Well, the dust has settled on what proved to be a great weekend for the Marangoni Tyres Scottish BMW Compact Cup, and over the course of the race weekend we experienced all of the highs, lows, excitement and emotions that only club racing can throw at us. We had new drivers, new cars, last minute disasters, unexpected successes, tears of joy and tears of frustration. If you’re not yet involved in this wonderful madness……. one question….. Why not??
The Scottish BMW Compact Cup paddock was as usual a busy and welcoming place. The camaraderie of the racers and support crews is a joy to behold, and everyone is keen to help anyone who has problems or issues. In fact, if your marriage is going wrong or if your bank won’t give you a mortgage, the BMW Compact Cup crew will probably find a solution for you! It’s also clear that something big is happening with this project as the number of people asking for advice and info on getting involved is growing all the time.
In the build up to race day it became apparent that 3 of the 4 new cars which were entered to race were not quite ready, even after a lot of midnight oil being burnt by their owners. After further last minute work in the paddock, the cars built and owned by Billy Campbell and Mark Souter managed to make the Qualifying session on race day along with another new entrant our very own Paul McErlean, Series Director of BMW Race Days. Unfortunately the stunning yellow machine of Scott Adams didn’t make it and we’ll have to wait until July to see him on track. Christie Doran’s car had also developed a fuelling problem and her team worked hard to complete the replacement of the fuel pump and filters just before the qualifying session started. The end result was that 10 BMW Compacts took to the circuit, (joined by a handful of Mazda MX5’s to make up the grid numbers). What a great success after only 2 previous race meetings……. and with another 10+ cars still currently in build it won’t be long until we are pushing for a 100% BMW Compact Cup race grid.
Qualifying – With the Qualifying session being wet to start with, all drivers chose to head out with the Option 2 wet weather tyres fitted. Alan Kirkaldy (once again!) took pole in a time of 1:10.1 with Stephen Russell taking his highest placed qualifying position behind him in 1:11.3. Garry Muir was in 3rd but less than half a second behind. It was clear that Christie Doran had a technical issue with the car and she was visibly frustrated by a lack of performance in the car. The newly built car of Paul McErlean also suffered some electrical problems but he limped it around to make sure he had covered the 3 mandatory qualifying laps. One of the most pleasing things was to see Mark Souter in his “Lastminute.com” car sticking in a great performance and qualifying in 6th in a similar time to Graeme Gordon, Greg Graham and Stephen Emslie who all have a bit more track time under their belts in their cars!
With a quickly drying track towards the end of the session it became clear that anyone who had gambled on going out on the Option 1 “slick” tyres would have walked away with pole!
Race 1 – After a rainy morning it dried up a bit through the lunch break, leaving drivers with a decision to make regarding tyre choice. Knockhill has probably never experienced such a strange collection of amateur weather forecasters, all peering at the skies, testing the wind direction and sharing their “expertise” of what the conditions were going to do. As the cars were called from the paddock the track was still damp, but all drivers apart from Christie Doran gambled on it drying further and went out on the Option 1 dry tyres. Christie’s opposite gamble almost came good when it started to rain as the cars were forming on the grid, but unfortunately for her it was just a short shower. If the rain had continued she would have stood a great chance of finishing way up the field.
As the start lights went out Alan Kirkaldy made a great start and kept a confident Stephen Russell firmly behind him. Greg Graham also made a blinder of a start from 5th and got past both Garry Muir and Graeme Gordon into the first corner, settling into 3rd place behind Stephen Russell before the chicane. On lap 2 it was clear that Alan Kirkaldy in red number 27 car (nicknamed the Red Barron by Garry Muir) was set on extending his unbeaten run of Scottish BMW Compact Cup race wins as he got into his groove and started to open a gap from Stephen Russell, with Greg Graham close on his tail. Garry Muir wasn’t far behind either and he pushed hard to get back into podium contention.
Behind these top 4 the racing was close and competitive, but also clean and fair, with Paul McErlean picking his way through the other newcomers after starting from the back of the field. It was immediately clear that he has enough speed and skill to be amongst the front runners before too long.
New racer Mark Souter proved that he is one to watch as well. He had never raced before and hadn’t even driven his car before the weekend, yet he was immediately showing enough pace to compete with Graeme Gordon and Stephen Emslie. Billy Campbell, another complete circuit racing novice also showed enough to prove that he will quickly be up to speed. Unfortunately for Billy, a coolant leak from his just finished car caused an overheated engine and a sad end to his race weekend on only lap 6. It was terrible luck but he’ll be back for sure! Stephen Emslie was suffering from rear brake lock up issues throughout the race and couldn’t get on the pace that he’s shown in the past, and this allowed Paul McErlean to get past him after getting a better run out of the hairpin. Paul gave him a cheery wave on the way past and Stephen returned the favour with a wave of his own (well we think it was a wave?!). Graham Gordon wasn’t able to find his natural groove but had some good battles whilst trying to find his way forward.
Poor Christie Doran was trying hard to stay positive in her struggling car, and it was frustrating for her and her team to see that the issues with her car hadn’t been fixed after all their earlier efforts. Her “Wet” tyre gamble didn’t help either and probably cost her around 2 seconds a lap to further add to her misery.
At the front, the hugely experienced Alan Kirkaldy was stretching his lead by almost half a second a lap, not only proving his talents, but showing the rest of the field a fine example of what their cars are capable of.
Behind him, Stephen Russell had been fending off every attempted pass by Greg Graham who was trying everything to find a gap. Their battle was actually slowing them down a little however and Garry Muir was on a charge as he spotted the opportunity to take advantage. On the last lap all three of them took the first corner flat out and completely nose to tail. This must have looked spectacular to the watching crowds and was a great example of what excitement the closely matched BMW’s can give. A couple of corners later however, Stephen’s car stepped out of line which allowed Greg Graham to sneak past into 2nd on the run up to the hairpin. After the hairpin, Garry Muir also passed a sideways Stephen and nicked 3rd (almost out dragging Greg for 2nd too). It turned out that Stephen Russell’s car had developed a petrol leak and fuel was spraying onto his left rear tyre. If not for that, he’d probably have kept his 2nd place (his in car video showing him punching the interior mirror off his windscreen as Garry Muir slips past him is priceless!!)
Race 1 Result
1st – Car number 27 – Alan Kirkaldy (Best time 1:05.712)
2nd – 10 – Greg Graham (1:06.371)
3rd – 92 – Garry Muir (1:05.935)
4th – 69 – Stephen Russell (1:06.526)
5th – 5 – Paul McErlean (1:06.719)
6th – 65 – Mark Souter (1:07.467)
7th – 38 – Graeme Gordon (1:06.600)
8th – 34 – Stephen Emslie (1:07.783)
9th – 15 – Christie Doran (1:19.351)
DNF – 15 – Billy Campbell (1:08.212)
After more showers it was clear that race 2 was going to be another dry one, and all drivers opted to run the dry tyres. At the off, Greg Graham put in another great start and got ahead of pole sitter Alan Kirkaldy into the first corner. Stephen Russell managed to get the jump on Garry Muir into 3rd, with Graeme Gordon, Mark Souter, Stephen Emslie and Paul McErlean fighting things out close behind them.
Paul McErlean having made a great start from 5th jumped on the brakes at McIntyres only to discover he’d accidently nudged his brake bias valve all the way forward in the paddock. The result was a front end lock up and a trip through the gravel trap which saw him dropping a few places.
Alan Kirkaldy quickly decided that he wasn’t too keen on not actually leading a race and sneaked up the inside of Greg at Clark’s corner, this giving an opportunity to Stephen Russell to close onto the back of Greg’s car too. A bit of stout defending then took place to stop Stephen taking the inside line at the hairpin, then Greg, Stephen and Garry settled in to a good close race for the next few laps.
Behind this group Mark Souter once again showed that he is definitely one to watch for the future and again showed great natural speed whilst battling with Graeme Gordon, Stephen Emslie and a fast recovering Paul McErlean.
Although finding some 4 seconds per lap on her race 1 pace, Christie was still fighting a losing battle with a car with no grunt. Her race team had swapped engine sensors, spark plugs, fuel rails and even the catalytic convertor to try to get to the bottom of the problem, but it seems to no avail.
Alan Kirkaldy eventually opened his now customary gap to those behind him to win the race. Not content with simply winning, he also managed to beat his own BMW lap record by finally dipping under the 65 second mark. Alan makes winning look easy at the moment, but the rest of the field are getting quicker all the time, so he will only need to make one little error (OK, maybe a few little errors!) before someone gives him a good wheel to wheel race.
Behind Alan, due to traffic (and raw talent of course) Greg had managed to create a gap between himself and the battle between Stephen Russell and Garry Muir and finished a fairly comfortable 2nd.
After his misfortune in race 1, if Stephen Russell still had an interior mirror he’d have punched it off once more, as he made an error of judgement which allowed Garry Muir to nick the final podium place at the very last corner. Garry of course will say that it was a deft moment of skill from himself, but we know better! Seriously though, Garry Muir has a total never say die attitude. Even when he’s 10 car lengths behind, he gets his head down and just reels people in. He will most certainly be hounding Mr Kirkaldy sooner rather than later!
Race 2 result
1st – 27 – Alan Kirkaldy (1:04.961 – New Lap Record)
2nd – 10 – Greg Graham (1:05.897)
3rd – 92 – Garry Muir (1:06.175)
4th – 69 – Stephen Russell (1:06.664)
5th – 38 – Graeme Gordon (1:06.707)
6th – 5 – Paul McErlean (1:06.187)
7th – 65 – Mark Souter (1:07.438) Ravenol Lubricants Driver of the Day Award.
8th – 34 – Stephen Emslie (1:07.334)
9th – 64 – Christie Doran (1:16.865)
DNS – 15 – Billy Campbell.