Rounds 5 and 6 of the Armed Forces Race Challenge would materialise at the famous Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire. A track known for tricky elevation changes, fast sweeping curves and Ayrton Senna’s monstrous first lap charge in the 1993 European Grand Prix. The weekend is rather less of a weekend for the championship as all AFRC track sessions would occur over the Saturday, alongside other championships in the 750 Motor Club. This is a somewhat different event than that of a Grand Prix for the Royal Navy Royal Marines Car Racing Team, chiefly due to the increasingly more sizable grid the championship hosts as of late.
However, officially the RNRMCRT would compete with two less drivers on the grid. Interestingly, since the last AFRC race meeting in Anglesey, the driver of the #20 Mini Cooper, Lewis Pemble, has actually left the Royal Navy, so is competing as a Veteran similarly to Mark Inman. This does not affect his championship points or the teams past championship points earned. However, one less driver will now be earning points for the RNRMCRT in the all important Team Championship.
After arriving at the circuit on Friday, Steve ‘Hutch’ Hutchings encountered an issue with his medical licence having an incorrect signature that does not permit circuit racing. A simple admin error meant only one thing- having driven a sizable distance to the Leicestershire circuit, car in tow, he would not be racing. With a space left under the gazebo, where Hutch’s Peugeot 106 would have sat, with the car left in one of the brand new trailers, all other drivers were signed on and as prepared as possible for the big Saturday.
Qualifying on Saturday morning is the first opportunity for new drivers to learn their way around the physical track- away from the computer screen. The session was seemingly uneventful for the team eventhough various rival drivers from the Army Motorsport team went off to explore the track limits and beyond. Predictably, our highest grid position for Race 1 was for team leader Keith Attwood, qualifying in 8th position (3rd in Class C) for Round 5 of the championship. Closely followed by Stirling in 12th overall, Adam Dewis 15th and Rich in 27th.
Thankfully for the team, Race 1 was completed without incident, barring a small off for Attwood at the Old Hairpin in the first few laps. Adam Dewis finished a brilliant 7th position overall and 3rd in Class C- beating a Class A car outright in the Vauxhall Astra Coupe. Stirling finished in 11th place overall closely followed by Attwood in 12th. Throughout the race, Rich Beaumont held off attacks from faster cars behind for longer periods of the race than would be expected. The concertina effect forming meant this promoted Lewis Pemble into a position to quickly and successfully pass Beaumont, on a circuit that is notoriously difficult to overtake in any series. The Mini finished in 26th with Rich in his starting position of 27th in the Ford Fiesta.
Due to the somewhat compact nature of the 750 Motor Club weekend, Round 6 would take place in the early evening as the light began to fade. As is the norm in the championship, Race 2 grid positions are determined by the fastest lap times from Race 1. Keith Attwood began the race in a fantastic 4th position on the grid with Stirling the next RNRM car starting in 9th overall.
After barely 1 lap of the National circuit, Stirling retired the Vauxhall Astra, with a serious loss of oil necessitating the abrupt end to his race. Similarly, Dewis’ car developed a less serious gearbox selector problem on Lap 9, also warranting a retirement, in fear of a more major mechanical issue.
On a more positive note, Keith Attwood finished 2nd in class and 6th overall in Race 2 with the second finisher for the team being Richard Beaumont in 19th overall. Notably, the now-Veteran Lewis Pemble was not classified alongside Dewis and Stirling.
The race played host to a phenomenal battle for the lead out front between the Royal Navy veteran Mark Inman in the rocketship Vauxhall VX220 and Robert Taylor’s BMW E36. A last lap incident involving backmarkers for the BMW handed the victory to Inman, but the battle means that Inman’s utter domination of most races wouldn’t go completely unchallenged after all.
Over the whole season, a drivers two worst results from the selected two separate rounds are discarded from the final standings. This is strangely reminiscent to the historic points system in Formula 1 utilised in most seasons before 1990. In consequence, the highest place RNRM driver in the updated championship standings remains as Keith Attwood, but relocated one place higher up in the standings into 5th position. For a Class C entry, its is an extraordinary achievement so far this season.
The Armed Forces Race Challenge assembles next up in Norfolk, at the Snetterton Circuit in early October where the RNRM team will be needing exceptional results to stay in championship contention.