Sorry it has taken so long to put the report for round one on here but as you can imagine, with the late decision to run a BMW MINI in the British Rallycross Championship and the aquasition of a car so close to the season opener it has been a bit hectic round here.
This year Lucas Oil Team Geriatric is now a two car team, honouring our commitment to render assistance to the winner of the Lucas Oil Team Geriatric Stockhatch Championship in 2012. So we are pleased to welcome Craig Lomax and his Citroen Saxo to the team.
The decision to run a MINI should help all our sponsors, as the MINI is a more recognisable brand, and the car the public drive on the road is the same as the one we will race on the track. Also as the MINI is available and a sales success in the USA, having just sold over 500,000 MINI Coopers, the car will be more identifiable to our American sponsor, Lucas Oil Products, in their US and European markets. With this in mind and the introduction of Facebook and Twitter accounts for the team we will hopefully find some fans and followers in the USA
Round One Lydden Hill 16 & 17 March 2013
The first thing I should say is that the whole team enjoyed the weekends racing with the new car, and I enjoyed driving it as well, we knew it would be a baptism of fire with the new car and would have been surprised to have been straight on the pace but even the pouring rain and strong winds could not dampen our spirits. Everyone in Team Geriatric feel that by mid-season we should be on the pace and winning races by the second half of the season.
We are working to a two year plan, doing our best to be on the podium and a race winner by the close of the 2013 season, and in 2014 we should be challenging for the championship.
The weekend was tough for us with the cars setup not being ideal for the conditions and the circuit. Throughout the day the boys were trying different suspension settings and geometry but we had to accept that the springs where too hard and the shockers too soft. Acheiving third in the final was a big plus for us and boosted our confidence that the car can be got right and allow us to be competitive.
My apologies for the lack of detail in the above but I will be back and giving you a race by race report after the second round at Mallory.
Round Two Mallory Park 14 April 2013
After our first outing at the very wet Lydden Hill last month we have spent a lot of time and effort making improvements to the suspension, particulary the spring rates and the shocker valving and settings. So going into practice was going to be a shot in the dark as we had no idea what to expect. We had set the car up as a tarmac circuit racing car and the car was great on the long opening curve, but, as we got onto the loose the track spat us off onto the grass. The car was too low and too stiff. So the boys raised the suspension and softened the shockers, we would just have to see what would happen in the first heat.
As I lined up on the outside of the front row for heat one I have to admit I was feeling very pensive, had the changes the boys made worked. As the lights changed I got an absolutely superb start, the car felt fantastic. As we approached the loose section I found myself in the lead, now I just had to hang onto the position. It was imperative that I kept it tidy so that the rest of the field would have a hard time to get past. As my confidence grew I started to push harder and harder, becoming more impressed with the MINI with each lap. As we approached the end of the race my confidence was so high that I started to find the limits of the car and started to suffer from understeer. That would be the next thing for the boys to tackle. Don't get me wrong the guys behind me weren't letting me get away but as we crossed the line scoring the first victory for the new car I was pleased to think that we were somewhere near to the performance of the guys who had been racing the MINIs for a couple of years already.
For the second heat I was on the inside of row two, those of you who know Mallory will know that it isn't the widest of tracks and with three cars on the front row it was going to be tough to make headway. The only thoughts I had were to follow one of the old quick hands in the class who was on the outide of the front row and hope that he would give me enough room if I could get past him or let him take me past the two guys on his inside and leave them no choice but to fall in behind me. Well putting it simply the plan didn't work, he didn't make any significant move on the other guys on the front row and I ended up being boxed in behind them in fourth place. Now as you can imagine with the cars being very equal it was going to take something very special or a mistake for me to get past the guys in front. Unfortunately it was me that made the mistake, as we came off the long loose straight onto the the tarmac chicane I went in a bit hot in an attempt to make up a place, All that happened was that I understeered off towards a very large and heavy barrier. I had no choice but to take to the grass and go around the back of the barrier rather than risk hitting it. I obviously I lost some pace and was never able to make up the ground lost to the front runners. Crossing the line in fourth place.
Having had front and second row starts it was my turn to be on the back row for heat three, behind the other newcomer to the series Ken Samadasa, I hadn't seen any of Kens starts so I was not sure what he was going to do. Ken got a good start and left me with no way through so I switched line and followed Kris Hudson, last years winner, hoping he would carry me through, but as I said earlier the cars are so evenly matched all I could do was harry him around Gerrards and I made a lunge around the outside just before the first chicane to take the place. As I got back in touch with the leaders I fell into position behind Thomas Edwards. I was all over him but I was unable to find away past, crossing the finish in fourth place.
Seeing as this is only my second race day with the car I have to admit that I was surprised how quickly we have got onto a creditable pace compared to those who have raced the MINI for two or more years, so rather than change a setup that I knew, I decided to keep it as it was for the final
Qualifying in third place for the Final my hopes were high as this was the position I achieved the cars first win from in heat one. As the lights changed I got another good start but so did Keifer Hudson and as we charged through Gerrards we were banging mirrors, it is that close, neither of us was prepared to give an inch and as the chicane approached the inevitable happened and we both left the tarmac. Having got back onto the track I gave chase down the long loose straight towards the chicane. My frustrations must have got the best of me because as I braked for the chicane I lost the back of the car and ended up having a half spin, the rest of the race was simply a case of recovering lost ground and taking fouth place as a final result.
All be it an apparently poor result, I and the Team have enjoyed the days racing and we are very pleased that we have made the car more competitive over the day, and with the plans we have for the car before the next round in Scotland we are hoping to be a bigger challenger for the wins.
On a brighter note Craig Lomax our new addition to Lucas Oil Team Geriatric pulled an amazing result out of the bag for his final with an impressive win, having had a difficult series of heats Craig was starting from the second row of the grid just as the rain came down, making conditions slippery. Craig was simply flying and took a well deserved win.
Here's hoping that we will be joining his winning ways in Scotland, a venue I particularly like.
Round Three Knockhill 12 May 2013
Since the round at Mallory the boys have been very busy, further work was done to the suspension, a new exhaust was supplied by a new sponsor Milltek Sports, and they also gave the engine and gearbox a thorough going over. So, as we drove to the venue we were all in good spirits, all that hard work must pay some dividends but we would have to wait and see how much.
The Sunday morning dawned bright and fresh with a weather forecast of rain at about 1pm. Having given the car a final once over we were ready for practice. When I walked the track I could see that the loose sections were very wet, and there had been some tweaks made to the chicane and merges for the joker lap.
Phew! What can I say? Wait until you see the in-car footage. After the first lap of practice, where all I was doing was making sure that all systems were okay, I had to find the limits of the new setup. The car felt brilliant on the tarmac and as we entered the loose, so much so that I pushed harder and harder, for the first time this season I had great confidence in the front end, and the rear was good but was still bottoming out on occasions, but, a huge improvement. Any way as we pushed along the loose I misjudged a yump and the rear end came round on me as I was going from lock to lock to catch it. I got away with it but with the options running out as to what we can do with the rear end I may just have to accept that these MINIs run low and bumpy, its up to me to get to grips with it.
Chris was able to make a slight adjustment to the rear ride height for the start of heat one.
Having raced these guys at two venues so far I knew that my start from the back row would have to be excellent as these boys won't give in. As the lights went I got everything right, I was past pole man Keifer Hudson and along side his brother Kris as we dropped down the hill, challenging for the lead, all be it on the outside. As Kris braked for his entry onto the loose he lost the back end, I had no choice but to take to the grass on the outside of the circuit or I would have been in the back of his car, as I gathered it all back together the pack streamed by. I simply pushed as hard as I dared and finished the race in second, a result helped by Keifers bonnet flying open. This car is so improved after Mallory that I should think everyone got a surprise at its turn of speed, including me.
Before the start of heat two the rain came down, and kept coming for the whole day. My start from pole was as good as the first heat, even though the track was soaking. It made for interesting racing as it would be mistakes that would loose the race today, not heroic driving winning the day. As I entered the loose I was in first place and as the rest sorted themselves out I drove sensibly and was able to build up a healthy lead as I took the chequered flag.
After a good clean and check over, the car took its place on the outside of the front row for heat three. My start was good again, but so was Keifers, from the middle of the front row. Neither one of us would give in but as I was on the outside and we were both in danger of messing up the entry on to the loose surface I relented and eased out of it, it did cost me a dent in the door but at least we were both at the front and it was hard but fair racing. I didn't give him any more breaks and chased him hard all the way to the chequered flag, just 0.2 seconds separating us.
With my two second places and a win from the heats I had qualified for pole position. The best place to be today. I knew that the first corner was going to be tough and it was, but at least I was on the inside. The boys and I had discussed tactics for the final we had decided that if I was in the lead approaching the split for the joker lap but the others were close by then I was to take a normal lap and push for a gap. On the second lap I had built a reasonable lead, so I took the joker lap, it worked, coming off the joker I was still in the lead.
Conditions on the track were appalling, the rain was incredible, but as I took the chequered flag I was so happy, all the work the team and sponsors had put in had paid off. Our first win in a final with the MINI is a great reward, I hope this is the first of many in my new era of racing this marque.
Just to cap off a great weekend for Lucas Oil Team Geriatric, Craig Lomax scored a terrific win in the Hothatch class, so a perfect weekend for the team.