Multiple Formula Ford champion Stuart Gough made his Mini JCW Challenge debut over Easter weekend at Oulton Park. Racing for Team TDF with Moorgate Motorsport Finance, Stuart left the circuit after the opening two races in 10th position in the championship standings.
The Mini Challenge, which has manufacturer backing from Mini UK, features 32 drivers doing battle in identical race prepared Mini John Cooper Work cars. Despite just 6 laps in testing, and despite an interrupted qualifying session, Stuart put the Mini JCW on grid 9 for race 1 out of 32 drivers.
Racing in front of a bumper 20,000 spectators trackside and Live TV coverage, Race 1 started out wet but with a rapidly drying track. Having not turned any laps in the wet, it was a baptism of fire for Stuart who had to adapt to racing a FWD drive car for the first time, By the end of the of the race was lapping quicker than the leaders to finish in 12th position.
Race 2 would see the track conditions much improved with dry conditions, having made a strong start Stuart was battling for a remarkable top 6 result, until contact saw Stuart tumble down the order to 12th place at the flag. Commenting
Commenting after the race Stuart was delighted with his opening weekend in the Mini Challenge. “The first round was always going to be tough for us, but even more so after such limited running in testing and qualifying. Qualifying was actually a solid result considering I was nowhere near the limit and was very much finding my feet with a FWD car still. “I guess dry conditions for race 1 would have been so much better for us, I have not raced on a full wet tyre since 2004 in British Formula Ford and it took me 3 or 4 laps to learn how to drive the car again in these conditions. By the end we were pretty quick despite having to heavily defend my position. “Race 2 was looking good and was really enjoying learning how to race these amazing cars in the leading pack. It’s so different to single seaters, so it was a shame to be turned around following
another drivers mistake and find myself in the gravel. Luckily we kept going, albeit with damage and managed to salvage a 12th position.” Reflecting on his opening races Stuart was full of confidence looking ahead. “First and foremost I am really pleased to be racing in the Mini Challenge. It’s an incredible championship, full of pedigree both with drivers and teams. To race in a championship with such strong support from a manufacturer like Mini UK alongside the British GT championship is fantastic. “Personally I don’t think we achieved our true potential this weekend with limited track time testing due to stoppages – a total of 5 flying laps in testing – really hurt us. That makes me hugely positive looking ahead. It’s just a case of more seat time and I am sure we will fighting for podiums. “All of this would not be possible without the amazing support from TDF, and my sponsors Moorgate Motorsport Finance, DigitasLBi, Sequential Networks, Ryan Insurance, Logo Racewear and Olfi Action Camera”. Stuart will next be in action for Round 2 of the Mini Challenge at Rockingham (Corby) on April 29th and 30th.