This year’s fourth round of the MINI CHALLENGE JCW will be held in Knockhill, Scotland, between 29-31 July with Geri Rácz in the field after the young talent achieved his best result so far in the previous event. The EXCELR8 Motorsport driver is in for a real rollercoaster ride, where even legendary rally champion Colin McRae got into trouble.
This weekend MINI CHALLENGE driver Geri Rácz will take to the track at Knockhill, 10 km north of Dunfermline, the centre of Scottish motorsport. EXCELR8 Motorsport’s racer is looking forward to the fourth round of the season with confidence, having achieved his best result so far this season at the previous weekend, on a track he has not had the opportunity to test on before.
This time it will be a different story, as the athlete supported by HUMDA Academy has taken part in three tests since the previous race weekend, first at Snetterton, close to his team’s base, and then at Brands Hatch GP before Knockhill on Monday of the fourth round.
“It was good to be able to test before the race weekend, as it’s another new track for me, and we had a test at Snetterton earlier in the month, which helped me get back into the swing of things after the break. We’ll be racing there too, so it was important for me to learn the track,” said the 16-year-old, whose main objective for the Scottish round is to improve his qualifying performance and put himself in a better position for the races.
Legendary story of a not yet legendary driver
The 2 km circuit, built in 1974 on the site of a sheep farm, does not have the rich and storied history of the first three race weekends of the season but it still holds a special place in British motor racing history.
As Scotland’s national motorsport centre and the only FIA-licensed circuit in the country, it hosts not only the British Touring Car Championship (and its support series, the MINI CHALLENGE) but also the British Superbike Championship (BSC). These two series are also the two top events of the year.
The bikes have already completed their Knockhill round this year and the other series, which attracts huge interest, will also be visiting Fife County at the end of July. The BTCC field has been battling it out at the popular venue for all but one year since 1992 and while those 30 years have been full of excitement, one of the most interesting and hilarious stories in the track’s history came in 1992.
It was then that a certain Colin McRae completed the first and only BTCC weekend of his career and it was a memorable one. The then 24-year-old Scottish driver who was by no means a legend in those days, entered to Knockhill as British rally champion at the suggestion of Prodrive boss David Richards, who was running both BMW’s factory touring car programme and Subaru’s rally team, to attract more spectators to the series’ debut in Scotland as a local hero.
In hindsight, McRae who had World Rally Championship experience, had no interest in touring cars and was not particularly enthusiastic about the weekend but his 8th place in the first race was BMW’s only points scorer. In the second race he was on course to repeat that result but in the hairpin before the start/finish straight he pushed Matt Neal out of the way and was subsequently disqualified. However, this did not reassure Steve Neal, Matt’s father and team principal of Rimstock Racing who according to reports at the time, had been planning to visit the rally racer to have his head chopped off.
A rollercoaster ride where one has to be very alert
The track has remained essentially unchanged since the 1992 BTCC weekend, it is extremely dynamic and a very enjoyable circuit. Geri has tried to master it on a simulator and then in the aforementioned test. One has to be very courageous to get a good lap time and think twice about which corner you are trying to overtake.
“The Knockhill track is very short and a real rollercoaster, it is something that the simulator does not really reflect. I like it a lot, it’s an exciting and unique circuit with big elevation changes. In terms of overtaking, I think this will be the most difficult venue on the calendar so far. In the first third of the track, it will be very difficult to pass because it is a very tight, fast circuit and if you make a mistake there and misjudge a situation, you could have a big accident. We have to respect each other on this section. There will be more overtaking opportunities on the remaining two-thirds of the lap because the track widens, but there is not much there either, as the whole circuit is only 2 km long, so this section is also very short,” said the young driver, analysing the challenge ahead.
In addition to the fast corners, by watching a lap from the onboard camera, it is immediately obvious that you have to attack the bumps very aggressively to get a good lap time. “It will be essential to ride the kerbs to the maximum because if you don’t, it will reflect in your performance,” said Geri, who will have three races to prove himself again after a two-race weekend at Oulton Park.
“Three races is better in every way because if something happens in the first race, it’s harder to do well in the second race on a two-race weekend. It’s better from that point of view and of course more fun if I can race more,” said the EXCELR8 Motorsport driver, who is looking forward to the new challenge and to meeting Scottish fans, renowned for their enthusiasm and passion for motorsport.
Racing as a member of the HUMDA Academy
As well as testing, Geri had plenty to keep him busy for the month between the third and fourth race weekends. The most important event during this period was that along with two other talented athletes from MOTAM, he was one of the two touring car drivers to join the HUMDA Academy talent development programme, launched by HUMDA Hungarian Motorsport Development Agency. The initiative supports aspiring riders and drivers to achieve transparent and professionally defined goals.
The young sportsman also had time to please his fans by visiting the Thomas Breitling shop in Shopmark, where a demonstration version of his real-life racing car was on display. Geri’s MINI didn’t stop there, as the pair of fans who took the most creative photo with it won a pair of tickets to the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix, which is held in the same weekend as the Knockhill round.
The official schedule of MINI Challenge JCW Class
09.10 – 09.40: Qualifying
13.40 – Race 1, 20 mins
17.25 – Race 2, 20 mins
12.25 – Race 3, 20 mins