Scottish racer Ronan Pearson was left to wonder what might have been at Croft after on-track contact hit his hopes of securing a second podium finish of the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE season.
After a challenging weekend on home soil at Knockhill, the Cobra Sport backed driver enjoyed a solid start to the meeting thanks to an impressive run in Friday testing, where he secured the third quickest time at the wheel of his William Waugh-backed machine.
That meant confidence was high going into qualifying and although he would improve on his time from the previous day, Ronan found himself lining up in twelfth place on the grid for race one - with the top dozen drivers in the session covered by less than half a second.
Well aware of the fact that he had the speed to move forwards in the opening race of the weekend, the Kelty-based teenager made a strong start to climb up into the top ten on lap one and then set about trying to find a way ahead of Sam Weller in a bid to take eighth place.
The Scot was putting pressure on his rival before an issue developed with the car that forced him to adapt his lines to avoid Croft’s notorious kerbs, which would affect his lap times and leave him to settle for ninth place.
Post-race however, Weller was handed a time penalty for cutting the chicane on the opening lap, which promoted Ronan up into eighth place and meant he secured the reverse grid pole for race two.
After the team worked to solve the issue with the car for the second race live on ITV4, Ronan lined up on pole position and got away well when the lights went out to lead the field down to turn one.
Braking slightly too late for the corner, Ronan took a brief trip across the gravel and slipped back to second spot before the race was halted after an accident further down the pack. Taking the restart behind the safety car in second place, Ronan held station in his bid for a second podium finish of the season until contact at Tower knocked him wide.
Not only did that cost him second place, it also allowed a train of cars to get ahead as Ronan tried to get back onto the racing line through the high-speed Jim Clark Esses, dropping him back down to eighth place.
Despite his best efforts to make up places, that was where he would remain through the closing minutes of the race; surviving a late scare when a track marker thrown up by a car ahead smashed the windscreen on the car.
Two penalties for drivers ahead - one of which was for the contact at Tower - resulted in Ronan being promoted back up into sixth place in the final results, although there was still a sense of frustration at missing out on a top three finish.
Ronan holds ninth in the overall standings with two rounds of the campaign left to run, and is fourth in the Graduate Cup for second year drivers.
"If you’d offered me a top six coming here after the weekend we had at Knockhill, then I’d have taken it with both hands but instead, I’m going away massively disappointed at the fact that sixth is my best result," he said.
"The team did a fantastic job with the car to solve the problems we had faced last time out and we were right on the pace in Friday practice, so I knew we would right in the mix for the race weekend itself. Qualifying was a real case of mixed emotions because we were only four-tenths of a second away from pole but were down in P12, and I knew we had the pace to run higher.
"Race one was going well until I felt something break on the car going into turn one and from there, I just focused on bringing it to the finish to get the points. I know that the opening corner of race two was down to me, but from that point on I was comfortable in second until I was helped wide at Tower and that meant I was offline for the Esses and powerless to keep hold of my position.
"The fact that a penalty was handed out afterwards was some consolation as it moved me back up into the top six, but it doesn’t give me back the podium finish that I know we could have scored, and which I feel we deserved for all the effort that the team has been putting in.
"The big positive from the weekend is that we had the pace in the car, and it was doing what I wanted it to do on track. It leaves me confident that when we get to Donington Park, we’ll be right in the mix towards the sharp end."