I did it. I am the Mini Challenge 2018 Cooper S champion. I really can't believe it.
Here are some pictures while I take it all in and think about what to write next.
Pictures by Darren S Cook aka Scruffy Bear
The series started in April at Donington and with anything that you enjoy it's over all too soon. So here we are in September and the 2018 campaign has come to a finish. It's Monday morning and I have a lot to take in. I am the 2018 Champion. What makes this more remarkable is that before the first race at Donington I had never stepped foot in a race car. (Does a 30th birthday present at Palmer Sports count?) My karting experience was limited to half a dozen stag do's where inevitably I would have been nursing a hangover as I clung on to the steering wheel for dear life.
This will go down as one of my biggest achievements that I can be proud. SO very proud.
The biggest question I asked myself leading into this championship - how fast can I be? Now I know. Post season the questions I'm asking myself are slightly different but range on the same topic. How much quicker can I be?
I like this question. This question means more racing. More racing means big smiles and lots of fun. In the most part. There are ups and downs. The final weekend at Rockingham was probably the most contrasting of the season for me. The same issue that dogged me at the very first race meeting at Donington happened again at Rock. My bonnet flew up exiting the pit lane and smashed through my windscreen effectively ending my Friday Practice after just two sessions.
That was the LOW. Not just for me. My team as well. One thing I've learned from this experience is that they feel the highs and the lows just the same. With you. I quickly replaced my natural disappointment with "OK, what can we now do from this position?" It was unlikely I would be at the front not having the track time to master the circuit. To seal the championship my brief was simple, stay as close to car Number 24 as possible. So I did.
Rob Austin's car Number 24 was unable to finish and this pushed me ever closer to the Championship. As this was Rob's first DNF and worst result of the season his no-score would be dropped meaning we would have to go to Race 2 before I could claim the top spot. Prior to Rock, Rob had only been off the podium once in 14 outings. An incredible racer and tough competitor.
Sadly, Rob's troubles continued into Race 2 and suffered a DNS. That was it, I'm Champion. A sad way for my fellow competitor and team mate to end his campaign, but it meant I could go into Sundays final race with no pressure. And I was starting from Pole.
Race 3 was brilliant. Until I made a mistake. I was leading the ever so quick R53s into lap 4 when I missed my braking marker. Not by much. But enough to send me into the dirt on the critical Turn 2. This was the only spot I had to defend aggressively. The end of the straight against a quicker opponent. The rest of the circuit I was getting into a comfortable rhythm. I had this. So I thought.
I dropped down into 4th as I rejoined the track. Later to be caught and passed by my good friend and fabulously quick Andy Langley in car Number 53. I didn't defend too aggressively at this stage. I was just enjoying the last few moments of a wonderful season on track.
Thank you to EVERYONE who supported me this year. Family. Friends. My TEAM.
I could not have done this without you. I will be back next year. Stronger. Fitter. Wiser.
God Bless 2018.