MINI CHALLENGE Cooper Cadwell Park Rounds 14-15
Round 14 Laps 10 Weather, raining – wet
Max Bladon returned to winning ways at Cadwell Park, but had to work for it, after qualifying fourth in a twice red flagged qualifying session. But it was enough to crown him the MINI CHALLENGE Cooper class Winner for 2016.
There was a shower just before the race start, with poleman Josh Gollin heading the slick-shod field, despite ending his qualifying session in the tyre wall at the Gooseneck.
Gollin, Bladon and Martin Poole made an early break, before it became an eight-car train as the conditions worsened.
“There was just no grip when I arrived at the Hairpin, I lost the front end and spun,” said Gollin after slipping to ninth on the second lap.
Bladon quickly consolidated his newfound lead over Michael Bamber, while Martin Poole found his third place seriously under threat from a determined Brad Hutchison.
On lap five Bamber crested the Mountain on the grass, allowing Poole, Hutchison and Sam Weller to surge by.
Hutchison kept the momentum going and demoted Poole onto the Mountain a lap later, leaving his rival to defend third from Weller. “He left a gap on the inside so I thought ‘Ok’ and went for it, then he was slow over the crest and I was able to gap him,” he explained.
But it was Bladon’s victory and a return to his season-long domination. “It felt like justice in a way after qualifying when I only got two flying laps, but I had to be very cautious out there, no grip and not really knowing where the braking areas were. But it was fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium after the blip at Oulton,” he said.
Hutchison came within a whisker of challenging on the final lap however. “I didn’t want to risk losing second though,” he said.
“If he had gone for it I would probably have let him go in those conditions,” Bladon added.
Poole survived enormous pressure from Weller to retain the final podium place.
“I drove the biggest car out there I think, but had tip-toed around and even anticipated being hit at the last corner, but didn’t and I survived,” said Poole.
William Neal followed Weller at a distance for fifth, while the recovering Gollin claimed sixth on the last lap after James Goodall went off.
Bamber had another excursion leaving him seventh, while Adrian Norman came out on top of a race-long duel with Nick Griggs, who was making his MINI CHALLENGE debut after a 27-year layoff. Marco Haig completed the finishers.
Round 15 Laps 6 Weather, Raining – wet
It was still raining when the grid lined up for race two, but Gollin was determined to make amends for his mistake that cost him the lead in the first outing.
He got a good, clean start too, but Neal piled the pressure on to challenge Gollin through Coppice before settling into second, as Weller joined a second lap break.
Although Bladon had an early fourth after demoting Poole on the second lap, he was at the head of a six-car train for a while. He was finally able to consolidate the place when Hutchison started to press Poole.
“I got him around the outside at Chris Curve, which was probably my best move ever. But he came back at me and then suddenly he had gone,” said Hutchison.
Gollin had retained his lead from the start but Neal and Weller both started to close again. “My tyres started to go off, we had set-up for full wet and it wasn’t as bad as we expected,” Gollin reckoned. But the race had been red-flagged after Poole piled into the tyre wall on the Mountain approach
Neal had closed the gap to 0.701-seconds but it was Gollin’s victory. “That feels better now,” he commented after taking the spoils, his first victory of the season.
Neal was in a celebratory mood too after bagging his first-ever tin-top podium. “My first MINI CHALLENGE podium and it feels great,” he said.
For Weller it was little déjà vu: “just like the first race I spent it chasing again, but it got very close,” he explained.
With Hutchison having secured fifth, Bamber survived a stern challenge from Haig in the duel for sixth, both having been promoted by Poole’s race stopping off.
Norman and Griggs resumed their race one duel too over eight place, with the same verdict in Norman’s favour. “At least I had someone to race with, as I didn’t really expect,” said Griggs.