The Celtic Speed Mini Cooper Cup resumed at Knockhill last weekend (11/12 August) after a short break and saw a refreshed and revitalised Ross Wylie rediscover his podium-winning mojo.
The Minimax Motorsport driver returned to the hot seat after a fortnight’s holiday and quickly showed that his vacation had done him the power of good by setting the pole position time in qualifying.
“I’d said to my dad beforehand that I needed to go into the weekend with a different mindset. After a couple of DNFs in the previous round I had to go for the best possible result possible, rather than play it safe and drive for points and think about my position in the championship.”
This less cautious approach led to Ross making a radical change to his car’s suspension, as he explains: “The championship regulations allow you to choose between two types of suspension. Previously I had been running the softer ALT option, but this time went for the harder LEDA set-up. It transformed the performance and handling of the car, meaning I didn’t have to push as hard as usual.”
The Dumfriesshire-based driver made the most of his dramatically changed car and duly powered his way to the front of the starting grid for the first race.
A strong start made sure that the 20-year old former British karting champion held onto his advantage. However, his inexperience in car racing was exposed when the championship leader forced a mistake: “There were just three laps to go and David Sleigh caught and passed me after I left him too much room in one of the corners. He immediately defended through every turn and blocked me to the flag. In hindsight, I should have done the same to him when I had the chance.”
With the drivers’ finishing positions determining their starting position for the next race, Ross again started on the front row, but this time on the outside: “I was on P2 but didn’t get the best getaway off the line and dropped to 4th. Within two laps I’d got back up to 2nd but by then the race leader had a sizeable advantage. I gave chase and set my sights on clocking the fastest lap and winning the extra championship points that go with it. I never gave up and kept pushing, but was ultimately 2nd again. It seems Sleigh had been able to respond and maintain the gap.”
The third and final race of the day saw David Sleigh drawing the starting positions for the top eight finishers from the previous race out of a hat. Wylie, who appropriately funds his racing by driving a forklift truck for his family’s Carronbridge Sawmill business, was fortunate to be allocated the fifth spot on the grid. The race itself was to be full of incident: “I was sitting in 4th for the first two laps, but then the safety car was brought out following a crash. When it went in again, I thought to myself ‘I have to pass the championship leader’ and launched my move. As I did the ABS (braking system) failed! I tried frantically to slow the car down by downshifting through the gears but I was going too fast and crashed into Stefan Di Resta.”
The damage to Wylie’s Thornhill Inn-sponsored car forced him to retire and he admits to anticipating the younger brother of the Sahara Force India Formula One star to vent his frustration at him: “I expected Stefan to drag me out of the car, but he was really cool about it and shook my hand. He said he understood what had happened to my brakes, which was a relief and I’m glad we’re still friends.”
Although it was not the triumphant end to the weekend that he wanted, Ross remains positive: “I learned a great deal and to have set the fastest lap and claim to 2nd place finishes is really good. I’m back in action in two weeks’ time, again at Knockhill, but this time in front of the British Touring Car Championship crowd. There’s more to come from me and the car, so I’m looking forward to showing the fans what I can really do!”