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Archive for April, 2012

Nathan Harrison - ThruxtonHillspeed’s Nathan Harrison consolidated his top six placing in the Ginetta Junior Championship at a wet and windy Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire over the weekend, 28th/29th April, with a best finish of fifth – second in the Rookie Class – during a rain-lashed sixth round of the campaign.

While qualifying didn’t go fully to plan for either Harrison or team-mate Pepe Massot, both first-year drivers produced superb performances in incredibly difficult race conditions to each secure healthy points finishes.

Starting Saturday afternoon’s race from the fifth row of the grid, an outing in which the Clerk of the Course ruled all drivers had to compete on treaded tyres due to the inclement weather, 15-year-old Harrison progressed into ninth on lap one before usurping Keith Donegan for eighth at mid-distance.

Massot, meanwhile, wasn’t able to capitalise on his top four starting slot and slipped to fifth initially before being edged back into sixth on lap five. As the race neared its conclusion on lap 10, the fight for sixth closed up with the Spaniard just ahead of then points leader Sennan Fielding and Harrison.

Heading up Woodham Hill on the approach to Club Chicane for the final time on lap 11, the trio ran almost three abreast into the braking zone. While Massot held on to sixth and second in the Rookie classification, Fielding didn’t get the best drive out of the corner and that gave Harrison all the invitation he needed to grab seventh on the line by a mere 0.088 seconds.

Non-stop rain on Sunday morning led to a fully wet track for round six with Harrison lining-up on the fourth row in seventh place ahead of Massot in ninth. With no let-up in the rain or the harsh winds, officials elected to begin the race from behind the Safety Car and when racing proper started on lap three, Harrison moved into the top five before challenging for fourth at Allard next time around.

Running fifth for the remainder of the race, the Oxfordshire driver did come under pressure from William Palmer during the closing stages but held firm to retain his hard-earned fifth place finish by 0.4 seconds – second in the Rookie class.

Massot, hampered by a heavily steamed-up windscreen caused by an issue with the demister on his Ginetta G40, slipped to eighth place early on but did battle into seventh before being edged back to eighth by Fielding who was recovering after an earlier moment. Added to his round five result, the finish enabled car racing rookie Massot to conclude the weekend back in the championship top 10.

“We’ve had exceptionally difficult circumstances this weekend but we’re very pleased with the performances of both Nathan and Pepe in incredibly tough conditions”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “Other than the official test a few weeks ago, this was Nathan’s first visit to Thruxton while Pepe hadn’t even seen the track before going out into free practice on Saturday!

“Nathan did a fantastic job with two very strong drives, the weather was terrible all weekend and he coped well with the challenges it presented. Pepe too had a strong weekend but he did struggle with visibility in race two as the heated windscreen packed-up, we’re not sure if it was caused by a fuse or a relay issue. All in all, it’s been a positive weekend and we’re now looking forward to Oulton Park where we’re aiming to have a third car back out in the championship.”

Rounds seven and eight of the Ginetta Junior Championship will take place six weeks from now over the weekend 9th/10th June at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire. Before then, Hillspeed’s Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship squad will be back in action on 19th/20th May at Rockingham in Northamptonshire for the fourth and fifth rounds of its 2012 season.

2012 Ginetta Junior Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
6th Nathan Harrison, 92pts; 10th Pepe Massot, 64pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Darryl O'YoungAs if nothing can stop Darryl O’Young from scoring points at the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the moment, the SEAT Leon WTCC driver rebounded from the lowly overall P16 starting place in Slovakia and pocketed eight points with two top six finishes in the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy.

“Finishing 7th and 9th overall after starting from P16 was really the maximum result possible,” said Darryl after achieving pleasing results on his Slovakia debut.

After a disappointing qualifying session earlier in the weekend, a transformed O’Young turned aggressive from the start. In each of the two races, the team STR driver started strongly to overtake several cars in the opening lap. And by staying incident-free in both races, the Hong Kong ace outpaced no less than seven opponents in each round.

The Canadian born O’Young has now bagged 22 independent points thus far this season. He is only three behind the fifth-placed Italian driver Alberto Cerqui. The results also see the 32-year-old moved up three positions into 13th overall in the world championship standings.

Round 9 & 10 of the 2012 season will be held later this week in Hungary where Darryl scored one of his independent podiums last season.

Qualifying 1 at Slovakia Ring – Independent P8 & Overall P16

“Looking ahead we must work on getting stronger qualifying results.”

Race 1 at Slovakia Ring (2012 round 7) – Independent P6 & Overall P7

“It was important to come out of race 1 without incident so my car would be in good condition to fight again in race 2.”

Race 2 at Slovakia (2012 round 8) – Independent P6 & Overall P9

“I had the race pace to match the front of the field, but having to start from P16 just loses too much time and it is difficult to recover from that.”

Sponsors LKM and A-Ha Coffee are the major forces behind Darryl’s pursuit of success in the 2012 FIM World Touring Car Championship. Please visit www.fiawtcc.com for more WTCC information and www.darryloyoung.com for the latest updates about Darryl.

Alex MacDowall - Slovakia WTCCAlex MacDowall holds seventh place in the Yokohama Independents Trophy standings following the fourth event of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship in Slovakia on Sunday, 29th April, despite an incredibly challenging weekend at the wheel of his turbo-powered Chevrolet Cruze.

On the back foot going into rounds seven and eight after battling horrendous understeer issues during practice and qualifying, the 21-year-old from Carlisle had an improved set-up for raceday but was prevented from making the most of it when shunted out of the second encounter.

Lining-up an uncharacteristic 16th on the grid, ninth in class, for race one as a result of the struggles, Alex headed into round seven with heightened confidence following a positive morning warm-up and made good progress in the particularly hot conditions at the Slovakia Ring.

With his Bamboo Engineering-run Cruze more forgiving on corner entry than at any other point during the weekend, he was able to battle competitively in the midfield and took an eventual top 12 finish overall, ninth in class. Just 0.9 seconds behind the BMW of Mehdi Bennani at the flag, he was also only a further half second adrift of the works Chevrolet of championship leader Yvan Muller.

Starting round eight from 15th on the grid, Alex was embroiled in a close fight with the BMWs once again but hopes of a top 10 challenge at least were halted on lap three when his Cruze was rammed on the run into turn eight. Resulting in a hefty impact and broken steering, the Cumbrian racer managed to limp back to the pits but his weekend was over.

“I went up the inside of a BMW at turn seven and we were side-by-side for the next corner but another BMW must have locked-up on the other side of me as the next thing I knew, I’d been hit and it bent the steering”, explained Alex, “It was far too optimistic, I’m not cross-eyed so I can’t see cars coming from two different directions at the same time!

“It’s disappointing as the car felt a lot better in the races then it did all weekend up to that point, we had new tyres as we didn’t get through to Q2 so that helped as well. The team found a better set-up though overnight after qualifying so, following the warm-up, I felt pretty confident.”

He added: “In the first race I decided to try and stay out of trouble as much as possible, a lot of cars went off, so I just wanted a sensible finish. In the second race I didn’t make the best of starts but I chipped away though and made up ground, to be taken out by a stupid move was very annoying.”

With no time to rest, the WTCC competitors now travel to the Hungaroring for the ninth and 10th rounds of the 2012 season next weekend, 5th/6th May. Although another track Alex has never raced at before, the fifth event of the championship in Hungary is probably the one he’s been looking forward to the most as he sees the venue as one more akin to the style of a British circuit.

“It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks but I’m really looking forward to next weekend, I think Hungary will suit is”, said Alex, “Most of the tracks on the WTCC calendar are wide with big corners, they don’t apex like those on a UK circuit and that’s what I’m having to get used to. Hungaroring is more like a UK track in that respect so I’m hoping we can challenge right near the front.”

Following two free practice sessions on Saturday, 5th May, qualifying at the Hungaroring will get underway at 13.00 (UK time). After the usual warm-up session on Sunday, 6th May, round nine will take place at 10.20 (UK time) with round 10 following at 13.35 (UK time) – all of the action is set to be screened on the Eurosport television network.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8):
1st Yvan Muller, 148pts; 15th Alex MacDowall, 10pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd8):
1st Pepe Oriola, 62pts; 7th Alex MacDowall, 19pts

Photo by Romano Poli / www.photo-4.com

Oli Basey-Fisher - ThruxtonGinetta Junior Championship rookie Oli Basey-Fisher secured a pair of valuable points finishes on his first visit to the fastest circuit on the series calendar, Thruxton in Hampshire, over the weekend, 28th/29th April, with persistent rain and blustery conditions providing the sternest of tests.

Having never driven his Ginetta G40 in the wet before, the 16-year-old from Great Finborough in Suffolk faced a mountainous challenge throughout the third event of his maiden car racing season but took a sensible approach to rounds five and six to secure 11th place finishes in each race.

While Saturday’s free practice, qualifying session and race were all affected by poor weather, the rain and gusty winds worsened dramatically on Sunday to give the Ginetta Junior Scholarship Winner his steepest learning curve yet.

“Obviously, Thruxton is the fastest circuit in the UK so to race there for the first time under the conditions we had was a really tough challenge”, said the Century Logistics-backed driver, “It’s been the most difficult weekend so far but we scored points in both races so I’m happy enough with that.

“It was absolutely tipping down all weekend, Saturday was more changeable – wet in the morning, followed by a greasy session and then a dry session – while on Sunday it was nothing but rain all day long. Every session was a different challenge for me, a hell of a learning experience that’s for sure!”

Round five on Saturday took place on a drying track after earlier rain but, on the grounds of safety, officials decided the teenage racers in Ginetta Junior should run with wet-weather tyres. Lining up 11th on the grid, Oli had a good opening lap and climbed into the top 10 before eventually having to settle for 11th, and sixth in the Rookie classification, following a battle with Tom Jackson.

With heavy rain saturating the 2.36-mile circuit overnight, and no let up throughout Sunday, round six was unquestionably run with all cars having full wet set-up and treaded tyres. Officials chose to begin the action under Safety Car conditions so racing proper didn’t get underway until lap three.

Providing an even tougher challenge than Saturday’s slippery encounter, Oli again moved into the top 10 early on and held the spot until the start of the fifth tour when erstwhile championship leader Sennan Fielding made his way by. Holding 11th place to the flag, the Tollbar Racing with WIRED driver lapped well clear of round five challenger Jackson to claim an improved top five Rookie finish.

“I was lower down the order than I expected to be, or wanted to be, but I’ve certainly learnt a lot from it and it’s definitely been a worthwhile weekend”, said Oli, “I learnt so many things, I took a lot of advice from my driver coach Malcolm Smith – he’s helped me so much – and it was just a case of trying to remain as relaxed as possible, whatever the weather threw at us.”

Oli now has a six-week break from racing with the fourth event of the Ginetta Junior Championship season, rounds seven and eight, taking place over the weekend 9th/10th June at the picturesque Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire.

2012 Ginetta Junior Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Charlie Robertson, 144pts; 9th Oli Basey-Fisher, 71pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Rob Smith - ThruxtonRob Smith’s first AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup race weekend at the ultra-fast Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire proved to be the most challenging yet of his maiden season in the category as rain, and dreadful blustery conditions, led to a best finish of 16th position in round five of the campaign.

Marking the 19-year-old’s first ever wet-weather running at the wheel of his Total Control Racing run car, the event couldn’t have been much tougher and was a true baptism of fire for the Telford driver although he at least managed to salvage some championship points from the opening encounter.

Finishing on the cusp of the top 15 in a rain-affected fifth round on Saturday, 28th April, Rob’s chances of an improvement in the much wetter sixth round on Sunday, 29th April, were slim due to championship regulations limiting the number of wet tyres each driver has available.

Resulting in Rob having very worn wet-weather rubber on the rear of his car, his pace was always going to suffer with lots of standing water on track. Battling an incredibly twitchy Clio each time he tried to push, on the third racing lap the back end got away from him at the first corner, Allard, and led to heavy contact with the barriers which resulted in an instant retirement.

“It really couldn’t have been any worse where the weather was concerned”, said Rob, “It all started with the rain in qualifying, by the time I’d learnt to drive the conditions the tyres had gone so it was a struggle to try and get any kind of decent time at all – we were done before we started really.

“The first race wasn’t too bad, I lost the car on cold tyres early on otherwise I think we could have been knocking on the door of the top 10 as our pace was quite good. For race two, we were screwed by the tyre regulations which limit how many sets of wets you’ve got. The tyres we had on the back were basically like intermediates and on standing water that meant we didn’t have a chance.”

With no prior experience of wet-weather driving in his front-wheel drive Clio Cup car, the weekend’s event was always going to be a steep learning curve and with no test session the day before it meant competitors went straight into qualifying.

Although disappointed to post a pair of row 10 starts in tricky conditions, the Goodride Performance Tyres, Grouptyre and Exhaust Tyres & Batteries Ltd-backed racer had high hopes of pushing towards the top 10 in both races.

Rob lapped with top 10 pace in Saturday afternoon’s encounter and had a realistic chance of a finish in the thick of the points positions, however, the unfortunate moment on cold tyres early on limited the possibilities and he had to be satisfied with an eventual 16th place – sixth in the Rookie Cup.

AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup now takes a six week break from action with rounds seven and eight of the season set to take place on 9th/10th June at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire. During the downtime, Rob plans to embark on a couple of test days before the championship resumption.

2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd6):
20th Rob Smith, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Charlie Robertson - ThruxtonCharlie Robertson stormed to the top of the Ginetta Junior Championship standings at a rain-lashed Thruxton over the weekend, 28th/29th April, with an utterly dominant performance – two race wins, two pole position starts and the fastest lap in both encounters.

Marking the first double-winning weekend of the 15-year-old’s short car racing career, the second year competitor was unchallenged in absolutely atrocious conditions which proved difficult for even the most experienced drivers on the entire Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship package.

“This has been the perfect way to bounce back from the troubles we had at Donington”, said the Investigo and Ria Capital Markets-supported star, “I was praying for rain after qualifying, I knew my wet pace was really good and so rain would be good for us in the races and I think I proved that with two wins out of two, my first ever double on the TOCA package. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Setting the standard throughout the weekend, Charlie secured pole position for round five by a huge 0.8 seconds and his second quickest lap time of the session, determining starting positions for round six, was an even more impressive one second ahead of closest challenger Niall Murray.

Ahead of Saturday afternoon’s race, there was some debate as to whether slick tyres would be used but the Clerk of the Course made the decision all drivers should utilise wet-weather rubber on the grounds of safety with light rain in the air and a slippery track surface.

Immediately stamping his authority on the race, the Whyteleafe driver opened up a 1.8 second lead on the first lap alone and set the fastest lap of the race the next time around before the treaded tyres started to lose performance. With no more rain forthcoming, the levels of grip reduced on the increasingly dry track but Charlie delivered an inch-perfect drive on the way to a 10 second victory.

So clear was the HHC Motorsport youngster’s dominance, not only was he the only driver to circulate in the 1m32 second bracket, he almost dipped below that barrier with a fastest lap of 1m32.099 seconds (92.09mph).

“It was quite hard to know which tyres to go on for race one, the Clerk of the Course said we should go on wets so that’s what we all did”, explained Charlie, “It was quite a hard race, as the track dried more the tyres started to go off and the car was sliding around a lot more but it was a good race.”

For the televised sixth round on Sunday, the action began under Safety Car conditions due to the continued presence of rain and a lot of standing water on track. Racing proper got underway at the start of lap three and Charlie made no mistakes as he quickly built a lead of over a second.

Reeling off a string of fastest laps, the best of 1m35.060 seconds (89.22mph) coming on lap six, the MSA Academy driver pushed hard to keep a good gap to title rival Murray and eventually won by two seconds. Starting the weekend fourth in the standings, Charlie now has a five point lead.

“I realised where Niall [Murray] was and I wanted to try and keep the gap or even stretch the gap, I kept pushing until the last few laps and then concentrated on making no mistakes to make sure the win was in the bag”, he added, “It really has been a fantastic weekend and the perfect 48th birthday present for my dad too!”

Charlie now has a six week break from competition with rounds seven and eight of the 2012 Ginetta Junior Championship scheduled to take place on 9th/10th June at Oulton Park in Cheshire.

2012 Ginetta Junior Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Charlie Robertson, 144pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Daniel Lloyd - ThruxtonDaniel Lloyd wrote his name into the record books at a blustery and wet Thruxton on Sunday, 29th April, by becoming the first ever Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholar to claim victory – and all in only the sixth race of his debut season in the prestigious one-make championship.

In a wildly unpredictable encounter, beamed live across the UK on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, the Huddersfield rookie overcame serious understeer issues caused by a missing front splitter on his Porsche 911 GT3 to somehow conquer the treacherous, slippery conditions on slick tyres and claim an emotional triumph.

The result, coupled with fifth place in round five, also hoisted him into the championship top three and more accolades followed the second encounter when Daniel was named the Porsche Carrera Cup GB ‘Driver of the Weekend’.

“It was such a hard race, we’ve had a hard weekend full stop, so it’s just amazing to come away with my first win in Porsche – unbelievable!”, said the 20-year-old, “Massive thanks to everyone who has made this happen, Porsche GB for the Scholarship prize, the guys at Team Parker Racing, my fantastic sponsors and, of course, my family – especially my dad who’s been there through thick and thin.”

Starting eighth on the grid, following a tough rain-affected qualifying session on Saturday, 28th April, Daniel made a blistering start and rocketed through from the fourth row to slice his way into the top four. With terrific momentum, he soon grabbed third out of the complex on the run to Noble before a remarkable move on points leader Michael Meadows for second at the fearsome Church Corner.

Although all of the main players started on slicks, the track was still very slippery from earlier rain but Daniel coped with the conditions superbly and made his intentions clear with the fastest lap on the fourth tour. He then set about reeling in race leader Rory Butcher, closing to within 0.9 seconds before losing the front splitter on the kerbs at the complex.

Causing an immediate loss of stability and downforce, the TNT Post, TSD, Creechurch Private Wealth, Propack and TPA Yorkshire-backed driver faced a hard task to preserve his podium challenge but more rain into the second half of the race lessened the impact of the damage.

Over the final four laps, Daniel ate into Butcher’s increased two second advantage and on lap 19 at Church he served up a sensational pass to grab the lead. Butcher didn’t want to cede and held the inside line up Woodham Hill but at the chicane an attempt to out-brake Daniel led to the Scotsman losing the rear of his car – leaving the West Yorkshireman no option but to go wide to avoid contact.

Holding first place into the penultimate tour, Daniel came under increasing pressure from experienced Porsche campaigner Glynn Geddie but he held firm and took the flag 0.5 seconds clear on lap 21. He also set the fastest lap of those drivers remaining on slick tyres with a time of 1m26.405 seconds.

“After the splitter came off I thought I was done”, he reflected, “As the track was drying more and more I started to lose touch with Rory [Butcher] and Michael [Meadows] was catching me again, then it started to spit with rain again and so the problems with the splitter didn’t matter as much. It was still a big problem, and the car was a handful, but not as bad as it was before.”

The earlier fifth round began under Safety Car conditions, so wet was the track surface, and on the first racing lap at the complex – lap four – he moved up from fifth to fourth position but lost the front splitter on the second full-speed tour so again suffered with handling problems. Even so, Daniel coped admirably and although slipping to fifth he held the place to the chequered flag.

Porsche Carrera Cup GB now takes a six-week break from action with rounds seven and eight of the season scheduled to take place over the weekend 9th/10th June at the first of two ‘home’ events for Daniel, the annual visit to Oulton Park Island Circuit.

The hiatus in the championship calendar actually works perfectly for the Huddersfield racer as just a fortnight from now, on Sunday, 13th May, he will run in the Jane Tomlinson Leeds Half Marathon on behalf of his nominated 2012 charity the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice. To support Daniel and this most worthy of causes, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/daniellloydracing-halfmarathon

2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Michael Meadows, 117pts; 2nd Jonas Gelzinis, 88pts; 3rd Daniel Lloyd, 74pts

Photo by Malcolm Griffiths

Ahmad Al Harthy - Rd6 ThruxtonOman’s Ahmad Al Harthy mastered treacherous conditions at the ultra-fast Thruxton Circuit on Sunday, 29th April to claim his third and fourth Pro-Am 1 victories of the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship – and with it more than double his class lead to a substantial 31 points.

Having dominated Pro-Am 1 in qualifying with a brace of clear pole position starts for both of the weekend’s races, the Oman Air Racing Team ace achieved his second winning double in as many race meetings with two faultless drives.

Conditions at the 2.36-mile Hampshire track couldn’t have been more challenging, persistent rainfall and strong winds making for a very difficult third event of the season. Renowned as a wet-weather specialist throughout his motorsport career though, Ahmad was truly in a league of his own.

“Donington was amazing but this is even better, perfect!”, said the 30-year-old after race two, “To win required a lot more than the wins at Donington , I don’t think we’ve ever done this before – to drive a completely wet track on slicks. The amount of concentration needed was huge, the rain was coming, then it stopped, then the rain came again and you just didn’t know how hard to push.

“We pushed though, all weekend, and the team did a really great job for me. The car was amazing, we ran on wets in race one but before race two we took a last minute decision to go with slicks, it was a risk but you have to take these risks at this level of racing and competition. I’m so delighted to have won both races.”

Officials opted to begin round five under Safety Car conditions due to significant rainfall and a very wet surface so racing proper didn’t get underway until lap four. When it did the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Centre-backed racer made no mistakes and delivered a textbook drive.

Leading Pro-Am 1 by a country mile throughout, Ahmad dominated the class to win by more than 20 seconds and he also posted the fastest lap of 1m22.419 seconds (102.90mph) to underline the level of his performance.

In round six, the decision to go with slick tyres did pay off despite the track being massively slippery and a major challenge for all of the championship’s front-runners. Once again, Ahmad retained the lead of Pro-Am 1 throughout and even when more rainfall increased the risk and the intensity of the task at hand, he handled it all superbly. This time, the winning margin was almost half a minute.

There is now a six week break in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship calendar with rounds seven and eight of the 2012 season set to take place over the weekend 9th/10th June at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire.

Keep up to speed with Ahmad’s 2012 progress at his official website www.ahmadalharthy.com follow him on Twitter @AlHarthyRacing or visit the Ahmad Al Harthy Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ahmad-Al-Harthy/111700892183537

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Nicolas Hamilton - ThruxtonAirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup team Total Control Racing endured a difficult sixth round of the season at Thruxton on Sunday, 29th April, when heavy rain and standing water made for one of the toughest and most challenging races in championship memory.

Nicolas Hamilton, who started the race from a career-best sixth on the grid after a sensational run in rain-affected qualifying on Saturday, had high hopes of a strong finish for the Wednesbury team but so harsh were the conditions the 20-year-old wasn’t able to capitalise.

Acknowledging the severity of the weather, race officials opted to begin round six behind the Safety Car so racing proper didn’t get underway until lap four. As the train of Clio Cup cars streamed across the start line and into the first corner, Allard, Hamilton’s car was pitched into a spin.

Managing to recover down in 18th place, the second year racer pushed on to try and make up some lost ground as the rain persisted and he was up into 16th position prior to a mid-race Safety Car period, required following an unfortunate incident for TCR team-mate Rob Smith. Despite another hairy moment, Hamilton refused to be beaten and eventually finished in 18th to salvage a few points.

Smith, for whom the weekend marked his first in wet conditions at the wheel of his Clio, faced an incredibly tough challenge from 19th on the grid but he made good early progress and was 16th after the first racing lap.

Running in the thick of the action in walls of spray, the 19-year-old saloon car rookie was caught out at Allard – having had to run quite worn rear tyres due to championship regulations governing the number of wet-weather tyres permitted for each driver – and the resulting spin led to a hefty impact with the barriers.

“Sunday was a big learning curve for both drivers, it was torrential and there was a lot of standing water out there”, said team boss Lee Brookes, “For Rob, having never driven in the wet before, the conditions were not what you’d want and especially at a track as fast as Thruxton. There were lots of experienced racers having issues, as well as the inexperienced ones – that showed how tough it was.

“Nic got caught out too, there was a lot of standing water and with all the spray in the pack it was difficult to see where the water was. I was pleased Nic just kept going and going, you couldn’t stop him, when he had a moment he’d be back on it and trying again. If it hadn’t been quite that bad I’m sure he’d have had a top result – we wanted it wet, just not that wet!.”

Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire will host the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup six weeks from now on 9th/10th June. On the same weekend, TCR’s Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge squad will also be in action at Rockingham in Northamptonshire with series front-runner Mike Robinson.

2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd6):
19th Nicolas Hamilton, 28pts; 20th Rob Smith, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

vip petfoodsTony and Klark Quinn were well on the way to victory in the first round of the 2012 Australian Production Car Endurance Championship at Phillip Island, until a freakish pitlane incident put them out of the race.

The Gold Coast father-son team’s V.I.P. Petfoods Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X had to be retired after it fell off a trolley jack during its third pit stop, just past the halfway mark of the six-hour race at the 4.5km Victorian circuit.

The jack punched a hole through the driver’s side floor, protruding about 20cm into the cabin. It narrowly missed Tony Quinn, who had just swapped with Klark and was about to begin his second stint.

A disappointed Tony explained that he and Klark had been looking forward to scoring their first win with the Evo X, which had just replaced the V.I.P. Petfoods team’s Evo IX.

“It was a shame to have this happen, because we were having a great run,” he said.

“From the start Klark built up a 30-40 second lead, and because he managed to make his first pit stop later than the other quick Evos, I was still in front after we swapped over.

“We lost the lead for a few laps after our second pit stop because the field had closed up behind the safety car, but it didn’t take Klark long to get ahead and start opening a gap again.”

Tony said that the V.I.P. Petfoods team’s only problem up to that point was a couple of delaminating tyres.

“I had the right-front tyre let go near the end of my first stint, but it happened just after I went past the pit entry so I had to drive a whole lap on the flat tyre.

“The same thing happened to Klark at about the same distance into his second stint. It was when he came into the pits to hand the car back to me that the car fell off the jack.

“When we lift the car from the side, the trolley jack goes under the reinforced part of the sill where the standard jack goes, but it’s pretty small.”

“I was belted in, ready to go, and suddenly the jack came up through the floor – I’ve never had anything like that happen in a race before!”

The weekend wasn’t a total loss according to Klark, who is due to return to Phillip Island in late-May for the second round of the 2012 Australian GT Championship.

“It was good to do plenty of laps here before the GT round,” he said. “I didn’t get much running at the Phillip Island GT round last year because of various car problems, but at least I know the circuit a lot better now!”

The Phillip Island enduro was won by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X driven by Jim Pollicina and Ryan Simpson, with Stuart Kostera-Ian Tulloch second in another Evo X, and Nathan Morcom-Chaz Mostert third in a BMW 335i.