After a solid, but slightly disappointing start to the season, Team AWR travelled to Brands Hatch for round two of their British Championship campaign.
Whitby’s Dave Atkinson and Phil “Gromit” Knapton were fourth overall after the first round at Snetterton so were eager to improve as only a handful of points separated the top four teams.
The Saturday started brightly and the team’s first time out on circuit for free practice was a dry affair.
However the practice highlighted there was an issue with the bike as the team were only 12th on the time sheet.
Dave and Gromit checked it over thoroughly before qualifying but nothing was out of place and all the data gained from the bike’s onboard computer also showed no issues.
The rain held off for qualifying but the mysterious problem with the bike remained and however hard the team pushed out on circuit Dave and Gromit could only manage a lowly eighth in qualifying. The issue with the bike was exacerbated as the weather took a turn for the worse.
By the time the teams lined up on the grid the rain was getting heavier. As the lights went out, the team got a poor start and as the 20 teams all converged into the first corner the pairing of Frank Lelias and Mike Aylott somersaulted off the circuit, landing upside down in the gravel – luckily both escaped serious injury.
This led to a red flag and Dave and Phil decided it would be dangerous to carry on as the bike was just too “lively” in such challenging conditions and to continue would almost guarantee they would follow Frank and Mike’s fate.
By the time Sunday morning came the weather was improved as they rolled onto eighth position on the grid.
The lack of performance from the bike saw a number of lower qualified teams pass them. However well they rode Dave and Gromit could not compensate for the poor performance of the bike and it took all their skill to try to stay in the mix.
But lap six their race was ended by a faulty engine kill switch which failed with no warning, locking the back wheel up and sending the pair straight towards the tyre wall. With quick reactions Gromit let go before impact and fortunately with a lot of skill Dave minimised damage to the bike and they were both unhurt.
Dave and Phil returned to the paddock with long faces but determined to find out what was inhibiting the performance of the bike so it could be rectified.
They were hoping to get back on track for the next round of the championship at Cadwell Park, where they can start to turn their season around.