My second taste of Mazda racing action was at Cadwell Park, for round 3 of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship. Cadwell Park is often nicknamed the “mini-Nurburgring” for its twisty, undulating and unforgiving nature. Not the sort of place you want to turn up and race at without ever having driven the track before, right?
Well, despite booking two track days in the run-up to the event, I had somehow not managed to get out for either of them. And, since Friday practice was fully booked by the time I started searching around in desperation for some track time, Saturday morning would be my first experience of the track.
I had 30 minutes of morning practice to get my eye in before qualifying. The track was damp, but not fully wet, and in the intermediate conditions I discovered to my delight that my pace was actually pretty good. The Go4itMX5 racing team had spent several hours prior to the event sorting out the car’s bent alignment after our incident at Brands Hatch, including a full geometry setup on a bitterly cold Friday evening (I couldn’t feel my toes afterwards, and all I was doing was sitting in the car).
So I was cautiously optimistic going into Qualifying. The track had dried fully by then, and I learnt two things. One – in the dry, engine power counts for a significant amount of lap time, and we were sadly lacking in engine power. And two – the so-called “floppy” markers depicting the apexes of corners are not so floppy when your car thumps them at 50 mph.
The power issue cost us badly, and so I ended up qualifying near the back, just like at Brands. But I felt that I had got a good handle on the track in dry conditions despite my limited running, so was looking forward to race 1.
One of the highlights of my weekend was making a phenomenal start to the race in Race 1. I’d made up several places before the first corner, but with Cadwell Park being so narrow, I couldn’t really maximise the start and had lost a few by the time we made it up the hill to the first proper braking point at Turn 3.
I latched on to the back of another car and followed him for the whole race, gaining on him steadily during the twisty second half of the lap and then watching on in dismay as he eased away from me in a straight line. Unfortunately I also made a hash of the last corner on several laps, which cost me any chance of getting a tow up the hill.
However, the group of cars I had been battling at Brands Hatch were several seconds behind me, so there was clear evidence of progress. I kept the car out of trouble for the full duration, and came home for my first ever Championship points finish! Here are my on-board highlights:
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, despite an unexpected deluge overnight. Race 2 was next up, and a chance to move forward. Another demon start was tainted somewhat by my misguided decision to take to the grass in an attempt to pass a slow-starting car in front of me, which put me back in the pack.
The pace was about the same as in race 1, but my consistency was better, allowing me to stay closer to the cars ahead of me but alas still not able to overtake. Race 2B was blighted by a number of incidents involving cars further up the road from me, but I kept it clean and came through to take another points finish.
I had already achieved my goal of two points finishes so was looking forward to just enjoying Race 3. I had a good starting position thanks to my strong finish in the second race, but that also meant that a number of faster drivers would be starting behind me. I was also feeling physically tired after two races round the relentless Cadwell Park circuit, and thinking that I should probably spend more time at the gym.
Despite that, it was a really enjoyable race that witnessed a frantic opening few laps, sadly with me largely going backwards. Nevertheless it was a third points finish of the weekend, and I left a circuit that is a notorious car-breaker with no damage to speak of, apart from a flattened wing mirror sustained during the early exchanges in Race 3 (as seen in the video below).
So, my second race meeting in the BRSCC MX-5 Championship is complete! I returned home feeling pretty positive about my experience, despite spending the weekend largely in the bottom half of the B group. There were plenty of positives to take, and of course I’m learning all the time. My goal for the next event is to actually get some practice on the track before I race it – something that I have not yet achieved in 2019, through no fault of my own!
My top 3 positives from Cadwell Park:
1 – First points finishes!
2 – The handling of the car now feels good
3 – No repair bill
My top 3 pain points from Cadwell Park:
1 – I need to be fitter
2 – The car is majorly lacking in engine power
3 – There are still a couple of floppy markers left standing at the Hall Bends that I didn’t manage to hit