BUKC Qualifiers 2017 (2018 Season)
It was a new year, a new team and new hopes for the University of Birmingham Motor Racing Club as qualifiers for the 2018 British Universities Qualifying Championship dawned. Whilton Mill was the circuit hosting this year, a track that combines challenging technical sections with multiple excellent overtaking opportunities. Seeking to build on last year’s results, the team had kept much of the existing talent while adding the potential of this year’s freshers, the aim being to try and get as many teams as possible into the top 26 out of 54 teams, which would qualify for the Mains Championship with the rest taking part in the Intermediates Championship.
The three teams were as follows:
The format for the day was simple. Each team would take part in 4 out of the 5 qualifying sessions, with each driver taking part in a single 15-minute qualifying session, which would determine their grid position for their first 25 minute heat, where their finishing position would be their grid position for the second 20 minute heat. After practice, which for some drivers was their very first time driving at Whilton, the teams took to the track for five sessions of qualifying. The results were as follows:
Qualifying one: Brum A – Michael Gibbins in P1 Brum B – Jake O’Sullivan in P4 Brum C – Wilson Woon in P28.
Qualifying two: Brum A – Simon Morton in P7 Brum B – John Su in P14 Brum C – Dan Tolley in P28.
Qualifying three: Brum A – Rory Smith in P7.
Qualifying four: Brum A – Rhianna Purcocks in P1 Brum B – Ashley Jarvis in P15 Brum C – Liam Emberton in P24.
Qualifying five: Brum B – Andreas Gutzold in P6 Brum C – Sam Rowling in P21.
After a fantastic effort in qualifying with two poles for the A team and three top-10 starts for the B team, the drivers had to start getting ready straight away for their first races. As the karts formed up for race one, Brum were hopeful of an impressive result to set down a marker for the other teams, with two karts both in the top five. Getting away off pole, Michael dropped to P2 but Jake made a fantastic start to slice through into P3 before slowly dropping back as quicker teams started to come through the pack. Despite matching the leading pace throughout, Michael had lost too much time holding off other teams for P2 to challenge back for the lead. Nevertheless, P2 was an excellent start to the day for Brum A, while Jake delivered a solid P9 to give Brum B a good start as well. Meanwhile, Wilson had done well for Brum C, carving his way through from a starting position of P28 to finish in P22. Into the second heat, we had Simon Morton (who would become a brief internet sensation with his discussion on Zimbabwean politics during the gridwalk) in P7 for Team A. Behind him was John Su, impressing on his BUKC debut with 14th, a good effort considering his inexperience, with Dan Tolley in P28 for Team C as a result of not being able to get a clear lap in. Simon made an excellent start to get up to P5 and on the back of the leaders within the first minutes of the race, while John dropped down to P17, with Dan doing brilliantly to make his way up to P23 almost immediately. On the penultimate lap, Simon made an aggressive move to get into P4, unfortunately judged too aggressive as he was given a penalty for overtaking by contact, while John dropped down the field after being binned off. Therefore, the final results were Simon in P7 (after penalties) for Team A, with John an unlucky P31 for Team B, while Dan continued to claw his way through to a hard-fought P21. Brum’s presence in heat three was conspicuous by its absence, with only Rory Smith from Team A (another debutant) flying the flag for the Brummies. Nevertheless, it was a stunning debut performance from an already impressive P7 starting position, as a combination of incisive overtakes and solid pace meant Rory was able to bring the kart home in P4 in his first ever BUKC race, ensuring that Team A would be fighting at the sharp end all day long. In the fourth heat, Rhianna scored solid points with P5, while Ashley and Liam both drove excellently to climb up to P7 and P15 respectively. Heat five saw Andreas impress with P5 from a grid position of P6, while Sam drove brilliantly on his BUKC debut to get up to P13 from a starting position of P21. After a short break, the second round of races got underway. As it stood, both the A and B teams would go through comfortably, while it would be tight for the C team. Race six was disappointing for the team as a whole, with Michael finishing in P7 for Team A after starting on the front row, with Jake dropping from a top-10 start to P22 at the finish for Team B, while Wilson managed P25. Race seven would make up for it though. Rhianna made a blinder of a start to fight up to P3 within the first couple of laps after a P7 starting position. Within another two laps she was up to P2, and all of a sudden within touching distance of her first BUKC victory. Just after half-distance she made her move, lunging past to take the lead. However, she was unable to pull away, and had Loughborough breathing down her neck. In spite of the shredded nerves and worn fingernails by those watching, Rhi eventually brought it home for a fantastic win for the club. Behind her, John and Dan performed brilliantly, John coming from P31 for a P17 finish, with Dan not far behind him in P20.
In race eight, Rory would deliver another excellent drive, his disappointment at being demoted from a podium position due to overtaking by contact tempered by a solid P5 finish. Come race nine, Simon would drive well again, starting and finishing in P5. Behind him came Ashley in P9 and Liam in P14. The final race of the day would add yet more drama to a day that had delivered plenty already, with the C team hovering right on the cusp of qualification and unsure of what position they would need to get through. In the race, Andreas would perform well for the B’s, finishing P6 from a P5 start under the Whilton Mill floodlights. Despite a late spin leaving the entire team on tenterhooks, Sam’s P19 finish would prove to be enough, just. At the end of the day, after all the scores had been calculated, the A team would finish in a stunning P3 out of 54 teams, with the B team in an excellent 12th and the C team leaving literally no margin for error by finishing in 26th place. Thanks to Whilton Mill and BUKC for hosting and organizing this event, to Howard and Mandy for their commentary, and to all the drivers for such great racing! We’ll see you all come January!
Luca Ingrassia, 2017.