Rounds 5 & 6 were held at the world famous Kent circuit of Brands Hatch which was holding its first Mini Festival, and judging by the bumper crowd, it was a huge success on a lovely sunny (in the end) weekend. It was not only the crowd that was bumper packed… The Mini Se7en had its largest grid for some years, with 28 buzzing minis filling the grid. As this is one of the shortest tracks we visit, Qualifying could be interesting for some.
The team drove down to the track Thursday night as we knew the paddock was going to be a busy one, especially with many other cars testing on the Friday. Looking at the 5 day forecast it was looking like it was to be a wet weekend, and it started Thursday night with rivers running down the paddock and high winds. Friday was dryer, although the winds seemed to pick up even more, with many Gazebos losing their covers and AL Motorsports team members hanging off the frame so that we did not do a Mary Poppings over the Kent countryside!
With Adams car still undergoing changes and improvements, everyone was interested to see how the new rear shocks supplied by Selby Engineering would perform. From the start Adam took it easy and bedded himself in with the new set up, building up pace slowly on the warm and windy track. Leon was up to speed much quicker and got some great early laps, in what was a busy qualifying session that was finished under a red flag due to an S Class mini going off at Paddock Hill bend and getting stuck in the “kitty litter”. With Adam slowly getting used to the new handling he could have done with the 3 or so extra laps of the session, Leon finished in 13th and Adam in 14th for race 1 and 12th and 14th respectively for race 2. Not AL Motorsports best qualifying, but reasonably happy due to the large grid and getting used to new setups.
With a tightly packed grid and small track Brands Hatch always supplies great racing and Race 1 was not to disappoint. With both cars side by side on the grid the first corner was always going to be interesting. Adam got the initial jump with a cracking start from the outside of the grid, but this put him on the dirty side of Paddock Hill bend, so Leon managed to get back past… So much jostling for position, 3 abreast into Druids, with some manouvers that many drivers would call forceful defensive moves from some drivers however everything settled down to a 4 way scrap for 10th with 2 of the 5 cars being AL Motorsports own Leon and Adam. With so many changes of position between the remaining 4 cars in the group it was hard to know who would come out on top and with all the squabbling between the 4 cars, a 5th car was coming up fast to join the battle royal!
Around 6 laps from the end, Adam took car 88, Kieren McDonald, going into Graham Hill Bend, only for him to retire with transmission trouble. With one less car to fight with Adam tried to latch on to the 2 cars in front. Ian Deviny and Leon were ahead of him, trading places or at least trying to! Leon saw a gap into the entrance of Paddock Hill but Ian firmly closed the door and contact was made, this brought Adam ever closer to the battle in front, but he seemed to lack just that little bit to challenge for 9th and 10th. The race was to end in that order, with Leon coming home in the top 10 and Adam right behind him in 11th. Both cars finishing above their qualifying position and Adam finally getting the 44 car up the grid and back on pace.
A stripped Sub frame bolt did not help Adams handling. We also discovered an oil leak that appeared to be coming from the block to gearbox… as there is not much time between races, it had to be “patched” for race 2.
Leon starting 12th and Adam 14th with a missing 13 place (due to Kieran’s earlier transmission trouble), it looked like it was to be another close race…the 5 second board goes out…. the red lights are shown…. 28 classic minis engine revs rise….the lights go out…don’t bog down…. don’t spin your wheels….. and the race is under way flying into the first corner! Another great start by both drivers, but with both cars on the outside this time, it was a task to keep everyone behind from slipping up the inside into Paddock Hill bend.
Leon tried to switch to the inside for Druids to make a move on Ian, but quickly ran out of room and putting 2 wheels onto the grass, fortunately it was dry so Leon could slow it down and make the corner. Adam on the other hand went for the risky outside line, going around the outside of Ian, but Adam was pushed out on to the kerbing.. Leon and Adam side by side into Graham Hill bend, Adam with the inside line. Leon giving plenty of room and keeping his momentum up manage to out drag Adam into Surtees where we stayed line astern for the time being with both AL Motorsport cars trying to catch the red car of Ian. Leon started to pull away slowly from Adam with better drive out of clearways and giving chase for the next few laps. Adam was hanging on, watching the race unfold when car 44 started to smoke a little… this got progressively worse even with Adam not pushing as there was only 6 laps left. With the Smoke getting worse Adam thought it was time to ease off an come in, and on the same lap got shown the “come in to the pits flag, all is not good”!
In the mean time Leon was still pressing on chasing Ian, but could not catch him enough to make any real challenge so he managed a best of the day in 9th… still top ten, so a good weekend all round for car 45. Another DNF for car 44, but signs of some progress can be taken away from the meeting and evidence that we are slowly ironing out all the bugs from the new car.
Leons consistancy now means that he is up to 4th in the Championship with Adam in 16th after two or three reliability issues, however these are being resolved race by race as AL Motorsport have kindly reported back to us. We hope to have another update from them soon, with the next race weekend being at Snetterton on the 14/15th June.