The most northerly of the British circuits to be enjoyed
by the Mini crowd, Croft is technically very challenging.
Despite the 6 plus hours journey from Oxford where my pit
crew come from, it is certainly well worth visiting.
Croft is one of the more basic circuit's with facilities
at a minimum - the main thing missing being a club-house where
food and drink can be obtained. Fortunately there is a very
good pub within a mile of the circuit - a steady stream of
drivers and crews from all the Championships racing at the
weekend were to be found there at various times.
Of course I can hardly complain about the road journey 'cos
I flew up to Teeside airport which is approximately 8 miles
from Croft itself. A hire car made it easy for me to get around
from airport to circuit to motel where I stayed for the four-day
An early start was made on the Friday morning as I was out
on the track testing by 9.30. Conditions were good, dry but
with a fairly strong wind. The 2.1 mile circuit proved to
be quite a hand-full. Trying to find land-marks to judge braking
distances and turning points into the chicanes and right-handers
proved almost impossible. There were very few markers to assist
From the start/finish straight down to the first right-hander
followed quickly by a sharp left-right chicane into a long
off-camber right curve up to another right-left chicane before
the straight down to Tower Bend a right hander. From Tower
Bend up a slight rise to a long fast left/right at Jim Clarke
Esses and on in top gear and flat out through Barcroft an
easy right onto a quick short straight to Sunny a double apex
long right-hander. Speed is of the essence here as a quick
exit ensures a good fast sprint down to the S Bend prior to
the hairpin at the beginning of the start/finish straight.
From a fast entry to the S Bend the driver then has to step
on the brakes hard to come back for the right-hander, at the
end of which is the hairpin leading onto the start/finish
straight. And so onto the next lap……..!
I do not think I have come across a more strenuous track,
more difficult even then Spa Francorchamp in Belgium. After
the first test session I came off the track feeling exhausted.
Between test sessions a chat with Steve Bell winner of the
Mini 7 Challenge last year, proved of great assistance. Steve
talked me through the corners, gear changes and places to
make up time.
Shortly after the afternoon session started it began to drizzle
making the track greasy in parts and dry in other's. A great
combination. Still it proved good practise and was to prove
valuable for the race.
Qualifying on the Saturday saw 26 Mini's taking part - the
weather was good, a bit windy but dry. Qualifying times ranged
from Steve Bell with a fastest lap of 106.48 secs to yours
truly doing 111.87 secs . My times gave me 23rd on the grid
out of 26 total starters.
Race day dawned on Sunday with the very real threat of pouring
rain. First race was the Formula 600 single seaters who completed
their race without being rained upon. Next were the TVR Tuscans
whose race was declared to be a wet race by the Clerk of the
Course just prior to them going onto the track to begin their
green flag lap prior to starting the race. This delayed the
start somewhat as the TVR crews then had to change to wet
tyres in the holding area. Just before the TVR race started
the Minis were called up to the holding area not knowing whether
to stay on dry tyres or change to wets. It appeared to be
drying out so we all stayed on dry tyres.
The start for me was a good one where I was able to make
up a couple of places. But ahead of me at the first corner
there was lots of contact. As I entered the corner a car spun
in front of me and I had to take very sharp evasive action
to miss him. His front bumper just clipped my front offside
wheel arch - but I was through and able to continue. I managed
to keep up with the pack for most of the race and made it
up to 19th position by the 6th lap. But from then on I struggled
with a lack of power and by the last lap was down in 22nd
The threatened rain had held off but for more than a hand
full of mini's there was a lot of damage through door-handling
and rear-end shunts. Thankfully I did not have any body work
damage but I am still waiting to hear what the loss of power
was attributed to.
My next race is at Castle Combe Nr. Chippenham in Wiltshire
on September 12/13. It should prove to be a very good one
- Castle Combe has lots of run-off, is very fast and always
proves to be exciting for the Mini's.