Rounds 1 and 2 of the Armed Forces Race Challenge saw the RNRM Car Racing Team return to Silverstone with a large grid of 35 drivers for the season opener after what felt like a long winter break.
Silverstone National circuit is the shorter of the 3 layouts the circuit has to offer, with a circuit length of 1.64 miles creating some very fast laps, close racing and large amounts of traffic for the lead cars to contend with. With 3 long straights, fast corners and hairpins to navigate it creates a very exciting race.
All drivers set some very reasonable track times for qualification with WO2 Richard Philips (BMW 116i) qualifying 3rd in class for both races. Keith (Mini R53 Cooper S) qualifying second in class for both of this weekend’s races and 10th overall. Mne Ben McLaughlin (Renault Clio 172) qualified 5th in class, Adam (BMW 116i) who was struggling for pace over the weekend qualified 30th overall and 6th in class. Sean (Locost) qualified 3rd in class for race 1 and 2nd for race 2.
The start of race 1 got with little to no incidents, after a long winter break off the track this was a testament to the skill and awareness of the drivers. The pack were quick to separate themselves with the lead cars disappearing down the Wellington straight while the midfield and back of pack were still navigating the first hairpin. Adam did well to defend his position but on the Wellington straight was out paced by the other 116 trophy cars. Adam had a few little moments down at Brooklands and Luffield which resulted in him conceding places towards the end of the race. Ben had to retire from the race due to engine issues which was unfortunate as he was showing brilliant pace. And to finish off the teams’ woes, Sean’s oil sump plug found its way loose releasing the contents of his engine on the racing line before spinning out at Brooklands when his rear wheels collected some of the oil and lost grip. Unfortunately, although a new sump plug was found, the short 30 seconds it ran without caused the engine to seize and that was his weekend over.
Overall race 1 results for the team weren’t brilliant with the 2 DNFs however, Keith managed to secure a 2nd in class and 7th overall which definitely is a great start to his season and Richard finished 1st against the other 116 trophy cars. Back in the pits the team were working frantically to fix both Sean’s and Ben’s cars but unfortunately Sean’s couldn’t be saved. For Ben the problem appeared to be that the intake manifold’s captive nuts had broken so new nuts and bolts were installed and the car fired straight back up and off to assembly for race 2 he went.
Race 2 nearly started with no incidents however just as they were leaving the assembly area Ben’s problems came back, from running lean for too long in race 1 it caused some ongoing issues when demanded from. Keith and Richards race went without any issues, and both secured a 2nd in their respective classes. Adam still struggling for pace didn’t make any progress from his starting position but managed to maintain his position and finished just outside a podium place with a 4th in class.
Unfortunately, due to reliability and pace issues the team came out at the bottom of the pack in the team results, but Keith’s consistent performance placed him top of the Drivers Championship 10 points clear of 2nd place. Hopefully he can take this performance and replicate it in the next rounds to maintain his lead.