In front of a huge appreciative crowd, the second round of the Time Attack series took place at Knockhill racing circuit in Scotland on Sunday 16th May. Despite the bitterly cold conditions, the crowd were kept entertained all day by the field of some of the fastest modifed cars in the country.
Despite the chilly conditions on track, the leading Club Challenge drivers were keen to find the limits of their cars and the Pirelli P Zero control tyres. The top 6 drivers were separated by just over a second with the Impreza of Chris Bennett setting the fastest time of 59.205 ahead of the exuberantly driven Impreza of Adam Kindness (husband of Time Attack regular Fiona), who was stood in for Gary Searl who was unable to make the journey north. It was interesting to note that almost all the drivers set their fastest times between the 4th and 6th laps, which indicated that the tyres were taking some time to reach their peak performance on the cold track.
In the FWD class, Bo Nielsen in the Forge Motorsport Astra VXR was again biting on the heels of the Japanese 4WD machinery, with his best time of 1:01.851 being almost a second clear of nearest challenger Romain Levesque in his Buddy Club CRX.
In Club Pro, Warren Kelly again set the early benchmark in the Airtec Escort Cosworth with a time of 58.737, beating local expert Fiona Kindness in her Track Scotland Nissan Skyline by almost a second. Fiona in turn was almost a second clear of Neil Robertson’s EVO and Walter Morris (Nissan Skyline). Rob Cowling was finally getting to grips with the Ameon Racing EVO which wasn’t ready for the first round at Oulton Park.
In Pro class, Marcus Webster stayed out for almost the full session, and was the only car to dip into the 56 second backet with a 56.674 set on his 11th lap. Despite undergoing spinal surgery only a few days after the first round, Mike Mahoney showed the potential of his Wallace Performance EVO, setting the 2nd fastest time of 57.106 ahead of fellow EVO drivers Gavin Renshaw, and Russ Paton.
With dry conditions on track, it was only a few laps before some seriously quick times were posted during the morning practice session. Leading the pack was Allan Freeland in his distinctive pink EVO setting the Club Challenge benchmark at 56.685 on lap 3. Under new rules for this season Allan was standing in for regular Eric Holmes, who despite many long hours in the nights leading up to the event, was unable to resolve his engine problems in time. Jon Mathers in the Pro-R Impreza was just over 1 second adrift with a 57.804, with EVO driver Andrew Barbour close behind on a 58.053.
Despite some talented and aggressive driving by Adam Kindness, who at times was using all the track and more, he was unable to improve on the time set in the earlier warm-up session and just failed to get under the minute with a 60.240. A special mention must go to Gerry Atkinson, in his 300bhp Seat Leon Supercopa backed by Billy Connolly’s Ticketyboo Films. Despite heavy rainfall midway through the session which saw all his rivals return to the safety of the pits, Gerry stayed out lap after lap, completing a total of 18 laps during the 20 minute session.
Fiona Kindess made full advantage of her many hundreds of laps experience of the Knockhill track in all conditions, to lead the Club Pro times and set 4th fastest time over with a 57.658, some 1.5 seconds better than rivals Warren Kelly and Neil Robertson. Walter Morris suffered a power steering failure in his Midlands Performance Skyline, and could only manage two laps during the session.
Still nursing head gasket issues after winning the previous round, Duncan Graham managed an impessive 57.947 in Pro Class, to keep close to leader Gavin Renshaw in the NR Autosport EVO who recorded a 56.748 in the challenging and variable conditions. Mike Mahoney was only 3/100ths slower than Gavin, with local expert Russ Paton only 3/10ths behind with a 57.198 in his Performance HQ EVO whilst demonstrating his drifting skills around some of the slower corners.
Whilst still cold, the track was at least dry for the afternoon qualifying sessions. Allan Freeland wasted no time in setting the fastest time of the session, with a 56.958 on only his second lap.
Andrew Barbour improved on his morning times with a 57.258 and earned him valuable qualification points. Jon Mathers qualified 3rd with the Pro-R Impreza on 58.298 ahead of first time competitor Matt Lawson in his Wallace Performance EVO. Adam Kindness again pushed hard to break the one minute barrier, but struggled against the higher powered cars now their drivers were more familiar with the track.
In the FWD class, Romain Levesque stayed out on track for most of the session, and his perseverance payed off as he qualified in first place with a 60.257, ahead of Gerry Atkinson’s Leon Supercopa (60.563) and Bo Nielsen’s VXR Astra on 60.727. The stage was now set for a thrilling final between these closely matched rivals.
It appeared as though distaster had struck RWD title contender Umar Masood, in his flame throwing Mazda RX7 as his car completely died midway through the session. Umar had endured a tortuous 16 hour journey to Knockhill from Wolverhampton as his tow car broke down 3 times en-route. Having set his fastest time of the day of 61.699, he was unsure if he could get the car fixed again in time for the final. First round winner Jimmy White in the lime green VX220 was not without his own problems, despite the extra confidence gained from a new front splitter. Jimmy struggled to match his earlier times, and could only record a 62.244 to qualify in second place behind Umar.
Slippery conditions once again confronted the Pro and Club Pro drivers as they took to the track for their qualifying session. Gavin Renshaw set the pace early on with a 60.289 on his 3rd lap, despite some lurid powerslides around the lower section of the circuit, before returning to the pits to preserve the car for the final.
However the light rain eased off, and with a strong wind blowing the track conditions quickly improved. At the midway point of the session, Walter Morris lead the field with his best time of 59.562 on his 10th lap, before his power steering gremlins returned. With the conditions improving by the second, the crowd were enthralled as the lead times changed several times per lap. In the end, it was the powerful Skyline of Marcus Webster that mastered the tricky conditions to qualify first overall with a 57.076. Marcus was recording terminal speeds in excess of 140mph on the main straight before braking for the blind Duffus Dip corner, a remarkable feat under the circumstances. Fiona Kindness also took advantage of the fast drying conditions to qualify 2nd fastest outright near the end of the session, with a 57.783, closely followed by Russ Paton’s EVO (57.844) and Duncan Graham’s Impreza on 57.871
Club Challenge Finals
Romain Levesque in his Buddy Club CRX inflicted a rare defeat over Bo Nielsen’s Astra VXR in the FWD cateogry. Bo had set the early pace, recording his best time of 60.415 on only his second lap. Ever wary of the threat from the hard charging Romain, Bo remained out on track for most of the session, recording a long consistent series of laps in the 60 second bracket, but none to better the earlier effort when his tyres were at their peak. Bo was right to be concerned, as toward the end of the session Romain bettered Bo’s time with a 60.263, and on his very last lap raised the bar even higher with a 60.222. Dave Thorpe in the Civic EP3 took the third podium spot, ahead of Gerry Atkinson in the Seat Leon Supercopa.
In the 4WD category, Allan Freeland again wasted little time and was right on the pace from the outset. Allan set his fastest time of the day with a stunning time 56.127. 2nd place was claimed by Andrew Barbour in his EVO 5 (56.704). Andrew had a very nervous end to the session, as his clutch release bearing failed after completing only 6 laps, rendering his car immobile. In his first ever competitive event, one hit wonder Matt Lawson claimed third fastest time with a 56.810. As Matt wasn’t entered for the championship, the third podium position went to a delighted Jon Mathers in the Pro-R Impreza, who was also awarded the SIDC fastest Subaru trophy for the second event running.
Umar Masood overcame his electrical gremlins suffered during qualification, to record his first ever Time Attack victory, with a lap time of 61.151. Umar’s winning time was comfortably ahead of rival Jimmy White who suffered engine problems on his out lap, and limped around to secure valuable championship points.
Pro and Club Pro Finals
With a point to prove after failing to qualify in first place, Gavin Renshaw pushed his NR Autosport EVO hard from the outset, recoridng a blistering time of 55.188 on his 3rd lap. Gavin could not rest easily though, as Russ Paton immediately responded with a 55.570 with the promise of more to come. First place qualifier Marcus Webster took a few laps to settle into a rythym, and on his 10th lap recorded a 55.904 which was enough to secure his first podium position of the year. The fight was still very much on for first place though, as Renshaw and Paton returned on track and set a series of ever faster lap times. It was Renshaw who took the honours in the end, with a 55.024 proving just enough to pip Paton’s best of 55.161.
You can watch Gavin’s winning lap here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pnSw77WZMc
Despite continued problems with the head gasket in his BC Racing Impreza, Duncan Graham did just enough to secure the valuable championship he needed to remain top of the points standing after two rounds. Duncan was also awarded the SIDC trophy for fastest Pro Class Impreza.
Mike Mahoney was looking good for an excellent result during the early part of the final session, before he put a wheel onto the grass exiting the hairpin and heavily impacted the tyre wall bringing an early end to his hopes. Thankfully it appears the damage is merely cosmetic, and assuming that replacment body parts can be sourced in time, “Daisy” will be back on track for the next two rounds at Brands Hatch at the end of June.
In the Club Pro category, the experience and determination of Fiona Kindness around her local track proved too much for her rivals. Fiona’s best time of 56.900 was enough to earn her 4th fastest time overall, as well as her first ever Club Pro victory. Despite recording his fastest time of the the day, Warren Kelly’s time of 57.584 wasn’t enough to threaten the dominant Kindness on home turf. Both fondly remembered last year’s Club Challenger rival Scott Robson who is taking a year out of competition, by wearing t-shirts emblazened with the words “Scott Who?” on them. Fiona now leads the Club Pro title race ahead of fellow Skyline driver Walter Morris, who amazingly completed all of his 7 laps in the final session and set a competitive time of 58.662 with no power steering, as once again it failed as he was leaving the pit lane.
The full results from the Knockhill round can be found by clicking here
The Time Attack series now moves south again to Brands hatch in Kent, for the first ever double header weekend on the 25th and 26th June.
Words: John Stewart
Images: Flat Out Photography
The points standings after two rounds are as follows: