The new season is here! Mini Sport are proud to be sponsoring the Mini Seven Championship again this year, as well as supporting several drivers in both the Mini Seven and Miglia Categories. The AL Motorsport Team, competing in the Mini Sevens have updated us on how their first outing of the season has gone:
Well it’s been nearly 6 months since our last race and report, so it must be time to fill the fuel tanks, check the dipstick, pump up the tyres and go racing!
But it’s never that simple …
A long list of winter jobs have been completed, namely body work repairs carried out at Mini Sport HQ in Padiham, and what a top job they did as well. The car looks fresh again, and with its new 2014 livery it’s very pleasing on the eye.
So with the basic prep done our attention has been turned to the engine and dash board, with a new unit fom Selby Race Engines, and with ECU management now allowed, there has been a substantial change to the car. Coupled with a Race Technology Dash 2 and DL1 data logger, the car has been brought into the 21st century.
It hasn’t been a smooth process though, the car was only finished on the day of our departure to Castle Combe for the first round of the Dunlop Mini Se7en challenge in association with Mini Sport, so a shake down and test session had to be shelved in favour of racing. It wasnt a hard decision!
We arrived at sunny Castle Combe with plenty of time spare, the idea being to give us a stress free setup period and get back into the groove of the race day gently. Having had rain the previous day the track was very damp and greasy which made for an interesting qualifying session. We elected to run old tyres on the front to allow us to scrub in new tyres on the rear, which was a good idea for the long term life of the tyres, but didn’t help in qualifying. The car lacked grip and developed a problem which was very distracting for me as I had red warning lights flashing. So with a less than ideal session I was reasonably pleased to secure 12th for race one and 11th for race 2 .
By race time the sun was shining, the air was warm and the crowds were bulging, as always Castle Combe had a strong audience. This year we were selected to be the cars on the grid for a track walk. We lined up in race formation, for an access all cars walkabout that saw over 150 people take advantage of being allowed to get very close to a piece of race machinery. In fact, if you ever come to see the Mini Se7ens, just ask and you can get as close as you want, even sit in the cars, we are a very friendly bunch!
The race itself was was action packed, after a poor start I went from 12th to 14th but by the first chicane I was back up to my start position of 12th and closing on the cars in front. A few laps in and a number of cars had mechanical issues and had retired, elevating me higher up the field. A move under braking saw me take another position into Quarry Corner and my sights were on the next car, which after only 3 more corners also retired! The new season certainly was proving to be difficult for some, including me, as on the next lap I developed a chronic mis-fire and had to concede a position as I just couldn’t make the engine perform. Right at the point of the power band for the engine ( 6500 to 8500 rpm ) the engine coughed, spluttered, backfired and spat out flames from the exhaust. It must have been entertaining for the crowd! But I persevered and managed to bring the car home in a pleasing 8th position, points in the bag.
Race 2 was a similiar situation, a better start and very close racing for 2 laps until a nasty off for one competitor introduced a safety car period for around 4 laps. This closed the field and opened the door for anyone to take the lead on the re-start. However the engine had other ideas and decided to develop its misfire again. All I could do was let the pack disappear into the distance and try to keep the gap between myself and the next group of cars. A last lap, last corner mele saw cars strewn accross the track and infield, juggling up all of the finishing positions. With other retirements too, suddenly I found myself crossing the line in 6th position which was a fantastic result with a poorly car .
So back to the workshop to sort out the engine issues and get prepped for the trip to Brands Hatch for the 3rd Mini Festival! If you are going come and say hello .