Brands Hatch – First weekend of the BRSCC
In 2018 we took a gamble and sponsored a local aspiring racing driver called Matthew Pollard. Matt’s Mazda MX-5 has been touring the race circuits of the UK emblazoned with Car Magic and Non Fault Car Accident Repair branding, in return for us looking after the car body repairs. We’ve covered the Mazda MX-5’s progress on our Motorsport page since April 2018 and were very pleased when Matt was given ‘Rookie of the Year‘ at the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 ‘Night of Champions’.
Ahead of this year’s racing, the Mazda MX-5 was in need of some body repairs, including the fitting of two new wings and some paintwork. We can handle all the car body repairs that Matt needs and the paint touch-ups from our workshop in Chesham, where we have our own low-bake oven.
Matt had continued testing the MX-5 over the winter, but it was time for the nerves to kick in now that the first race weekend of the 2019 BRSCC MX-5 Championship was looming. His mindset was apprehensive but realistic ahead of the race. He said “You just have to get on with it and stay out of trouble” which seems to have been a good strategy to get him through the first race of the season.
Brands Hatch – 23rd to 24th March 2019
Testing and qualifying at Brands Hatch, Kent
Test days are designed to learn the circuit, work on any issues and gather data on the racing. Test days that have an open pit lane are Matt’s preference as more information can be gleaned from the racing, compared with testing in sessions. With the aim of improving lap times during the testing day, it is an important stage to talk through all the collected lap data with your racing support team. Matt is once again being supported by AB Motorsport and was glad to sit down with Jack Sycamore to review his progress on this first test of the 2019 season.
The Saturday morning saw Matt go out for qualifying. With a year of experience under his (seat) belt, the qualifying sessions felt different. Matt found confidence in his knowledge of what to do and what not to do in certain situations. He said about the race preparation “I knew, this time, that a slipstream can be vital to a good lap time. Also, I knew not to get held up behind a slower opponent in qualifying, and to create a gap if I needed to.”
Matt’s confidence led him to finish in the A race which is always a goal, especially in a busy race weekend with a total of 64 competitive drivers. He recorded the 12th fastest time of the 32 cars in his group and felt things had gone reasonably well.
A missed gear change
Starting in 23rd Matt was hoping to gain a few positions by the end of the first race. Things didn’t get off to a great start though when he missed a gear change. He moved from second to first gear by accident instead of moving up to third gear – eek! Thankfully the engine wasn’t damaged but he dropped further back on the grid to 29th position. Matt had a lot of work to do now. He spent the first part of the race climbing up the positions he had lost. The bottom five positions in the race are relegated to the group below. The pressure was on to get at least back to starting position or better. Thankfully he executed some well-timed moves on the bends of Paddock Hill and Graham Hill. This gained Matt some positions to finish in 21st – two ahead of his start on the grid.
Killing the engine
The second race started with Matt missing the gear change from second to third again which dropped him back. Unfortunately, during the first lap in the Clearways section, he made an even bigger mistake. Matt somehow managed to kill the engine. He had knocked the ignition switch off whilst attempting to change gear for the braking zone. Shortly afterwards he realised he had no power!
At this point, Matt was last. The threat of relegation was pushing him to do everything he could to stay in the A race. He focused on closing the gap between himself and the group in front. Matt was overtaking well and in some corners, he even managed to take two positions at once. He worked back up to 21st on the grid. That was quite an achievement – considering he had been in 32nd when the engine was dead. He was thrilled with his climb through the positions. He was, however, a little gutted that it hadn’t been a climb from the twenties to the top ten.
The final race of the Brands Hatch weekend
Feeling lucky to be there, Matt decided to make the most of the race. He got off to a better start. Then he was pressured by Ben Hancy from behind but caught up to the car in front. Matt then passed Lewis Cannon on the front straight. With quite a big gap in front of him, he just had to focus on defending from Lewis. The rest of the racing was uneventful compared to race one and two. He finished race three in 12th position, helped a little by a few drivers ahead of him coming together. So the weekend finished on a positive and Matt could now take his learnings through to Pembrey on the 20th April.
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