Updated: May 17, 2019
"It's pretty much a back to the drawing-board weekend for us." Was Jordan's pull-out quote in the lead-up to rounds 3 and 4 of the 2019 Scottish Formula Ford Championship at the Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife. After dominating rounds 1 and 2, that seemed a strange thing to say, but this weekend would be on the challenging anti-clockwise Knockhill layout and it would be in the dry.
The team had already explained they made some significant changes to their general car setup philosophy over the winter and whilst pre-season testing and the first race gave them a good chance to analyse and perfect the car's handling on the clockwise direction track in mixed and full-wet conditions, the anti-clockwise circuit remained an unknown - as did running the car on dry tarmac.
Saturday proved that Jordan's quote was more than just words. The team worked unceasingly through the day on setup changes and adjustments, including a lengthy two-and-a-half-hour stint through the lunchbreak, in order to unlock the car's potential around the very technical layout. Between mechanical problems and struggles to find a good balance and rhythm in the car, the track had never been a particularly happy hunting ground for the team but by the end of play on Saturday, they had covered a lot of laps and logged all of the data they has set out to gather.
Sunday morning dawned with the continuation of the dry and cool conditions that had been prevalent on Saturday. As the drivers took to the track for the 12-minute qualifying session, the team were eager to find out if their hard work the day before would pay off.
Gronkowski's pace began steady but fast - immediately hitting the top of the timesheets. But as the session unfolded, his times began to metronomically come down. Lap 10 saw the fastest - a 53.292 second effort not only taking pole position, but being the fastest ever qualifying lap at an SMRC Formula Ford race on the reverse circuit.
Gronkowski lead from the front into the hairpin as the first race of the day began in anger. A clean first lap saw him build an early lead as the chasing pack battled frantically and by two-thirds race distance the gap was over 10-seconds. Just as things looked to be straight forward, however a collision between Kenny Cowie and Neil Broome resulted in the former beached in the gravel at the hairpin and brought the safety car out for the first time this year. The pack bunched-up again, Gronkowski's lead evaporated, with Logan Hannah and Matt Chisholm hot on his heels. A well-judged restart protected Gronkowski's advantage into the hairpin and a couple of fast laps to complete the race secured the team's third straight victory of 2019. Gronkowski also took the bonus point for fastest lap with Hannah fending off Chisholm for second.
after yesterday I felt a lot more confident in it [the car]
"It feels amazing to take the first win this weekend on the reverse direction!" Said Jordan afterwards. "It's always been a challenge for us to get the car in the right window around here but after yesterday I felt a lot more confident in it and then obviously qualifying showed the benefit of that. The race itself was pretty straight-forward and I was just winding the pace down and looking after the car when I saw Kenny in the gravel and knew they'd throw a safety car for it given it's location and the danger to the marshals. So that was a bit of a wake-up call; Going from 'lets just bring it home' to 'right, time to get the temps up so we can start pushing again' within a couple of seconds!"
As the lights went out for race two, it was Hannah's turn to hit the front into the hairpin as Gronkowski bogged-down off the line and allowed her to take the lead. Immediately on the offensive, Gronkowski moved to try the inside on the run to the chicane but Hannah defended her line, forcing the battle to continue for longer. As the driver's thundered down the main straight at the end of lap one, Gronkowski capitalised on the slipstream to out-brake his competitor into the hairpin and re-take the lead. An opportunistic Chisholm followed him through on the inside.
The remainder of the race was an exercise in the careful and methodical building of a lead from Gronkowski as he edged away from the pack. Chisholm was able to maintain second from Hannah for the duration, with the top three crossing the line in that order; Gronkowski this time enjoying a more comfortable lead of just over seven seconds at the finish line and again posting the fastest lap
"There seems to be a bit of an uncomfortable pattern emerging!" Said Jordan - eluding to his similar loss of the lead at the start of race two in April. "I just bogged down really badly off the line and Logan shot by - there was nothing I could do to defend it so I just had to settle in and try to put as much pressure as possible on her straight away. Luckily we were able to get back in-front on lap two and after that it was a much more straight forward race, with no surprises at the end to spoil the rhythm."
I'm massively proud of us as a team this weekend for the way we approached things yesterday and gradually extracted the pace from the car.
"This weekend as a whole has been unbelievable. I'm massively proud of us as a team this weekend for the way we approached things yesterday and gradually extracted the pace from the car. We had to make a pretty big decision before lunch on a significant change to the setup but we went for it and it was definitely worth the effort as you can tell from these results. To come away with pole, two race wins and both fastest laps as well on the reverse circuit in the dry, which is a bit of a crazy roller coaster, is absolutely incredible! It'll probably take a few days for this one to sink in."
"I have to thank dad especially this weekend for all the work yesterday and for once more putting together a flawless racecar. All of sponsors and supporters as well - I'm so grateful to be here this year, driving this amazing car and achieving these insane results and that's all down to each and every one of them."
Jordan currently leads the Scottish Formula Ford Championship. Find all the standings and official results HERE.