Rounds 10 and 11 bring AL Motorsport and the Mini 7 club to the historic grand prix track of Zolder in Belgium. With great names of the past like Villeneuve, Lauda, Ickx, and Scheckter all being on the famous podium at this truly amazing track.
Being a new track to all bar a couple of drivers, everyone made use of an hours test session on the Friday. This was just to learn the track in the first 15min session, and find out all the quirks of the historic track. Adam also needed to know how his completely new setup would feel, after a day with Dave Yardy at Track, Road, and Race a week prior.
The second 15min session saw both AL Motorsport drivers try some different approaches, gears and breaking points for all of the tricky chicanes. At the end of testing both drivers seemed happy with the cars and track.
Saturday morning everyone woke up to a lovely blue sky making tyre choice a no brainer. A mixed qualifying and race would see a very busy track this weekend, so getting near the sharp end of the grid was a must. Adam in car 43 this weekend (due to a mixed grid of migs and sevens) was unsure how the new setup would work his tyres, so with that, only did 5 flying laps in the half hour session, and then cooled both engine and tyres before another one or two flying laps which. He continued to do this for the rest of the session as he was with no other driver to vet a draft down the straights. Leon in car 17 for this weekend managed to latch on to the back of some faster drivers and spent the half hour session pushing all the way, and exploring the limits of the car around some of the trickly corners. With no major issues apart from some yellow flags on flying laps, both drivers came back with no problems, just very sweaty in the basking morning sun! Leon managed 8th for both races and Adam got a 6th and 7th respectively.
Due to the mixed race of ‘Migs’ and Sevens, the grid was split into two halfs…Miglias at the front, then the Sevens, with the latter having a 15 second gap in case any first corner incident happened with the Miglias.
Due to the hill on the start line and the distance back due to the Miglias at the front, Adam could not see the start lights clearly, so had to watch when Andrew Deviny flinched. Leon managed to get sight of one light and made a rocket start but could not make use of it, getting blocked by the cars in front.
With a lot of jostling on the first lap, the Sevens came up to the last chicane before the start finish line only to be greeted with every flag that the marshals had, plus another marshal on the side of the track either doing some North American tribal dance or trying to slow everyone down. It soon became apparent with everyone locking up that there was oil on the track… A LOT of oil! The Miglia driver Paul Clarke dropped all 5 litres going in to the chicane. Adam was the first of the AL Motorsport team to come across the oil of which was now accompanied by many Mini Sevens of which were sideways, backwards, even head on…. Darren and Ashley shot up the pitlane leaving Adam with not a lot of choices where to go. With a split second dessicion Adam buried the throttle and headed straight for the deep gravel… With tongue held in the right possition he made it through the carnage, although what became even more of a surprise was was that he was leading his first ever Mini Seven race (all be it with a little help from an oils spill)
Leon managed to also head for the gravel, all be it a slightly shallower part, coming out in 4th position. With an opportunity like this, both drivers were not going to need asking twice, so Adam put his head down and drove the wheels off of car 43, sometimes putting blind faith in the car to come out of the corner the other side! Leon was having a very busy time with Gareth and Damon as the laps started counting down, jostling for position and defending hard! Adam was still in the lead, although the championship leader was catching him slowly and a charging Ashley was catching them both! With 2 laps left, Adam was defenceless against Andrew Deviny down the main straight, deciding to let the position go rather than defend hard and lose more positions.
Leon was still battling with the mid-pack pushing the car faster and faster to try and catch the front runners… Before the checkered flag drops… slowly closing, but would it be too late?
Back at the front with the last lap board out, Ashley makes pass on Adam getting a much better exit from the long sweeping corner, up the hill in to the first chicane, try as Adam might, he could not hang on to the flying green car and Leon was finally running out of laps to catch up… So he settled for 7th place and Adam took his maiden 3rd place in the Mini Seven championship. Adam would like to thank his wife, for entering him as his birthday present…..and what a present!
Before going out, the team had to change from yesterdays dry tyres to wets, this was fine until a rear wheel stud snapped! Frantic work by Adam and the team got it all changed in time to make it to the assembly area!
A rather different start to Sunday morning in Belgium, with rain over night and a very dark, cloudy start. It would look like the drivers would get to see Zolder in the dry and wet! Unlike in England, where we get 2 green flag laps if we qualify and race in the dry, the grid only got the normal “line up on the grid and you are off” style… So with no cars really knowing where the grip was going to be, everyone left the grid with some caution heading up to the first bend. Again Adam could see no lights and so made a very average get away, but pulled along side Gareth Hunt. Leon on the other hand, managed an awesome start and was going to split Gareth and Adam, but as the gap got smaller, Leon had to back out of the move and try again on the second corner. Adam found a way around the outside of Gareth in to the first corner and manage to hold it, but a slower exit due to being slightly off line gave Gareth the run up the hill and out braked Adam in to the first chicane.
With staying on the black stuff a priority for Adam and the championship, he did not over push in trying to stick with the flying orange car of Gareth. This put the AL Motorsport pairing line a sturn for most of the race, Leon being much more confident under braking compared to Adam’s slightly over cautious stopping technique! Even though Adam was wanting to just finish and get good points, both team mates pushed hard. With an out braking manoeuver on Darren one place was made up by both drivers. Still jostling, Leon makes a bold move in to the hairpin although Adam quickly spots it and takes a wide entry to try the cutback down the straight to the final chicane. Coming out of the hairpin Adam pulled along side Leon and edged slightly ahead although this line had put Adam on the wrong side for an out braking move. However Leon found the inconsistent track conditions and had to straight line the chicane putting Adam back in front as the last lap board went out.
With a slight cushion Adam played safe as Leon tried to charge back from his slight error. He soon found himself back behind Adam, but with the lap running out the result stood, with a 5th for Adam and a close 6th for Leon. A great weekend for the team and the Championship with plenty of points.
As always a huge thank you to all team members, to Krystle as Adam would not have got on the podium, to all other team members who could not make the trip to Belgium and most importantly a thank you to our sponsors Mini Sport, Emtome, Selby Engineering, Q8 Oils, and City Plumbing.
A truly great weekends racing….lets see if the boys can finish off the season well at the next rounds in Kent at Brands Hatch. Come and show your support at the championship decider!