It's no secret that I like to turn up to the circuit early and I treat qualifying the same. Lining up at the front for the first qualifying of 2017 I was eager to see how we would fare, with the continued backing from Pristine Condition International - so many people have put endless effort into getting the car ready for the season.
VIDEO AT BOTTOM
We have so much respect for the competition we are up against and know we are set for a close year against the likes of current champ Ashley Davies - along with a bundle of other drivers all with experience – Lewis Selby, Andrew Deviny, Spencer Wanstall, Gareth Hunt, Kieren McDonald, Tom Sanderson, Graeme Davis, Darren Thomas, plus the returning Paul Spark. And, after a torrid couple of seasons, my brother Daniel Budd was eager to show his ability not to discount the rest of the field who are all closing the gap including Dom Burger with the support of Nick Croydon-Fowler at CFM Motorsport.
Considering there were 31 Minis all on track at the same time we managed to find quite a bit of space to set a good lap to start with. After being waved on and told to go faster by Ian Gunn on the pit wall, I dropped back to try and find the tow. We bettered our best time but only secured pole by 0.228.
It's not my first pole, but I was feeling pretty nervous and just wanted to bring the car home with strong points to start the year off well. On the second lap the safety car came out after an incident with Tim Stanbridge and the tyres on the entry to Bobbies. It took a few laps to clear.
Paul Spark was straight on my case on the restart and passed round the outside of Quarry. I tried to return the favour round the outside of Tower only to leave the door open for Lewis Selby and Andrew Deviny, with my brother, Daniel Budd, on my case as well. The guys battled it out, with Paul dropping back to 3rd and Andrew and Lewis pulling a slight gap. I managed to tow past Paul down the straight and set my sights on closing the 4-car length gap to the leaders.
The Minis were parked up on the entry to the first chicane and at Tower overtaking opportunities were limited but after a slight mistake from Andrew, Lewis pounced and managed to grab the lead between the two yellow flag sections on the last lap, finishing up I placed 3rd.
After taking the fastest lap in Race 1, we lined up on pole alongside Andrew. Going into turn 1 Paul made another great move round the outside, I tucked in behind through the chicane ensuring a clean exit and got the run going into Tower and snuck up the inside.
I led for the first few laps, but was under constant pressure from Lewis. After a slight mistake on the exit of Quarry Lewis managed to get past before the chicane. I tried to make a move up the inside into Camp and succeeded but slowed us both down enough to allow for Andrew and Paul to close the gap. I tried to close the door on Andrew on the straight, not seeing Paul, resulting in slight contact and sending Paul into the grass - but that didn’t stop him… Paul made a move out of nowhere up the inside through Quarry, again I tried to tuck in behind and make the move into Tower. This time it wasn’t successful and we made contact, firing me off the wrong side of the marshal’s post and dropping behind Keiren McDonald.
After a lap of chasing Keiren down I went for the move round the outside of Camp and, hats off to him, he left plenty of room on the exit. Unfortunately that was the last lap and we had to settle for 4th. All-in-all it was a pretty solid start for the Swiftune Powered Se7en, I’m feeling confident going into Snetterton and fully expect to be battling again, only this time I am sure Ashley Davies and Spencer Wanstall will be joining the fight after a unfortunate start to the season for them.
|3rd in Race 1|
RACE 1 VIDEO