Opportunities seldom present themselves for a bit of unplanned racing activity but when they do you say yes and worry about the logistics later.
So it proved when Paul Sweeney offered me a ride in his Championship winning Mini Super Two, which was available due to a schedule clash.
You just don’t turn down a Championship winning car even if you have a several weeks old baby at home.
This is how I found myself at Northampton International Raceway, whose name offers it a grandeur it probably doesn’t deserve. Still it’s a fun, quick, slightly banked oval, roughly in the middle of England.
With a slight bank to the corners, It was a new challenge for me, and there was the threat of rain in the air. God bless the English summer.
I have a method for practice sessions, go as fast as you can until someone quicker than you overtakes then try and follow them. It’s not big or clever but it’s the best way i know to learn a track quickly.
I executed my plan and learnt a few things, most notably that with the slight bank, the fastest line wasn’t always the one closest to the apex. With practice done, I rolled back to the paddock pleased with my speed and hopeful for some good runs to exercise the demons from my shocking run in the Oval Expo final in January.
Being as I was technically in the ‘hire car’ I had to start at my usual spot on the last row.
The issue with this is that the series has grown since my last outings and I was now starting 14th. Thankfully overtaking is my favorite thing to do.
Rolling around for the start I apparently decided to have a nap and give everyone a head start. Rolling starts seem be more of a challenge than I thought. Once I woke up and caught the back of the pack I worked my way past the couple of hire cars at the back like Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder, and was making progress.
Oval racing is definitely about controlled aggression and not being afraid to use the bumpers to push someone out of the way if you have to. Rubbings racing after all. Some friendly nudges and taps later I finished 7th.
Making my way through to half way was immensely satisfying and my demons were well and truly exercised.
Confidence was building coming into heat 2. I was never going to win from 14th but I was enjoying the track and could see why the Sweeney car was a Championship winner. On the start I was a lot more awake and made my way past a few guys on the first few turns, this was fun.
The trick with an MST is not to over drive it. With it being relatively small and low in power it’s easy to just tip it in and let physics slow you down. This however is a mistake, do this and the car bounces and skips, losing precious mid corner speed.
This is especially terrifying if you come across a slow car mid corner. One big bump and another place gained, which told me I need to work on my forward planning!!
Other than the 46 car of Macauley Joy deciding that the barrier was the place to watch the rest of the race from, it was an uneventful run to the flag for my joint best ever finish of 6th.
Now I was really having fun. I know they say winning isn’t everything but being good really helps with the enjoyment. Where’s the fun in being rubbish?!
The final was my best race of the day, despite being my worst result. In the final I was much more aggressive and switched on at the start.
I managed to stick with some of the quicker cars that started around me. Whilst none of us could ever claim to be working together, we managed to work our way past some slower cars and engage in a bit of gentle ‘oval racing’.
I managed to pass the 116 car of series founder John Smith and have a play with series regular Dan Boys. It was at this point I felt the car behind me getting a bit too close for comfort.
I had spent so much time looking forward and had forgotten to look back for a few laps.
Luckily this wasn’t the fatal mistake it could have been. I had to go more defensive for the last few laps, meaning the cars in front pulled away a little, but I managed to hold on to 8th place, both my best race of the day and the worst result!
All in all, it was a great day in a great series.
Thanks again to Paul Sweeney for trusting me with his double Championship winning car and congratulations to Paul Cook for his first ever final win. I think I need to change my name to Paul to finally get a win!
Next stop on my quest for motorsport glory is Rockingham on July 30th for my debut in the Formula G series. I’ll be driving for Redtop Racing in their mad Vauxhall Nova.
Come along to see us race, or if you can’t be there keep your eyes on BlacktopMedia for all the updates.