The annual NEOBuggy race held in Shropshire came around again over Easter, and once again NEMO Racing fully decamped to the venue to support the biggest team at this race in our history. Around 40 drivers were under the NEMO awnings and as usual we managed to have a great deal of fun while taking the on track action seriously and going for good results. NEMO Racings USA representative, Billy Tylaska was over for his first taste of racing in the UK, and although suffering wit sleep deprivation, was enjoying the experience, along with the owner and designer of Agama itself Vic Zeng, who was here for the second time and loving the race. A bigger than usual entry resulted in some very long days, but as usual the onsite catering and the indoor pitting meant that this wasn’t too bad, keeping everyone fed and warm. The track this year was faster than usual, with some more open sections to speed the cars up, and a very well constructed berm corner at the end of the straight which would allow for some option lines and good racing.
Tyre choice throughout practice and qualifying was the big debate, with some guys preferring the tried and tested Cubez tyre, while others preferred the new Volante tyre, but this was purely down to personal preference as both were working well. Qualifying didn’t go as planned for Darren in the early rounds, and he was evolving the set up of the car quite a bit as he went along, but by the time Sunday came around he was coming with a wet sail and the lap times were starting to get him in the mix for top 5 round scores. Notable performances in the team saw Ollie Currie, Jonny Skidmore and Callum Niblett all in the 1/4 finals after some excellent qualifying runs through the weekend. The track was proving quite difficult to get the clean runs, as with it being shorter in lap time, faster drivers were coming across the traffic more often. Bart Mullink from Belgium was enjoying his NEO experience also, and was improving all the time and posting good lap times, the Kilic brothers as always were performing well and showing everyone it wont be long before they are at the top. Once the finals got underway, the NEMO team seemed to come alive and we had drivers in contention all through the field. The first hero was Barkley Abernethy, who bumped up 3 times with some exceptional driving and was in contention again only to miss out by 1 place. Indeed the Irish contingent were on a roll and Gary Baird also bumped up twice, even after a huge crash bent his rear propshaft, but some fantastic driving got him through and up the finals ladder.
On Sunday night the last race had been the Electric B final, which had a roll call of drivers who would grace any A final. Darren was able to recover from first lap disaster to take the last place of the bump up places in 4th, indeed such was the quality of this final that Jared Tebo was unable to to bump. The A final came at lunch time on Monday, and Darren’s plan to miss the carnage from the back of the grid didn’t work out as he got entangled in someone else’s accident and still ended up at the back, still he was able to drive well with good speed to take an overall 10th place, which from earlier in the week was a good result. In the semi final practice Darren decided to follow the lead of Callum Niblett, and try a very different tyre tread that would not normally be considered at a venue like this and he ran the Freeride in Supersoft compound. Once he had adjusted to the difference, he came alive taking over 0.5 of a second off his previous best lap times and feeling far more confident in what he had under him going onto the semi’s themselves… In the 1/4 finals sadly for the NEMO boys the finals didn’t go as planned, and Callum, Ollie, Tony Truman and Jonny would all bow out at this stage, despite having the pace to progress. With the times being so incredibly close, even a small error or a bad start could be enough to seal a drivers fate.
So on to the semis and Darren got away well and was running 7th, then as others made a few errors and he got clear track he was able to use the very impressive speed he now had to get himself into a secure 4th after his first pit stop and he was cruising, when the NEO curse struck again. This time an electrical issue was to blame, and despite the best efforts of the team who got the offending item changed and the car back out on track with 5 minutes to go, it would not be enough to secure Darren a place in the LCQ race and his meeting was done.. Still, its not all about the result and we as a team had great weekend, and we would like to take the opportunity to thank the DXR crew for their excellent track and supreme organisation, and also to Phil from NEOBuggy for once again laying on one of the best races of the year….we will be back!