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Race report 2 - Challenges in the MINI Challenge by Chris Mackenzie

Friday 17th May

Last weekend's racing at Brands Hatch was a real rollercoaster of emotions. It marked my first time behind the wheel of the Mini equipped with the sport class gearbox. The practice sessions showed promising signs, and I quickly got to grips with the new gearbox, which was a relief considering the anticipation leading up to the weekend. We made a few tweaks to the car setup, ensuring everything was aligned and ready to go for qualifying.

Qualifying itself was a sweaty affair, with a hot 30-minute session for both me and the car. Despite the pressure, we managed to secure P2 on the grid, which we were pleased with given our limited experience with the new gearbox and the car in general.

Race 1 kicked off with a less-than-ideal start for both myself and the driver in P1. Wheel spin off the line allowed the third-place driver to sneak past, but I managed to hold onto P2 into the first corner. I was eager to challenge for the lead early on, but our plans were hindered by a safety car period, as some cars needed recovering  from the gravel. I managed to bring the car home in P3.

Race 2 provided a pleasant surprise as I found myself starting from pole position. It was an unexpected turn of events, but I made the most of it with a great start, leading into turn one and maintaining the lead for the whole of the race, defending hard from the driver in p2 who was on my tail the entire time. However, a mistake on the last corner of the final lap cost me the win, relegating me to P2. Nonetheless, it was still my highest finish to date, which we were very pleased with.

The drama continued into Race 3 when, just as we were about to leave the pits, the extinguisher in the car was accidentally triggered by a team member, drenching me, the engine, and the front tires. Despite the setback, the team worked quickly to replace the extinguisher, ensuring we could still make it to the grid. Starting from P2, I was eager to put on a show for our sponsors and family members watching both at the track and on live TV. However, a massive amount of wheel spin off the line saw me drop to dead last going into turn one. We believe the extinguisher liquid had tainted the tires, making it feel like I was driving a boat rather than a race car. Despite the challenging conditions, I managed another P3 finish, salvaging a positive from what was otherwise an embarrassing performance.

Overall, it was a weekend of highs and lows, with plenty of lessons learned for both me and the team. We'll take those lessons with us as we look ahead to Snetterton next week, hoping for smoother races and better luck on the track.

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