Topcats Racing’s new driver pairing in the Production Cup Championship made a very positive and lasting impression in the 1 1/2 hour race at the weekend. Their Class 2 adversaries could not have expected both drivers to put on such a convincing demonstration of their racing capabilities.
Clive Bailye and Paul Sweet qualified 2nd in class behind the vastly experienced ex-touring car and British GT driver, Mike Jordan who would figure strongly in the latter stages of the race and inadvertently give rookie, Sweet some skilful ‘hands on’ experience in the art of defensive and attacking driving.
Bailye, elected to start the race because of his more experienced race credentials, started in 13th overall and had moved up two places by the end of the opening lap.
The leading class 2 car of Ainge and Jordan had slipped from 11th to 15th allowing Bailye to take possession of the class lead, one which he would keep for the duration of his stint. Bailye was never under any threat and was increasing his time margin from Aigne by two seconds a lap, eventually, Bailye’s 57 second gap would surely provide a chasm that Aigne and Jordan would not be able to bridge.
Ainge was first to pit on lap 16 to hand over to the more experienced Jordan. He was setting average lap times of 1.22secs, a full 5 seconds faster than his co-pilot. There was the sense that Jordan did not plan to be beaten.
Bailye pitted on lap 19 but a refuelling problem with the second churn cost valuable seconds and a sizeable chunk of the time gap was eaten up.
Paul Sweet needed to bring the car back up to pace without delay to stem the advance of Jordan.
Slower traffic on Sweet’s first few laps impeded his objective. Driver error or perhaps some frustration saw Sweet collared with a 5 second time penalty for ‘not respecting the limits of the track’ which were being liberally dealt to numerous other drivers too. Then came another one. Strict orders from the pit crew and driver Sweet finally settling down meant no further penalties accrued but now Jordan was in striking distance and Sweet could see him looming in his mirrors. Sweet’s attitude was rather more ‘game on’ than ‘game over’ and this provided the incentive that Sweet needed. Lap after lap Sweet held Jordan at bay with both drivers challenging and defending respectfully. Sweet did eventually have to concede as Jordan exercised a little less restraint to get past. A handful of laps remained but Sweet did not intend to let Jordan get away and Jordan failed to eek a gap between himself and the brassy driver. Relentless pressure may have forced errors on a more nervous driver, but Jordan could not be intimidated and the drivers finished nose to tail as they crossed the finish line. Jordan taking class win and Sweet taking points for 2nd place.
We wonder whether Sweet would have traded his battle with Jordan in exchange for a win, possibly the answer would be…’next time!’
The next round is at Donington Park on Saturday, 21st May.