MN’S Hal Ridge decided to put down his notebook and buckle up
a somewhat surprising eighth overall and top BMW Mini. The reason for the wayward approach was the new tyres, previously I had been on worn rubber and while new front boots obviously made the car faster, it was now getting as sideways as had been predicted.
Starting from the front row for Q2, I took the lead into the first corner, covering the inside line probably more tightly than really required, and led for the first lap, but on the loose on lap two I could do nothing to fend off Alex Fawcett in his Supermodified Vauxhall Tigra; a lighter, more powerful car using more suitable tyres for the conditions. I settled for second by the finish, although it was a closerun affair with Bell, him closing on me to just 0.293s at the flag, with ninth fastest time.
I got another good start in Q3 from the middle of the randomly allocated grids, and tried to pass fellow Mini driver Terry Durdin on the inside into turn one, but he had the move covered. Waiting until the loose section, I got better traction thanks to a wider line out of the chicane and pulled alongside Durdin, only to have the windscreen totally filled with mud. I’d almost forgotten what the experience of following a car on the loose was like where, for over 80 per cent of the time, visibility is zero. The wipers were good on the Mini, so at least once every couple seconds I could see for a moment, before the screen got filled in again and it would go dark, compounded by the harsh noise of the dirt and stones thrashing the front and underside of the car. I remained second to the finish, defending again from Bell to set fourth quickest time and qualify seventh overall, directly into to A final (much to my surprise). Sadly, that’s really as far as my event would go, having not made a great start in the A final, I tried a pass on the inside of a rear-wheel-drive Volvo Touringcar in the first corner and hit a tyre stack. That was the least of my worries as by the end of the lap the car lost power with an electrical problem, a rare technical issue on cars that are usually ultra-reliable.
Although disappointed with the final result, by qualifying for the A final I did finish second in the BMW Mini class to Bell, and even collected a trophy for my efforts.
My Mini experience at Croft was fantastic, the car has plenty of power to be fun and once you understand when it will send you sideways, it was very controllable in almost every situation you find yourself in.
And, I’m pleased to say that both David and myself embarrassed some rather more expensive machinery in the Supermodified division. Pound for pound, the Mini category is great value for money. I must say a huge thank you to Martin Hawkes for the use of his great car, and Tony Bell for his helpful advice.
The only problem is that Croft only whetted my appetite for more… ■