The final round of the season at Brands Hatch and for the 2nd time in 3 years, there is also a Night Race to look forward to. Dave was away for the weekend in Edinburgh, so it would be a single driver entry for Ryan.
The weather was once again not being particularly kind; it had been raining all night and arriving at the track on Sunday morning, it was overcast at not even in double figures. The track looked very slippery and going in to qualifying, it was clear the wet tyres would be the safe bet. Ryan got out on track, steadily getting up to speed and by the time he came round to complete his 8th lap, he was actually topping the time sheets, each lap faster than the last. As he came round to complete his 9th lap, he noticed the coolant temperature rising and deciding to immediately pit, killing the engine as he rolled in to the pits.
After the steam had cleared, the problem was clearly diagnosed, the auxiliary belt had jumped off. The issue that had cost us at Oulton Park had morphed in to a mis-aligned alternator. That was the end of the session for us, but we would be able to fix it, with the addition of just a few washers. As the track had been drying out slightly, the provisional pole held earlier on in the session was soon beaten and Ryan would be 14th on the grid. Tom Mensley was however at the back of the grid after failing to comply with yellow flags, so a Class B victory was still on the cards.
Ryan put in an absolute storming start in the race and by the end of lap 3 had made his way to 3rd overall. Coming out of Graham Hill bend, he got a good run on the 2nd place Proton of Field & Field, nipping ahead going in to Clark bend. However, he ran in a little hot and ended up cutting across the grass and subsequently running very wide on the entrance to Clearways. Not realising how deep the gravel was, he attempted to take the shortest route back on track, but he was completely beached, race over. A total kick in the balls as he was absolutely flying.
There was still the night race to aim for and after a nice clean qualifying, Ryan was 8th on the grid, 4th of the Tin Tops runners, right behind Tom Mensley. Another strong start to the race saw Ryan quickly make his way up to 4th overall on lap 4 and then up to 2nd by lap 8, just before the safety car came out. After a few laps behind the safety car, we made the tricky decision to pit the car for the mandatory pit stop, this unfortunately meant that Ryan got stuck at the end of the pits for a couple of minutes and was at this point in time, 2 laps down.
The race got back up to speed and he continued to put in some good laps and whilst others came in for their pitstops, he caught back the time he’d lost in the pits and was sitting back up in 4th by lap 15, just 12 seconds off the lead. A 2nd safety car appeared the following lap and suddenly that gap disappeared, he was once again ready to battle for the lead of the race.
Lap 19, the safety went in and Ryan was battling for the lead with Jake Hill in the Brisky Racing Fiesta. Lap 20, Ryan comes over the line just 1 tenth ahead. Jake and Ryan battle for lead, with Jake back in front heading out of Graham Hill bend. As they brake in to Clearways, line astern, Jake has a little wobble, Ryan reacts quickly to avoid nudging him, but in that motion, puts himself wide. He slides back in to the gravel that beached him in the Tin Tops race!! This has to be one of the most frustrating retirements in our history and once again, clear proof that we are capable of winning races, if only we could get a bit of luck once in a while.
We end the season on a bit of a downer, but as ever, heads held high with what Ryan is calling a “moral victory”, Jake Hill does race BTCC after all. So, we will lick our wounds and put a plan together for the winter rebuild, watch this space for news on that front.