Round 6 of the Mini Challenge JCW championship was held on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. This was my first time on the GP track and I found it challenge and exciting circuit to race on.
We had an issue in qualifying which turned out to be related to the turbo boost value and I could only manage 15th quickest which was a little disappointing.
Race 1 I had a good close race and finished 10th.
Race 2 I started on pole because of the reverse grid for the race and led for the first 5 laps but I felt the car engine slightly loose power and I dropped down to 5th which I managed to hold until the end of the race.
The Mini Festival is a great weekend of Mini racing in which the Mini Challenge JCW class was the star attraction. This year the Festival took place on the Brands hatch Indy circuit and there was great racing throughout the weekend.
Qualifying was very close with only 1 second covering the top 17 cars on the grid. Unfortunately I got held up on my fastest lap and could only manage 16th place.
Race 1 was very close, I had to take avoiding action in the first corner as 2 cars went off the track which dropped me back a few places which I managed to make back to finish 12th.
Race 2 wasn’t so good as I was shoved off the track on the exit from Druids and into the tyre wall on the second lap and rejoined the track in 26th place, but managed to make back 6 places to finish 20th despite the car having sustained a lot of damage in the early accident.
Race 3 was my best race of the weekend, starting 20th on the grid I had a great race through the field and finished 11th overall. Now I am looking forward to the next race on the Brands GP circuit.
Donington is one of my favourite tracks and one I dominated last year in the final round of the Ginetta GT5 championship, the corners and straights just making it into a perfect flowing circuit.
With continued problems across the season so far I managed to qualify P14 which was pretty good considering the issues throughout the qualifying session. So I would then start race 1 off P14 and before I could complete the green flag lap I broke a drive shaft and this meant I could not start the race, this was just a very unfortunate thing to happen DNS me from Race 1.
I then re-gathered myself for race 2 which I started off P25 due to my earlier race 1 DNS. I was feeling very confident and after a great start I made up a few positions to P20 but I was sure that the car was not running right I progressed on through the race not making up a lot of ground ending up P18 which was a solid finish.
Further component testing after the meeting found that my turbo was faulty and not producing enough power.
Silverstone came and this is a track I hadn’t been to much before, so the knowledge on it wasn’t great. I was also unsure if the car would run right but for the duration of the weekend it ran without fail.
Qualifying was an interesting one because I decided to use old tyres to save myself for the races, this didn’t actually hurt my qualifying to badly. I managed to achieve P9 which I was relatively happy with, this would put me in a decent position for race 1.
Race 1 after making an average start I held my position and going into turn 2 another car spun throwing up lots of debris and mud onto the track directly in front of my car this then meant when I came to braking well I couldn’t due to the track now being very slippery and the car and ended up flying across the track and through the gravel and the grass, re joining the track down in 20th place, I then began my come back of which I managed to get back to 12th where I would start for race 2.
Race 2 I started in 12th place and even off the line made up one position then by the end of the first lap I was in P9 and making lots of progress , I felt so so confident with the car and she was absolutely on rails I then just kept on moving up the field to P6 where I finished but if only there was 1 more lap I would have been on the podium but I am happy with how the weekend ended and this just shows I am very competitive we just need to ensure reliability with the car.
Snetterton is a track I was looking forward to and after a test day before the weekend I felt confident!
For qualifying I went out expecting good things and initially the car felt good but as the tyres became hot I realised that there was a major handling issue with the car that was affecting me through and off the corners. This meant that I couldn’t get any power down at all. So even with pushing as hard as I could I only managed 18th place which isn’t where I realistically should have been.
In Race 1 I started off p18 not getting the best of starts I held my position and progressed into turn 3 in the middle of the pack and I got completely shafted off the track, meaning that not only was the front of the car smashed up but also the tracking was out by 5mm front and rear. I was also now in last place, but I still managed to progress up some of the field to 21st which was as far as I could come due to the fact the car was so difficult to control.
In Race 2 I felt confident I could make some head way and I got an amazing start making up 4 places off the line and after a good first couple of laps making some brilliant headway I was feeling confident and very happy I would easily make the top 10, but then as I was pulling out of the hairpin the engine completely shut itself down I was devastated…. I re-booted the car and it started so I continued but then it shut down again round the last corner so I made the decision to come into the pits as my car could not run the rest of the race.
Overall lots to learn but some serious mechanical and setup issues with the car that meant that I wasn’t competitive at any point through the weekend.
Much anticipated Round 1 which would be hosted at Oulton Park which is actually a track I enjoy. I had booked the Thursday and Friday on the race weekend to gain some practice before qualifying on the Saturday.
Qualifying this was my first attempt at qualifying in the Mini this would be a lot different to the Ginetta which I have been used to. The 20 minutes commenced and I was very consistently in the top 4 until 3 minutes from the end when the track became faster and I did not, until my last lap of which in the first sector alone I was 3 tenths of a second up which even if the rest of the lap I hadn’t improved would have put me 4th but due to another driver causing a road block I didn’t improve my time and dropped to P9. But still this was an impressive time due to the fact if was my first ever qualifying in the new Mini Challenge car.
Race 1 I started off P9 which off the start I dropped a couple of places due to the fact I didn’t get a good start because I hadn’t ever experienced a FWD start before. After lots of battling and late moves I managed to come up to P5 and gained first rookie podium in my first ever race in the Mini ! this was a big achievement.
Race 2 due to the reverse grid I started P2 and after a much better start I kept my position and after a solid few laps keeping my P2 I excited the chicane and then suddenly the car shut down… this was absolutely devastating as I was in second in only my second race out of 30+ cars, I was then sidelined thinking what could have been. This only shows the fight I am bringing this year and at only my first race is promising and gives me confidence for the races to come.
Following on from 2 successful years in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, Max Bird, an 18 year old college student from Chichester will be racing in the MINI CHALLENGE JCW class for 2019.
Max finished 4th in the Ginetta GT5 championship in 2018 with a win at Thruxton and two wins in the final round at the Donington, together with two second places, three thirds and three fastest laps in his second full season of car racing. In addition, Max won his class in the Dubai 24hrs in January 2018 driving a Renault Clio Cup car, finishing 50th overall out of 90 starters they covered 1700 racing miles at an average speed of 71 mph, so he has some experience of a front-wheel-drive car to bring to his 2019 campaign.
When asked how he would sum up his 2018 racing Max said, “My driving has improved during the year and with such a competitive grid I am pleased with my 4th place and feel ready for the next challenge“.
Max will join Lawrence Davey Racing for his 2019 assault and hopes to benefit from Lawrence’s considerable racing experience and in particular his experience preparing and racing in the JCW class, where he has been a consistent front runner since the championship started.
Max will have continued support in 2019 from the international company Orbx Simulation Systems and from local companies, including Bluebird Developments, Artec Engineering, Core Results, Game Set and Match, Sycamore Cars and the Goodwood Health club. John Venema of Orbx said “We are delighted to be able to have supported Max this year and are very impressed with the tremendous results that he has achieved so far in his career“.
Looking towards the coming year Max said, “I have come on a lot in the last year with the help of David my mind coach, and with his continued support and my physical training programme, I am looking forward to competing in the Mini Challenge and I am aiming to get on the podium by mid season.”
You can follow my progress throughout 2019 at www.maxbird.co.uk or on Twitter @maxbird35 or Facebook @maxbirdracing or Instagram @maxbirdofficial.
Donnington was to be the host for the last round of the 2018 championship, this track is above and beyond any other in my opinion.
In practice my pace showed being one of the fastest in every session very promising before qualifying on the Saturday morning. When qualifying came I managed to put a sensational time together to go pole by almost a second only to be beaten to the post by 5 thousands on the final lap! But I was more than satisfied with P2.
Race 1 was very very wet I started P2 and didn’t get the best of starts as I span the rear wheels up meaning several cars came past me into the first corner! I then thought about what my mind coach had told me to do in bad situations and I then picked myself up and then proceeded to pick several cars off winning the race with a gap and gaining fastest lap by a big margin.
Race 2 I started Pole and got an amazing start leading into the first corner with a slight gap I then lead the rest of the lap until the safety car came out and of which lasted 3 laps, I then got an amazing re start and went on to win the race with again the fastest lap.
Race 3 This was the final race of the year and the reverse grid! I started P10 and got a brilliant start and within 3 laps was up to P4 and then making a move for P3 someone decided to give me a nudge wide meaning I lost ground to the top few cars. I then got the bit between my teeth ad pushed on to catch them all back up
and managed to do some amazing overtakes finishing in a respectable P3
All I can say is 2019 watch out!!!
Knockhill is a track I haven’t tested at much before so I decided to give myself the best chance for the weekend I would fly up a week before and do some vital setup testing and thankfully by the end of the day I had found what I felt was a fast setup which I could produce some good times with ahead of the weekend.
Friday came and it was test day and for both of the test sessions I was in the top 5 of which I was very pleased with because I had only been there once before ! There were a few slight adjustments to the setup I had previously perfected due to different rubber laid on the track didn’t quite work.
Saturday was almost the perfect day, I went out in Qualifying put my 44 car on the front row until the last lap when I was beaten to the post by 5 hundredths dropping me to P4 but this was still an awesome position to start race 1! Starting on the second row I got good start to the race and then slowly watched my competitors where they were slower and faster than myself, and then 3 laps before the end of the race I went in for the move on 3rd place and then pounced on 2nd place of which I gained both places. I was so happy with a 2nd place finish because I knew the pace was there and the opportunity of a win in race 2 was on the cards!
Sunday this was a very exciting day I started on the front row for the race which was in the full wet I made a good start and within laps there was a red flag at this time I was in 3rd and then when we commenced racing again I restarted in 3rd place and is where I stayed for the rest of the race and even though it wasn’t a win I was very happy with a double podium!
I arrived at Silverstone extremely confident pre weekend as we had done a test there and we had learnt a lot and was very fast! When we got into Friday testing it proved I was quick on old tyres when everyone else had gone new and this was very promising for the qualifying on Saturday afternoon! Qualifying came and I got into the session and started pushing and I couldn’t get any straight-line speed and the cornering was absolutely awful, so I ended up p14 which I was extremely angry about so I came in and spoke to the team and they didn’t know why the setup didn’t work and then when we got back to the awning they found the a huge technical issue with my car but the damage was already done. Race 1 came and I started 14th and after a difficult and tough race I managed p6 which from where I started and the size of the track I was over the moon with. Race 2 I came into thinking I could win but I feel like we didn’t get the setup right and also I felt like I had cooked the tyres after the great drive in race one so I ended up a respectable 8th place, rounding up the weekend I feel like we all did our best and sometimes consistency will win.