The third round of the RCCAOI 1/10th Touring Car Championship was held at Craigavon Model Car Club on the 27th of July.
The popular Tamiya Mini class was running as a support class for the race meeting and it is hoped that it will have it’s own national championship within the RCCAOI from 2015 onwards.
With the weather taking a turn for the worst after weeks of glorious sunshine, it was going to be a case of hit or miss if we managed to avoid the expected rainfall.
Entries were lower than expected due to the change in the weather and also due to a clash of rounds with the off road series. However we still had 6 1/10th touring cars and 6 Tamiya minis entered for the race meeting.
The track was damp at the beginning of the day but dried throughout the practice session giving the entrants the best opportunity to test their cars and themselves before heading into the qualifying heats.
The Tamiya Minis were the first out on track and everyone was keen to see how they would perform on the shortened track layout.
David Home had ‘borrowed’ his son’s mini for the day and was the early pace setter from practice and had carried it forward into the opening heat. He took an early lead in the standings, clocking up 20 laps within the 5 minutes run with an average of 15.374 seconds a lap, over a second a lap quicker than his nearest rival. Adam Stewart put in an impressive opening run clocking 19 laps to provisionally hold 2nd and more importantly, was ahead of both his dad Gordon and brother Joshua who both managed 17 laps. Philip Ryans swapped the hot seat of race control for a race seat at this meeting. An opening run of 17 laps put him 3rd after heat one, just a few seconds ahead of Joshua. Billy Allen’s first outing was cut short by an electrically fault, causing the car to slow and eventually grind to a hault after completing 13 laps.
A short rain shower had wet the track at the end of the opening heat but dried fully in time for the next round. Heat 2 saw 5 of the 6 drivers improve their times as they got to grips with the track and confidence grew.
David continued out front improving his time but remained on 20 laps, narrowly missing out on a 21 lap run by a 0.322 seconds! Gordon Stewart improved to join David on a 20 lap run and move up to 2nd overall, reclaiming the bragging rights from Adam. This pushed Adam down one spot to 3rd as he remained on 19 laps, fractionally slower than his opening run. Philip improved his lap times and found an extra lap as he improved to an 18 lap run. Joshua remained on 17 laps at this stage but shaved a few seconds off his opening time. Billy Allen completed 14 laps with costly mistakes on lap 3 and 7 shortening his run.
The 3rd and final heat brought about further improved times. David broke the 21 lap barrier to take pole by a comfortable margin over his nearest rival. He reduced his average lap time to 14.559 seconds setting a best lap time of 14.122 in the process. Gordon set another 20 lap run but failed to improve his time. However he had still done enough to start 2nd on the grid. Adam once again improved his overall time but could not better his 19 laps and would start 3rd in the final. Philip also continued to better his times and qualified 4th with 18 laps. Joshua missed out on an improved time in heat 3 but his 17 lap run put him 5th on the grid. Billy finally got a run together at the end and completed 16 laps giving him 6th on the grid.
On to the touring cars who were using the traditional track layout for this race meeting.
Mark Gilliland began setting the early pace, opening a gap to the following drivers. Keith Dempsy, Alan Bickerstaff, Graham Kenny and Andrew Smith had all caught and bunched up early on, letting Mark escape out front. Gordon took his touring car out for the 1st time since the opening round of the championship and was still running the 13.5 motor from that round so was lacking the same punch as the other drivers. Graham was the 1st causality after a collusion between himself and Keith took him out of the running after completing 2 laps.
After a couple of minutes the rain came effectively ending the run for all of the drivers. The wet surface saw the lap times drop but 10 seconds! The drivers soldiered on put in a banker time in case the weather failed to improve during the day.
Mark headed the times from Alan, both on 14 laps after the rain interrupted 1st heat. Andrew was 3rd on 13 laps, Keith 4th on 12 laps, Gordon 5th on 11 laps with Graham 6th after having is heat cut short.
The weather conditions improved after the short shower and the track had dried in time for the 2nd heat. Gordon choose to sit this heat as he tinkered with his mini.
With the first heat being washed out by the weather, the drivers were eager to get a clean, solid run in. The pace was good from all drivers and they were closely matched throughout the 5 minute run. Mark was once again out front and set the bench mark with a quick 17 lap run, just a couple of seconds away from breaking into an 18. Andrew was second, 4 seconds slower than Mark but was looking very good and consistent throughout the run. Alan struggled in the early stages as the car wanted to break loose through the corners but the car got better as the heat went on but wasn’t able to close the gap to Mark and Andrew out front. Graham was making up for having his 1st heat cut short and finished the heat only 1 second behind Alan’s time. Keith was on course to join the others on a 17 lap run but a mistake on lap 15 cost him 4 seconds and he missed out on 17 laps by just under a second.
The fight for pole came down to the final round of heats. Mark increased his advantage over the rest of the field and was the only driver to break the 18 lap barrier during the 5 minute heat to put him on pole for the finals. Andrew was once again his closest rival as he improved his time by 3 seconds to secure 2nd. Alan again struggled over the opening laps of the heat but did enough to claim 3rd on the grid. Graham encountered problems half way through the run and was forced to retire. His retirement prevented him from improving his time and with Keith leaving his beat run to end, pushed him down to 5th with Keith taking 4th. Gordon would start the finals 6th.
Prior to the finals the track was hit by another rain shower. The track surface was too damp for slicks but also not wet enough for wet tyres making tyre choice very difficult.
The Minis were the first to tackle the tricky conditions. It was a mix between the drivers on tyres with some switching to full wets while the others braved it out on the slicks. Surprisingly the slicks worked well despite the conditions.
David lead from the start and was chased by Gordon. The damp surface was not holding them back as they began to open a gap on the chasing pack. Adam was trying hard to stick with them but was falling away slightly. Philip was putting in steady lap times and was holding 4th comfortably. Joshua was struggling with the wet more than the others and a couple of trips into the bank near the end of the main straight cost him quite a bit of time. Billy had opted for the wet tyres but in his rush to get ready hadn’t noticed that the tyres were not glued to the rims! As the tyre worked their way off the rim, they caught on the front hub and prevented the car from steering correctly. This was costing him time but he carried on regardless to finish the heat.
Out front and David was controlling the gap to Gordon behind and took a lights to flag victory in the 1st leg of the final. Gordon finished on the lead lap but couldn’t match David’s pace throughout the heat and was 15 seconds down on the leader. Adam continued his impressive form to take 3rd. Philip came home in a solid 4th ahead of Joshua who recovered from his trips into the bank to take 5th and Billy crossed the line in 6th.
The heavens opened and torrential rain soaked the track leading up to the 2nd leg of the final. The downpour put some of the drivers off and only David and Philip decided to brave the elements and take to the track for leg 2.
David led from the off and began building up a comfortable gap. Philip’s aim for the final was simply not to fall a lap behind David. They each drove through the heavy rain and exposed the mini’s to possibly the worst conditions they have encountered. Rain and soaking track aside, both drivers were enjoying their final.
On lap 15 and with less than a minute remaining the weather finally took it’s toll on Philip’s car as it first began to slow before finally crying ‘no more’ and grinding to a stand still beside a very damp marshal. David continued to circulate the track and finished the 2nd leg of the final with a fine 18 lap run.
A discussion in the pit area between the mini drivers led to the 3rd leg of the final being abandoned due to the deteriorating weather conditions. With 2 leg victories to his name, David Home took the overall victory for the mini class. Philip Ryans took a well deserved 2nd ahead of Gordon Stewart in 3rd.
Despite the rain each of the drivers enjoyed themselves and were already looking forward to the next round.
The touring cars were next on track for the main event of the day.
The first leg of the touring car final was also affected by the rain. A shower before the start of the final made correct tyre choice virtually impossible and led to some frantic work in the pits as drivers altered set ups or swapped to wet weather cars.
Mark started on pole and led the pack tentatively through the first turn. The slippery track reduced traction and therefore lap times significantly compared to the lap times we had seen during the dry heats. Each of the drivers were being as gently as possible with their inputs into their cars. Andrew and Graham were struggling the most with wet track. Andrew dropped from his 2nd place grid slot down to 4th and was not able to fight back against either Alan or Keith as they moved past. Graham was lapping quicker than Andrew but each time he got close he made the faintest of mistakes through the first left turn on the track, spinning out and letting Andrew get away.
Mark was having no such problems and was controlling the race from the front, continuing to build the gap and crossed the line to take the leg 1 win 7.622 seconds ahead of Alan. Keith was a somewhat distant 3rd and had to go defensive in the closing stages as both Andrew and Graham closed in but were unable to pass.
Leg 2 of the final saw the same torrential rainfall as the mini final. Andrew and Graham choose to sit it out and not risk the cars. Mark, Alan and Keith prepared their cars and themselves as best they could for the conditions and headed out on track. All of the cars looked good during the brief warm up period.
Much like leg 1 it was follow the leader through the opening corners. With not even half a lap completed disaster struck for Mark as his car suddenly stopped on the racing line. Smoke began to pour from the car before the quick thinking of a nearby marshal removed the battery and prevented any further damage.
Mark’s demise promoted Alan into the lead and Keith into 2nd. With clear track in front of him Alan was able to move away from Keith fractionally each lap. The track conditions were proving difficult with the top corner leading on to the straight being particularly tricky as the available grip was proving very inconsistent. Keith’s only error came on lap 12 as he ran too wide into the double left hander, losing around 4 seconds.
Alan took victory in the 2nd leg of the final and was also able to squeeze out an extra lap despite the worsening conditions, completing 14 laps. Keith took 2nd with 13 laps. Mark was shown as 3rd after only managing half a lap before coming to a smokey end.
Leg 3 would prove to be decider with Mark, Alan and Keith all still potentially able to win the final overall. Mark had been extremely busy in between the finals but had manged to get his car ready just in time for the deciding leg.
The track was still wet for the final leg but was considerably better than the previous leg.
From the start Alan was piling on the pressure, looking for an opportunity to pass Mark who in turn was putting in a fantastic defensive drive. Keith was also in close contention in 3rd as Mark and Alan were holding each other up as they battled for the lead.
On lap 7 Alan made his move for the lead. Mark went slightly too deep into the first turn after the loop, opening the door for Alan to sneak in. Alan got the better drive out of the corner and was able to complete the pass along the short straight leading into the following left turn. Mark went on the attack but Alan was holding his lines well. Keith was still following closely and was now lining up his own attack on Mark but another slight mistake in the closing stages let Mark off the hook.
As the 5 minute final ended, Alan crossed the line to take the leg and overall win in the touring car class. Mark took 2nd in the leg and would have to settle for 2nd overall on the day, ruing the electrically problems that took him out of leg 2. Keith took 3rd in the leg and also 3rd overall.
With a championship win each now for Mark, Keith and now Alan, it’s going down to the final round of the series which will once again be hosted by Craigavon Model Car Club on the 16th of August.