Wiley thinking gives rookie Ross another podium

Ross maintained his stunning early season form with 3rd place in the second round of the Celtic Speed Mini Cooper Cup (6 May 2012).

The Minimax Motorsport driver overcame challenging conditions in two of last Sunday’s three to keep him in the hunt for the championship crown, despite this being his debut year in car racing.

Ross was the fastest man on the track in pre-race practice, but admitted to making mistakes when timed qualifying got underway: “With all thirty cars out on track, my positioning in the traffic could have been better. A relatively small circuit like Knockhill can feel pretty crowded with a field that big and I was baulked a couple of times going into certain places, such as the Chicane.”

Still, he recorded the 4th-quickest time to earn a second row grid slot for Sunday’s opening race: “I was one place ahead of Stefan Di Resta (brother of Force India F1 ace Paul) funnily enough,” Ross added, hinting at a developing friendly rivalry. “He’s the closest person I can compare myself with as we have a similar background in karting.”

The first race started in dry conditions but within three laps, snow began to fall! “We run on all-weather tyres, rather than slicks, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge. I didn’t get off the start-line too well and gave myself quite a bit of work to do but came back to 5th, which was okay.”

Snow started to fall again for the start of Race 2 but only on half of the circuit, leaving it “soaking” and the other, “bone dry”. A better getaway saw him hold his 5th place starting position for the opening tour before he began to edge his way up the order. He was lying 3rd and gaining on the leaders in the dry section of the track but dropping back in the trickier wet parts. Realising that he would need to commit to a spectacularly daring manoeuvre – risking a crash to snatch 2nd place or the lead – Wylie sensibly opted to settle for 3rd and another hatful of championship points.

With a third race also giving him another opportunity to go for glory, Ross was confident that he could compete for more silverware. However, an unsual feature of the Celtic Speed Mini Cooper Cup saw him deprived of P3 on the starting grid, as he explains: “The race-winner drew the starting positions for the top six finishers in the previous race. I was therefore randomly selected for 6th on the grid.”

By now the snow had abated and strong winds had completely dried the tarmac. Too much wheelspin at the start saw him lose a place as his car struggled for grip on the ‘green’ surface. “I think I’ve been watching too much Top Gear,” he joked. “I came round to complete the first lap in 7th and the field was still bunched up. A car crashed ahead of me and as we all braked to avoid the accident, the driver behind tipped into me, hit my exhausts and did some damage to the sensors. This caused a loss of power and rather than attack, I had to defend for the rest of the race.”

He did a terrific job and held on to take the chequered flag in an admirable 6th place. “Overall I’m not too disappointed, considering what I had” he reflected with typical positivity. “I’ve dropped from 3rd to 4th on the leader board, but it’s still very close and I’m sitting pretty handy. The next race is at Oulton Park (on 2/3 June) and I think I can win there. I’m certainly in with a good chance and looking forward to the challenge of racing at a different circuit. I’m not going there to make up the numbers.”

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