Paddy Hopkirk will be attending the Rally Drivers Ball

01/09/2014

Mini Grand 24 Hour Race

01/09/2014

Mini Seven Race Report – Donnington Park

01/09/2014
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Here is the latest Mini Seven report from Leon Wightman:

Still on a metaphorical high after my first podium and fastest lap at Oulton Park, Donnington and rounds 11 and 12 of the Mini Se7en Challenge couldn’t come quickly enough.

mini7-doningtonDonnington Park is nestled firmly on the Leicestershire-Derbyshire border, and is my personnel favourite. It features gradient, off camber corners, blind apex and entries, and flows like very few race circuits. Indeed being a purpose built race track, it is something of a rarity in the UK. If the truth be known, I had been waiting for this race all year…

Qualifying was the normal struggle for me, with the exception of Brands Hatch, it isn’t my strongest element of a race weekend. But out of 22 entries I managed a respectable 9th and 8th for the two races over the weekend.

The first race was a typical English weather conundrum as 30 minutes before the start we had a light summer shower! Just enough to question which tyres would be the best to use, but not enough to warrant wets, so a dry race it was.

I didn’t get a great start, something I have been plagued with this year, but managed to make the first few corners running in 10 position . With some typical close mini racing and some new found confidence after Oulton, I was up to 6th by the end of the first lap. Another position taken and I was challenging for 5th. Crossing the line at the end of lap 2 I had taken 4th and was closing on 3rd. Some close racing and changing of positions saw me drop to 5th again but still in contention for 3rd, but there’s never enough laps in a mini race! So on lap 9, retaking 4th position was a fair result for the first race. A quick trip to the clerk of the course to review video footage after being questioned about overtaking under a yellow flag (something that you can not do) however it proved I had taken the position legitimately, so a great result considering championship positions are extremely tight.

mini7-donington2Starting 8th for the second race gave me a small jump up the grid but placed me on the outside of the track for the first corner. A good start however saw me maintain position, and with a non starter giving me an extra position I was now running 7th.

On lap 2, at the old hairpin mayhem ensued, as the front 4 cars tripped over each other and left the track. I just put my foot to the floor and drove my way up to 2nd!

Good luck? Well earned? Well deserved? Who can say, but I was enjoying every second!

Within a lap the front running cars had caught up and I had dropped to 4th, but I was staying with the lead group and driving well as my confidence was high. The lead changed hands several times, as did my 4th position and 3rd , as we all tried our best to make headway and claim the spoils . On lap 9 the 3rd placed car dropped out which gifted me the position, and we were all running within one second of each other. A scary moment at the old hairpin almost saw me leave the track, but I lost no time or track position as the lead 2 cars were squabbling amongst themselves. Sitting behind the front 2 cars has it’s benefits as you can see where they are losing speed, time, and you have time to assess. That may sound perverse as we are sat in a race car but ironically enough it’s true. When you have become used to race speed you can find time to think about what’s going on around you. I had a feeling that the 2 cars in front would be very defensive into the last corner (Roberts chicane). One would defend and one would attack.

As both cars went very deep into the first part of the chicane I was able to take the conventional line and planted the throttle to the floor. This gave me a great run out of the corner and I slung shot past 2nd pace to claim it for my own. A great result with a well driven race. What was really satisfying was not only equalling my best result, but knowing that my race craft was starting to develop, and I had driven at the front of the race with seasoned campaigners.

It just goes to show hard work and effort do eventually pay off.
Many thanks to Mini Sport yet again for their efforts and support for another great weekend of racing, which now see me lying in 4th with 2 races to go in the series.

Images courtesy of Matthew Barrington Photography