It seems like an eternity since we packed up our ‘slightly damp’ selves and left Cadwell Park whilst casually reflecting on what we saw, speculating on early title contenders, discussing the changes to cars and the new line up of drivers in the 2012 Time Attack season. In reality, 4 weeks have passed and we find ourselves at the next venue on the calendar ready for the next instalment of cracking action from the Time Attack Circus!
Now for many, Knockhill seems like a million miles away, and speaking to some of the fans who were lining the circuit even though this was their local track, it was still a mission for them to get to! With a near 700 mile round trip for us, it’s always an interesting adventure and with Scotland’s glorious scenery and changeable weather conditions, it makes for one of the most exciting dates on the calendar and when you think most of the organising team, main Time Attack photographer and at least 2 or 3 of the teams are 150 miles south of us in Kent and made the journey, we can hardly feel too hard done by!
The Scottish round also allows us to welcome a few new and a few not so new faces to the event, as the locals returned to do battle and a few names pop up on the entry list as One Hit Wonders that you might recognise, it was set to be all action right from the word go! Scotland’s ‘first lady of motorsport’; Fiona Kindness was back in action, her car has undergone a few changes to set it up for circuit racing but is still a instantly recognisable car and one that isn’t shy of some pace! Michael Mahoney’s Evo is still one of the best looking machines to compete in Time Attack in our opinion, now with a even moodier front end and what seems like a good dose of extra power, it was exciting to see the Wallace Performance man back in action.
We can also add a few names who missed out at Cadwell; Duncan Graham returns in the BC Racing Impreza, Warren Kelly’s Escort Cosworth is a fan favourite and returned after suffering a mechanical failure at rnd 1, Marcus Webster rejoins team mate; Walter Morris in the competition and Gordon Wright, who was at Cadwell but failed to run due to problems with his Skyline. Missing from this round was Alan Freeland, although mysteriously his car was on display at one of the trade stands, Rob Cowling, who is still working hard to make the winter developments on the Ameon Evo come together, Olly Clark whos e well documented and anticipated ‘Gobstopper II’ is still not quite ready and, with the legendary ‘Gobstopper I’ suffering at Cadwell, he would sit this one out and finally still no sign of Dave Jackson’s new Focus Cosworth build, we’re hoping to see this car at some point this year, hopefully Brands Hatch!
Action began as always with the warm up, and in the case of a cold and damp Scottish morning that’s exactly what was needed. Nothing major to report, Mark Pollard’s 6R4 pulled up midway through the session but got going again under its own steam, but for many it was a case of sighting the track, deciding what tyres would be the sensible option and a shakedown of the cars. Gareth Lloyd was really the only driver to post a quick lap towards the end of the session, running the Bob Moore Racing Evo over 6 seconds clear of anyone else. In addition to the Pro & Club Pro drivers that we are used to seeing, after a cracking start to the season, Steve Peel has opted to bump up from Club class into the Club Pro category and he ran a couple of laps before retuning to the paddock.
Practice was helped by both the Civic Cup race and the slightly warmer temperatures, allowing the cars to run slightly quicker on the dryer line created, although still not up to full attack pace it was an early indication as to who was suited to the conditions and who had managed to get the setups right. Lloyd was quickest again overall, although his 6 second gap had been cut to under 2 tenths by Gavin Renshaw. Marcus Webster was making use of the fairly quiet session, putting in the most laps, towards the last few of which he had the entire track to himself! Scott Robson lead the Club Pro drivers and was placed third overall and is showing the pace we last saw of him back in 2010 and the team at RA Motorsport Developments have helped breathe new life into the Impreza even after a few setbacks at Cadwell. Hot on his heels however was Neil Robertson, who really does seem to have found the pace we have been hoping for out of the SVA Imports Evo which when you look round it, really is a mad car! The 2WD cars still struggled with grip in the damp, Romain Levesque managed to improve right up to his last lap, but both Gerry Atkinson and Gordon Wright were fighting for grip, with Gordon often looking like his Skyline would have been quite happy in the EDC, but hanging on to the squirming rear end like a pro!
The qualifying session is where it counts, points are available and it’s the first time of the day where the drivers really aim for their quickest lap. Early pace-setter Lloyd managed only 3 laps at a leisurely pace before returning to the pits and retiring the car with what we believe was a clutch failure. Duncan Graham had struggled in the earlier sessions but managed to finally put some hot laps in and get some miles under the Impreza’s belt on the drying circuit, David Leigh joined the FWD madness although his appearance was short-lived and lasted the same distance as Lloyd. Gavin Renshaw was left to be the man to beat, and took his place at the top of the pile and earned maximum qualifying points. Steve Peel, who remember has just come up from Club Challenge after only 1 Time Attack round, was the second quickest overall, and top of the Club Pro list, narrowly beating the Exige of Jamie Wilson. The drivers were pushing hard, from my position on the hairpin I saw Romain, Duncan, Gerry, Warren and Russ Paton all locking up after stamping hard on the stop pedal on the approach with Romain avoiding the gravel bed by millimetres on a couple of occasions and Paton sliding all 4 locked up wheels of his Evo for a good 150yds! Pollard also had a few car issues, what sounded like a misfire turned into a stall and some big epic flames shot out of the Metro before he managed to get it back to the pits.
The final approaches, the track had now dried out perfectly, the slicks were on, the drivers were fired up and the sun even made an appearance and then came 20 dramatic minutes of Time Attack! Gavin was the first man out as usual and blasted out the first hot lap to set the pace, only to be beaten a few seconds later by Mahoney; whose speed trap figures were unmatched by any of the cars in the session, we have seen some figures that suggest Michael’s car can run a very quick standing 1/4 mile too which would explain the car’s explosive power and torque, especially going up the hill over the start/finish straight! It didn’t take long for the first incident and first red flag of the day; Walter Morris, who hadn’t had the greatest day, stopped on the run up to Carlube and needed recovery, so proceedings were halted. Amazingly, after the restart it took just another couple of laps for the second Midlands Performance Skyline, driven by Marcus Webster, to pull up in almost an identical place leaving waved yellows in place. Whilst the Marshall’s decided if this would be another red whilst the car was recovered, flying Frenchman; Romain Levesque made their decision a lot easier by parking his CRX in the tyre wall at the hairpin after a brake lock-up and failure sent him onto the inside kerb, flying through the air (and I mean flying, look for it on YouTube!), clearing the track and into the barrier. Fortunately Romain was ok, and although that’s the most important thing, the Eurospec boys will be needing to repair that front end (again) ready for Brands Hatch!
After that, the session was close to time up, Renshaw had regained the lead and extended it, with the closest Pro class rivals; Pollard & Mahoney split by one hundredth of a second at the flag, placing them 4th & 5th overall. That meant that 2nd & 3rd would contain two Club Pro drivers and 2 of the most impressive drives I’ve seen so far! Steve Peel had better be careful or he will be needing some slicks for the move up to Pro class, finishing third overall and just over a tenth behind the Club Pro class winner and fellow NR Autosport driver; Andy Barbour. Andy had a fairly steady run up to the final, he was always on the pace but not setting it, but clearly the garage share with Gavin is rubbing off and the pair come away from Knockhill with major bragging rights and an armful of trophies. Taking the final step was early pace-setter; Scott Robson in the RA Developments Impreza. Gerry Atkinson was on the winning step again, although last time around he was taking the FWD Club class win, his slick tyres and step up to Pro 2WD has paid off and pipped Wright & Leigh to the podium spots, could we see Romain join this battle at Brands… now there is a thought!
Knockhill, despite the travelling, is quickly becoming our favourite round, at one point I forgot my duties and just enjoyed watching the cars charge round, it’s so addictive and the competition is really hotting up! So to wrap up the Pro & Club Pro classes, Gavin stands at the top of the pile once again, Andy joins him for the Club Pro class and Gerry maintains a 100% record for 2012. Who is going to be up for the challenge at Brands? Will we see the missing cars return and Gobstopper II? Make yourself available on the 8th July and join us at Brands Hatch to find out!
Words – Ollie // Pictures – Ollie & Rich