Ross Wylie might well be the new hero of Scottish motorsport after delivering a sensational performance to claim 2nd place in the opening round of the Celtic Speed Mini Cooper Cup.After calling time on his successful karting career, the 20-year old from Thornhill has chosen the highly competitive single-make series as the perfect platform from which to launch his bid to become a professional racing driver.
Following successful pre-season testing Ross was confident that he could make an impression at Knockhill (7/8 April) - despite being a rookie. However, even he was surprised by the impact he made: “I was really taken aback by the reaction from the crowd and my fellow competitors after the chequered flag,” he said. “Everyone was cheering and as I came back into the pit lane there were people everywhere applauding me, giving me the thumbs up and generally a lot of praise. It was very special.”
Before that moment, he had already indicated his potential by delivering a string of competent performances. In timed qualifying he recorded the 9th-fastest lap amongst the 30-strong field. Although buoyed by his pace, Ross was anxious about his first ever racing start in a car: “In karts we have rolling starts, so I was chatting with Stefan Di Resta (brother of Force India Formula One star, Paul) who was alongside me on the grid. He had the same worries about not stalling the car as me, so we chatted about what we were going to do.”As it was, a crash involving Di Resta put paid to his further participation in the racing, but a cautious getaway from the start line saw Ross survive the melee and he went on to cross the line in a respectable 7th place.
For the second of his three encounters, Ross’s grid slot was determined by his finishing position in the previous race, giving him the inside line on the run down to the first corner. Moments before the lights flicked to green, heavy rain fell and it was at this point that he discovered that his car’s heaters didn’t work - “The team had had to sacrifice something in order to fit the engine control unit (ECU) and that left me driving with a heavily misted-up windscreen and side windows. I could barely see a thing and so just followed the tail-lights of the cars ahead.” Remarkably, he finished 8th.
With some frantic adjustments successfully made by his Mini Max team to cure the problem for the third and final race of the day, Ross was confident that he could see clearly to negotiate his way round the circuit’s demanding twists and turns. However starting on the outside of row four of the grid was another new experience he had to deal with -“I didn’t get the best of starts but managed to hold my place and once the race had settled down, started picking the cars ahead off, one by one. I felt comfortable enough to push, despite the wet conditions and before long could see the front four. They’d broken away from the rest of the field, but I caught them at the rate of one second per lap. As the race neared the end, they started defending but wherever and whenever I saw a gap I just went for it and stuffed my car down the inside.”
His bravery and skill rewarded him with a sensational 2nd place, but Ross later admitted he was a little disappointed: “It would be nice to think I could have won it if the race had been a little longer, but I’m thrilled to have finished 2nd. Mum was in floods of tears, she was ecstatic and my dad was the same!”
He added: “My team boss, Craig Noble was also thrilled. He told me ‘I knew you’d fight for podiums in your first year but not in your first race meeting!’ My next race is in May (5th at Knockhill) and I’m absolutely desperate to get back out there. We’ve a few things to iron out before then, so I’ll be testing and smoothing a few details out.”