The latest ST-XR Challenge meeting at Mallory Park saw a near carburetor catastrophe and a dramatic climb through the field for the TOTD sponsored car.
Time to get reacquainted with Mallory
Mallory Park is one of the smallest circuits in the country and with that comes one of the quickest and one of the slowest corners in the UK. The first corner, Gerard’s, is one of the longest in the UK, which makes it very quick. The hairpin, Shaw’s, at the other end of the circuit, is extremely tight.
Race day was warm and bright and the Tyres on the Drive race car was, once again, the cover star on the day’s programme. Our driver, Greg, had not visited here for a number of years so it was a case of familiarising himself with the circuit as quickly as possible before setting out for qualifying.
Qualifying started early and the car was set up pretty much as it left Oulton Park following the last meeting, with two new tyres on the front. The XR2 being front wheel drive and with the long right hander we were expecting a lot of wear, especially to the near side front.
With lap times being under a minute, learning the track, as well as dealing with traffic, made it difficult for Greg to get a good clear lap in. This resulted in him qualifying 4th, which left our driver on the second row but close enough to the front to be in contention. Another driver, competing for the first time this year, was out in their newly acquired Fiesta ST 150 and was clear on pole.
Race one: carburetor catastrophe
Before the first race a few adjustments were made to the suspension, tyre pressures checked and all seemed well, until the lights went out to start the race. The car spluttered and was slow off the line and Greg dropped to 5th. There was nothing immediately wrong at full throttle so our driver was unsure whether the car had a problem. However, at the tight hairpin the car again spluttered as the revs dropped and there was a noticeable drop in power. Before the power really dropped off Greg managed to get back up to 4th but then started going backwards and he was losing around 3 seconds a lap! Our driver was now involved in a mid-field battle but he still needed to finish as high up in the field as possible, as where he finished would be his grid spot in the second race. At one-point Greg was way down in 10th, a position unheard of for him this season, but with others making errors and experiencing problems he ended up finishing the race in 8th.
After the race the team set about looking for the cause of the problem. The airbox was removed and air filter cleaned, the jets in the carburetor were checked and one was found to be blocked – the cause of the drop in power. This meant the engine was running on insufficient fuel and therefore not producing the expected power. A compression test was also carried out to ensure that no other damage had been caused, which fortunately it hadn’t.
Race two: back up to where we belong
So, with the issue fixed it was time to make up for race one. Starting in 8th meant there was some serious overtaking to do if we were going to make up any ground on the front runners.
Greg had a good start and was up to 6th after the first lap. The problem our driver quickly found, however, was that the more powerful STs were very difficult to get past and there were two directly in front of him. Their pace down the straights meant that Greg had to wait for the right opportunity. Eventually he managed to pass them both as they got in each other’s way into the hairpin and Greg went around the outside. Now he was up to 4th but the leading three were a long way ahead.
Then, opportunity struck, a stranded XR3 on the circuit meant the safety car came out and our driver was able to close the gap between himself and the leading pack, as the marshals cleared the circuit. As the safety car pulled off the circuit the leading car made a huge mistake and went off the circuit at the hairpin and dropped back. Greg was now 3rd.
As he crossed the start/finish line with 2 laps to go our driver was right behind the now 2nd placed driver but found the outside line at Gerard’s wasn’t the way to go and almost ended up going cross country! Coming out of the same corner on the final lap Greg carried more speed up the back straight and moved up to 2nd. He then spotted what looked like tyre smoke coming from the rear of the leading car and there may have been chance for the win but with only one corner to go the chequered flag came out and the race was over.
So close yet again, but with the problems in the first race it was very welcome to get back up to second. However, race one saw a lot of points dropped, which would not help in the championship standings. It’s all to play for at the last meeting at Oulton Park in October. It’ll be right to the line as ever!
Our next and final meeting is back at Oulton Park, Cheshire, on Saturday 12th October. To find out more and book your tickets, click here. Or, if you want to find out more about the Challenge and support Greg at another meeting, click here.