Time Attack visits Mallory Park for the first time in its near 15 year history with Direnza’s Jonny Fletcher aiming to conquer the tricky conditions and claim yet another podium
Calm Before The Storm
Between Donington and Mallory Park there wasn’t much work to do on the car as it ran faultlessly all weekend, writes Jonny Fletcher. There were a couple of small maintenance jobs to be done and a little cosmetic repair on one of the arches, where it had cracked when debris got picked at the last event.
Saturday was the usual day before routine, getting down there in plenty of time, then get set up, go through scrutineering and give the car one final check over before retreating to the hotel ready for the following days action. Thankfully this all went as planned.
In At The Deep End
With this being the first visit to Mallory Park, not only for Time Attack, but for myself (besides a track day 10 years ago with the Astra still a road car) we had a slightly different plan for the day. The idea was to put in as many laps as possible during the warm up to familiarise myself with the track and give my self the best shot later on in the day. Although added to the mix was heavy rain and a very wet, slippery track. So, as well as learning a new track – making sure I brought the car back in one piece was a vital part of the session. Thankfully there where no incidents for myself and I managed to rack up 15 laps. The session ended with my best lap time being a 1.17.898.
For practice the plan was more of the same, rack up as much mileage as possible. Since the warm up session the rain had died down slightly resulting in better track conditions, meaning we could push a little harder with less risk, although the conditions were still far from ideal. Again nothing major happened while out on track and this time I managed to put in another 13 laps while posting a lap time of 1.06.232 a whole 11 seconds quicker than the warm up, which showed how much conditions had improved.
After practice, the organisers made the decision to adjust the time table. The weather forecast was predicting dry conditions later on in the day and as a result lunch was brought forward by 2 hours. We used this time to check the car over and make sure everything was ready for the afternoon.
Time To Attack
The time table change had worked and a dry line began appearing on track. Conditions where still extremely tricky though. A mixture of dry and damp areas made the track very greasy and with little run off at most corners, an off here would likely see you in the barriers. I managed to post my quickest time of qualifying on my 17th lap, clocking a 1.04.341, again going quicker than the previous session.
All Or Nothing
An hour had passed since qualifying and the track conditions had improved massively. With nearly a fully dry track, it was clear the grip levels would be much higher. I made a few last minute tweaks to the setup and from the first lap it was clear how much quicker the track had become. It was now a case of re-learning every corner and every braking point. The lap times were tumbling with every lap that ticked by, my first being a 58.093. By my fifth, that became a 54.205, over 10 seconds quicker than qualifying. 3 laps later I posted my quickest time of the day, a 53.480. Agonisingly, at the end of this lap a gear selector cable came loose and I lost the ability to change gear.
I managed to limp the car back to the pits where the guys managed to get it back together in time for me to get another run. I headed back out with 7 minutes of the session remaining, unfortunately it was clear there was more damage don. The gearbox was making some unpleasant noises and I had to retire the car to avoid excessive damage. It’s a shame because I felt the car could have gone a few seconds quicker, which would have put us in a potential podium finish. That’s how it goes sometimes, we were unlucky, but overall it wasn’t the worst result.
Next up is the double header at Snetterton, on the first weekend of November for rounds 6&7. It will be a busy few weeks getting the gearbox repaired in time, but we will be aiming for another trophy or two to end the 2019 championship on a high.
Images: Time Attack