The 3rd round of the BRCA National Series took place at the Herts track over the weekend, and despite the threat of rain and cloudy conditions, the weather behaved and we were treated to an excellent race.
The track had been slightly altered since it was last raced, and the change was very good, making the back section much more racy and less stop start. A lot of oil had been applied to the surface, and it was really quite a different surface than we usually face when we come to Herts, as the wear rate on the tyres was very minimal, which would lead people to softer compounds than normal, even for the longer finals.
With practice underway and Darren was immediately looking strong and fast out of the blocks, and the rest of the gang were on the pace and looking good also. Ollie Currie, Jonny Skidmore, Will Skidmore and Tony Truman all showing good pace, along with Callum Niblett. Tyre choices were looking at a toss up between Cubez and Volante, both performing very well.
Round 1 of qualifying saw the leading guys make a few errors each, which meant they didn’t quite reach their full potential, yet the times were still very close, with Jack Embling, Elliott Boots and Darren all split by 0.01 of a second, Darren and Elliott tied for 3rd in round. Tony Truman and Jonny Skidmore both made top 10 times and with Karl Jackson and Kevin Brunsden also in the 10, BETA tyres were looking very strong.
Round 2 saw Elliott and Darren stretch their legs a little and put the hammer down, both made small errors but it was Elliott who took the TQ from Darren. Callum Niblett and Ollie Currie were on the pace again, along with Tony Truman all pumping in the top 10 times.
Round 3 and after a few set up tweaks from Darren and he was motoring, just that bit quicker than Elliott could manage and as they went clean he was able to take the round win by a coupe of seconds, and Ollie Currie along with Jonny Skidmore also in the 10 the boys were delivering. The 4th and final round of qualifying to be held on Saturday saw yet another titanic battle between Darren and Elliott, and Elliott re-doubled his efforts to really put the pressure on Darren, only for Darren to once again find a bit more and take the round by a second. Jonny Skidmore was once again laying it down, while younger brother Will had quietly been going about his business and putting a string of really consistent runs together that were in the teens and showing he will be right there soon enough.
We came back Sunday morning with all to play for regards TQ, but Darren was confident after his pace in the latter rounds of qualifying on Saturday. The weather was pretty cool on Sunday morning and some overnight rain had taken the edge of the track making the times just a notch slower than on Saturday evening. This didn’t stop Darren though and he powered to another round win to take the overall TQ with a 3 round clean sweep. Jonny Skidmore and Ollie Currie both in the top 10 in 7th and 8th respectively, and Tony Truman just outside in 11th. Callum Niblett hung on just to a semi final place in 20th, after some inconsistent runs had blunted his pace, still confident for the finals. William Skidmore was very unlucky and just missed a direct semi final place and would be pole in a 1/4 final.
William would progress comfortably from his 1/4 final however, and would secure that semi final place his driving and so deserved. On the other side of the 1/4 finals, Ben Williams also made a great race and he also progressed through to the semis.
The B semi was full of drama, with people breaking down and making lots of mistakes, and this would allow Callum Niblett to drive a nice and consistent race, despite a bad start to get himself through and into the final with a 5th place finish. Sadly Ollie Currie had a disaster at the beginning, and was the best part of 3/4 of a lap down, a strong drive from there brought him back into contention, but he would miss out by one place and finish 8th.
Darren decided to use the semi to try a harder compound of tyre, just to be sure he wasn’t missing out and he found the harder compound to not be as good as his Supersofts from qualifying. He would finish 2nd behind Lee Martin and line up 3rd on the grid, he would be back to the the softer compound for the main final. Jonny Skidmore had a dodgy final, which included a stop and go, but he battled through and would squeeze through to make the show.
The main final got underway and Darren made an error on lap 2, which dropped him back in the pack, making him work hard to get back to the front, which he did and joined the battle with Elliott and Lee at the front. It was clear Darren just had the edge on those guys on pace, and when he hit the front after 5 minutes or so, he was able to just stretch the advantage little by little. Darren and Elliott were hard at it lap after lap, Darren stretched away by about 6 seconds, before a mistake let Elliott back in. Darren pace took him clear again by a few seconds, and Elliott then tried to respond by pushing ever harder to make it up, but then a few mistakes crept in and he would drop back allowing Darren to cruise to the flag by 8.4 seconds after 45 minutes. Jonny Skidmore drove an excellent race, he had been in a long battle with Neil Cragg, who he kept at bay. Jonny took a richly deserved 3rd place, and his first podium at a Nitro BRCA National.
It was a great event for the NEMO team, and at a good time just before they head off to the Euros in Spain.
The next BRCA race is a new venue for most, down at the Pembrey Race Circuit in South Wales and we look forward to this and see what we find...