It was great to be back in a race car just a month after visiting Circuit of the Americas with NASA Texas. And Donington Park, nestled in rolling hills in the center of England, was a brilliant new circuit to visit during my time in the UK.
Rounds 7 & 8 of the Max 5 Racing championship were hosted by the British Automobile Racing Club alongside the feature event - the British Superkarts Championships. With average speeds over 100 mph, these things were incredibly quick!
Arriving after work on Friday evening, I was able to walk a lap of the 2.5 mile track before nightfall. The track was mostly fast and flowing, with significant elevation change, and the lap closes with two tight hairpin turns. The expectation for adhering to track limits is higher in the UK than the US, reinforced by electronic sensors embedded strategically in the track. After one warning for exceeding track limits, time penalties are imposed - 5 seconds for the 2nd infraction, 10 seconds for the 3rd, etc.
On Saturday morning, we had some time to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather from the grandstand overlooking the back-side of the track.
My challenge was to get up to speed quickly. With no practice session scheduled, my first laps took place during qualifying - trying to set my fastest lap while still learning the track. The track walk seemed to help. While I qualified 6th of 7 starters in the class, I was just a few tenths off the group ahead, and a second off pole position on a 2 minute lap. Unfortunately, my session was cut a little short - the car ran out of fuel before the end of the session due to a faulty fuel gauge. Here is a video of the 2:04.4 lap that I managed.
The first lap of Race 1 was an eventful one. A missed braking point at the first hairpin resulted in a significant impact between two cars in the class - both retiring before completing a racing lap. I temporarily jumped to first place, but managed to find 5th gear instead of 3rd. Two cars swooped past and I fell to 3rd. On lap 3, I was able to move up a spot as Car #192 in front ran wide through "Old Hairpin". I spent the rest of the lap closing in on Car #11, and finally moving into the lead going into Turn 1 on lap 5. I was able to hang onto the top spot for the rest of the race, eventually pulling ahead while the cars behind fought hard for 2nd and 3rd position. The full video from Race 1 is below.
And to the victor belong the spoils - a Max 5 Racing trophy for 1st place in Class B for Round 7 of their championship!
My finish in Race 1 earned me pole position for Race 2. Despite a decent start, however, I found myself in 3rd place by the time we got through Turn 1. For the first couple of laps, the top 4 cars ran line-astern, but not quite close enough to call racing. By the end of lap 3, I managed to catch and pass Car #192 at the first hairpin to move up to 2nd, only to make a mistake in Turn 1 on lap 4 and give the spot back a few turns later. At the end of laps 5, 6 and 7, the top 4 cars crossed the start-finish line within 1 second of each other. This was good racing. Car #11 and #192 swapped places on lap 7, and I managed to move back to 2nd on lap 8, only to drop back to 3rd again on lap 9. With the squabbling up front, the 4th place car had regained some ground and we finished on lap 11 with the top 4 cars less than 2 second apart.
A 1st place and 3rd place finish was more than I expected coming into the weekend. The circuit was spectacular and the racing was gentlemanly - a great way to spend a weekend.
I'm not sure when I'll be back on a race track with either NASA Texas or Max 5 Racing, but there are more motorsport adventures planned for 2018. More to come!
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Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.