Neil Newstead impressive results at Donnington Park
26th April 2016
Neil Newstead 2015 Mini Challenge R56 JCW Champion had a mixed weekend in the opening rounds of the 2016 Mini Challenge MSVR Championship in his new Oakfield Motorsport run JCW F56 Mini Cooper at Donington Park.
Newstead graduated to the new JCW class with the ultimate in MINI racing with a 2lt engine, with big 235/17 slick tyres, 3 way adjustable dampers, bespoke sequential gearbox and motorsport ECU to ensure ultimate performance and equality.
With some great pre-season testing Newstead felt confident that he would be on the pace, but was under no illusion that there was some great drivers amongst the 30 car grid and was aiming for a top 10 qualifying on his first outing.
Qualifying was intense, yellow flags out within minutes as cars span off the track through Craner curves, due to cold tyres, and then again yellow flags out at McLeans’. Once the track was clear Newstead’s times shot down lap, on lap, both driver and car looked strong and very confident, clearly the pre-season testing and work carried out by the team was paying dividends. Newstead set his best time on lap 8, with impressive 1:16.758, the session was temporally stopped due to a car rolling at the bottom of Craner curves which brought all the cars back to the Pit Lane, with only a few minutes left of the session when restarted Newstead was unable to improve on his time leaving him very happy starting P9 for Race 1.
Race 1 on Saturday afternoon, saw Newstead launch his Oakfield Motorsport car off the grid, and gained a place before Redgate (turn 1), as Jeff Smith and Lawrence Davey went side by side through Carner Curves, and both took to the grass, Newstead took great evasive action, dodging both cars as they come back on to the track out of control, with a great run up to McLeans’ Newstead gained another couple of places putting him P6 catching the train of 5 cars. Newstead had a great battle with Grady, but could not make the pass stick, Newstead held P6 comfortable, knowing P7 man Jono Brown was hot on his tail, then on the last lap, Brown made an impeccable move on the drive into the Old Hairpin dropping Newstead to Finish P7. Newstead finished the race being the fourth fasted car with a fasted lap of 1:16.606 showing great potential for his first race in this car.
Race 2 on Sunday Morning, Newstead starting P7 on the grid, charged, full of adrenaline, again launched his Oakfield Motorsport car off the grid making a perfect start, tucked in behind Grady through Redgate, followed him through Craners and Old Hair Pin, off goes Chris Smith into the Gravel, then as Newstead exits McLeans, Jono Brown overdrives the corner putting his wheels onto the grass, losing control coming back onto the track, Newstead try’s to dart right, but was collected and there was nothing he could do, simple just a passenger, the car went into the barriers hard, flipped and rolled back to its wheels, within seconds marshals, paramedics and doctors where at the scene, both drivers walked out of the cars, clearly shaken but in good health. At the same time another collision happened bringing the race to a stop, and being cancelled from the programme.
With a delay of having the car brought back to the teams awning, you have never seen anything like it, the car was stripped of its, bumpers, trims, wings, complete front end of the car off, dampers off, wheels off, the team set about rebuilding the car, with an aim to have it back on the grid for race 3, at 16.36 that afternoon the car with Newstead was on the starting grid, it was truly amazing.
Race 3 of the day saw Newstead start P6 due to a 13 place grid penalty given to Jono Brown for causing the previous collision. Newstead again made a flawless start going to P4 around Redgate, however Smith, Grady and Henry Neal passed dropping him back to P7, clearly the car was not 100% after its previous collision, however that did not stop Newstead, he clearly got settled in, focussed and rained in Neal, out braked him into the Esses, and passed him on the straight going to P7, it was not long and Newstead then pulled in P6 man Rob Smith eventually making a breath taking pass on the outside of him on the last lap around Redgate, bringing the car home in P5.
Newstead’s next racing will be at the more local Kent venue of Brands Hatch GP Circuit on the 7th and 8th May 2016.
Neil Newstead said: “Wow what a way to start the season, great qualifying session, placing myself P9, exactly where we wanted to be in the top 10, I felt so positive, the car set up was perfect, it was 100% underneath me, race 1 again was mega, got to be the best racing I have ever competed in, the grid is full of great drivers, and without any doubt what so ever quite spectacular having 30 of these beasts on the track at the same time, I felt like I was in a touring car race! Sunday morning is where it went so wrong, unfortunately Jono Brown lost control of his car on the exit of Mcleans, and before I knew it I hit him, and was going very, very fast into the barriers, I was a passenger, and I remember all I thought was this is not good, and this is going to be very painful, the car span 30 foot in the air, come down on the side, then onto all 4 wheels, facing the opposite way I hit the barriers, I just sat there for a moment totally stunned and disorientated, I saw Jono Brown come out of his car straight over to me to make sure I was OK, next thing there where marshals, and a full medical team on site checking me out. Motorsport is dangerous, but it shows how safe it is with all the protection we have, the cars have been built perfectly, strong and reliable and credit must go to Mini Challenge for this, I have a moulded seat from Corbeau, along with a full 6 point LUKE harness holding me in place and a HANS device, without all this, well it is unthinkable really. My advice to any one competing in motorsport is to spend your money on the safety aspects first before anything else, go and speak to the guys at Corbeau. The marshals and full medical team where amazing, the professionalism of them all and the care I received was first class.
Lastly my thanks must go to Oakfield Motorsport, particular my Team Manager and Engineer Bill Solllis who is a true legend, and my number 1 mechanic Lee Welch who took control of the car, and with him at the helm the team put me back out on track for race 3.
I have a very clear objective this year, it’s all about scoring points, so I am over the moon with these results, very early days but both myself and the team are very happy.
All the hard work last year and during the winter has most certainly paid off, the team has grown massively, and to bring these results to the table at the first meeting just makes me even more confident, the support I have from the team, family, friends and sponsors is amazing. Best of British partner Corbeau Seats, Chandlers of Hailsham, Oakfield Estate Agents, SDS Builders & Decorators, Stu Lane.com, Ridge West Garage, Teng Tools, Jelly Fish Designs.
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