The weekend of August 6th/ 7th saw the RNRM Car Racing Team head to Donington Park in Derbyshire for Rounds 7 and 8 of the Armed Forces Race Challenge. A record 11 drivers lined up for the team as part of a 36 car grid at the parkland circuit which features the intimidating Craner Curves and was the site of the 1993 European Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Fine weather provided perfect conditions for racing across the day which began with a short 15 min qualifying session punctuated by yellow flags for a fire on an Army car, thankfully extinguished without serious injury, and a collision at the final chicane bringing the session to an early conclusion. With many drivers racing on the circuit for the first time and others returning after a number of years the shorter session led to a spread in times with stand-out performances from Mne Adam Dewis (Vauxhall Astra) and Veteran Mark Inman (Caterham Sigmax) qualifying 1st and 3rd in Class B with Adam on the front row for the whole grid. Mike Wells (Toyota MR2) put in a strong lap to start in 2nd in the competitive Class D. With other drivers qualifying mid pack for their class the team was well placed to move forward in the 2 races to come. Keith Attwood (Mini R53 Cooper S) would be looking to gain places from the back of the grid after a misfire ruled him out of qualifying.
Race 1 began well with all drivers navigating the 1st lap safely and making progress from their grid positions. Mechanical drama hit as the 2nd lap started however with Sean Graham (Sultan Locost) suffering from a broken gear linkage which left his car unable to continue and sadly beyond repair for the 2nd race of the day. Later in the same lap Adam’s race came to an end with a coolant pipe leak leaving his Astra steaming at the exit of the Old Hairpin, again despite the best efforts of the team the damage was too great to allow the car to race again. On track Gareth Moss (Mazda MX5), Liam Waterhouse (Peugeot 206) and Simon Vernon (Mazda MX5) were locked in battle in Class D with the more powerful Peugeot well matched to the more nimble Mazdas. Further back Seb Unwin and novice Dan Blackett (both in matching BMW 116i cars) produced clean drives with Seb, in the newer team car, pulling away from similar RAF and Army run cars to finish 29th and 9th in class ahead of Dan in 32nd and 12th in class. Further ahead Liam pulled away to finish 24th, 4th in class beating Gareth in 27th, 7th in class and Simon after a late trip through the gravel finished 28th and 8th in class. Mike drove a fantastic race to win Class D and finish 16th overall. Ben McLaughlin (Renault Clio 172) continued a solid season finishing 7th in Class C and 17th overall. With a fine recovery drive from Keith resulting in a 12th place finish overall and 5th in Class C. At the front Mark drove a strong race to win Class B and finish 3rd overall.
With the grid for Race 2 set by the 2nd fastest times from qualifying the grid was very similar to the earlier race with Keith once again looking to make up places from the rear of the grid. All drivers got away cleanly with Simon and Gareth battling hard through the Craner Curves on the opening lap. At the head of the race Mark fought a race long battle with the quicker Class A cars for the race lead despite a power disadvantage on the long Exhibition Straight. After 15 laps Mark had to settle for 2nd overall, but easily winning his Class by over 25 secs. Further back Keith once again sliced through the Class D cars on the opening lap to engage in a race long battle with a turbo charged MX5 despite losing power in the closing stages due to a boost leak on his supercharger, eventually coming home 12th matching his result in Race 1 and 5th in Class C. Mike followed up his class win in Race 1 by matching it in Race 2 finishing 14th overall well ahead of a number of more powerful cars. Ben continued his strong form finishing 17th overall and 9th in Class C extending his lead in the novice championship. Liam once again showed the skills he has learnt from karting to bring the team’s Peugeot home in 22nd, 5th in Class D. Just behind Simon enjoyed a quiet race on his return to the team after an operationally enforced year out from the sport to bring his MX5 home in 23rd, 6th in class. Seb and Gareth battled race long with the two drivers running very close up the hill to the fast McLeans corner to finish 25th and 26th respectively, 7th and 8th in class. Further back Dan completed a clean race to finish 29th and 11th in class.
After 2 hard races the team left Donington Park in 1st position in the overall championship ahead of the Army and RAF. The team will head next to Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk in October for the final 2 rounds of the season hoping to seal the inter-services AFRC win.
Anyone wishing to get involved either racing or supporting, should contact Lt Cdr Keith Attwood; firstname.lastname@example.org or for more details visit www.rnrmmsa.co.uk and www.armedforcesracechallenge.net