By John Thorne – Mon, 04 Aug 2008 08:30
I can’t help feeling that the Dunlop SportMaxx came of age this weekend. Grids are getting bigger, the variety of cars is getting wider, the comments from the teams and drivers are getting more and more positive, the regulations are being policed and the championship is getting very very close.
Practice on Friday went without any real dramas, both Leyton in the Corsa and Simon in the Astra put in some good times so we were pretty confident on a good weekend both continuing to build on Leytons progress in Class B and continue with Simons fight back in class A.
Donington Park is a power circuit so we thought the SEAT and the Megane would be quick, along with of course the other Astra VXR’s but also John Harrisons E46 M3 could also show its legs so we knew it would be tight. Turns out we were right, John did very well in the M3 but it was Simon who shone through again in the first session taking pole by 0.1 seconds from Martin in his Astra VXR with the Megane of Simon Gusterson right behind him. Leyton did an excellent job of getting pole in class B from Quentins Clio with a healthy margin, so that was Thorney Motorsport on pole for both classes – happy with that. However, right at the end of the session Simon went back out to put a few more laps in but took a tight line through Coppice hitting a large hole created by the trucks the previous weekend., the impact was enough to pull the driveshaft out, tearing the splines in the process – damn. With only a 5 minute break between qualifying sessions we had to sent Simon back out to get at least three laps in but it wasn’t to be, he coasted to a halt down Craners with no drive.
Second qualifying for Leyton was a far simpler affair, another pole from the Clio but the margin had dropped slightly to just over a second. Back in the pits the damage was surveyed, the right hand drive shaft on the Astra was shot, the combination of being banked over, hooking the wheel in the hole and acceleration destroyed the splines so the whole shaft was history. Seeing as Donington Park is only an hour from us in Milton Keynes we deiced to take it back to the workshop to fix so off it went while we prepared the Corsa for the race the next day.
Well what a difference a night makes, overnight someone had complained that we had taken the Astra off circuit and formally asked for us to be banned from the race, same team also asked for Johns M3 to be removed for the same reason which is even more surprising seeing as he drives his race car to and from the circuit and he needed it to drive to his hotel! Fortunately BARC checked the rules (which make it perfectly clear that removing a car from the circuit is perfectly acceptable) and the application was rejected.
Even more interesting was the news that John Allisons Astra VXR had been penalised for a technical infringement on the vehicle and he lost his third place on the grid to be relegated to back of the grid with a 10 second penalty, shame for him as he’d been driving well and seeing as he doesn’t prepare his own car it was hardly his fault. The Ford Focus ST of Mick Weidner also suffered a similar fate when it was found to be running underweight.
With both Simon and Leyton on pole we were pretty hopeful and both of them got off to an excellent start but Simon appeared to struggle a little after a couple of laps and after building up a decent lead got sucked back into 4th. Leyton on the other hand drove a confident race and built up a 4 second gap ahead of the Clio which he maintained for the race – an impressive drive.
Simon didn’t like being in 4th much so there followed a brilliant battle between him, Martin in the Astra, Sean in the Seat and Simon in the Megane which was great to watch. Simon managed to fight his way back up to second but there was no catching the Megane, but second we were happy with.
Back in the pits we watched the race on video and it certainly was a hard fight between the Astras, on more than one occasion there was contact a fact reflected by the damage to Simons wing, door, sill and bumper. So net result was another class win for Leyton in the Corsa and a second place for Simon in the Astra.
Due to the fact that Simon hadn’t managed to fully qualify for the race it mean he had to start at the back of the grid for race two, a real shame as he’d been quick all weekend but thats racing. Leyton was back in pole again so we were hoping for a pair of wins.
Race 2 was one of these Mickey Mouse affairs with a 45 second pitstop which always adds an element of potential screw ups but with Simon fighting from the back we left it up to him as to when he came in and planned Leytons as usual, fortunately all went well and without incident. Leyton had a race long fight with the Seat (driven by Shane Lynch of Boyzone) but despite gaining on him for the latter part of the race he couldn’t make up the time and he finished a strong second. Sadly Quentins Clio got all the way through the race only to have a gearbox fail on the last lap but this did mean the championship opens up nicely.
Starting from the back of the grid was bad enough for Simon but in assembly before the race the ignition cut off switch failed, with less than 2 minutes to fix it before the race we frantically replaced it but it meant we had to start from the pitlane making it even harder. Simon did a great job, the best we could’ve hoped for in the circumstances was a 5th and 5th is what he got, even setting fastest lap – impressive.
With Leyton in such a strong position we’re pushing hard to keep this up but anything can happen in racing. The fight is still pretty close in Class A, Simon has a bit of ground to make up (primarily to a complete lack of luck really) but he certainly has the skill to take the fight to the wire.
The next race is at Brands Hatch on the August bank holiday Monday.
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