Rounds 5 & 6 of the 2021 Scottish Formula Ford Championship signified a very busy weekend for the team. Saturday was the wedding day of Jordan's sister, Pamela at the stunning location of Glencoe, meaning the team would be setting off early on Sunday morning from the West Highlands in order to get to Knockhill for first practice. The arrangements also had them travel back to Glencoe on Sunday night, making for a very long and whirlwind day!
Wet conditions were prominent for all of the morning's testing and although Jordan seemed to have a comfortable pace advantage over the other championship contenders in the conditions, he lagged behind reigning National Formula Ford Champion, Neil Maclennan, who was a guest entry for the day.
In the first drastic change in conditions, the sun broke through and dazzling blue skies, coupled with a soaring track temperature greeted the drivers for the 12-minute qualifying session. The team's strategy for the day was to run on the same tyres which they had competed with at rounds 2 & 3 (competitors are limited to three new sets of tyres for the whole season), whilst Maclennan and Michael Gray both fitted new rubber - always worth a little bit of extra laptime in qualifying.
For the majority of the session, Gronkowski and Maclennan traded fastest laps, with Gray close behind. The three were lapping relatively close together and with just minutes to go, they caught a slower driver. Gronkowski opted to pull aside, letting Maclennan and Gray past and sacrificing his next lap to pass the slower runner. Leaving just enough time for one more flying lap, Gronkowski made the most of the clear track, posting a stunning time to seize pole position in dramatic fashion by just over two tenths of a second from Maclennan.
"That was a great lap, and just at the perfect time." Said Jordan. "We made some changes to the car to try and dial-out some issues we had in the morning's practice sessions and, even though the conditions are different, it was clear from the out-lap that they had worked. The car felt great and to be on pole against the competition we have here today - especially considering they were on new tyres and we were on old ones - is pretty amazing!"
The heavens opened in biblical fashion ahead of race one, with heavy rain and lightening marking for another dramatic shift in track conditions. The waterlogged circuit meant that the race would be started under safety car conditions and at the green flag, Gronkowski lead the field into Duffus for the first racing lap.
It soon became apparent that the race was only going to be between Gronkowski and Maclennan, the pair rapidly streaking away from the rest of the field. The drivers traded fastest laps and Maclennan was an ever-present figure in Gronkowski's mirrors, but was never quite close enough to try an overtake. Gronkowski duly took the race win after a pressure-filled 12-laps, also claiming the fastest lap. The pair took the chequered flag a huge 21 seconds ahead of Gray in third.
Jordan was enthused by the challenge and victory afterwards: "Wow that was such an intense race! The conditions were so wet, I can only remember racing at Knockhill with that level of water once or twice before - the dip at Butcher's was a lake which you had to drift the car through at the right angle because there was no purchase on the tarmac at all - all four wheels were aquaplaning every lap!"
"I couldn't see much out of the mirrors due to the spray, but every lap at the hairpin I saw the white nose behind and knew that one mistake from me would be all Neil would need to make a move. Thankfully, I kept everything clean and we took the win and snuck the fastest lap too, which is absolutely amazing."
Whilst not quite as wet as race one, the second outing of the day saw steady rain and very wet conditions once more. A safety car start was again the order of the day, but this time Gronkowski made his only mistake of the weekend - missing 4th gear on the run up the hill and allowing Maclennan through into Duffus.
From there, things were almost an exact re-run of race one, with the positions reversed. Maclennan initially pulled ahead by around 1 second, but was never able to extend the gap any further, Gronkowski gradually creeping closer but never close enough to try and overtake. The pair crossed the line in that order, this time 13 seconds clear of Gray who again took the final podium spot.
"Neil is someone I rank as one of the very best drivers I've ever competed against..."
"Honestly, I'm very happy with that race." Said Jordan. "Obviously my mistake at the start rather gifted Neil the lead and after that I struggled a little bit to understand the car - we took the decision to try something a little different with the setup after the experience in race 1 and it didn't quite work. The car was stronger in some places and weaker in others and it took me a few laps to get used to that and understand where I had to change my driving to suit. Once I got that sorted though, it was good to see we could close the gap slightly and to take the fastest lap again is something I'm extremely proud of. Neil is someone I rank as one of the very best drivers I've ever competed against, and obviously he proved that by winning the National Championship last year. So to be racing wheel-to-wheel with him and even beating him in qualifying and on the fastest lap board is something I think we can be extremely proud of."
"The bigger picture this weekend is obviously also the Scottish Championship, and things are now looking good - although we know very well not to count our chickens before they have hatched! This was a crucial weekend for us coming off the back of the first four races where we had amazing results. If we had a good weekend then things would look very promising, but if we had a bad one then the momentum could easily have swung away for the final stretch of the season. Thankfully, it was the former and I can only thank dad for giving me such an amazing car to make that happen!"
After round 6 of the 2021 Scottish Formula Ford Championship, and with Maclennan a non-scoring guest driver, the team have extended their lead to 40 points over Michael Gray, with Neil Broome a further 20 points back in third. The full championship table and race results can be found here: Formula Ford 1600 Standings | Scottish Motor Racing (smrc.co.uk)