Round 3 of the Hyundai Heavy Industries British F1 Sidecar Championship was held on the 24-26th June at the Knockhill circuit in Scotland.
After the disappointment of a blown engine at the previous round at Brands Hatch, MKRacing's driver, Martin Kirk and passenger, Ben Hughes were keen to get some good results and put some more points on the board. A new engine had been given the Keith Whiting treatment and fitted to the outfit.
With three races over the weekend and a warm up session each day there would be plenty of track time for Mart and Ben to get to grips with things on the short, twisty and technical 1.2mile Knockhill circuit. Also, with 3 of the top teams away on world championship duty it would be a good opportunity to get some good results and get some points in the championship.
Free practice was held midday on Friday in wet conditions. It was the 1st time Mart and Ben had ridden the new outfit in wet conditions and was a good opportunity to get a feel for it. They completed 13 laps during the session and finished in 9th position.
Qualifying was later the same day and by the time the 20 minute session started the track had dried up and Mart and Ben headed out on the slicks. They picked up the pace as the session went on and their fastest lap came halfway through the session. There wasn't much to choose between the teams by the time the flag came out, with less than 1 second separating 3rd to 8th with Mart and Ben slotting into 7th place. The new engine was also working well with Mart and Ben 2nd fastest through the intermediate speed trap and 3rd fastest across the finish line.
The 10 minute warm up session on Saturday morning was held in drying conditions and the team made use of the time to scrub in a new set of tyres for the race later in the day.
Race one was early in the afternoon and took place in warm and dry conditions. Mart and Ben made a good start off the line and slotted into 6th place behind the paring of Bryan/Winn by the end of the opening lap. They managed to make a move on Bryan/Winn stick on lap 3 into turn 1 and set about closing the gap to Archer/Thomas in front.
The early leaders Horspole/Connell had spun on lap 4 promoting Mart and Ben upto 4th. Lap by lap they managed to close the gap and by lap 10 were looking to make a pass on Archer/Thomas in front.
A hard charging Biggs/Ransley weren't far behind though and when Mart and Ben got held up with a back marker Biggs/Ransley made a pass on them into the hairpin on Lap 12. Determined not to let a potential podium spot slip away they charged hard up the hill to try and regain the place, but left the braking a bit late going into turn 1 and ran into the gravel. They managed to recover quickly and got back on track to end up finishing in 6th place.
A good result for the team, but slightly disappointed that they hadn't managed to convert their pace into a podium position. As well as having shown some good pace and being in the battle for the podium, they had also been quickest through both the speed traps.
Race two was right at the end of the day and there had been a torrential downpour 30 mins before the start of the race, leaving the team with a tricky tyre choice, as the sun had come out after and the track was starting to dry quickly. In the end they went with full slicks, hoping that the conditions would continue to dry as the race went on.
It would be the first time they had ridden on slicks in these conditions and they would have to learn quickly to get a good result. Mart and Ben didn't get the best of starts as the lights went out and struggled to get to grips with the conditions in the early part of the race, they improved their pace as the race went on but struggled to make any inroads on those ahead and finished the race in 9th overall, taking points for 8th in the F1 class.
Sunday morning warm up saw Mart and Ben 4th fastest in the short session in dry conditions with the forecast for it to stay dry until after race three, leaving the pair confident they could move up from P9 on the grid and push for a top 5 finish.
The forecast was correct for once and the sun was out as the lights went out for race three.
Mart and Ben however made things difficult for themselves with a poor start and dropped to 11th on the opening lap.
By the end of lap 2 they were back up to 9th. They continued to chase the pack and by lap 4 were hot on the heels of the familiar pair of Maclaurin/Hope. The two teams have both come up through the ranks of the BMCRC club championship and have had many battles in the last few years.
The two teams swapped places several times on lap 4 and 5, until Mart and Ben finally made a move stick. Horspole/Connell and Biggs/Ransley ahead had both spun promoting Mart and Ben up to 6th. Archer/Thomas and Bryan/Winn were in a battle for 4th 2 secs ahead and by lap 12 Mart and Ben had closed the gap, however they hadn't managed to shake out the outfit of Maclaurin/Hope behind and it was a 4 way scrap for 4th. They lost a place going into turn 1 on lap 13 to Maclaurin/Hope and as they reach the hairpin at the end of the lap Mart and Ben tried to get up the inside of Archer/Thomas but spun as the door was closed, ending up on the boggy grass on the inside of the corner.
They eventually managed to get back on track but had dropped back down to 9th and with only a lap to go couldn't gain any places back. A frustrating way to end the weekend, but still a respectable result and some more championship points.
Overall the trip north of the border was a successful one for MKRacing, With 3 top ten finishes moving them up to 11th in the championship.
They showed some great pace over the weekend and both Mart and Ben are feeling more and more confident on the new bike.
There were plenty of positives to take away and learn from, ready for the next round at Snetterton, which will be held on 8-10th July.
Big thanks to Keith Whiting for a fantastic job on the engine.