Ma5da Rounds 16 & 17 – Brands Hatch

My home circuit for the penultimate round of the championship and the pressure was on to do well here more than anywhere else because of the number of people coming to watch. My last update about Thursday testing gave the hint that we were looking much more competitive and it’s great to able to write this knowing that the weekend was a real success! The modifications made to the engine have bought me right up to speed and exceeded my expectations if I’m being completely honest.

The weekend started late on Saturday afternoon with qualifying. Brands Hatch is a great circuit but the short lap means that with 35 cars out on track at the same time, getting some clear space for a quick lap proved very difficult. I locked in my quickest time early (lap 5) which had apparently put me in 4th place at one stage as others struggled to match it. By the end of the 15 minute session the order had roughly worked out and 12th place in the qualifying session was my best result all year. The lap time was 59.58, slightly quicker than on Thursday testing but not much. The confusing groups system was then calculated by the series organisers and gave me starting positions of 10th in race 1 and 9th in race 2.

Race 1 was to be my first taste of what racing further up the field was like, and it was all captured on my on board camera in the video below. I got off the line well, but struggled to get across to the inside for Paddock Hill bend, any places I lost were soon made up as I made a move round the outside into the second corner which luckily payed off nicely. The first few laps were full of overtaking which soon settled down and the positions looked set for the rest of the race. The safety car was released on around lap 10 which bunched everybody back up again. For the re-start I stayed close to the car in front but mucking up the change into 3rd gear cost me big time and as we crossed the line I had lost a lot of time. Determined to make up for my error I pushed hard and managed to get myself another place in the closing stages of the race even if it did require a bit of a nudge to follow through the car in front. Taking the chequered flag in 7th was the best finish of the year by far and something that I was keen to repeat in race 2.

For Race 2 I gridded up in 9th with Rhys again directly in front of me. Another good start off the line meant I could secure my position at the end of the first lap. My aim was to try and keep with the group ahead of me and for the first few laps that proved successful. A group of eight cars including myself formed a train of mazda’s at the front of the field. An opportunity presented itself as the car in front of me ran wide out of paddock and I quickly dived up the inside into the hairpin and secured 7th. As the race progressed the field became more strung out and back markers were again a factor during the race. Despite setting my fastest lap of the weekend with a 59.35 I couldn’t hold off the car I passed and dropped back down to 8th. Rhys was working his way through the cars in front and sadly I was only able to watch him getting away as I didn’t have the final few tenths of a second per lap to join him. The remainder of the race was all about making no mistakes but continuing to push on just in case anything happened in front. I crossed the line in 8th and was delighted to of achieved two top 10 finishes in one weekend.

From where we were at the last round, just scraping the top 15 a 7th and 8th place finish was absolutely brilliant and I’m so pleased I was able to get the results I wanted. The racing closer to the front was much more like the British Karting Championships and it felt much more rewarding. This doesn’t mean that I’m just going to leave the car alone though, I will continue to do my research and already have formed a list of changes and improvements that will be made before the next round.  Results are available here – I was in qualifying group 1, and group D of the Ma5da MX5.

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