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Donington Report

posted 22 Jul 2011, 10:54 by Kieren McDonald
One of the top events of the Mini7 calendar - supporting WTCC at Donington GP - it was always going to be eventful!!

I didn't realise Donny was so close to the airport...planes were taking off just where we were trying to sleep, good job they didn't go on all night! Plus an extra slippy track so I was told from the aviation fuel - just what you want to add to the excitement of an already wet forecast :-)

We woke on Saturday morning to a downpour so it looked like I would definitely be experiencing a wet track  for the 1st time! We decided to stick with the old wet tyres that came with the car, as there was no point in spending on some brand new wets that won't get used much (well maybe not!!).  It was quite daunting, not knowing how the car would be in the wet.  Scrutineering went smoothly and signing on...went..ok too!! Well it did when I went to the correct place!! Thanks to Greg for pointing me towards the Grid Girls room for signing-on!! luckily I didn't walk on in showing my race license...where do I sign lol

I headed out for qualifying at the back of the pack to give myself some space and get a feel for things; everyone started off very cautiously.  I was soon into the 1st corner at Redgate...yep, I can fairly say it's even more lairy in the wet lol I was learning the track bit by bit as well as trying to navigate the wet line, avoid incidents and slow it down! Ah yes, slow it down...ummm...well that wasn't going to plan - a few laps in and my brake pedal was going down to the floor so I'd have to pump it to get any pressure, even then they weren't doing much! I got to the end of qualifying, but I didn't expect much in times with my brake problem hampering me!  I ended up qualifying 16th out of 24 for both races, which wasn't what I had planned but I guess not too bad with my brake problem, new & wet track for 1st time!

Simon checkout the brakes afterwards and saw there wasn't an awful lot left on the pads and they were glazed - meaning they were pretty useless :-) Glazing was probably due to locking up a few times in quali and also last rounds at Snetterton.  We didn't have any spare pads or anything so Simon attempted to file down the pads to see if that would give them more bite; it didn't do an awful lot so it was going to be a case of going into the 1st race and seeing how it goes.

The day brightened up later in time for the 1st race so it was on with the dry tyres - another new experience - new track in the dry :-) Lining up for the start, I wasn't quite ready, thinking we'd be waiting on the grid for longer - I had a poor start and lost a few places...Dave Robinson on the other hand - WOW!! He was a couple of grids back and flew past!! Luckily I saw the door open after Redgate, entering Craner Curves so made it stick and then onwards for another overtake...I got past but lifted off, sending me on the grass and fighting to stabilise the car - I managed it so then concentrated on my lines.  I felt I was improving lap after lap and made quite a few positions and felt I was good for some more places.  The dreaded brake failure returned, and of all places, as I was approaching the Melbourne hairpin and whilst I was tucked up behind Rayner and Davies!!!! Rayner braked, I stamped on my brake pal...nothing!! so had no choice but to duck inside both of them, desperately trying to slow the car down with no joy!! Davies turned in and knocked my rear quarter, not realising I had shot down the inside uncontrollably...luckily only a cracked arch and a bit of a dent! From then on, I was going backwards - overshooting most corners, having no choice but to throw it into corners...with a couple almost leading to the wall!! I managed to finish but back in 18th out of 24 - pretty gutting with having shown good pace (maybe for top 10) and making up so many places but then having to ease right off every corner.

We managed to get some brake pads off Max (thank you!!) and brake fluid off Leon (thank you to you too!!) so Simon set about getting my brake setup sorted.  There was quite a bit of air in the brake lines - a good bleed and new pads gave it much better feel! Simon also said I may end up having to pump the brake pedal again in the next race, as he noticed a wheel bearing was on its last legs, causing the caliper to open out - pumping the brake would bring the pads back to the disk.

We ended up in the Chevrolet VIP hospitality with the Happy Racing crew, aka Max Hunter, Greg & co - courtesy of Greg's raffle win!! Free drinks & food was the way forward that night :-)  A really great evening was had by all...certainly one of the best yet!

Plenty of spectators were milling around the paddock when we got up in the morning...quite a buzz! The weather was pretty mixed all day Sunday - some rain but not quite enough for people to use their wet tyres.  Just as we were parked up in the assembly area, the rain picked up - we all had our dry tyres on!!! Well the rain continued that was throughout - timed perfectly just for our race! Wet track on dry tyres...ummm another new experience then :-D

I had an awful start off the line, spinning in 1st and 2nd gear - once again Dave shot past but I managed to pass him in the same place as the last race...and then almost continued to replicate the last race by overtaking down craner - I thought twice!! I had no clue what the grip would be like with the weather/tyre combo so eased off!!  I made more progress but then had a couple of lairy moments - one of which shot me into the gravel at the Old Hairpin! I thought my race was over but just managed to keep the momentum and get out and back onto the track - Kevin O'Shea managed to squeeze past as I was picking my speed back up.  I eased off Kevin heading up the hill towards Coppice so that I could aim for the drag on the straight but it didn't work out just as I had planned. Kevin lifted off going into Coppice, sending him into a spin and almost around to face me - I had too much speed to try and slow it down in the corner in the wet - either I risked banging into Kevin or I also lifted off...so that's what I did - back end went, reduced my angle and tried slowing it down but led to understeer, straight into the gravel - there was no getting out this time! Very frustrating, as again, I had showed decent pace before my lairy moments.

Overall, a very good weekend - a great social event and learnt lots on the driving and mechanical side - not to mention a much more reliable car. So although it was frustrating, that I had showed good pace for good results, yet mechanical issues were again faced...things are being ironed out and my 1st season is all about gaining as much experience as possible - onwards and upwards :-)

Links to the videos (in car footage) and pictures can be seen on the Gallery > 2011 page found here.
Or direct links to videos on youtube can be found here and pictures on picassa can be found here.
A good link can be found here to the full timings that were made available for the Mini qualifying and races.

An action packed August awaits - 4 races ahead of us with a double header on the 13th at Thruxton and then onto another double header at Brands Hatch on the bank holiday weekend.  Not to mention plenty more to do to the car before the next round, yet hardly any time to do it...certainly no time for any testing.

See you all again soon!