I suppose the Autumn Series was always going to be a bit damp. We’ve been bouncing between an early winter and an Indian summer for a few months, luckily the long range forecast for snow by mid October hadn’t materialised but as we all descended on Donington Park on Saturday 19 October we were met by angry skies and tepid temperatures.
Scrutineering out of the way and we settled down with a few beers to watch the wet Mighty Mini Night races then, as the socialising had turned into private parties in motorhomes, it was an early night in the van listening to the planes, the rain and the rave. Donington Exhibition Centre hosting a hardcore house night which ran into the early morning oozing out a soothing beat to help you drift off into a deep sleep.
Qualifying was held in dry weather on a wet track. The speed differentials were scary as some tiptoed around whilst others were on it, experimenting with the levels of grip. From the full field of 38 cars, I was pleased to have qualified twelfth and first MR2 but on reflection, this put me way outside my speed category should the track dry.
My start went well. I was away like a robber’s dog and holding my own with the powerful machinery around me and I took the Craners in ninth with a fair old gap behind me.
By Coppice I had been caught by Andy McLennan in the Swift and although he was quite a way behind me, the closing speed was huge so I stayed wide and allowed him room to sneak up the inside. Obviously, his speed was greater than his special awareness and he opened an account of Suzuki related incidents by punting me into the gravel trap.
It seemed like an hour but it took 50 seconds to wait for all the field to file past before the marshals were released from their posts, for them to run over to me and push me out and back onto the track. I rejoined and thought to myself; is it really worth carrying on now that I am over half a minute behind the last car and will be lapping on my own until the leaders come to lap me? Hell yeah. Onwards into battle.
I set off on a chase and once I’d rounded Redgate and cleared Hollywood for the second time, I could see a clear track in front of me, all the way up to Coppice. This could be a boring race. The next time round, I could see a steady stream of cars making their way under Starkies Bridge and by lap 4 I could hear their exhausts. From Coppice I was making my way through the backmarkers and the race got interesting as I encountered faster and faster cars on the way through and eventually finished 24th overall and really pleased to watch Dino and Steve battling it out on the last lap.
There was nowhere to go off the startline and to be fair, everyone was away fairly well so I had to settle in beside Dino and Steve with Tom piloting Nathan’s car just in front. It took me a lap or so to pick off Steve, Dino and Colonel Mustard by which time we had encountered Kamizuki who was doing his best to avoid anything that resembled a racing line and was quickly depositing credits in the Suzuki related incident account by bouncing over kerbs, through the gravel and generally ducking and weaving all over the track, hitting other cars and generally holding them up. At the Russell Chicane he bounced through the gravel then back onto track in front of Gareth and Kev Moulinex stacking them up and allowing me to catch them quite quickly. He then went on to back us all up through the craner curves, brake test Gareth in Starkies and the resultant closure had me all over the back of Gareth where I let it drift wide through Coppice and let everyone I’d passed back through again.
After a couple of laps, Moulinex has spun at Old Hairpin and I’d managed to get past Mustarde and I set about chasing Gareth down who was now 5 seconds up the road. I closed slightly, but Gareth was closing rapidly on Paul Corbridge and Pete Higton, eventually getting involved in the battle for second MR2; Adam Lockwood being well up the road in the lead. Another couple of Kamizuki incidents led to some coffee bean shaking gestures as he lost time through Russell Chicane but all survived unscathed to the finish and I was up to 16th.
Race 3 followed an absolute deluge which saw the Kart race abandoned.I thought I’d made a terrible start with loads of wheelspin but I’d managed to get round Paul and Pete by the time we exited Craner Curves. I could see Adam a few cars in front so my target was set on trying to catch him. In fairness, Adam was probably going quicker than me but my plight was not being helped by Kamizuki repeatedly spinning in front of me and the avoiding action and backing off required. Eventually, with a couple of laps to go, Kamizuki screamed past me on the start straight then backed me up around Redgate, then screamed off over Hollywood before backing right off for the Craners and Old Hairpin. As he was by no means troubling any apexes, I stuck to the racing line and allowed him to take to the kerb on the exit. He then made a sudden dive to the right and lifted off the throttle clipping my front end and firing him into a flat spin over the wet grass and into the tyres at Starkies. He wasn’t there next time round so I assume he’d rejoined, probably in front of the leaders or something but I continued and finished 13th overall and 2nd MR2.
The highlight of the weekend was resurrecting Neal Hurren’s written off MR2 and getting him out in races 2 and 3 after he’d managed to lose the front 2 feet in a race 1 incident. I’d love to see some before and after photos of the repair we made.