As Round 4 of the MINI Challenge comes to a close on the Rockingham Circuit, Calum King gives a summary of the race events!
'The Mini Challenge returned for Round 4 of the calendar, to the challenging Rockingham circuit, which was originally designed as a Nascar oval style track, but now boasts a tricky infield section, which is classed as the ISSC circuit, and that is the one we would be taking on for the weekend.
After conflicting weather reports and changing temperatures on the test day on the Friday, I never got much running in the sessions as the set-up of the car was constantly being adjusted. The Mini Challenge F56 JCW runs on Nitron 3-way adjustable race suspension and Dunlop slick tyres similar to those of a BTCC car, so tyres pressures and set up makes all the difference on these cars. At the end of the day we were confident we had found a successful set-up to go in to qualifying with.
Unfortunately qualifying never went to plan, as the session was littered with red flags, so I never managed a good run with the tyres at optimum temperature, so as the flag came down I was sitting on a disappointing 15th place on the grid.
Race one seemed to keep up the bad luck from qualifying as I struggled with tyre temperature on the rear of the car from the start, I lost a position going into Turn 2, and never recovered from that, coming across the line 16th which was my position for the majority of the race, a very disappointing race from myself as I didn’t seem to get on the pace quick enough. Going away from the circuit on the Saturday night I knew I had to come back the next day for Race 2 and 3 with a fresh mind set and make up some ground.
And that’s what happened! Going into Race 2 16th on the grid, I made a slow start for the first two laps, actually dropping another place, but I brought the tyres up to optimum temperature and went for it, making multiple passes on the other cars, most notably a cutback going into Chapman corner on the car of Oakman, and then on the next lap, carrying a lot more speed in to Pif-Paf, passed the car of Newstead, which then allowed me to take another place at the next corner, Hollywood. It was a hugely satisfying result to cross the line in 11th place, after the disappointment on Saturday. The car felt good and the team were happy and we were confident of heading in to Race 3.
Race 3 went even better than the previous, as again, I managed to bring my John Clark Group backed Mini further up the grid. A good start followed by some really consistent lap times seen me catch 7th after I had fought my way up from 11th on the grid, however I was passed by James Turkington, the brother of BTCC double champion Colin. I couldn’t find a way past him, and I conserved the tyres and didn’t want to risk losing any places, so crossed the line behind him and also the 7th place car, which was driven by another BTCC relative, Matt Neal’s son Henry. I was happy to take home 9th place, as the aim for the weekend was a top ten finish, which we achieved.
A successful weekend in terms of results and learning, as every round myself and the team are learning more and more about the car, as this is the teams rookie year as well as my own. There are some great drivers in the Mini Challenge and it’s a brilliantly run series, so it is not only a privilege to be racing a Mini Challenge car, but a privilege to be sharing the track with such talented and experienced racers.'