2023 Secret Meet Shootout
The 2023 edition of the SCD Secret Meet saw a new addition to the schedule, with the Secret Meet Shootout bringing a new competitive element to the day. The invitational class saw a mix of ten cars across three categories — open wheel, competition, and road car — battling for class honours as well as the overall top spot. The weather played its part, but at the conclusion of the session, the outright victor was the Rodin FZED entry, driven by Oliver Webb, with a time of 1m 23.936s. But that only tells part of the story.
Threatening clouds were rolling over Donington Park, as the contenders were prepared in the pitlane for the inaugural Secret Meet Shootout. Heavy rain had fallen earlier in the afternoon, prior to the headline hypercar parade activity, but 70+ cars running around the 4.02-kilometre circuit had helped dry the track surface and the session looked to be set for strong lap times on slick tyres. And it was, at least initially, as the Rodin set out for its installation lap. With the UK headquarters at Donington Park, the FZED ran with some home advantage, but as Oli crossed the start line for his first flying lap, the rain had started to fall. Committed, he made his way around the circuit, but the speed at which the rain came meant he was forced to back off in the final corners, where his slick tyres had little to no grip on the drenched surface. Despite the circumstances, he completed a strong lap in tricky conditions, to set the benchmark. The Rodin was always going to be a strong contender, but having completed the majority of its lap on slick tyres in the dry, the other competitors were now likely to be fighting amongst themselves for the quickest wet lap.
After the rain subsided, slightly, the shootout resumed, and it was as exciting and engaging as expected, now with added spray and less grip on offer. The open wheel competition ended with the entries fairly spaced out, as David McDonald went quickest in the wet with the World Series Formula Renault 3.5, on a 1m 35.247s, while the Penske PC3 was wrestled around a very greasy circuit by Matt Wrigley, bringing with it a fantastic soundtrack, in 1m 47.152s.
The Competition class saw the closest battle as two full-fat GT3 cars were joined by the Glenturret-sponsored Porsche GT3 Cup car, fresh from the weekend’s race meeting. David McDonald was out again, this time in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and he delivered the quickest time of a 1m 40.050s. He wasn’t able to sit back and relax, however, as both the other competitors ran him close to the wire. Benny Simonsen came the closest in the Blackthorn-run Aston Martin Vantage GT3, while Ross Wylie in the Porsche was only marginally pushed into third place. At the line, the three cars were split by less than 0.7 seconds, highlighting just how competitive the entries were.
The final grouping of cars was for road-legal cars, wearing standard road tyres. As expected, however, the two entries were both very much track-focused, but very different approaches.
Up first was the extreme GT4 RS variant of the highly capable Porsche Cayman, driven by experienced racer, Jonny Cocker. The lap time in the wet set the benchmark just over the two-minute mark, before Jamie Clarke took to the track with the modified Ford Escort ‘Coswecan’. Wearing the iconic Repsol livery of the Carlos Sainz Senior-era Cosworth rally car, the fast Ford narrowly broke the two-minute mark to take the class honours, posting a 1m 59.890.
The final result was very much shuffled in terms of times due to the weather, but the competition was not dampened in any way. The competitive element was a great addition to the day and will be a definite on the schedule for 2024. But who will take the title next time?