Close, but no cigar

2021 Club Enduro Championship.
Round 1, Donington Park GP.

The snow was swirling around as we arrived at Donington Park for the first race of the season. April is later than usual to start racing (and for snow, come to that), but we were all happy to be at the circuit to enjoy yourselves.

The event was a 2 hour Club Enduro race with Alex Miller and team. It was the longest race we have completed in up to now, so there were several new elements to prepare for and master, including refuelling during the driver change.

Qualifying was interrupted by a safety car, but we each chalked up a few laps and our best put us 4th in class and 35th overall on the grid for the rolling start.

Alex drove the first stint and enjoyed some tight battles – including a few close calls – that is typical of multi class racing where different cars have different strengths. Something we came to realise pretty quickly was that it is key to minimise your losses, particularly when the faster classes are coming round to lap you. Alex did really well in this regard and we were still in a strong position by the end of his stint, which we managed to extend due to two safety car periods.

The pit stop could not have gone better. We had been planning it in great detail in the lead up to the race, but Alex made a late call (while on track) to reduce the amount of fuel we needed to put in the car. It was an inspired decision as that saved us time and once everyone had done all their jobs (checking tyre pressures, torquing wheel nuts, cleaning the windscreen and sanitising the driving controls), we ended up pulling away exactly on schedule.

I heard a noise from the front of the car at turn one straight away, but pressed on regardless and after a couple of laps the class leader exited the pits just a few seconds ahead of me. We had caught up an entire minute on the competition and were right on the rear bumper of first place.

I felt up for the challenge of racing what is in reality a faster car, but after only a few laps of close action our brake pedal started to go very long and we were losing performance. I was thinking of retiring the car, but was encouraged to stay out and kept going – around six seconds off the pace.

We slipped to 4th in the end, which was a shame but we were lucky to finish and score good points. It transpired the wheel bearing had failed, which was annoying, but it was a great weekend and we’ve got the taste for endurance racing. Plus, we have shown that we should be in the mix for podiums at future races, especially if we can bring some updates to the car.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Alex for giving me the opportunity to drive with him again. Also to his daughter Charlotte and Ray and Nina of Boreham Motorsport, plus of course my Dad for all the support over the weekend.

Can’t wait for the next one now!

Photos: James Roberts Photography