Round one of the BRSCC Clubsport Trophy saw the 2RacingUK team heading to Snetterton in Norfolk, East Anglia.
The weather was sunny with only the odd cloud spoiling the gorgeous blue vista. It could almost be described as hot for the UK with temperatures reaching 21 degrees Celsius.
A lot has changed since our last race back in November of last year. We've grown as a team in terms of size and wisdom. The team now consists of two cars (with a third available soon) and four drivers paired between the two cars and a pit lane manager.
Car 33 - driven by Nick Dougill and Neal Shore
Car 334 - built and driven by David Jones and Stefan Oates.
Neal Shore trackday and racing enthusiast with one years race experience.
Nick Dougill owner of MOT Trackdays (running the track event to which the Big Mazda2 meet is attending) and all round top bloke has raced in many series and in a range of cars.
David Jones former banger and bikes racer turned proper grown up racer with a story for every occasion. This year is David's first season of circuit racing.
Stefan Oates is a super car experience instructor who has banked many hours of racing in various categories including Peugeot GTi. He's got the patients of a saint to put up the this squad.
Pit manager Steven Alison. The organiser, camera man, media and PR man who loves trainers and hair care products.
Clearly it's Nick and Stefan bringing their knowledge and experience that will be vital to pushing the team forward and higher up the race grid this year.
On arrival at Snetterton and after unloading and setting the cars up, the day started with scrutineering. Both cars had a couple of minor troubles prior to being given the all clear to race. With Covid regulations now being a thing of the past in British motorsport, the Motorsport UK officials could once again have a proper poke around the competitors cars and kit. No more self certification, which is a good thing as it all improves safety.
Car 33 was pulled for having the harness shoulder straps mounted on the wrong sides. For anyone building a race car the strap with the hologram must be on the left. We also had an issue with the fire extinguisher pull cable being to tight to allow sufficient movement too operate the extinguisher in an emergency.
Car 334 also had to change the harness round and make a couple of other small adjustments.
30 minutes later and we had both cars passed by the scrutineers. This also meant underwent my work out for the day as the car I'd built was having an electrical issue which stopped the battery holding charge. With Nick in the drivers seat I pushed the car nearly a half kilometre from the scrutineering bay at one end of the paddock to our camp at the other. I physically couldn't gain enough momentum for Nick to jump start the car. Fully out of breath thanks to Paul Sheard's team for taking pity on me and helping push the car and get it running.
Qualifying was a mixed bag for both cars. There were some timing issues for Stefan and I as we completed five laps to set our best times. We then came into the pits to swap drivers. David managed just one lap of a circuit he had never driven before and Nick managed two laps for his qually stint before the chequered flag was waved. Definitely something to work on at the next race to ensure an equal split. The class structure of the Clubsport trophy means there's cars of every type, of all stages of tune and modification all sharing the track at the same time and hunting our tiny Mazdas in packs due to everyone wanting a slipstream down the straights.
As a team we ended qually 5th and 6th of 6 in our class, behind three BMW 116 trophy cars and a BMW 3 series compact. We weren't however last of the grid as we out qualified a BMW E46 on pure pace. We checked the E46 had no issues that its driver was willing to talk about.
Inter team qually scores .
Nick fastest 4 points
Stefan 3 points
Neal 2 points
David 1 point
Qualifying did highlight how bad the electrical gremlin was on car 33. Every time we hit a bump or ran over a curb the engine would die for a second. This saps power, slows the car, unsettles our corner exit and ultimately meant we couldn't go as fast as we know we could have done. On my third lap a black BMW 116 decided it wanted to kiss my ass on the approach to the final turn called Murray's corner. He gave me a firm love tap that knocked the bumper lose on one side.
Thankfully, there was a five hour gap between finishing Qually and the start of our race. Plenty of time to investigate the issue and find a solution. Assisted by Nick we debated what the cullpret could be and by process of elimination determined the main isolator switch which kills the engine in an emergency was to blame. Further investigation found that one of my home made spade connectors had worked lose and was the source of the fault. After some very red neck style electrical repairs on my part to fix the original red neck style connectors, the issue was no more and we would be able to run the car using all the track and the curbs to actually carry some speed through the corners.
An ice cream and coffee later and it was finally our turn to take to the track again.
All the competitors file out onto the grid to take the green flag lap. With so many cars to form up in their starting spots this took awhile, even with the Marshals doing a fantastic job organising everyone. We started the race with Nick and Stefan Driving.
The starter drops the green flag and off parades the grid. David got a little over excited at this point as he was cheering Stefan on to overtake everyone and looked very disappointed at how slow off the line both Mazda2s were. After Steve had reminded David that the green flag lap is slow lap to look at the condition of the track and see if anything has changed since we were out qualifying he looked happier.
Coming back from the parade lap everyone is lined up again ready to start the full 45min Clubsport race. During the race all teams must complete a mandatory 2 min pit stop. This is where teams with more then one driver per car can swap over. Its also a chance to check the tyres and make some small adjustments if required.
The sunshine which everyone had been enjoying through out the day now became a hinderance. The sun was starting to set, getting lower in the sky and shining from directly behind the gantry on which the start lights were mounted. On came the lights one at a time, 1, 2...5. Brief pause lights and and its race on.
Some cars react quickly to the lights. some are left squinting into the sun. Some drivers like Stefan make rocket starts climbing four places in 20m only to find a Seat stalled on the grid directly in front of him. Boxed in by other cars and with no where to manoeuvre, Stefan is forced to brake and lose all momentum. This drops him to the back of the grid behind the E46. He would however retake his start position by the first corner.
Nick had a slower start but maximised the chaos created by the stalled car to climb five places. One place was lost being out dragged to turn one but Nick held his position for the next three corners holding off Civics, Clios and the BMW 116s. Gradually the power of these cars overcame Nicks defences down the long Bentley straight. The battle continued with the Black BMW 116 that would eventually finish second in class for a couple more laps, until again the power deficit took its toll and Nick dropped out of the 116s slip stream.
Both the Mazda2s battled hard and nothing negative could be said about the balance of the cars. The SuperPro bush kits were doing their part aiding traction and feedback to the drivers.
Stefan pitted as soon as the pit window opened to swap with David. After their 2 min mandatory stop David was last but he wouldn't stay there. Keeping a consistent pace soon saw him pass the E46 again as the pit stops continued for other competitors.
The Black Diamond Predator brake pads were holding up well. No change in performance was reported during the first half of the race by either driver, which for a road pad is fantastic.
The pit window is open for 15 mins and covers the mid point of the 45 min race. We opted to leave Nick out for as long as possible in the hope that he might find some clear track while everyone else was pitting and put a few clean fast laps in without worry of the leaders coming round. Eventually the pit board was thrown out as Nick past the pit wall and he drove into the pit lane next time round.
The stops for both cars were great. Nice and smooth nothing rushed. Both driver pairs worked well together to help with harnesses and check for safe releases. You would be forgiven for thinking we had practiced our driver changes. We hadn't its was more luck that the driver getting into the cars didn't sit on the lap straps, which always makes for an intimate rummage round the seat.
Keen not to waste all of Nicks hard work I headed out onto the circuit for my stint. In an effort to make the car as light as possible we had put the smallest amount of fuel possible into the car to get to the finish. This highlighted another issue. The problem with the digital fuel gage that shows little blocks is that you don't know if there is enough fuel in the tank to only just trigger the sensor to say the cars 3/4 full or if there's enough fuel to be safely 3/4 full (potentially 3ltrs difference) which is the difference between finishing at full pace and not having the bottle to push to the line and instead opt for fuel saving.
As I got in the car there was two full bars of fuel showing. At the end of my first lap there was just one bar of fuel remaining. I opted to push while I could still see bars on the gage which gave me four laps to chase down the e46 and lap him. Nick had done such a sterling job that the gap back to the next car behind us was huge. Once the fuel gage showed no bars of fuel I was in a position that I could lift early for corners and up shift sooner to save fuel, without the worry of being caught by the next car.
As the race progressed the number of entrants still in the race was falling Reliability was now also playing its part and our practically stock Mazda2s where soldiering on with no evidence of strain or difficulty. The motors felt good, the suspension was sound there was still no change in the feel of the brakes. The tyres however were just getting better and better with each lap. The MRF ZTR medium compound we were using is a tried and tested item. I used them for last season and rated them highly but at Snetterton in those conditions after Nick had pushed them, the grip was astonishing. The turns at the end of the two long straights were practically flat out with just a hint of slide from the rear.
All to soon the fun came to an end as the chequered flag was waved. From the car I had no idea where anyone had finished with the pit stop fun and various retirement and time penalties awarded to some teams for short pit stops, a check of the timing sheets was needed even by the clerk of that course.
We filed off the track and were directed to parc ferme to await the final results. While there I had a chat with Richard Brunning of Bad Obsession Motorsport. Charming chap who I nearly wrongly accused of giving me the love tap to the rear bumper during qually.
David came to find me and we had a great chat analysing our part in the race. Eventually all cars are released back to their pit areas. As I'm driving our Mazda2 back Nick and Steve are heading in the opposite direction to find a BRSCC official. Steve stops and lets me know we had finished 3rd in class, 3rd! And they were going to see if we would get a trophy.
No trophy sadly but better still, the team finished 3rd and 4th in class ahead of two BMWs. Result!!!
The next round is at Silverstone on the full GP circuit. Both cars will need a few set up adjustments to help battle down the long straights. Car 33 has already begun it's diet and to aid the weight loss we will be increasing power with a new exhaust and ECU remap Our target is again to finish higher then we qualify and if we can poach a position or two from the BMWs so much the better.
The BRSCC CLUBSPORT TROPHY is a brilliant series to race in. It's based around involvement and fun rather then spending huge sums of money. 2RacingUK ran the two cheapest and least powerful cars on the grid yet we had more fun then most. The class structure means we always have someone to race and the pitstop adds an element of jeopardy.
If you want to get involved message or drop a comment below.
Lastly I must say a huge thank you to our sponsors and supporters who believe in our mission to aid grass roots Motorsport and build a full grid of Mazda2s.
SuperPro Europe who have provided our suspension bushes and great set up advice. https://www.superproeurope.com/
MOT Trackdays who are my first choice of track day organiser. Properly run events for enthusiasts not hooligans. https://www.mazdaontrack.co.uk/