting as the first. This was until Rob Addison dropped his F on the exit of the Esses, bumping me up to third. The following lap, Pain missed a gear on the run through Hammerdown. He made a defensive move but I managed to squeeze to the inside of him through Tower, just before the door slammed in Palmer’s face. Then came yellow flags and safety-car boards: in an attempt to catch up with the lead pack, Addison had lost the rear through Bobbies and impacted heavily with the tire wall, effectively destroying his F and promoting me to second.

Three laps behind the safety car were required to rebuild the damaged section and remove the car from the circuit, which meant a one-lap dash to the flag. Having never had to do a rolling restart before, I cast my memory back to various Aussie V8 Supercar and BTCC races I’d seen and attempted to emulate them. Sitting in the spare wheel well of leader Sullivan’s ZR, I waited for the brake lights to go out and followed him to the line. He pulled a 0.4 second advantage out in a little over 600 yards, the saving grace being that I’d done the same to Pain. The latter stayed behind me to the flag, and on the day it had mattered the most, I had bagged my best results to date.

Next race: Rounds 5 & 6, June 8th/9th, Silverstone

Image courtesy of Marcia Mellor


Rounds 1 & 2, Donington Park, 7 April 2013

Following the calamities that brought the 2012 season to a close, the winter months were mainly spent making the poor little MG ZR look like a car again. A season of hard use, and abuse, saw the winter repair list take in; new engine number three; another new bonnet; a new roof skin and a gearbox rebuild – turns out cogs one and two were short a few teeth…

The repairs were one reason why I had no pre-season testing. The silver lining of the work to the roof is that the car is no longer a sunroof model, and so instead of carrying round a metal plate on its head, the car is now finally waterproof and more importantly, 8kg lighter.

2013 has seen a dramatic increase in interest for the series too. At the MGOC awards at the end of last season, the PMW Expo-liveried ZR picked up an award for best-prepared car, and has been responsible for drawing interest to the championship! As a result, Donington saw Class Z swell from an average of five or six cars last year, to 13 entries, within a much larger grid of 34 cars.

During qualifying I managed to drop it coming down through Craner Curves. After three laps at moderate pace, I foolishly believed to have enough heat in the tires and jumped into full attack mode. Unbeknown to me, the ZR of Vince Pain had varnished Donington with most of its gearbox oil (which would also relegate him to the back of the grid). After bouncing down Craner sideways, and save for a stone jammed in to the tire bead, I escaped with nothing more than an increased heart rate and a dry mouth. Nevertheless my times put me ninth on the grid in race one, and eighth in race two. However, pole sitter Lee Sullivan and ex-karting champion newcomer Ben Palmer, both in Dean Sullivan-built ZRs, obliterated the field in qualifying (and the races). Sullivan’s two pole times were some three seconds faster than third place…

Race one saw me lose a place off the line to returnee racer, Ian Evans. I stayed 10th for three laps, by which time the headlamps of the recovering Pain filled my rear view. Heading through Coppice I took to the outside of Evans, whilst Pain took the inside; both clearing Evans’ bright orange ZR, we set off after the pack in front. My plan was to let Pain in the faster car through, snag his rear bumper and let him pull me round. On lap 5 we had a 5-second deficit, but a lap later it was down to just over a second. The plan was working sublimely until we reached the leading pack. Using a little force, Pain nudged the ZR of Nick Golhar as we heading through Coppice, working enough of a gap for just one car to get through. Trapped behind Golhar, who with his many years of racing has an annoying ability of making his ZR wider than anyone else’s, is where I stayed. We crossed the line 11 laps later, just 0.7s apart.

For race two, I lined up on the outside of the grid, allowing me to emulate Pain’s first-race tactic of hanging high going into Redgate, whilst the rest of the grid dived for the apex. After a poor start and losing ground to Evans and Paul Wiseby, I skirted around the outside as they all bunched together. When I filtered back in, I emerged in seventh. After two laps Stuart Philps and myself made it past Mark Baker, and spent the next couple bumper to bumper. Come lap 5, the headlights of Pain glared once again in my mirror…

Following a strong drive out of Old Hairpin, I had the run on Philps going up under Starkey’s Bridge, and on the left flick of Schwantz Curve, I stuck my nose up inside the MGF. Philps initially took a much wider line on the approach to the corner and as such, came back across to line up for McLeans. However, as he continued to come across on me I instinctively hit the brakes to avoid contact, and instead on nudging his rear ¾, the resultant collision meant I tapped his rear bumper, regrettably sending him off into the gravel.

The car ended up beached in the trap and race control took the decision to bring the safety car out. After 3 laps behind it, the chequered flag fell and I came home fifth. Not how I’d have wanted to gain a place, or result, but that’s how it ended.

The car, despite no winter testing, felt stronger than ever. It is more than likely a placebo effect, but the new roof skin appears to have aided handling dramatically. With a couple of improvements lined up over the next couple of rounds, and with the increased level of competition in Class Z, 2013 is going to be very interesting.

Next Round: Televised live race from Castle Combe (Motors TV) 6th May

Image courtesy of SMS Images


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