I was looking forward to Rockingham as I love the way the Bailey/Mini Sport car is at the moment “It’s a joy to drive a car that’s on the pace day in day out”.
Justin my teammate in the MiniSport 4 car has got a new transporter for his garage business and we have fitted a tow bar so we can take both the race Minis and their spares to the races as well as tow a brand new 2012 Bailey Orion caravan behind.
We loaded up on the Friday evening and set off to the Rock. We cruised there with our new set up and set about building garage 27 for the weekend. Once it was all sorted I made us both Pizza and beans for tea. After my Michelin star meal I took Justin and Steve Rideout on a circuit walk telling them all what I think you should do round the Rock, then back at the Caravan we started to have a few beers with Chris Morgan, his Dad, Paul Inch and the Slades. One thing leads to another and “O Bugger its 3am” …Off to bed!
The next morning was sunny and bright but very windy and we had both cars scrutinised and ready to qualify.
One thing that proved to be fortuitous was that I had to take some paddock passes up to the main gate for one of our sponsors Maxview Satellites who were coming as our guests. It was this trip up to the gate, which is a long way on a Go-Ped, that I realised just how windy it was!
So for qualifying I knew that a double slipstream would be the best way to get pole so I went out on new freshly buffed tyres. By buffed i mean that we have the tyres, which are a standard Yokahoma road track day tyres, buffed down to 4 millimeters. The reason we do this is that the tread on a new tyre is very deep and the car rolls about on a standard tread depth. If you have a new one buffed you don’t get as much roll in the tread but also the side wall of the tyre is still stiff, it may seem odd but its worth a lot in lap times.
Anyway with the new tyres the car was very sloppy for the fist few laps so I was sliding all over the track until about 4 laps in when I could feel the tyres come in and I knew we had to set up a good lap. I let a few cars past then made sure that at least 4 quick cars were in front before I started my pole lap.
I came out onto the straight and got a lovely tow from first Ade Tuckley then pulled up to the back of Chris Slade, may car was banging off the speed limiter so I knew we were on a good one, I reeled of the rest of the laps but never again hit the limiter. I was pulled at Scrutineering and had all the usual checks done such as ride height plus a new one, air filter then we were released back to the garages. It was then that Chris Inch my engine builder and the Dad of multiple Champion Louise said I was on pole by nearly 1 second and also 8 tenths under the lap record. Wow my plan had paid off big time.
Justin had also had one of his best qualify, as he was 16th on the grid after only ever walking the track the night before a great job all things considered
I sat on pole by a long way but I knew it was going to be no walk over as the draft had given me that time not any car advantage. I made a good start but had David Marcusson and Kelvin Fletcher (Andy Sugden from Emmerdale and a very good driver) all over me, I managed to keep the lead for 2 laps but then Ade Tuckley, who had disposed of the other two, drafted past me so the fight was on.
We swapped places a few times with no silly moves as I want the young lads to respect my driving just as I will theirs, and I hit the front again a few more laps in and I had a slight break of about 3 car lengths and I thought to myself OK get your head down and try to pull away and as soon as I said that to myself I made a right cock up of the last chicane and they were on me again. I could see from my mirrors that it was a great race behind me as by now we had Dan Palmer alongside David, Kelvin and Ade. Just then the safety car came out and we had to make a train in race order. I was leading with Dan behind me but I had noticed that the safety car lights had gone out immediately so he was coming in at the end of the same lap! I latched onto his bumper and Dan made a dash to get to me but to be honest I think only the top 5 cars had sussed out the safety car was coming in as there was a massive gap to the rest and they had blown their race chances.
So I lead from Dan with David Marcusson on Dans boot lid. We had 3 laps to run until the flag and Dan did a great job to try a move on me but my car was very good and my Paul Inch engine is also very good as I could match his moves lap after lap and it was only on the long slipstreaming part of Rockingham that he was going to give me much trouble.
As I am an old man I have learned a few tricks over the years from some of the best Mini racers of our time like Peter Baldwin and Ian Curley so I new if it stayed as it was Dan was going to have a dive at me on the last lap or if not him David Marcusson would as he is a novice but with a very fast Chris Morgan built and run car so he would do anything without worry for its consequences so I used the old slow them in the slow corners and back them up trick, it worked a treat because, as I thought, Marcusson made a banzi move on Dan and they had a coming together at the last chicane with poor Dan coming off the worse. Somehow Marcusson got away with it and finished right on my tail but we had won again a great result for Mini Sport and for me.
My team mate Justin Cooper had a DNF after he was hit on the 4th lap so he retired the car with bent steering although this was his first DNF so far.
We are now looking forward to Silverstone at the end of July.