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Mini Seven Race Report – Oulton Park

After some solid results at Thruxton 3 weeks before , Oulton Park and it’s inaugural Mini Festival was eagerly anticipated , even if the whole event, taking place on one day, was generally perceived as a hectic schedule.

Some maintenance work was carried out between rounds, namely new Pistons and Seals in the front Brake Calipers, plus new Mini Sport Superfins and Shoes to the rear.

Having arrived and prepped the night before it certainly took the strain away from the tight timetable, which was probably just as well…
Qualifying started well , and having driven this circuit before , albeit in the shorter version with a sick clutch, the corners soon came back to me from memory. BUT after one lap the clutch started to slip , a little unusual to suddenly happen… and nothing more in the way of problems for two more laps as the problem disappeared only to be replaced by a clutch pedal issue, which meant less and less travel and feel . By lap 4 I had lost the clutch altogether and decided all I could do was park up. So I limped around the back half of the track in 4 th gear to the pit lane . I was a bit miffed to have the problem , but to be held in the pits and not allowed to make my way to the paddock was even more frustrating , especially in full kit in 30 degree + cockpit temperature!

All things considered I should have been pleased with qualifying 9th for both races and having completed 4 laps, I didn’t need to start at the back of the grid.

The clutch housing was removed , slave cylinder line bled through, release bearing and arm checked, then all reassembled . The only problem we could find was a loose locknut on the free play adjuster assembly, all the problems looked to have been caused by the clutch adjuster winding itself in! Simple fix but so annoying.

oulton-mini7-2So for the first race , starting 9th and on the inside row was not such a bad thing. A reasonably average start saw me drop to 10th , only to regain 9th midway through the first corner and I was pushing on. By the third corner I was taking another spot and gaining on 7th. Another lap in and I was sixth and inherited 5th through a retirement in front. I was finding the car flowing nicely and my confidence was soon returning, realising what the car is capable of. I was rapidly hauling in 4th spot but running out of laps, but isn’t that the story of any race, never enough laps!
5th was a good solid finish again and more vital points in the bag .

The second race soon came around, having only a 3 hour gap between the races.
The usual nut and bolt checks, re-fuel, tyre pressure checks etc were completed in no time at all and I even had time for lunch which is something I never normally do!

oulton-mini7I managed a slightly better start this time but still lost a place, and recovered it by the end of the first corner. I kept pushing ….. Another place by the third corner and another within 50 yards, something felt great, maybe the penny has dropped!
I was pushing hard now as around the back section of Oulton I was visibly so much quicker and taking huge chunks of time out of the cars in front. Within another 2 laps I was upto 3rd , my highest running position to date. I could see a gap opening up behind me and I was starting to catch 2nd place. 2 more laps and I was overtaking the current Mini 7 champion and claiming 2nd place as my own. I couldn’t believe what was happening, but had to stay focused.

The car felt superb, I felt superb and was pushing all the while, another lap and who knows what could have happend. BUT I was overjoyed with a 2 nd place finish, my highest ever result and first podium.

The champagne tasted so sweet after all the efforts of so many and to finally step into the platform was a fantastic feeling, even more so when starting. 9th on the grid. I even got a mention in Autosport.
A few people need some thankyou’s at this point …

Selby race engines for a great product in “old faithfull” my spare engine!
All the team members in A L Motorsport for your help and precious time spared
And of course to my sponsors for all your support, knowledge and dedication that help someone like me progress and improve:

City Plumbing Supplies
C G Clutch
Emtome
And of course , my main sponsors Mini Sport!

 

Images courtesy of Matthew Barrington Photography

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Pikes Peak 2014 – Race Report

pikespeak

Mini Sport are proud to say that we are supporting Jon Edwards-Parton at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb this year. John is one of only two driver taking part from the UK and has written this race report for us:

After the trials and tribulations of getting to this point the Race Day dawns bright and sunny with no rain forecast. (But on the Mountain normal weather patterns rarely apply so its still fingers crossed time.)

At 8.30 it’s off up the mountain to meet up with the Crew and the Mini in the Paddock area set up by the Start Line. The pit activity certainly provides a real sense of atmosphere and a tingle down the spine hearing those race cars with open exhausts alongside the shriek of the Motor Bike engines as they are unloaded and warmed up. The Mini is parked up and all ready to go.

The team has set up camp in a delightfully shady area as the temperature is already moving up to 28 Degrees C. With cold drinks and snacks on hand here we can relax, chat with other teams and get ready for the race in relative comfort. The camp proved to be a very attractive place to many of the folk we had met both this year and last year. Nothing to do now but sit under the trees chatting to other drivers and crew, telling jokes and racing tales and trying to stay calm!

My start time gets later and later as a result of both cars and bikes crashing out on the mountain and having to be moved out of harms way. As the sun continues to shine the temperature soars and is already 30 Degrees C.

2.30pm and finally the Crew start to make a move to get me in line for the Green Flag. The Mini is being warmed up so race suit and helmet on and focus on the job in hand. Into the car, belts on, oxygen on (after last years start line panic with the oxygen all goes well this time) and good to go. Then with 2 minutes to go the red flag gremlins strike again!!! The course is closed as the Competitor before me has gone off the road.

pikespeak2Drivers are not allowed to leave the car once it is at the start so I sit there in the increasingly hot car (the temperature that afternoon hit 38 degrees C) in full race gear for nearly 30 minutes. The crew were giving me cold water through a straw as I had my balaclava on desperately trying and trying to keep me in the shade as much as possible. Last year the mountain threw a thunderstorm at me. While I was at the flag and on slicks and this year its trying to bake me – perhaps by next year it will be a plague of locusts!

The red flag finally comes down and I am under starters orders. The green flag is waved and I am off. My goal for this year is to do a sub 13 minutes. The Mini is flying up the Mountain – the Minisport close ratio box, the suspension mods and all the hours recceing and testing on the mountain are coming together now. The overheating of brain and body forgotten!!

For safety reasons the number of spectators on the Mountain for this years has been reduced and they have been restricted to certain areas but there still seems to be thousands at the side of road.

I push the Mini as hard as it will go through 156 bends to the 14.100ft summit pulling 6th gear on occasion (some 110 mph) but only managed 13mins 10secs. However car and driver are still in one piece (the Mountain was littered with cars either off the road or broken) I am followed by my Texan Team mate in his 500bhp Radical who only beats me by 40 seconds so maybe my time isn’t so bad and is 45 seconds faster than last year.

pikespeak3Lost of High Fives at the top and congratulations all round to the finishers.

However the jubilation is overshadowed this year however by news of the death of a Motor Cycle Competitor following a crash right on the Finish line earlier in the day.

I am whisked off for a Radio Interview with a local station (second one this week.) This feels a bit surreal at 14,000 feet. They are keen to understand why an English driver has traveled so far to do their local event!!

The next big event is the Victory parade down the Mountain. Applause and congratulations from the thousands of spectators lining the route. The Mini is now flying the Union Jack and attracts its usual ecstatic welcome from the fans. I think they can relate far more to the Mini and its 3 wheeling antics than some of the real exotica among the Competitors.

Back in the paddock its Champagne all round for Team and Drivers. A class win for the Radical adds an additional reason to drink the Champagne this year. Do we need an excuse??

Roll on 2015 – I clearly have to keep trying for that sub 13 minutes!!!!

Posted in: Mini Sport News, Mini Sport Racing
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Crail Rally – A Baptism of Fire for a new Mini Sport Co-Driver

Aged just 14 years and a day old, I was about to co-drive for my Dad, Martin Page, in my very first rally…. In one of the MINI Cooper S Rally Cars of the Mini Sport Rally Team.

P1090870I think that broke the record for the youngest ever co-driver; could you have been any younger? Unfortunately, Crail in June didn’t really have the “Mull Rally factor” that I was used to. I went to my very first Mull Rally seven years ago and fell in love with rallying: I have been growing up with it and I haven’t missed a Mull yet – Even if that does mean convincing your parents to let you skip school!

In those seven years though, I never really got involved much with inside the car. Iv’e ‘navigated’ Dad to the Mull noise test and to scrutineering, and even over the start ramp when he was driving the Course Car but thats it.

crail cWhen I was younger I would always stand in the shadows, in my red team overalls and be called “Chief Mechanic” although in actual fact, all that involved was walking around the service area, sponge in hand to clean windows and spotlamps!  Spectating was always a blast though – especially when you could hear the rally cars distant coughs and splutters from miles away!

From my parents for my birthday, I was given my last name in big stick-on letters – no literally! It was to display alongside my dad’s name on the rally car as co-driver! I just stared at them, shell shocked, completely unable to speak.  Wow!

We drove that evening to Crail near St Andrews, about 2 hours away from our house in Aberdeenshire and went through the usual scruteneering and signing on but this time it was slightly different. I was no longer in the shadows but in fact in the driver’s seat; well next to it actually!

crail dI was very lucky to have a great mentor, Martin Cressey who co-drives for his own Dad in one of the other Mini Sport rally MINIs. He came along to coach me on all the do’s and dont’s of being a co-driver – having previously sat with my dad before. I couldn’t have done it without him; answering my endless list of questions and I really appreciated him burning himself whilst fixing ‘my’ exhaust which Dad had managed to detach mid stage!

On Saturday morning I was ready to rally! – Yup, I was still fast asleep in my bed – so much for co-driving organisation. Having shoved some breakfast down me, I was finally ready for my debut rally.   Kitted out in Daniel Barritt, Fords very own, World Rally Championship co-drivers’ overalls that he very kindly gifted to me, I was finally sat in the seat. I went through my final checklist: Helmet, check! Harness, check! Time cards, check! Notes, check! Pen, check! Extra pen in case I lose that one, check! I was all set. My cement mixer stomach was churning faster and faster as panic swelled up inside me. I was finally doing my first ever rally and I didn’t want to mess it up. My dad kept reassuring me of how it was just a “taster” but unfortunately for him, this made me feel ten times worse!

photo 4After the first few corners, I had found my flow and was gaining more confidence as I read more and more of the notes in front of me. Once that stage had finished, I remember saying to dad, “Your nae bad for an auld man!” Of course, as he always does, he just gave me his little chuckle as we proceeded back to service.

Everything was going fine until on the 6th stage, when we were going around an “Open hairpin” but in actual fact it was pretty tight. I was clinging on to the edge of my seat praying we wouldn’t roll! At this point the car was on two wheels – fun times!

Unusually for dad, he was also multi tasking and was giving me running commentary as well as driving “flat out”. “You see that guy there”, he said to me as we caught the car in front, “He’s going to lose it because we’re putting him under pressure…… right about now!” And sure enough, he span right in front of us, thankfully we swerved just before we T-boned him! It isn’t a rally if there’s no drama!

crail eAfter a very eventful and successful couple of days at Crail,  dad and I finished 26th overall having started at 47 from a 90 car entry. To round off a fantastic weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the legendary, Motor-sport journalist John Fife aka – Jaggy Bunnet. As a new member of the Stonehaven and District Motor club, weighing six and a half stone, wet through I am now looking for more co-driving experience.

Thank you to all the messages of support throughout the day and to everyone who helped make it possible. It was a long awaited dream come true.

Finally, I really like being part of Uncle Daniel Harpers’ Minisport Rally Team…”cough cough”…..move over Chris Campbell, there’s a new Daniel Barritt in town – I have the overalls to prove it!

Posted in: Mini Sport News, Mini Sport Racing
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Mini Seven Race Report – Thruxton

The fastest track on the calender is Thruxton near Andover, a circuit that is known for close racing and as far as Minis are concerned, a fantastic spectacle for the fans. So rounds 7 & 8 were eagerly anticipated.

Having had only 2 weeks break between rounds, and a disastrous time at Cadwell, I was very keen to move forward with the racing and get my season back on track. The old faithful engine was ” recommissioned ” whilst the new engine is being repaired, and with plenty of time spare the car was ready for racing.

Despite the torrential rain and spectacular storms that surounded us on the friday night, we awoke to a dry track with a sunny outlook, which made tyre choice easy for qualification.

The session went well, and I soon found myself settling into the flowing corners and high speed sections that make up the majority of the circuit. With 9 laps under my belt in the alotted time I was pleased to find myself in 6th position for both races. From there it was realistic to stay with or be part of the lead pack.

Racing is very different from practice though, and I made a terrible start in race 1, which saw me swallowed up by several cars before the first complex. By the end of the lap I was down to ninth and struggling . I couldnt pin point where I was going wrong, but backwards was an easy way to described my progress. I am fortunate though, to have a very reliable package , and this is thanks to good prep and quality parts and service from Mini Sport . So when 3 other cars fell by the wayside , I was able to pick up some places. Due to an accident which saw a car in the barriers , we were to finish the race behind a safety car , eventually coming home 6th overall.

After some tweaks to the engine mapping by Selby race engines, alteration to brake setup and a good hard look at in-car footage, I felt confident of some progression for race 2. Yet another bad start though, saw me drop back again to 8th, then another car slowed and pulled off, moving me to 7th . A nasty 3rd lap crash brought out the red flags (thankfully the driver involved was ok) and a restart was required.

I still couldnt get the start nailed (something to work on) but I did at least manage to hold position. For 2 laps I made little progress, but suddenly found that something had clicked, and I was making ground on 6th and 5th position. When one car lost its engine, it suddenly closed the gap even more. I may not have been near he lead pack, but another position was there to be taken.

Now Thruxton is not as you might expect, all about being quick, its a thinking mans track, and you don’t want to be in front on the last lap. So as we started the final tour I was quite happy to relinquish 5th in preparation for the long haul back. When you get “the tow” here, in a car thats as aerodynamic as a brick, you really do have a huge slip streaming advantage. I started to get the effect of this way too early and had to feather the throttle for half the lap so as not to play my hand too soon. Once past Church corner, I buried the throttle and waited, pleased to hear that extra 500 RPM kicking in and easing past the car in front back up to 5th . A defensive line through the last corner saw me maintain position and come home in 5th , equaling my best finish result, so I was very pleased to say the least .

I am now running 6th in the championship, so roll on Oulton Park for rounds 9 & 10.

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Mini Seven Race Report – Cadwell Park

So it’s rounds 5 & 6 of the Mini Se7en Challenge with MiniSport, and we are off to beautiful Cadwell Park.

Having never driven here I was really looking forward to this round, with great scenery and challenging twists and turns, it’s a track more well known for motor bikes than cars.
Things weren’t going to plan, the new engine was finally finished and had a dyno run at midnight on the Thursday before. So in order to get the car ready I had to sacrifice the testing I had booked on the Friday to fit the new power plant.

But we arrived late Friday afternoon and had a free 15 minute practice, which is unusual for a race day.
I took things extremely steadily to become familiar with the track, and after 3 laps began to push on and find the limits with the track.
BUT disaster struck on the approach to Park Corner, as within seconds I lost all oil pressure and smoke began to billow from the car, all I could do was park up and pray for some good fortune.

Back at the pits it became very apparent that I wasn’t racing this weekend, as an oil line became detached from its JIC fitting, in possibly the worst place possible, on the line out of the engine block. I was absolutely gutted , the car had looked great, the engine was very promising and my confidence was high after Brands Hatch , but now all I could do was take myself off to reflect on what went wrong.

I’ve split the engine now, and had I not turned it off when I did it would have been a very expensive pile of scrap, as it is it’s looking like some light machine work will revive the motor to its former glory.

A huge thankyou now to all who helped on the day, all the Mini fans who came and enquired what had happened and offered their support, and to Mini Sport for shipping out some required parts for the spare engine the next day. It means I am able to race at Thruxton in 2 weeks time , I can’t wait to put Cadwell behind me…

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Paddy Hopkirk Gala raises mega Charity Money!

handovergala-logoThe Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and SKIDZ charities will share £55,000 following the Hopkirk Gala event that brought international motorsporting personalities and 200 Minis to Belfast in February.

The event, the brainchild of Dr. Beatty Crawford a former international co-driver, was instigated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk’s victory in a Mini Cooper S on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. “I am delighted that this event has raised such considerable funds for these two very worthwhile charities. It has justified all time and the support that we received from the sponsors and supporters who became involved and for the two years that our committee spent in pre-planning the big day,” said Dr. Crawford at cheque handover.

On the morning of the 22nd February 2014 Paddy Hopkirk led the John Mulholland Motors cavalcade of 200 Minis from Stormont via the City Hall, (where they were received by the Lord Mayor), before moving on to the Titanic Slipway.

That afternoon the public were entertained by the spectacular Northern Ireland Plastics Autotest and the day climaxed when Paddy Hopkirk welcomed over 540 guests to the Gala Dinner in Titanic Belfast.

The guests included the former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, the five times British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae, and the five times Grand Prix winner John Watson and a host of other rallying personalities.

Under the theme ‘Made in Belfast’ Phil Coulter, Margaret Keys, Olivia Nash, and the Bright Lights Dancers provided the evening entertainment and a specially commissioned Art Mini was sold by Wilson’s Auctions which raised an amazing £17,000 for the charities.

On the 27th May Terence Donnelly, on behalf of the Hopkirk Gala Committee, whose company the Donnelly Motor Group donated the Mini that Niall Shawcross transformed into a unique work of art, handed over the cheque in Paddy Hopkirk’s presence.

Speaking in Donnelly’s showroom in Boucher Road Belfast, Paddy Hopkirk said.

“I am deeply grateful to the organisers of the Gala which was a memorable and remarkable occasion and has raised substantial funds for two charities which are so close to my heart, The Integrated Education Fund and SKIDZ.” “Both these fantastic charities do so much to enhance and improve the lives of young people. When I set out on my career in motorsport little did I think that my professional work would end up putting something back into helping young people today. I would like to thank everyone who supported my Gala and those who gave so generously to two very worthy causes.” “I’m also delighted that SKIDZ intends to use their donation to help finance the launch of a operation in Belfast and I hope that local businesses, schools and colleges will support this initiative which has proved so successful in England.”

 

THE CHARITIES:

ief-logoIEF

The Integrated Education Fund is the independent charity which supports parents in Northern Ireland who wish their children to attend integrated schools where they learn together, on a daily basis, in an environment which celebrates traditional and cultural diversity. Currently there are 62 integrated schools comprising of around 22,000 children. ‘

skidz-logoSKIDZ

SKIDZ provides motor vehicle study courses for young people (13 –19+ years), helping the especially disadvantaged and those at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). SKIDZ students have gone on to obtain apprenticeships and carve out careers in the motor industry.

Based in Buckinghamshire, SKIDZ now plans to launch its programmes nationwide through forging partnerships with schools, colleges, businesses and like-minded organisations. Belfast will be the first step on its national roll out scheme.

Posted in: Charity, Mini Sport News
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Mini Sport support fundraising for Marie Curie Nurses

MC_logo_cmyk_big10This year Mini Sport, along with the Tunnock’s Mull Rally will be supporting local Marie Curie Nurse, Louise Thomas in her quest to highlight the nursing service that is available to the Mull and Iona community.  Louise will be competing on this year’s event in The Marie Curie Mini, Supported by www.minisport.com and www.motordrive.com

marie-curieThe goal is to raise awareness in the community that this service is available and also to raise vital funds to support that service.  For the last 3 years Louise has worked as a Marie Curie Nurse; the job involves providing vital end of life care and support to patients and their families in their own home.

So this October Louise will be getting into a wee mini and taking on the challenge of the Tunnock’s Mull Rally.
“I am grateful beyond words for the support of the Tunnock’s Mull Rally this year, and I believe this support is going to make a very big difference.  The Mini is being completely rebuilt and transformed for the event.”

If you would like to sponsor or support her quest you can contact Louise by email: louisethomas529@btinternet.com or telephone: 07770962804

You can read more in the Mull Rally Newsletter and keep up to date with the local fundraising on the Marie Curie Fundraising Group Isle of Mull and Iona Facebook Page

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Hughes Historic Rally

entwistle_cheshire_3POINTS mean prizes for Steve Entwistle this weekend, as he heads for Kent and the Hughes Historic Rally.

The Rishton-based driver is currently lying second overall in the HRCR Clubmans Championship, behind Matt Warren.

But Warren isn’t contesting Sunday’s event, which gives Entwistle and navigator Bob Hargreaves the chance to close the gap.

The pair are sandwiched between Matt and his dad Howard, who is lying third overall.

“We need to get as many points as possible, and a top three is really our aim,” said Steve.

“It’s uncharted territory as we’ve never done the Hughes Rally before. But the format looks familiar, with six regularities and s eries of special tests in a one-day format.”

Entwistle, Hargreaves and their iconic ex-Roy Mapple Orangebox Mini have been the surprise package in the HRCR series this year.

That is thanks, in part, to the involvement of specialists Mini Sport of Padiham. Part of their sponsorship package involved building Steve a brand new 1293cc engine, giving them a big power jump from 70bhp to 100bhp.

“It really has made a huge difference on the tests. The extra power means we can really compete for fastest times,” added Steve.

Best of Luck to Steve & Bob, hopefully another Giant Killing result this weekend.

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Orangebox – Leukaemia Historic Rally

orangeboxRallyman Steve Entwistle staged a brilliant comeback to keep his HRCR Clubmans title challenge on course.

Entwistle, from Rishton, was contesting the fourth round of the series, the Leukaemia Historic Rally in his Orangebox Mini.

Lying second overall going into last weekend’s event, Entwistle and navigator Bob Hargreaves endured a difficult start to the rally.

The pair were baulked by another competitor on one regularity, losing almost two minutes, and dropping them down to 20th overall at the morning halt.

But Entwistle, who is renowned for his 100 per cent commitment on tests, began his fightback with a string of top three times.
Up to 12th by the lunch halt, he used every bit of Orangebox’s 100bhp to claw back another six places and finish a hard-earned sixth overall.
“It didn’t go quite the way we hoped, but given the start we had, I’m happy with sixth,”explained Steve, who is sponsored by Mini Sport of Padiham.

The result leaves him top of the HRCR historic class and maintaining his second overall in the drivers standings.

Next event is the Hughes Rally in Kent next month.

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Mini Seven – Newsletter 2

newsletter2
The New Season has started!

The first two rounds of the Dunlop Mini Seven Championship supported by Mini Sport took place at Castle Combe last month and what a weekend it turned out to be! You can catch up with everything in the Mini Seven newsletter, which includes race reports, championship standings and information on upcoming events, plus much more!

Check it out and download it here for FREE

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