After a VERY long break, the team returned to competitive track action for the first time since October 2019 at the breath-taking Cadwell Park circuit in Lincolnshire. Thanks to James Beckett Motorsport and Motorsport Vision Racing opening the Heritage Formula Ford weekend up to allow all ff1600 cars to enter, the team made the decision to travel south just over a week before the race. Jordan explained how the unique opportunity came about:
"With the global situation, obviously plans were constantly changing and we were looking ahead to the first round of the Scottish Renegade Cup at Oulton Park when I happened to spot the announcement on social media that Cadwell was being opening-up to allow anyone with a formula food to enter. We raced at Cadwell back in the minis and ever since that first experience it has been a circuit I've always listed as one of the best I've ever driven. As you can imagine, when I saw the news that we could potentially go back there, I was pretty much immediately on the phone to dad to see what he thought. He didn't take much convincing and before long we were signed-up!"
A full-day of testing on the Friday gave the team plenty of track-time to acclimatise to the dramatic and challenging circuit (often touted as the 'mini-Nürburgring' of the UK) as they analysed setup changes to adapt the car to the unique requirements of the 2.2-mile circuit.
Saturday morning dawned much as Friday had - with scattered cloud and a breezy wind, but dry. The team opted to run on worn tyres for the event, classing it as a fun return to the track rather than a serious charge for victory and the decision ultimately lead to Gronkowski falling-short of a front-row position by just 0.005 seconds from the new-tyre-shod Low Dempsey Racing cars ahead. Bryce Aron took a dominant pole position, 0.9 seconds clear of teammate Grant Palmer, with Gronkowski third and Morgan Quinn in 4th.
"... the car felt much stronger in qualifying and I was almost able to split the Low Dempsey guys on their new rubber."
"I'm very pleased with how qualifying went.' Said Jordan afterwards. "We spent yesterday running on very old tyres, just to get a feel for the place. Today the plan was always to fit our other set of testing tyres, which are much better, but obviously still not new. With the better tyres on, the car felt much stronger in qualifying and I was almost able to split the Low Dempsey guys on their new rubber. In-fact, we found over a second in time compared to yesterday - meaning we were matching what Bryce did in testing, but then of course their new rubber seems to have jumped them both forward again. Overall I'm very happy though - to see this kind of progression on our side is exactly what we are aiming for this weekend."
As the red lights went out on the team's first race start in 10-months, Gronkowski's initial getaway was rocket-like. He immediately closed on the pair in-front, but the narrow Cadwell track meant he had nowhere to go. Instinctively taking to the inside grass and moving alongside rather than backing-off, the decision was his undoing as the loss of momentum and a fumble for second gear in the chaos meant he dropped back not only behind Quinn but also into the clutches of the leading pair of Heritage regular drivers.
Gronkowski's race was always going to be tough after that getaway, but he used his pace advantage over the regular drivers to recover to fourth spot by the third lap. Unfortunately by that time, the leading trio were a long away ahead.
At one third distance into the 15-minute race, Aron, having re-passed Palmer for the lead he lost on lap one, drifted wide at Charlies corner, losing significant time as he scrambled to re-join over the grass. That was enough to drop him behind Gronkowski, who was steadily closing back in on Quinn.
Aron's pace continued to be very strong however and he closed on Gronkowski again with a few laps remaining. The pair shared an intense battle over the final two laps, at one point going side-by-side through the 100mph Coppice corner and over the sweeping Charlies corner. Gronkowski seemed to have the race-craft to stay ahead but it was undone on the final lap when what turned out to be some slack on the gear linkage meant he missed his change-downs into the second gear Park corner and ran wide, allowing Aron by. He stuck to the pair ahead across the line, finishing 4th.
"Ah, that was frustrating.' Was Jordan's assessment. 'The first second or-so of the race was amazing as my start was incredible and on a wider circuit I think I could have at least gotten one of the guys ahead of me. Unfortunately there just wasn't space and then I made a small mistake changing into second gear which dropped me back a few places. After that I knew it would be tough and I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks getting back ahead of the Heritage guys so it took a few laps. By that time the gap ahead was pretty huge, but then Bryce went off and I started to catch Morgan."
"...it was really fun going wheel-to-wheel with him through the fast sections."
"Ultimately Aron was just too quick though and the last few laps were pretty close. I have to say it was really fun going wheel-to-wheel with him through the fast sections. There was great respect from both sides - which there needs to be when you're battling at 100mph-plus on a narrow circuit - and those few laps were really special."
"Again, another mistake with the gears on the last lap meant he got through, which is frustrating, but I guess we can maybe chock this race up to being a little rusty after 10-months off!"
Aron seemed intent on making amends for his race one error, duly passing both Quinn and Palmer on the first lap to streak away into the lead he never lost, even despite a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.
Behind, it was a story of a race-lone three-way fight for second spot at Gronkowski tailed Quinn and Palmer for the whole 15 minutes. The battle raged relentlessly but Palmer held-fast at the front and Quinn likewise against Gronkowski.
On the final lap again at Park corner, it was Quinn's turn to lose-out as he ran wide after trying a move on Palmer. Gronkowski was ready to pounce, with the two going side-by-side through Chris Curve before Gronkowski emerged ahead. The order remained until the flag, Gronkowski delighted to take a podium finish.
"That was more like it! I think I was perhaps a bit overly-wary at the start this time after race one and didn't capitalise as much as I could have, but after that the race settled into a pattern anyway. I think we had the pace through the twisty sections and the fast corners to perhaps even run in second, but our gearing choice for the weekend unfortunately meant that I couldn't keep with the guys out of the final corner or Charlies - and with the two main overtaking spots at the end of those straight I was pretty much relying on a mistake from one of them to get past. Thankfully that opportunity came on the last lap (in a role-reversal from race one where we lost out at Park) and I was happy to take advantage.'
"...this whole experience has been a massive high..."
'It's great to end the weekend on a high with the podium, but really this whole experience has been a massive high in itself. For us to end this prolonged break by returning to action at what is arguably the most challenging and enjoyable circuit in the UK is very special. This place has everything - from the flat-out sweeper at Coppice and the undulating swoops and dives of the first sector to the incredible 'mountain' and then the tight and twist final sector - it really does live up to that mini-Nürburgring tag!'
'As always, a massive thank you to dad for all of his hard work in the off-season and this weekend for putting such a great car together and to all of our official sponsors and #MyRaceSpace members for being a part of our team during this unique season!