With the working week finally over Close Racing is on the road down to the Beautiful Cadwell Park racing circuit. With camping, birthday beers and a spot of racing in the pipe line, as well as a chance to give the championship co-ordinator, Drew Furlong, a good send off, this should be a good weekend.
Saturday morning comes and the paddock is a symphony of engines and impact drivers, couple this with the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside, add a little dash of sunshine and Close Racing’s Lyndsay Pettigrew couldn’t think of a better way to start her birthday weekend. That was until Mike Close made a mistake on the exit of Barn in qualifying putting him into the tires and ending any chances of setting a good time. Mike ended the session qualifying 18th in group B.
Starting near the back of the grid is a daunting task at Cadwell, with its narrow track it’s famously hard to cars to overtake here, so Mike had his work cut out for him.
Mike hooked up his start well and was fired off the line, only to be met with the back of the lime green car of Ambrogio Perfetti and was subsequently passed by three cars on the run down to Coppice. Before finding him out of position entering Charlies costing him a further place. Finally regaining himself on the run down Park Straight Mike settled in behind car Number 50 of Christian Young. With the huge numbers that the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship pulls in and the tight track width of Cadwell Park Mike found it difficult to both learn the track and squeeze his way through the cars ahead. However a lapse in judgement from Matthew Simmonite left the door open on the entrance to Mansfield, Mike didn’t need to be asked twice. A few laps past and with Mike now starting to find his rhythm, he passed cars on the entrance to both The Mountain and the exit of Mansfield, before an incident after Hairpin resulted in the safety car being sent out so the cars could be recovered and the barrier repaired. Unfortunately due to the extent of the damage, the safety car left them with only two laps of racing once it had returned to the pits, this was something Christian Young knew all too well.
“I thought, I’m not catching them, so I’m just not going to let you past.” - Christian Young.
Mike crossed the line in 16th place 0.3 seconds from 15th.
Sunday morning came and after how race one yesterday finished Mike was determined to get the jump on Young.
“I am NOT getting stuck there again, I’m having him off the line” - Mike Close.
Lights out! Mike rockets off the start line. With last nights rain Mike knew that he would have to be careful about where he took his chances to over take, so making the most of the start was crucial. Squeezing in once again behind Ambrogio Perfetti coming out of Charlies Mike took the opportunity to use the slip stream from the lime green car to help him pass cars 17 and 25 on the run down into Park, finally nipping underneath the camouflaged car of Jake Simpson mid way through Chris Curve. An incident involving car 38 sent it spinning over the twisting Hall Bends allowing Mike to make up yet another place and close up on the slowing cars in front. After a few mistakes causing Mike to start to drop back he got his head down and chased the pack only to find his mirrors full of David Birrell’s Mazda.
“I had two choices, keep pushing and hope to leave him, or back him up slightly as I knew Drew Foster was gaining on us” – Mike Close.
Foster was now applying pressure and causing Birrell to defend his position, allowing Mike to make his escape. This was short lived as Foster made his move quickly and was sharp chasing down Mike.
By this point Mike had caught up with the rear end of Ambrogio Perfetti and was looking for a way to pass, when, with a mistake under the brakes he was forced to try make a move up the inside at Mansfield causing the two cars to come together and Drew Foster to glide past the pair of them. Mike was visibly annoyed at the incident, thrashing at his wheel as he passed the crowd on The Mountain. But this wasn’t going to deter him as he pushed hard to catch up passing Perfetti round the outside at Coppice. Mike naively though that was that and subsequently left the door wide open allowing Perfetti the space to come through at Park cutting Mikes nose off and stopping any chance of retaliation.
Mike knew at this point laps were quickly counting down and to get stuck behind an all out defensive drive again was not what he wanted. With Mike following close behind, Perfetti made a mistake entering Park Straight, this allowed Mike to get the run on him and both cars enter Park at the same time giving each other just enough room, however Mike had the inside, and there was only going to have one outcome, Perfetti yielded entering The Gooseneck.
Mike crossed the line 8th.
The final race of the day. Rain had been teasing the drivers all day and playing havoc out on track causing a 5 car pile up in the Mk3 MX-5 Supercup. But thankfully it was looking to be a dry race for the Mk1’s. With the car repaired as much as it could be in the given time, including a new ‘dry’ tire after the side wall took a heaving seeing to on the last race, Mike pulls up to the grid in 8th position.
A reasonable get away from the line again, however a poor gear choice through Coppice causes Mike to lose a position and a good run down into Park. Mike settles into the race and concentrates on gaining any lost ground back when the battle two cars ahead gets messy and Paul Austin ends up veering off the track and hits the tire wall, hard!
Safety car. While the striped car of Austin is pulled to safety the drivers take a welcome break and allow their core temperatures to cool, unfortunately this also allowed the brakes and tires to cool, a point that Mike noticed all too late when trying to stop the car in time for Mansfield. Running wide onto the grass cost Mike 3 positions and most of his pride, with a further blow coming at The Mountain when the Gulf coloured car of Cockburn-Evans passed Mike as he was still recovering from his 'off'. Cockburn-Evans later squeezed passed Perfetti leaving Mike and Perfetti to battle it out yet again.
Mike was closing up on the back of the lime green car when Jake Simpson showed just how much power that MX-5 was producing by simply driving passed Mike on the Park Straight leaving Mike completely defenceless.
“That thing’s a rocket ship, he left me for dead!” – Mike Close
Simpson made short work of the pack ahead, leaving Mike staring at nothing but lime green yet again. A mistake by Cockburn-Evans left him spinning majestically from the Gooseneck down to Mansfield, closing the pack up as they slow to get passed safely. Mike cautiously tucked in and braked hard in avoidance rather than taking advantage and risking a big incident. This was the last lap and Mike knew would have to make his move dauntingly through either Hall Bends or at Barn. A good exit out of Barn gave him the run he needed and it was a straight drag race to the finish line with Perfetti holding on to the lead by 0.017 seconds.
Mike crossed the line in 11th with his closest finish yet.
All in all it was an great weekend with our driver Mike Close learning even more about the characteristics of the car. Including quite a bit about trying to repair it, and how much a setup can make or break your lap times.