Much excitement accumulated in the build-up to the ‘away day’ for the Scottish Mini Championship, taking place at Donnington Park, a new experience for the team. It’s always a breath of fresh air for the Minis to be held anywhere other than Knockhill; even Ingliston would do. But to host a three-race weekend at one of the definitive homes of Touring Car racing is a treat for both the drivers, the teams and the spectators alike.
After a constructive practice, qualifying would be a much more intense experience than the usual few laps around the Fife circuit.
The plan from Mr Sleigh himself was for four laps out on track followed by a quick pit stop to change tyres and refuel. Some extremely slick work from the team (split into two pit crews) made for a great qualifying session for the drivers, giving them the greatest chance to position themselves for the next day’s racing.
Backing up some promising practice laps, Dominic Wheatley stole the show for the day, smashing his first outing at the Derbyshire circuit to take his first pole in the championship and the first for the team in a very long time with a 1:26.992 clocking. Jock Borthwick kept up his form from the past few weekends to grab another top 10, taking 7th place from where he’d be looking for a quick first lap to break into the top five the next day.
Des Wheatley recovered from an early spin to finish in 14th with Neal Robertson impressively beating numerous class opponents to place 16th for Sunday’s racing, showing yet more improvement in his first few outings in the DSR Mini. Chris Milford and the Dreelan brothers made up the minor places, challenging for 20th, 22nd and 23rd respectively with all three of them looking to make up some serious ground in the first race of the weekend.
An ‘early’ night for the team led to a morning full of trepidation for the first race on a new circuit for everyone. And the race certainly didn’t disappoint.
Dominic Wheatley was maybe too cautious in the first corner of the race, allowing third place Kyle Reid to squeeze him out. Despite this, the youngster drove with a level head for the next twenty minutes, staying on Reid’s bumper and easily taking second place on the podium in what turned out to be a two horse race. Dominic managed the fastest lap of the race with a 1:27.3, slightly slower than in qualifying.
Jonny Dreelan unfortunately had a hard collision early on in the race which buckled his front right wheel, forcing the team into a quick pit stop to get the green-liveried car back on track. His brother Dan meanwhile was driving hard as ever, culminating in a scrap with William Blake in the mid-pack that led to heavy damage to his driver-side door and a trip to the racing marshal’s office post-race to discuss Blake’s re-entry to the track after venture into the gravel.
After a promising start to the race, Chris Milford managed to leave the tarmac momentarily, rallying along the grass and gravel and undoing all of his good work from the first few laps. Jock Borthwick had an ever-eventful race, taking yet another top 10 for the season to add to his growing tally.
New boy Neal Robertson pulled a great start out of the bag after a successful qualifying session and managed to haul himself up to 13th in the field but a group of much more experienced drivers soon swarmed behind him and forced themselves through for Neal to finish in a respectable 17th.
Race 1 Results (After a William Blake DQ):
1st Kyle Reid
2nd Dominic Wheatley
Jock Borthwick 10th
Neal Robertson 17th
Daniel Dreelan 18th
Des Wheatley 19th
Chris Milford 23th
Jonny Dreelan 25th
After the team worked tirelessly to repair the battered and beaten-up cars, it was time to get the drivers back on the track (in reverse grid order) for the second and final race of the weekend. The antics of the first race had shown the Donnington fans that the Scottish MINIs bring some serious action to whichever race track they compete at and many spectators had assembled at the first corner to witness the carnage of Race 2.
The first lap didn’t disappoint, with our very own Jock Borthwick being nudged from his line at the top of the circuit, sending him into the path of Hannah Chapman, sending both cars crashing out of the race. While the red mist was descending over an excitable field, Neal Robertson surged up ranks, driving within himself and showing great maturity to make his way up to 11th; a top 10 is surely on the cards sometime this season.
As ever, some of the best battles occurred in the middle of the pack, with the likes of Dan Dreelan and Chris Milford fighting hard to muscle their way through the field and taking well deserved 13th and 16th places respectively. Jonny Dreelan finished just behind in 17th, a commendable finish considering the pit stop nightmare from the first race. Des Wheatley finished the away weekend with a disappointing 20th place but with different drivers adapting to the track at different rates, the team is sure that Wheatley Senior will be back strong for the next round back at Knockhill.
Dominic was unfortunately put out of the race with a snapped belt within the engine bay which caused the engine to overheat. Despite his best efforts to nurse the car home, the MINI wasn’t in the best of states once it was back in the paddock with a possible engine replacement in sight. The winner of the second race was Sharne Stoney with a time of 16:06.309 but Dominic Wheatley managed to sneak the fastest lap of the race despite his difficulties, with a lap of 1:27.401, a tenth of a second ahead of the next quickest man in the field.
The away weekend at Donnington Park was a vastly mixed bag for DSR. From birthdays and Charlotte’s Sangria to Formula One-style pit stops and crashes, the spirit of last years’ weekend at Oulton Park was carried through to the Derbyshire countryside. The jump from a medium size team to the largest squad in the paddock hasn’t been easy for the team but everything is slowly falling into place and it won’t be long until the results start rolling in, be it personal bests, top tens or podiums.
We’d like to thank all of our supporters on social media and those who appear in person to watch the team do their thing, every like and comment is very much appreciated. So we hope to see as many of you at Knockhill for the next round! Drive safe!