After a long journey from their base in Lancashire, which included a rough ferry crossing and a battle with the Dublin traffic, there were many tired faces in evidence when the transporter finally arrived at Mondello Park. A lot has happened to...
After a long journey from their base in Lancashire, which included a rough ferry crossing and a battle with the Dublin traffic, there were many tired faces in evidence when the transporter finally arrived at Mondello Park. A lot has happened to Team B&Q Jet York City Racing in the past twelve months. At the equivalent meeting last year the team had been forced to stay in the UK due to a lack of cash and, despite an excellent visit to the podium at Thruxton, were facing a real struggle with the pair of ageing Honda Integras.
This year we travelled across the Irish Sea on the back of a string of solid performances and the team were determined to enjoy the trip, move up the championship table and win new fans in the Emerald Isle. By the time the cars were loaded onto the transporter on Sunday evening, these objectives had all been met and surpassed. All the stress of the journey to Mondello - the whole of the last two years not just the ferry crossing - had finally been lifted from the teams shoulders.
With the lack of any previous technical data from the Mondello Park circuit we were expecting to struggle in qualifying but, with the addition of a new damper system and a number of changes to the suspension geometry, coupled with a clever tyre strategy in a qualifying session that saw rain and a red flag, the team were delighted to notch our best ever qualifying positions. Jim Edwards Jnr would start the sprint race in third place and the feature race, where he usually excels, in sixth. Peter Cate, struggling for the second meeting in succession with a cracked exhaust manifold, qualified immediately behind his team-mate for both races, in fourth and seventh and predicted an exciting start where he expected both cars to make up some places.
Starting from third and fourth on the grid, behind Norman Simon and Mark Fullalove, gave us the opportunity to go out and try to pick up some serious points. Both Peter and Jim got good starts with Peter ending lap one in second place, ahead of Jim Edwards Jnr, where he stayed until his brakes failed approaching the Tarzan after five laps. He was forced to relinquish his second place and rolled slowly back to the pits for the team to investigate; the problem was later put down to the brake fluid boiling as a result of the numerous tight corners and heavy braking.
Whilst all of this was going on Jim had lost a place to the hard-charging Scot, Gavin Pyper, who was starting from the back of the grid with a point to prove following his race ban at the last round. On lap nine the safety car was deployed following contact between Mark Fullalove and James Kaye and this allowed Jim to close right back up onto the rear of the fourth-placed BMW of Tom Boardman ahead of him. On the restart it all went wrong for the leader, Norman Simon, who ended up in the gravel at Turn Three after his rear axle locked up and Jim was up into fourth place behind Gavin Pyper, James Kaye and Tom Boardman. On the finish line the gearbox in Kaye's Civic failed, allowing Boardman to pass for second, and almost allowing Jim Edwards Jnr to snatch a place on the podium, but somehow Kaye managed to roll across the line just one second ahead before coming to a stop.
With a solid showing in the sprint race and a number of changes to both cars we were expecting great things from the feature race, especially as the Honda Accord is good on tyres; something which would prove vital on such a twisty circuit. Once again though the weather would play it's part as a heavy downpour as the cars made their way to the grid forced a start delay and the teams and drivers had to decide whether to switch to wet weather tyres. Both Jim and Peter elected to stay on slick tyres as they expected the track to dry quickly with the strong wind that was blowing which meant that the formation laps and the first few laps of the race would be treacherous.
When the cars finally took the rolling start the pole sitter, German Norman Simon, was elbowed out of the way by the Syncro Motorsport Honda Civic of James Kaye, followed by Mark Fullalove. The two Team B&Q Jet York City Racing cars were holding station in a purposeful midfield position, determined to stay out of trouble and wait for their tyre advantage to pay off and, in the case of Peter Cate, try to preserve the brakes that had proved troublesome in the first race.
The safety car was deployed on lap 12 when Tom Chilton went straight on at Dunlop corner and, when it was withdrawn, the rain started to fall again causing a moment of panic for Peter Cate who was inadvertently slowed by the slower car of Mark Thomas as he was about to lap him, and found himself being challenged by Tom Boardman along the start straight but the attack was repelled at Hewlett Packard..
Lap 18 saw the safety car out again after the rear axle of Norman Simon once again overheated and locked up, throwing him into the gravel at Paddock. As the safety car was about to leave the pitlane Mark Fullalove span off the track at Birranes after Spencer Marsh closed the door on him and there followed a lengthy break from racing as recovery crews attempted to remove both cars from the circuit. The order when the race went green again was Kaye, Pyper, Marsh, Edwards Jnr, Cate. Within laps though Kaye had locked his brakes and was parked in the gravel at Ireland and then the battery on Pyper's car failed causing him to pull off at Hewlett Packard.
To the delight of the crowd, who had assembled at the outside of Dunlop corner, the York City cars were suddenly running in second and third places and they went mad waving their flags and cheering. With any concerns over the reliability of the brakes now eased Peter Cate decided to push for the remaining laps and see if he could improve his position but there was never going to be a way past an equally determined Jim Edwards Jnr and, despite his dashboard electronics failing in the final laps and causing him to believe his battery was dying, he chased Jim over the line to score his first podium for the team.
As the cars returned to Parc Ferme they were greeted by an ecstatic Stuart Isherwood and a delighted team, many of whom were part of the same team last year and who could only dream of this sort of result back then. From Parc Ferme the drivers made their way to the mobile podium to be presented with their trophies in front of the main grandstand. As winning team for the meeting it was apt that the first one onto the podium was team manager, Stuart Isherwood, who proceeded to soak the watching team with champagne. A lot has happened to this little team in a year--
Comments And Quotes
Jim Edwards Jnr: "I was very happy with my qualifying performance on Saturday but felt I could have done slightly better for the feature race qualifying. I set a competitive time and then made a couple of changes hoping to improve but it was not to be. However I was still very happy with third and sixth and, if I can carry on like that then that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season."
"I have only raced at Mondello Park once, about twelve years ago before much of the current configuration had been constructed, so I am even more pleased to have scored two excellent results. It is always nice to get on the podium and spray the champagne but this time it really meant something. Stuart Isherwood has done an excellent job in recent months and to see him up there as the manager of the winning team was fine reward."
"We were losing time through the slow corners, so I was having to make up time by braking later in the quicker corners to keep up with Spencer. Generally though I was very happy; the new dampers were good, especially through the left hander at Paddock. The test at Donington has really given us the leg up needed; probably about eight tenths per lap and we will continue to look for more speed from the car in the coming weeks. At the start of the season people looked at me and John and thought we had no chance, but we are now third in the drivers championship and the team are second in the teams championship, despite running two meetings with only one car."
Peter Cate: "Whoever designed this circuit is either crazy or a genius! Every corner has a secret and if you talk with the locals, they'll all have different opinions for each one so it was not the easiest place to get to grips with the changes we made to the car after Donington but, as the meeting went on, the lap times continued to fall and I think the final result demonstrated just how far we have come on as a team this season."
"I was disappointed to stop in the sprint race, but when I saw that Simon and Fullalove both crashed out, I was gutted. That should have been our podium! I could feel something was not right and approaching Tarzan, I braked a little early and I'm glad I did; the car hardly slowed and fortunately I didn't hit anyone and managed to stay on the black stuff. I got on the radio and told the team what had happened. There was no chance to do anything but crawl back to the pits. After that I was determined to score well in the feature race and I was delighted to be back on the podium there - it's been a long time since I was there with Barwell last season."
John B&Q: "I'm ecstatic and gutted all at the same time. I am so very proud of the team for this result but, being the arse that I am, I was not there to enjoy the fruit of all of our hard work over the past two years. In all fairness it is probably fitting that Stuart and his lads were the ones who took the praise for this, as it is their hard work that has gotten us here, but I would dearly have loved to have been there to congratulate them. There is going to be an even bigger party than usual at Croft to celebrate!"
Stuart Isherwood: "I am going to get on the phone to security at Croft as soon as I get back to base and insist they don't allow John anywhere near the circuit - I have been trying to get him to stay away for months! If this is the sort of result we're going to score in his absence then he's not welcome back. Second in the teams championship is not that bad for a bunch of volunteers, eh ?!"