Mini Se7en Round 1 – Donington
With the Mini Se7en Racing Clubs Dunlop Mini Miglia / Se7en Challenge supported by Mini Sport finally underway we can now provide you with a long awaited race report from the AL Motorsport Team:
Donington Park – Round 1
Well the first round of the Se7en Championship supported by Mini Sport is looming very fast. Car 44 of Adam Smith, was finished midweek before the race, where as car 7 of Leon Wightman was still needing to be setup due to all the suspension changes that were made over the winter, new cones all round, new rear sub frame, new anti roll bar, new rear floor and finally a new fuel cell!
Friday was setup day, and due to the amount of work, the car was taken to Dave Yardy at Track, Road and Race in Northampton. With hours spent and lots of head scratching and tea, the rear end was not right… no matter what we tried. Finally after some dismantling we found the camber brackets were to blame. After some welding and a 1am finish, car 7 was ready for the first round.
We arrived at the track and were greeted with some very high winds, which continued for the whole weekend, which resulted in a few Mary Poppins style gazebos flying down the paddock followed by their owner!
Once set up, we applied the finishing touches and applied the rest of new club sponsor graphics, them being, Mini Sport, IXO Models, and A Series Specialists, so a huge thank you to all of you for your commitment to the longest running single make race series in Europe!
Sunday morning started badly for both drivers with a still poorly Adam, and a newly poorly Leon who picked up a stomach bug… not a great start for both of our drivers at the beginning of the season, but as soon as you are strapped in, the aches and pains are soon forgotten – all be it for 20 minutes!
With both drivers having driven Donington before, expectation were high for both drivers, aiming for a solid top ten result. Adam was bedding in tyres for the race and was slightly suffering with under steer and a soft brake pedal. Both drivers got caught in a bit of traffic but managed to complete 9 laps with Leon and Adam finishing 8th and 9th respectively. A solid result, but both drivers know there is a lot more to come after studying in car footage afterwards. While the team do all the nut and bolt checks, tyre rotation and fuelling, the weather decides to drop some wet stuff……let’s hope it does not last!
Fortunately the slight rain had stopped, and with a drying wind, the track was bone dry in no time at all. Both drivers knew the start was important, as many places can be gained with not much effort. Starting 8th and 9th, the front row was clearly visible as was the narrowing piece of tarmac that lay before them in to the first turn, Redgate.
With the green flag lap over, both drivers slot in to their grid spot and wait for the rest of the pack to line up. The 1 minute board was shown… gauges all reading ok, 30 seconds board, and the heart start to pound… 5 seconds board….. clutch in and wait for the lights…..before you know it they are on… revs raise on the grid like a hive of angry wasps…. red lights are out… not too many revs and drop the clutch. Leon makes a good start and holds position on the outside of the track, Adam bogged down slightly and looses one place to Baker off the line.. the run in to the first corner anywhere is busy to say the least, but with Redgate being a late apex corner, not all is lost if you can keep on the bumper to the car in front. Leon is hung out to dry and attempts a move around the outside, but with half the pack on the inside drifting to the outer limits the kerb and grass soon loom. Adam Latchets on to the back of Baker as 20 cars are literally nose to tail, side by side dropping down one of the fastest parts of the track, the Craner Curves.
With everyone still on reasonably cold tyres, the cars are moving around a lot, Adam drops back a little so not to get involved with someone else’s accident, but in turn gets a great exit from the Old Hairpin, A slight mistake from Leon at McLeans allowed Baker and Adam to go by… and that was JUST the first lap… Both team mates now running line astern, it was Adam who was all over Baker, while Leon gets back in to the groove and tries to catch them both.
By now, all 3 of us were catching the leading pack as they squabble in front. This allows Leon to get right back up there as the front runners jostle for position. Adam tries to go around the outside of Baker, but allows Leon to get up the inside on the run down to the chicane. Over the line one more time with Leon right on the boot lid of Baker, he lunges up the inside of Baker at Redgate making contact and slowing his exit to allow Adam back past both of them!
Again running in formation, Adam is now catching Gareth Hunt, all 8 cars slip streaming on the way down to the chicane, there was sure to be some moves made, Damon Astin clips one of the huge kerbs allowing Hunt through but leaving Adam having to avoid the wayward pink car of Astin. With the slight lift this allows Leon to pull right up with Adam as they go down the pit straight.
Adam dummies a move in to Redgate, but Astin is too wise to be phased by Adams antics. With Leon still chasing, Adam forces Astin in to a small mistake, running wide, although not enough for Adam to make a move. With a run on Astin around Coppice, Adam makes a move on the inside to the chicane with Leon following close behind, having the best seat in the house to watch, Astin just had the legs down the straight and Adam could do nothing but drop back till the braking zone for the Chicane where both cars braked at the same time, but Adam managed to hold the inside line, Leon was looking to capitalise on Astins poor exit down the start finish straight as Adam was away chasing Hunt again. Astin went rallying at Redgate allowing Leon to get the run through Hollywood and the Craner Curves but with Astin on the inside, Leon had nowhere to go so slotted in behind and chased hard as Adam remained on the bumper of Hunt.
Hunt, Adam and Astin got past the back marker of Keat, where as Leon had to dive up the inside as Keat stayed well out of the way. Leon went wide on to the kerb…… grass….. gravel,,,, and slightly caught his mirror on the wall (YES THAT CLOSE) Baker got back past as Leon tried to recover… Damons brother pointed on the Pit wall that that Leon had an issue, so he cruised back to the pits and his race was over (latter to be found out to be a cracked oil cooler).
Adam was still fighting tooth and nail to to try and get his best result of 5th off Hunt.. nose to tail for the whole race, Adam managed to get past Hunt, but for only half a lap as the seasoned racers Astin who got a great exit out of clearways and Hunt out braked Adam in the Chicane… So back to 7th and back on to chasing down 5th and 6th place. With the rest of the race being nose to tail, and all 3 drivers changing places almost corner by corner, Adam managed to get inside Astin, 2 laps to go, Adam had his mirror FULL of the pink car of Astin, with his heart racing faster than his 8500rpm Mini Se7en he held it all the way to the chequered flag, equalling Adams best result in the dry of 6th place… it felt like a win…. beaming from ear to ear, to be able to compete with the sharp end of the grid and putting Adam in his highest place in the championship of 6th – all be it after the first round. With positives to be taken for both drivers over the weekend the 2013 Championship is looking really good for Team AL Motorsport.
Special thanks to all the 2013 sponsors, MiniSport, Emtome WiFi Hotspots, Q8 Oils, City Plumbing, and last but by no means less, the rest of the team…. without you all, none of this would be possible.
We hope to see you all there at Rockingham on the 11th & 12th of May!