A Gornall and Dailly Snetterton Masterclass

On waking up to a bright and sunny Norfolk race day, hopes were high that it would be another memorable chapter in the 2017 Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup championship…and that’s exactly what we got. There were highs and lows amongst our drivers, and an equal share of triumphs and disappointments…all of which is part of the sport we love (more so the highs and triumphs to be fair!).

Qualifying

With the Snetterton 300 circuit layout giving almost 3 miles of racing room, it wasn’t too difficult for anyone to find a bit of space on track to get their flying laps in. The track and weather conditions were almost perfect, which was proven when James Gornall managed his fastest time of 2:21.699 on his final lap…and in doing so also proved that the Nankang NS-2R tyres are a great choice for our cars. On his penultimate lap Jiggy set a 2:21.901, and these were the only sub 1:22 laps set by anyone throughout the day. These 2 laps were enough to provide Jiggy with pole for both races.

After what he’s personally described as a fairly disappointing start to the season, Steven Dailly clearly had the bit between his teeth for this meeting, and he proved this by taking 2nd place grid slots for both races of the day…with both of his quickest laps being under a half second away from Gornall’s blindingly quick pace. Taking 3rd slot for our first race of the day was a very pacey looking Ben Huntley, who’s definitely starting to show that he’s future podium material. Giles Dawson took 3rd slot in our 2nd race of the day, and again showed that with a bit of luck and consistency he has the pace to take further podiums this year.

Top 10 Grid positions for race 1:

Gornall 2:21.699

Dailly 2:22.182

Huntley 2:23.400

Hunter 2:23.547

Dawson 2:23.665

Carrington Yates 2:23.833

Nutbrown 2:23.961

Griffiths 2:24.563

Parkes 2:24.752

Jones 2:24.828

Top 10 Grid positions for race 2:

Gornall 2:21.901

Dailly 2:22.311

Dawson 2:23.772

Huntley 2:23.780

Carrington Yates 2:23.848

Hunter 2:23.854

Nutbrown 2:24.091

Jones 2:24.881

Griffiths 2:24.919

Skeats 2:25.223

As anyone who’s had any experience of BMW Compact Cup racing will tell you, nothing is ever decided until its decided…however there wouldn’t have been many bets taken about which two drivers were likely to occupy the top two podium steps later in the day, with the pace of Gornall and Dailly looking untouchable!

Race 1

The conditions were still perfect when the 30 BMW Compacts lined up for our first race. The cars had spread out by a huge distance over the green flag lap, maybe as a result of Gornall and Dailly being anxious to get on with things…or maybe the result of a little bit of “tactics” by those behind, hoping that a long wait on the grid would cool the front pairs tyres and brakes a bit.

After what seemed like an eternity the red start lights went out and the race was on…with Steven Dailly getting a fantastic launch to take the lead from Jiggy before the cars reached the first corner. 30 cars heading into Riches at flat chat can often lead to contact and delays, however all of our drivers made it safely through….albeit with a few locked wheels and heart stopping moments included!

As the leaders headed through the first series of hairpins and bends it looked like Dailly had the pace to give Jiggy a scare, however due to what Steven later blamed on a seriously understeering car, Gornall got a much better exit out of Williams and used this extra momentum to reel Dailly in and pass him before the entry to Brundle. Behind the leaders Ben Huntley who had started in 3rd had lost a mountain of places after gearshift problems and Owen Hunter had pounced, closely followed by Giles Dawson. Behind this pairing, James Nutbrown, Matt Parkes and Ian Jones were settling down for an almost race long battle.

As is normal with such a large grid of equally matched cars and drivers, everywhere you looked through the field there was great close racing going on. Drivers such as Tom Langford, Keith Towers, Mark Skeats and Tom Griffiths were all having a ball in the midfield pack, and positions were swapping lap by lap. Even towards the rear of the running order, James Standbury, Simon Welch, Phil Adcock & Martin Gadsby were all involved in some great scrapping for position. Of course everyone wants to be a winner, but the closeness of the racing and the fun to be had in the Compact Cup diminishes none the further back the grid you look.

So, as the race progressed it looked like Jiggy had this one under control as he took almost a second a lap out of a struggling and disappointed Dailly. Steven had by now accepted that he didn’t have the pace to take the race to Gornall, and instead took to concentrating on not allowing Owen Hunter to make up ground on him from behind. Sadly for Giles Dawson, his car suffered a terminal engine problem on lap 6 of the race, and this cancelled any chance he had of taking 3rd spot from Hunter. This allowed Owen to relax a little bit and he accepted that unless Dailly made an error he wasn’t going to catch him in the final laps.

Behind the podium positions, James Nutbrown had driven a very mature race to hold onto 4th place from a hard charging Ian Jones, who himself had managed to squeeze past Matt Parkes to nick 5th place on lap 3.

Top 10 finishers were:

Gornall

Dailly

Hunter

Nutbrown

Jones

Parkes

Skeats

Carrington Yates

Griffiths

Langford.

Race 2

As the huge field of Compact Cup cars lined up for our second race of the day, it looked like a fairly safe bet that Jiggy would once again prevail. His pace in qualifying, then the way he built a gap over Steven Dailly in race 1, would surely be repeated?

As the lights dropped Dailly made another faultless start and once again got himself in front of Jiggy before Riches. Once again the majority of cars made it through the first series of bends without too much in the way of contact or trips over the grass….however a fair few drivers probably didn’t take their first breath until Motreal Hairpin!

At the front Dailly held position through the windy bits at the start of the lap, then got a better exit than previously out of Williams making it much harder for Gornall to attempt a repeat of his race 1 pass. It was clear to everyone watching that whatever KC Motorsport had done to Steven Dailly’s car, it was working a treat. Although Jiggy was almost attached to his rear bumper, Dailly’s car looked like it was on rails, and he was giving nothing away in terms of pace, either through the corners or on the straights.

Owen Hunter had again shown his class and pace by getting himself into 3rd place and working himself a half second gap to a really hard pushing Sam Carrington Yates. Sam was driving well in race 2 and was putting maximum pressure on Owen in the hope that he’d make just one mistake. Hunter however has really developed as a top driver this season and once again demonstrated that he’s as comfortable chasing as he is defending a position. Behind Yates, James Nutbrown was trying everything in his power to narrow the gap to Yates but no matter what he tried he couldn’t seem to make ground on him.

It almost seems like a cliché to once again say that the racing through the top 10, into the midfield and towards the rear was all of the highest standards…but that’s exactly what it was! On every lap there were passes, counter passes, mistakes and moves being made, and although it’s impossible to comment on individual moments, the Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup Championship has to be one of the most exciting race series from a spectators (and competitors) point of view. Guys like Matt Parkes, Ben Huntley and Mark Skeats are all potential podium finishers should a bit of luck go their way, and others like Keith Towers, Tom Griffiths, Gordon Macmillan and David May have all improved massively since the start of the season.

Back at the sharp end and the race between Dailly and Gornall was fantastic to watch. Dailly was confident enough in his own ability…(and also in the race craft of Gornall) to drive his race without resorting to any “elbows out” defending. Steven knew that if he took anything other than the fastest racing line, then Jiggy would take advantage. It was great to watch these two very experienced drivers lapping almost nose to tail for the duration of the race, knowing that neither was likely to make a mistake or make a reckless dive for a gap that wasn’t there. On the penultimate lap it seemed that Jiggy had accepted that he wasn’t going to find a way past Dailly, and he dropped back a couple of car lengths. Steven however wasn’t lulled into any false sense of victory and he kept his pace up accordingly. It proved that there was very little defensive driving going on when Dailly’s lap times were consistently inside the 1:22’s.

Heading into the final lap, it became clear that Jiggy had been sitting back a little bit, maybe in an attempt to get some cool air into his engine before mounting yet another push for the lead. As they both headed through the Bomb Hole, through Coram and into Murrays on the final lap, Jiggy with lights ablaze was right back on Stevens back bumper. Under this maximum type of pressure many drivers would crumble and make an error, but Dailly is clearly made of cooler stuff and he held on to take the chequered flag and his first race win of the season. Jiggy was of course the first to congratulate him on a sterling drive.

Owen Hunter had also driven a great race to secure his second podium of the day, with a solid performance from Sam Carrington Yates giving him 4th. James Nutbrown held onto 5th place ahead of Ian Jones in 6th. Matt Parkes again drove well to finish in 7th, and Ben Huntley pipped Mark Skeats for 8th after a last lap pass.

Top 10 finishers were:

Dailly

Gornall

Hunter

Carrington Yates

Nutbrown

Jones

Parkes

Huntley

Skeats

Towers.

Summary

Not only was this meeting a great example of top class Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup racing, but it gave a clear indication that the 2017 championship is far from decided! Although James Gornall and Steven Dailly seemed to be almost in a class of their own round the 3 mile circuit, the recent pace and improvements shown by the likes of Owen Hunter, Giles Dawson, James Nutbrown, Ben Huntley, Tom Griffiths, Gordon MacMillan, Ian jones and Sam Carrington Yates (to name only a few), tells us that any mistake or misfortune from Jiggy or Steven could result in any one of these guys taking wins and further podiums.

As we move onto Castle Combe for our next rounds on 16th July, it’s certainly all to play for!

See you there.