After a long summer break post the Buckmore S1 meeting, finally the next round was upon us. We did actually do a couple of club meetings at Dunkerswell and Shenington in between, both of which went pretty well so, we were feeling a bit more positive but nevertheless, I certainly felt a little nervous to be returning to the S1 bandwagon after our Buckmore experience.
Saturday was pretty wet right the way through the day and initially we weren’t that quick during the practice sessions. However, come qualifying we seemed to suddenly find some pace. An initial stall of the engine as Alex left the grid gave me cause for concern but, it restarted (must remember to bleed air out of the system next time I take the carb off!) and off he went, right at the back with lots of space but also no-one to give him a tow.
I wandered over to the S1 ‘office’ to look at the times and initially couldn’t see Alex on the screen at all. I dared to move my eyes further up the listing to discover he had already put in a blinding 2nd lap which, by the end of qualifying earned him a brilliant 6th place, his best yet this season. It was also great to see our friend Ian Sisson had stuck his kart on pole!
So to heat 1 and a mediocre start meant we were back to 8th place by the end of Café corner and a further slip back to 10th which Alex then pulled back to finish 8th with the likes of Abbi, Bradley and Joe up ahead of him and his mate Ian who knocked it out of the park, finishing in 1st.
Heat 2 and probably Alex’s best race all year. A great start meant he slotted straight into 5th and just a lap later at Stratford (first hairpin) he followed No.9 down the inside to overtake No.6 (Bradley) and in to 4th place which he then held for the remainder of the race. A superb race which, combined with the 1st heat’s results and the relative positions of others, particularly the usual front runners, meant Alex qualifying a fantastic 4th for the Pre-final! I guess our friends Matthew, Sam and my dad coming along has a good effect 🙂 Oh, and Ian held on to 1st place again !
So to Sunday and, somewhat sadly for us it was dry, meaning the Talko guys would likely be back up to their usual front running form. Nevertheless, starting in 4th would mean we had out best chance all season to stay with the front runners and see just what sort of pace we could manage. Of course having been wet all day Saturday, unlike all previous meetings where we do Quali on brand new slicks, this time we would be doing the pre-final on them. Alex’s ability to switch them on fast would be important and a good test.
The Pre-final start was a mess, not because of Alex but because it was plainly a false start with 1st, 3rd and 5th place drivers crossing the line before the 2nd place driver (and Alex just behind him). But, as has happened before at Sheny, it wasn’t called in by the marshalls and the race continued. Fortunately Alex had stayed really close to the 2nd place driver and only lost two places by the time they got through café corner, tucking in to 6th place behind Abbi. On the exit of Stratford both Abbi and Alex passed two drivers, moving Alex up to 4th place. Next lap he looses one place to No.9 but then on the next lap, on the exit of Stratford, follows him through on the inside to pass No.6 before the Bruno chicane. So now in 4th again and holding his own nicely! A fantastic run in and exit from Wilkins enables him to get a run on No.9 and pass him on the inside of Park Bend. Now up to 3rd, behind Abbi again and gaining on her and the O plate (Adam).
Both Abbi and Alex close fast on the inside, coming down the inside of Adam on the approach to Stratford. Abbi manages to clear Adam taking the usual line but Alex has to turn in sharply which kills his speed and causes him to bog down. Others take advantage of this and move past, pushing Alex back to 8th. Bummer but not a disaster as Alex is still with the front pack, pulling away and the rest of the race to make up places.
Sadly however this wasn’t to be. A few laps later, up at the front of the pack there is an ‘incident’ with one of the other drivers being pushed off the circuit just after Bruno. The rest of the pack drive past but as Alex is about to pass, the other driver re-joined the track and clipped Alex’s back wheel, spinning him through 90 degrees. The only safe thing he can do is watch the other drivers drive past. Nightmare! As a result the best Alex could do would be to come in 20th.
As you can imagine we were both gutted as this was a very unfair reflection of Alex’s weekend. Still we had a few hours to compose ourselves before the final. Due to an exclusion in the pre-final and some penalties, Alex would be starting in 18th. He would be in good company – Ian had also rather cruely had his pre-final spoilt with his engine cutting out on lap 1 meaning he was starting just in front from 17th.
So to the final and Alex got a cracking startup, moving quickly to 11th by end of lap 1 and 8th by lap 7 which he then held for 4 more laps. BUT, I knew there was something not quite right. Whenever he came out of Bruno he was lacking acceleration – others would pull away in front whereas, when others were chasing him they would manage to stick with him. I knew it wasn’t the lines as he hadn’t had this problem in the pre-final. He held other drivers off well but eventually a few managed to slip past meaning he finally finished in 11th place. When he came in he said it wasn’t sounding right at the end of the straights either and, one glance at the Carb told me what was wrong – the fuelling wasn’t right. Somehow it had got moved since the last race and I hadn’t checked it before he went out. Another lesson learnt!
Regardless of the final result, this was without doubt the best ever race weekend we have ever had, period. Alex showed he could keep up with the best in both wet and dry and ultimately scored his best points towards the championship. Sadly it is now almost impossible for us to get into the top 10 and get a seed for next yr, entirely as a result of the two meetings with exclusions. You just can’t afford to have more than 1 bad round. But, he’s found ever increasing form and without doubt has potential for a cracking one next year…..and hopefully the final round at PFI !
As ever, a big thanks to Tim Wilson Motorsport for all their support and guidance – makes the whole thing so much more enjoyable.