After a hard fought contest, young karter Scott Mackrell has been crowned the winner of the inaugural SWB Motorsport Shootout Day, beating twelve other racers to win a free test in one of SWB's Formula Renault BARC cars.
The contest began at Whilton Mill kart track in Northamptonshire on Saturday, with the drivers braving the cold conditions to compete in stage one, which consisted of two twenty lap heats and then a twenty-five lap final in Pro-Karts.
The grid for the opening heat was chosen randomly, with Ryan Savage on pole. A hectic, contact filled opening lap ended with Craig Johnson emerging in the lead. As he built a big gap early on, Jake Dalton and Macaulay Walsh fought their way through from the back of the grid to get into second and third near mid-distance. Dalton and Walsh soon closed down Johnson and found their way past to finish first and second, while Johnson dropped one more place to fourth behind Scott Mackrell.
With the starting grid reversed and the karts swapped, the drivers headed out for heat two, which saw a drier track producing lap times six seconds quicker than heat one. This time Walsh and Dalton started from the front of the grid and a clean opening lap saw them emerge at the front, leading Michael Epps and George Blundell.
Dalton soon took the lead and was pursued briefly by Walsh, before he was passed by Johnson, who enjoyed a superb opening spell, climbing from eleventh on the grid to second. Dalton just held off Johnson to take another win, while Walsh took third ahead of Mackrell, Blundell, Epps and Sam Ward.
The results from the two heats formed the grid for the grand final, with Dalton on pole from Walsh and Johnson. Walsh grabbed the early lead, with Mackrell bursting from fourth on the grid to second, however he was soon pushed wide, dropping to fifth. Walsh broke clear at the front early on, with second place Dalton under pressure from behind, soon falling behind Johnson, Mackrell and Epps.
Mackrell soon passed Johnson for second and began closing Walsh in the lead. A superb final few laps saw the duo switching places at nearly every corner, with Mackrell emerging ahead on the final lap for a narrow win. 2011 Formula Vee vice-champion Epps got into third, ahead of Johnson and Dalton.
The judging panel, consisting of British Formula 3 race-winner Oli Webb, 2010 Formula Renault BARC champion Alice Powell, two-time Superleague Formula runner-up Craig Dolby and SWB Motorsport Team Principal Simon Baldry, then had to whittle the number of contestants down to ten, with James Williams, Ollie Walker and Savage the unfortunate three to leave at this stage.
The remaining ten drivers went through to stage two, which saw them given the chance to try out the SWB Motorsport Academy Rotax karts. The drivers were each given fifteen minutes in a poorly set-up car and were judged on how they adapted to the machinery and also the feedback they gave to the judges on how they would change the kart. Each driver did well, overcoming some kart issues, tricky track conditions and relative inexperience to impress.
After that, the judging panel had to tough job of choosing a final six drivers that would move onto stage three. After much discussion, Dalton, Walsh, Mackrell, Johnson, Jade Sheppard and Jack Hughes were chosen, with Epps, Blundell, Ward and Dan Underhill losing out. The final six headed to Grand Prix Racewear at Silverstone on Sunday morning for the final stage, a thirty minute session on their simulator and a presentation to the judges.
In the simulator, the drivers first used a Formula Renault car around the Silverstone National circuit, before giving feedback to Dolby and GPR's Matt Kelly. The drivers were then put in a GP2 machine around the same circuit, to see how they would cope with the increase in speed and grip. Dalton and Walsh used their car racing experience to go fastest on the simulator, Johnson and Mackrell impressed despite no car experience, while Hughes and Sheppard both improved as the session wore on.
The judges were left with a tough choice, but eventually chose Mackrell, who wins a free test in a Formula Renault as a prize. The judges commented: “It was very close for the overall winner but Scott impressed on all three Stages. His Presentation was very professional and he showed ambition on where he wanted to go and how he would get there. In the Karts he was very consistent and showed adaption to the difficult track conditions very well. He gave good feedback and instead of moaning about the Kart showed clear ways on how it could be improved to go faster. In the Simulator he jumped in and showed real talent and adapted to the car very well considering he had only raced Karts.”
Mackrell said: “I thought the shootout was a great idea and i found that it was a great experience, even if you didn’t win just going on the simulator was like nothing else. I think everyone said they enjoyed it and that they learn so much. I was surprised I had won in the end, because on the last stage I thought I made to many mistakes but it turns out I must be too hard on myself. I am looking forward to the test so much, I have already started training harder and will be looking to get back on a simulator before the date just so I will be ready, even if it is only a test I still want to show what I am capable of if I am given the opportunity.”
Another prize was given for the most improved driver, with Sheppard winning that award and with it a prize of some passenger laps around Silverstone in a Porsche driven by Oli Webb. The judges said: “She improved massively from the Pro Karts to the simulator. After struggling to begin with, didn’t give up to give a solid result in the Pro Karts. She then really impressed in the Rotax with consistent driving and a smooth driving style. After no car racing experience she learnt a lot in the Simulator and showed real potential.”