Mark Steel endured mixed fortunes at Brands Hatch last weekend, with a good points-scoring finish in Race One, but a retirement in Race Two due to a mechanical failure in the Volkswagen Racing Cup.
Pall-Ex’s Director of Sales and Marketing qualified in 10th position on Saturday, although he could have climbed further up the time-sheet if it wasn’t for having four of his lap times deleted for exceeding track limits.
After the session, Mark reflected on what could have been: “Overall I’m happy with the result.
I’m obviously disappointed with having lap times deleted because if they had stood, I could be starting further up the grid tomorrow.
That’s racing though and I have to make the most out of my starting position tomorrow, as it is a good platform to make progress from.”
On Sunday morning, Mark lined up on the grid hoping to make progress through the midfield, building on his performance in the previous round at Croft, where he achieved an eighth-place finish in Race Two at the Yorkshire circuit.
Once the lights went out, signalling the start of the 20-minute race, Mark maintained his position off the line.
Just seconds into the race, Owen Walton’s Audi TT made contact with the rear of Rob Allum’s fast-starting Golf as he attempted to cover him off.
A spectacular accident was inevitable and Allum’s car was spat off the straight, sideways, into the barrier at considerable speed.
At one point, it looked as if the Allumy Motorsport was going to flip over, as it straddled the top of the barrier, with two wheels on the top of it.
Fortunately, the car came to rest on all four wheels shortly after, but that was Allum’s race over before turn one.
Mark was able to avoid the chaos in front of him and entered turn one rubbing alongside Owen Walton, who had lost momentum in his contact with Allum.
Heading into Druids, a tight right-handed hairpin, the Pall-Ex man sat in eighth position and was still fighting closely with Owen Walton.
Entering the braking zone, Mark locked his front brakes and forced Walton and himself wide.
Although Mark slipped up the inside, Walton was able to carry more speed around the outside and held on to the place.
The unconventional line through the corner also left the door open for, Owen’s father, Simon Walton, in the sister Audi TT to fly up the inside of both them and he claimed eighth place.
The drama hadn’t finished, as leader Josh Coggan span exiting Graham Hill Bend, sliding into the barrier, promoting everyone else by one place.
From then on, Mark managed to keep out of trouble for the rest of the race, and brought the car home in 9th place.
Following the race Mark reflected on his performance: “It’s hard to know what to make of that race.
Being in a good starting position meant I was hoping to climb up through the field.
I had a golden opportunity to earn my best finish to date, with a number of the guys in front retiring from the race early on.
Unfortunately, I struggled to make up many places during the race, and ninth was the best I could do.
It’s still a strong result, and the points are very valuable as I hope to climb higher in the championship.
I’m hoping we can go even further in Race Two later.”
Mark would line up in ninth place for Race Two, with a desire to deliver his best ever result.
After the first few turns, Mark had slipped to 10th position, having lost out to a charging Lewis Smith who had started 12th.
Unfortunately, his car was nursing an issue that was getting worse after just one lap.
The driveshaft on his Staples liveried Golf MK7 was on its last legs, and with a piercing crunch and violent vibrations, it gave up after just one and a half laps.
This disappointing finish to the weekend was tough to take for Mark.
Once he returned to the pits, he explained his frustrations: “I’m gutted that my weekend had to finish like that.
Having waited four hours since Race One, I was ready to put in a strong performance and fight with the top guys.
To go out with reliability issues is hard to take, as there is nothing I can do about it.
I felt a slight vibration during the warm-up lap, and it just got worse and worse.”
A number of friends and sponsors travelled down to Brands Hatch to support Mark, something that he was very grateful of.
“It’s frustrating that I couldn’t earn some better results for everybody who came to support me today, but I can’t thank them enough for making the effort to come to Brands Hatch.”
If you would like to watch Mark in action, you can watch both of Mark’s races in full on the Volkswagen Racing Cup YouTube channel.
Mark heads to Donington Park on the weekend of the 14-15 September for the final round of the championship.
In what will be the championships second visit to Mark’s home track, the Pall-Ex man will be hoping to finish the season on a high.
In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the Volkswagen Racing Cup here.