St Cross Electronics
Monoposto racers converged on Donington in such numbers that a rejig of the usual mix of classes and grids was needed to fit everyone in. On this occasion the Mono Motos were to share the track with a very strong field of Mono 2000s, the first time this combination has been used for a Monoposto Championship event. The big Monoposto field joined a packed MSVR meeting, which saw more than its fair share of organisational problems over the weekend, not helped on Sunday by wildly varying weather conditions. As the Monoposti gathered the MSO park up team did a good job of fitting everyone into the rather old-fashioned Donington paddock, even if it they did sometimes look a bit like those metro station attendants whose job it is to crush the passengers onto trains which are already full...
The track was definitely wet when the field came out for the first Mono qualifying session of the weekend. As always at Donington the kerosene fall-out from the East Midlands Airport flight path punished anyone who thought they might be better off on slicks in these sort of conditions. Peter Venn knows about Donington and planted the Yale Dallara on the pole only three laps into the session, almost a second clear of next man Tony Bishop in his CDR tended car who came out on top of a last lap shoot-out with Malcolm Scott for the second spot. Tony was in for busy weekend as he was commuting between Donington and the F3 Cup event at Silverstone. Behind the leading trio Robbie Watts was starting a day best described as character-building when the gearbox spigot shaft on the RAWPower Lola welded itself into crankshaft, meaning he chose to start from the back of the grid for the race because there wasn't enough time after qualifying to split the car and get a working clutch. Dave Gillett is really getting to grips with his new ex-Lippitt car (Adam being in attendance during the weekend) and held off Ben Cater for fifth slot. On his first visit to Donington, with no testing at all, Irish Formula Renault driver Cian (say "Keen") Carey did very well to be in touch with the lead group, but his team-mate Martin Daly only managed a couple of laps before his Renault expired, necessitating a smartly-executed engine change before the race. Cian, Martin and their team were a great addition to the Monoposto paddock over the weekend, and hopefully they will have enjoyed themselves enough to justify another long journey over from County Meath again this season.
To everyone's surprise (well to MY surprise anyway) you had to run your finger down to eight place in the Qualifying results to find the first Mono Moto. The general consensus was that the Dallara's aero capabilities gave a substantial advantage on the slippery surface compared to the high power-to-weight ratio bike engined cars. Anyway, Adrian Wright it was, running the GEM for the first time this year, but even he was nearly 3 seconds down on Cian and 6 seconds off the pole time. He was closely shadowed by three more Dallaras; Russ Giles familiar white car besting the ex Topmarx version of Jonathon Hughes in turn ahead of Mark Smith; who has shown he can handle the wet on previous occasions. Jonathon had been under the lap record at the Mono Donington test day in March and he was soon up to full pace as the weekend got into its stride. The same was true for the next man Chris Woodhouse. He ended up in twelfth place on the grid in his Speads, but that didn't last long in the race. Snetterton double winner Kevin Waring was only a tenth behind Chris in the Wingnut Racing Jedi, doing well to come in ahead of current Champion Jason Timms in another Speads.
Sharing the troubled end of the grid with Martin Daly, Bryn Tootell and welcome returnee Richard Purcell both had problems with their Dallaras but they were all better off than Jeremy Timms who didn't even manage a lap in his Speads when it stopped with an electrical problem, leaving Jeremy to start the race right at the back of the grid.
It was bright and dry by race time, and definitely slicks with the prospect of some quick times on a cleanish track. Lights out and back on row 6 Chris Woodhouse hooked the Speads up for a stunning launch which saw him third into Redgate, second by the Old hairpin and ahead of poleman Peter Venn's Dallara by half a second at the end of the first lap. The circuit commentator was impressed, to say the least. As Chris stormed away he was followed up the order by Jonathon Hughes' Dallara from row 5. Jonathon showed his testing form was not a flash in the pan as he relieved Peter Venn of second on lap three and closed the Speads lead down to a second on lap 10, but once the leaders were seriously into lapping Chris did better in the traffic and pulled away to win by a comfortable four seconds. Meanwhile Peter Venn had started well before the Yale Dallara developed problems and gradually slipped back, but still managed to claim sixth overall and third in Mono 2000. A stripped fourth gear with consequent crownwheel damage meant the car would appear only briefly on Sunday.
Just behind the leaders Jason Timms Speads rose through the order, pursued by Ben Cater's Shard Capital Dallara, with Ben getting by into third overall and second in Mono 2000 by midrace. However their early dice carried them just clear of a lap 3 sort-out when Tony Bishop's Dallara and Adrian Wright's GEM crossed paths going into Redgate. The immaculate CDR Dallara ended up spinning, with the smaller GEM rattling by with a telltale tyre mark on its nose cone, and Adrian continued to catch and pass Jason Timms for second in class with a couple of laps to go. However Malcolm Scott had been closely following the original Wright/Bishop touch and Malcolm need to deploy lightning reactions to avoid T-boning Tony, but this meant he had to spend the rest of the race recovering from a prolonged trip through the gravel. Geoff Fern's JKS and Kevin Warings' Wingnut Jedi both sensibly steered clear of all this on their way to fifth and fourth in class respectively.
Away from this drama Robbie Watts' lack of clutch mandated a back-of-the-grid start, and a solid drive which was very much about damage limitation and scoring points. Having fixed his Speads practice problem, Jeremy Timms also came up from the back, doing enough to win the Bath Road Garage Driver of the Day Award. Cian Carey and Martin Daly both had to deal with a dry Donington without any learning time, and felt they needed to find some more pace for Sunday, the team setting about changing ratios after the race. Mark Schofield had a spin, although he was helped on his way, and unfortunately took enough damage to bring his weekend to a close; and both Bryn Tootell and Richard Purcell had annoying mechanical problems which stopped them early on.
It was a busy, and at times spectacular race, which certainly showcased the Club and gave everyone a lot to talk about while they re-sorted the cars for Sunday
The overnight drama was that Chris Woodhouse had discovered a major drive/differential problem on the Speads after Saturday's race, and had gone back to base to strip it all down and remachine the diff. He said it was all only holding together on a couple of millimetres of spline. However he didn't re-appear and this threw the whole deck of cards up in the air. On a dry track the ace came down into Adrain Wright's hands and he took the pole, only 4 tenths off Chris's very quick lap record. Behind him was a phalanx of Mono 2000s with Jonathon Hughes at the front, but he was only a tenth clear of Ben Cater who was only 2 tenths away from Tony Bishop, so it was clearly going to be tight. Robbie Watts, Malcolm Scott and circuit leaner Cian Carey were next up, just ahead of teh second and third placed Motos of Jason Timms and Kevin Waring. Robbie hadn't completely fixed teh clutch problem, despite splitting the car after Saturday's race and wasnt sure if he was going to have to start from the back again. Also in major trouble was Peter Venn with teh gearbox making even more horrible noises than is usual for a Dallara, and the team had to call it a day after qualifying.
Very unfortunately the weather didn't hold for the race, and a few minutes before the tyre-decision time it became clear that it was going to be wets. Watching the GTs struggle round on slicks was enough for many people. A few decided on slicks, or just ran out of time to make the change, but wets were definitely the right choice in the end. But as the field came out onto the grid, expecting two green flag laps as it was a declared wet race, MSVR's normally solid organisation had a rare wobble and there was a very long delay as the field assembled on the grid with engines getting too hot as cars were shuffled around. It eventually took three separate green flag laps and even more delays before the race got underway. David Gambling had to start from the pit lane after his engine gauges told him it was essential to get off the grid and shut the thing down or face a very big bill, and there were several other drivers anxiously watching their instruments as the field finally got to slither around...
Despite the alleged disadvantage of Motos compared to Mono 2000s on a wet track, Adrian Wright immediately pulled out about a second lead from Robbie Watts and was never headed. Adrian was maybe helped by the unfortunate but almost inevitable Safety Car period after only three laps, which only left time for one more unfettered lap right at the end. Robbie rescued his weekend with a well crafted drive to take the Mono 2000 class, although Ben Cater was only a couple of tenths behind at the end in a very strong class second place; and only Robbie knows how he nursed the Lola through the multiple green flag starts. Jonathon Hughes disappeared from fourth overall on the second lap letting Cian Carey, who had got past Tony Bishop, into an excellent fourth overall and a class podium finish. Both Russ Giles and Kevin Mason joined Jonathon on the missing list on the next lap. In the Motos Jason Timms stayed a second or so ahead of Kevin Waring.
So what would almost certainly have been a fascinating race if it had just stayed dry for another 30 minutes turned into a rather inconclusive and disappointing battle against the fates. At least there was no major accident damage, and hopefully before a rare visit to Rockingham for the next Championship round we will have seen the end of April showers...
Disclaimer: The above represents only the unofficial view of the writer and not of the Monoposto Racing Club in any way whatsover. Subheadlines and captions are not originated from the named author. We are unable to reproduce results due to copyright reasons. If any pictures are copyright and the owner wishes them removed please email us.
Chris Woodhouse leads Peter Venn
Kevin Mason - note wheel slightly in the air
Jonathon Hughes in the TopMarx F301
Nice to see Cian Carey over from Ireland in a Renault
Ben Cater applies some lock
Dave Gillet in ex-Lippitt, ex-Rowan F398.
Tony Bishop's dayglo F304 with Robbie Watts.
The field through the Craners
All pics Tim Wood/Norwich Photo except paddock Simon Davey