In that time, Project MX-5 didn’t undergo any major changes, save for some maintenance work on the steering rack and the addition of a front splitter. The latter has already invoked the ire of some fellow competitors, though I cannot fathom why.
The front spoiler has drawn positive comments from many on social media as it has given the car a more purposeful look, and it doesn’t offer any performance advantage, so it’s hardly worth quibbling over. Regardless of what level you compete at in motorsport, there seems to be politics…
Anyway, the long break between races seemed to show its effect at the start of race day. In categories that ran ahead of us in qualifying, competitors made driving errors which caused on-track incidents.
A side effect of these incidents was a slippery track for us to contend with. Added to that, the Classic and Fine Car fields, which share the track but are classified separately, totalled more than 40 cars, so there was plenty of traffic to negotiate. And the cherry on top was the organisers cutting our session short without prior notification…
When the session was prematurely ended I had posted a lap time, which despite being somewhat off the pace I am capable of, earned me third spot on the grid – COOL!
Race one got going from our usual rolling start. I was tucked in behind the pole-sitter Deon Conradie (Toyota Conquest RSi). My usual sparring partner Rob Toscano, in the only other MX-5 in the field, was also on the front row.
I timed the start well, outbraked the similar car to mine and when we arrived at T1 I was in second place. I held station there and kept Toscano at bay all through the opening lap. He nipped by on the brakes at T1 at the start of lap two, but a Ford Escort stranded in the middle of T2 brought out a red flag.
After resetting the grid we were off for a restart. I managed to pull the same trick on Toscano a second time. While I battled to keep him behind, the far more powerful Conquest of Conradie disappeared into the distance.
I got my elbows out and was determined to keep the red car at bay, despite the significant power and aero advantage it enjoys. We tussled door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper, even rubbing fenders at one point.
When we got to the tail-end of the Classic Car field things got really interesting. The slowest cars from that category are a few seconds per lap slower than us, but as they were caught up in their own battles they weren’t easy to pass.
Toscano used the traffic to his advantage and got by in melee. A fast-charging Arnold Lambert (Jetta 1) just zoomed past both the Mazdas on the front straight, such is the power advantage his car enjoys.
I kept the other MX-5 in my sights but there was too much going on with several other cars jostling for position and when the quickest Classics started to lap us, it was difficult to mount another challenge. When the flag dropped I was classified fourth in the Fine Cars field.
Race 2 (full video at the bottom of this post)
Race two was a pedestrian affair compared to the earlier action. Starting positions for the second race of the day are determined by the classification in race one so it was another second-row start for me, this time in fourth. I lined up alongside Toscano and behind Lambert.
The two fast cars in front managed to pull out a gap from the start. Toscano was trying to follow them and I was busy watching my mirrors as newcomer Lochner Eksteen (BMW 325i) and Ray Cooper were keen to pass.
Settling into a rhythm
I knew that I could post quicker lap times than both those cars so I knuckled down to build a bit of a lead. With breathing space between me and any pursuers, I settled into a rhythm that allowed me to relax a bit.
My lap times weren’t particularly quick, but there wasn’t really much cause to push hard. In the second heat, I netted another fourth position. On the Index of Performance, which measures the consistency of lap times, I was classified sixth overall for the day.
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page…