It was the first visit of the year to Donington Park, the new home of the 750 Motor Club and an action packed weekend awaited Team SEWC.
Following from a mixed result at Cadwell we needed a solid performance at Donington in order to reach our target of a top 10 finish in the championship. Engine woes earlier in the year had meant a slow start to the season and a lack of championship points. Time for that to start to change.
SEWC had not had a chance to get any seat time since Cadwell, and a 4 week break left its mark with a far from perfect qualifying result of 18th. There was plenty of traffic with 41 cars on circuit, but no excuses, it took a while to blow the cobwebs off! Once again drivers would be split into three groups in qualifying order, with each group racing each other over the 3 races, resulting in 2 races per driver. Race 1 and 3 would see us on the grid in 11th and 12th respectively, with a chance to spectate for Race 2.
Race 1 – Round 7
Placed on the right hand side of the grid we had a reasonable start, out pacing Vicky Pickles into Redgate, and passing Lee Bankhurst as he dropped back off the grid with a broken throttle cable. Shaun Brame had a great run out of Redgate alongside Adam Lucas all the way through Craner Curves, but was unable to make it stick into the Old Hairpin. Lap 1 we crossed the line in 10th, hoping for further progress. Lap 3 saw some drafting across the finish line to try to regain lost ground up to the front runners. Waved yellows on Lap 5 at Regdate for a car being recovered would put pay to overtaking there for the next couple of laps so we pressed on, chasing down Shaun before hitting what I suspect was a little oil at the old hairpin, causing us to run wide, whilst Shaun did the same managing to gather it up on the circuit, alongside a recovering Mark Draghicescu who had also gone off and would shortly pull off the circuit at Mcleans with engine woes. James Mcallister also had an excursion off circuit and rejoined on the run up to Coppice, breaking deep on the inside and running wide, we took avoiding action rather than turning in and subsequently running wide again. Lap 6 would see an overtake along the back straight with James falling in behind and put pressure on to get back past. A lap later and James returned the favour, overtaking in the same place, but a great drive out of Goddards saw James just a nose ahead as we dragged down to Redgate for the 8th time, James holding the inside line into the corner. A good run up from the Old Hairpin saw us back in front by Mcleans, but yielding at Coppice to ensure a good exit and trying to work together to catch up with the pack. Another tow down to the Esses and we were in front again, James going past into Redgate.
Breaking deep into Coppice, this time we would run wide from the inside and James would have sense to avoid turning in, the exact opposite of the move a few laps previous. Waving James by as we ran out of Coppice towards the Esses, there was not enough tow to make a move, so passed the Last Lap Board behind James, determined to make another place up before the finish.
A great run into Regdate saw us pull ahead again, holding position through Craner Curves and the Old Hairpin. James had a great drive up the hill under Starkeys Bridge, going for the inside into Hollywood, only to slip sideways under braking and take to the grass. Completing the rest of the lap cleanly saw us finish in 8th with 11 valuable championship points.
Race 3 – Round 8
Having spectated for Race 2 and watched Alex Von Ehrheim, Michael Comber, Stuart Sellars and Richard Bradley battle it out in the closest finish to date (less than 1/100th of a second between Alex and Mike), we were ready for Race 3, starting from 12th on the grid.
Another good start, chasing Vicky again down to the first corner and passing Glenn Boyer who had a poor getaway. Pulling a gap down to the Old Hairpin, the “Locost Train” would commence, places changing along the back straight and into the Esses, seeing the leading 8 cars crossing the line after 1 lap just over 2 seconds apart.
A missed gearchange as we crossed the line saw Max Lees catching up and letting him by into Redgate, the chase to catch back up commenced, bump drafting through Craner Curves. Slightly out of shape at Hollywood on Lap 3, we had a lot to do ensure we didnt fall off the back of the train, but we were joined by Sian Stafford Atkinson who had run wide at Coppice. This meant we could work together and within a lap the train was back together, crossing the line in less than 2.3s between first and 8th.
Another good tow out of Redgate and through Craner Curves behind Max and we were soon nose to tail again, Sian taking the inside line into Coppice and a straight drag to the Esses, millimeters apart. A better line out of the Esses behind Sian saw more bump drafting to ensure neither of us dropped off the pack, entering Redgate behind Max on Lap 6. James and Lee McNamara appeared to have a coming together on the exit, James unfortunatley coming off worse with a spin to the infield, moving us further up the pack.
Another great drive out of Coppice passing Sian and giving Max a push down the straight to keep in touch saw us close on the leaders into Redgate, considering a drive round the inside of Craner, but choosing to bide time. Another good tow into the esses and Sian was in front again, but a nice clean line out of them saw us drafting again to move forward into Redgate. The train continued around the lap but a great tow along the straight into the Esses saw a move up the middle, dispatching Lee and Sian together, but almost running wide into the chicane and touching Stuart Sellars. Close Call!
Another great run into Redgate saw us a nose in front at the corner for 3rd, but unable to make it stick with Stuart regaining the place. Again the Esses would prove a decisive corner, getting a great tow but unable to capitalise upon it and breaking late behind Nick Selby with us both having to take a deep line in and compromising the exit, resulting in dropping to 5th behind Lee. Last lap saw the train jostling for position until the Esses once again, where Nick braked late resulting in a short trip across the gravel and a promotion for us to 4th as we crossed the line and another 18 Championship Points. A cracking race with the top 7 cars separated by just 2.22 seconds after 15 minutes of racing.
From Left to Right: Brian “Brenda” Robbins, Team Principal; Dan “Big Dawg” Westwood, Chief Mechanic, Hayley “Cupcake” Wells, Logistics and Catering; Matt “Bazra” Price, Stockhatch Driver. In the racing seat, driver Steve Wells.