Well the 2012 season has flown by with some highs and lows for Team AL Motorsport. It is the last round of the 2012 calendar, and it brings us to the lovely circuit of Croft near Darlington.
With it being the end of September the weather was always going to be more suitable for thick coats and hoods than flip flops and sunglasses, and it was exactly that!
The weekend was to be a special one as Mini Magazine were coming up with a photographer to do a special feature on Leon, Adam and the rest of the AL Motorsport team!
The weather was kind to us for qualifying with the sun beaming down on a windy Croft Circuit. With cool temperatures getting the heat in to the tyres was the main aim before we started our flying laps. Both drivers started to get in to the groove, getting quicker with every lap although Adam was suffering slightly with handling issues, meaning he could not quite commit to the corner as he wished, where as Leon was flying. Both drivers just missing out on the top ten for qualifying, Leon would start 11th for both races and Adam was four tenths behind starting 13th and 12th. After watching some in car footage from qualifying we soon found out where we were losing some time to the front runners. With that, it was nut and bolt the cars, a slight set up change for Adam and back out for race 1 in the afternoon!
With the sun retreating behind the clouds and little threat of rain, it looked like it was going to be a windy, but dry first race. Both Leon and Adam made good starts, but due to the first corner being very tight for 20+ Minis the inside line soon got bunched up meaning little progress could be made away from the line however it did not take long for Adam to get inside the 88 car of Kieran McDonald going in to the right hander at Tower…. slightly holding off on the apex so that he couldn’t get a run on him into Sunny In… fortunately this worked out really well and both AL Motorsport cars were soon running line astern and catching the cars in front. Just after the fast right hander at Hawthorne, Nathan had some kind of coming together with the tyre barrier and was going nowhere fast. This brought out the safety car so the marshals could move the car in to a safer place. This allowed the whole field to bunch up once again.
After 2 laps of the safety car, green flags were waved and the race was back on! Leon suffered slightly with cold tyres and skipped across the gravel at Clervaux, but lost no time in doing so. Adam was chasing hard, but also had to defend from Kieran who was now right behind him. Out of the final corner on to the straight Adam had a good run down the straight, Tristan Knight had managed to get on the outside of Leon to pull along side with Adam drafting him down the pit straight, he pulled a pass on Leon who was “hung out to dry” on the marbles of turn one… forcing Leon to clip the gravel and kerbing. This gave a slow puncture but with 2 laps remaining, only the 88 car of Kieran managed to get past. At the end of all that, a great top 10 finish for both drivers 8th for Adam and Leon 10th.
Kierans was competing with the AL Motorsport team most of the race and you can watch their race unfold here on his onboard camera.
It was always going to happen… and it did….. the rain came and it was going to be in for most of the day. The morning was to be a busy one, after a season of a less than great handling car, we finally changed the last thing we could after an ex-champion mentioned that he had a similar problem some years ago. So with his advice we got to work and changed the front Cones just in time to go out… whilst all this was happening, Leon had also spotted a broken rear antiroll bar bolt! so it was all hands on deck and man the pumps!
With everyone helping, both Leon and Adam got out with time to spare, which just proves there is much more to racing than a fast car and good driver… you are no where without your team, and we have a great one.
So we lined up on the grid, and waited for the red lights to go out… with a few practice rolling starts to test the grip as the start would be very important. Too many revs would cause wheel spin losing time, lack of revs and the 998cc A series would bog down off cam. Both Leon and Adam made OK starts… not great, but good enough to be able to hold position in to the first corner. With all cars safely through Hawthorne, and into the chicane, we were met with cars darting left and right and a sea of brake lights… in the spray you could just make out a very fast spinning Gareth Hunt and somehow everyone managed to miss him. Like a scene from “Days of Thunder” a couple of drivers kept their foot in where as the test of the pack had to back off. With no one coming past Leon or Adam, we started to make inroads, slicing through the field, taking cars on the inside and outside of bends, clearly seeing that some people liked the wet conditions better than others. Both cars were getting faster and faster and catching Darren Thomas in the dying laps of the race… with 2 laps to go disaster was to happen with Adams car getting an intermittent electrical fault out of the chicane… loss of wipers (never good in the wet!) and lights…. and engine, before it picked up again… After Adam pulled off the circuit, he had the bonnet off and poked around as much as he could to see if he could breathe life into the car again, but to no avail.
A great finish for Leon in 6th though, and lots of positives for the 2013 season with a winter strip down.
Leon and Adam would like to thank the following people for all their help throughout the year. Krystle, Brian, Ann, Nancy, Paul, Derek, Perys, Max, Greg, Mini Sport, Emtome Wi-Fi Hotspots, Selby Engineering, Hunters Garage, Amber Leisure, and everyone else who has made this year possible.
The Mini Se7en season is now finished but you can keep up to date with everything Mini Se7en either on their Website or Facebook