“I love this, but I need to do it on my own terms.”
Three months on from my brilliant first Ma7da races in James Lewis-Barned’s car, I returned to the series at Mallory Park. Despite feeling like a local circuit, being so near to home, I’d only driven Mallory on two track days over the years and had never raced there. It’s an underrated circuit with some quite unique challenges, including both the longest corner and the tightest corner in the country.
A relatively small roster for the meeting – only eleven races! – meant there was time for a practice session first thing in the morning. I didn’t stump up for it, but got to learn a little from watching most of my competitors on the wet circuit. It didn’t dry in time for our qualifying session, where I had a huge amount of fun. Passing a car halfway through the first corner set the tone: in the tricky conditions I seemed able to feel out the circuit better than most, and enjoyed clawing out as much laptime as possible while flowing past other cars as I found them. I was very pleased to find I’d qualified third on the grid for both races: half a second behind by regular race winners (and morning practicers!) Jonathan Lisseter and Ben Powney.
True to form, I fluffed the start and gave away all that hard work to enter the first corner surrounded. You’re very much outdoors in a car like this, and your competition feels more than close enough to reach out and touch: on a sunny day at a little circuit in Leicestershire, it was brilliant. I fought hard to try to hang onto the lead pack despite what seemed to be a lack of straightline pace, and was working forwards until a contact in the hairpin jerked the steering wheel across hard enough to pull my shoulder out of its socket. After a bit of confusion at my inability to select third gear, I got it back in place and resumed into a great battle with David Mason which lasted right to the final lap.. when the car failed. A total loss of electrics left me coasting anticlimactically back to the paddock.
Frantic stripping, fault-finding and diagnosis with the help of Iain Thornton and TMC Engineering’s Matt Cherrington had us replace a coolant pipe that looked to have leaked onto the alternator, dry everything up, exchange blown fuses and have the car running again in time for race two where I would again line up third.. but warming up in the assembly area, the engine died again. Plainly the fault hadn’t been found and my day was done.
The “podiums that might have been” felt like unfinished business in Ma7da. The racing was superb, but I needed a different way of accessing it. Happily, together with fellow Club Enduro racer Imran Khan I’ve found it in the shape of a Locost chassis we’ve bought and will convert to race in Ma7da next season.