Following a short absence from competition, Direnza returned to the MINI Challenge JCW grid for Round 7 at Donington Park – find out how the team got on…
Getting into the groove
After a short break from racing in MINI Challenge’s top JCW class, Direnza and All Stars driver Ryan Dignan arrived at Donington Park in Leicestershire with renewed motivation. Held on the weekend of September 14-15th, Round 7 provided teams with excellent weather conditions and a chance to really enjoy this stunning and historic motorsport venue.
Making things all the more interesting was the fact MINI Challenge was supporting the final round of the British GT Championship, boosting crowds and hype for the whole weekend. Those who made the effort to walk around the paddock were in for a real treat, as GT supercars brushed door handles with the MINI JCWs, as well as Ginettas, VW Cup racers, and BRSCC Sports & Saloon cars.
General testing prior to Round 7 may have taken place on Friday the 13th, but the day was far from a nightmare for Direnza, with Ryan showing good pace in the car after a few set up tweaks, and racking up decent mileage ahead of battle.
The challenge of Donington Park
Donington’s full GP track is fast and technical, comprising a chicane, two hairpins, the legendary Craner Curves made famous by a certain Ayrton Senna, and more quick corners besides. It is a tremendous challenge for both the car and driver, and rewards teams with big test miles under their belt. When it comes to suspension set up, shooting in the dark is not an option here.
Come Saturday Qualifying, Ryan’s best time of 1min 41.649sec saw him sit in a respectable 14th place out of 27 cars for Race 1. He was just 1.8sec off the pole time despite having to bed-in new-specification driveshafts provided by organisers.
Sadly, rear brake failure would cut short Ryan’s efforts in Race 1 after 5 laps. As the footage below shows, he did a remarkable job saving the slide into McLeans corner. However, with almost six hours until Race 2, the Direnza team had ample time to fix the F56 MINI JCW’s brakes and turn around their day.
Making a mends
By 5:25pm, the MINI Challenge contingent was back on the Donington grid. Ryan had his work cut out starting in 23rd position, but knew anything can and does happen in the JCW class.
Incidents kicked off right from Turn 1, and Ryan was greeted by even more carnage on the run down Craner Curves, with several cars spinning off. Somehow, Ryan picked his way through the smoke and debris, emerging five places higher than where he started.
That first lap set the tempo for Race 2, with several Safety Car periods punctuating furious racing. Ryan kept his nose clean throughout and crossed the line 12th, a last-lap crash between front runners seeing him jump another two places just a few corners from the chequered flag.
On the back of that stronger result, the Direnza team is very much looking forward to the final round of MINI Challenge, held at Snetterton on October 19-20th. It’s a track where Ryan has form, so all bets are on for a memorable finish to the 2019 season. Watch this space…
Images: Car Scene UK