Gearbox failure ends Cox’s title challenge

Rob Cox in action at Rockingham.

Rob Cox in action at Rockingham. - Credit: Archant

A gearbox failure at the start of the weekend’s two races at the Rockingham circuit in Northamptonshire effectively ended young racing driver Rob Cox’s hopes of clinching the 2014 BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship.

A replacement gearbox for the second of the day’s two races brought little solace, as the 17 year-old’s regular Fiesta continued to lose power as the race went on and with it, performance.

It was clear from the beginning of the weekend’s on-track activity that the issues that had affected the performance of Rob’s Fiesta for the last two rounds had not been resolved, despite the WDE Motorsport team replacing every possible component, including an engine change, wiring loom swap and new sensors throughout the engine and transmission.

As it had done at previous rounds, the car would be on the pace to begin with but after two or three laps, it would gradually and progressively slow down, to the point where Rob would be losing so much time that he would not be able to maintain his position, let alone challenge for race wins.

As a result, the strategy for qualifying on the part-oval circuit was to go out and set a fast lap early, before the power began to drop off. He did so and was well on the way to a good lap before he was baulked towards the end by another driver. In the end, he qualified fifth for the first of the weekend’s two races on Sunday.

Sunday morning dawned bright and chilly and the Fiestas were the first race of the day, at 9am. The cars formed up for the warm-up lap and as the green flag was waved and they set off, Rob’s car immediately lost drive. He coasted into the pits and was forced to watch the first race take place without him, a differential failure punching several holes in the gearbox casing.

The team changed the gearbox for the second race just after lunch and several suggested that a failing differential might have been the cause of the performance problems. However, it was not to be. Rob started the second race from the back of the grid and the run down to the first corner, through roughly 1/3 of the oval circuit, looked promising, with Rob challenging for two places on that first corner.

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However, by the mid-point of the first lap, it was clear that the issue remained and the entire field pulled away as the race went on. By the mid-point of the race, Rob was some 30 seconds adrift of leader Geri Nicossia with whom he had battled consistently before the car issues began and eventually, finished in seventh place, 36.4 seconds behind the eventual winner.

Speaking after the race, Rob said: “We were hoping that after the gearbox problem, that might have solved the issue but obviously not. I seemed to have the power at the beginning of the race and I could battle with people but then it started to drop off down the straights, I just couldn’t stick with people. That last race was just driving around, really.

“Because now we can’t do anything in the Junior championship, for the next round, I’m going to compete in the Senior category, hopefully in my own car if the team can fix it. The Seniors at Brands Hatch will be really good experience for me; a much bigger grid than in the Juniors and closer racing so it will be interesting to see how we can do. I’ll be aiming for top five if I can, but it is so competitive so we’ll just have to see.”

The final round of the series takes place on the weekend of October 25-26 at Brands Hatch in Kent.