MINI CHALLENGE Cooper S and Cooper, Snetterton, Rounds 16-18
Round: 16 Laps: 9 Weather: Cloudy, dry
Scott Jeffs took a step closer to this year’s Cooper S Class title with victory in the opening race of the Snetterton finale, having recovered from a grid penalty.
Qualifying was of little significance for Jeffs as he was destined to start at the back of the grid anyway due to an overhanging penalty for a collision during the last round at Cadwell Park.
Regardless, Jeffs banged in the quickest time of the session, before being demoted back. That left Carlito Miracco to start on pole, and the race could so easily have been his, had it not been for a turbo failure mid-race.
Miracco shot away at the start to build a comfortable lead, but his engine started losing power after a handful of laps, before his turbo failed entirely with a few tours to go.
With Miracco struggling, Jeffs set about working his way up the order, to eventually run second behind Miracco before diving for the lead into Riches. “I could see that Carlito was struggling so I caught him much faster than expected,” said Jeffs. “I kind of had to make my move for the lead as his turbo failed pretty much as soon as I caught him, so I had to dive out of the way due to the speed difference.”
From then on Jeffs wasn’t troubled, winning by over four-seconds. “It was pretty straightforward once I got ahead,” he said. “Now it’s about not doing anything stupid and trying to chill out a bit.”
Tim Porter grabbed second ahead of Rob Austin, with Open Class winner Jonathan Davis a clear fourth. Scot Adam struggled home in fifth with a down-on-power engine, a place ahead of Keith Issatt, Richard Mills and Aaron Reeve.
Although the Cooper Class title has already been decided, Max Bladon kept up his winning run by controlling the first race.
Bladon set pole, but it wasn’t all plain sailing as a determined Martin Poole kept the pressure on him. Poole chased hard, and the top two were granted a gap when Sam Weller and Josh Gollin clashed through Riches at the start, scattering the pack. That would leave Weller fighting his way back to an eventual fifth, having started a fine second after an impressive qualifying.
Poole benefited, rising from third on the grid to be Bladon’s biggest challenger, but push as he may, he couldn’t do anything about Bladon.
“I’m happy to be on the top step again, even if the title is already sorted,” said Bladon. “I knew Martin had some pace around here so it was about getting that gap and then controlling it. It was made tricky by the slower cars in the Open Class mixing it with us.”
While the top two were clear, the fight for third was a cracker. Michael Bamber lost his chance to be involved when he was spun out at Wilson on the first lap, but a stunning opening tour from William Neal brought him into play.
Neal set the pace for the rest of the pack, but had Nathaniel Gollin right with him. The pair ran together and repeatedly swapped the place, allowing Brad Hutchison to join in for the final laps.
Neal got ahead after some fine dicing, and Hutchison then demoted Gollin after the two ran side-by-side for almost half a lap from Riches through to Williams. Gollin didn’t give up the chase, but was rocked by an off on the final corner, which left him with frontal damage. Weller took advantage to nip past the recovering Gollin for fifth. But they couldn’t get near Neal.
“That’s one of the best races I’ve ever had,” said Neal. “I had my first podium last time out at Cadwell Park, and a third here. It was a brilliant battle with the guys, nice and clean and close. Last year my brother Henry got his first win here, in this car, so there’s a bit of pressure to do well.”
Owen Walton was eighth in the car Simon usually handles while his own is rebuilt. Bamber was eighth, ahead of Josh Gollin’s damaged machine.
Round: 17 Laps: 6 Weather: Foggy
Dense fog around Snetterton on Sunday morning truncated the series finale into a single race instead of a double-header. Scott Jeffs took the win in the tricky conditions to seal the Cooper S title.
Racing finally did get underway at almost 1400hrs, with the Cooper field acting as the guinea pig in the tough conditions. Starting behind the safety car for two laps, Jeffs led the pack as they acclimatised to the limited visibility. Once the race did get underway in earnest, it was mostly processional, and with good reason.
“Some of the circuit was OK, some of it was pretty terrible to try and see anything,” said Jeffs. “The main straight is fine, but when you get to the second sector on the infield it was pretty dense fog.”
One driver needing to make his mark was Scot Adam, who got a flying start to slip into second place, but couldn’t do anything about Jeffs.
“In truth it was just about controlling it and not doing anything stupid,” said the new champion. “I was way off my pace from Saturday as the track was more slippery and the vision wasn’t great. But it was a pretty easy race aside from that.”
The nine minutes of running left little time for too much action, as Tim Porter secured third ahead of Open Class winner Jonathan Davis, Keith Issatt and Richard Mills.
The Cooper Class battle at the front didn’t really materialise when Max Bladon got a gap and immediately pulled clear to take his 14th victory of the season.
“I don’t know what it was like for the guys at the front but following other cars was a nightmare,” said Bladon. “I don’t think we should have run really. I could see a few cars battling behind me at the start, but that was about the only time I did! Still it’s nice to extend my winning record and go out on a high.”
There was at least a battle behind, as William Neal, Martin Poole and Brad Hutchison enjoyed a tight scrap. The trio ran together into Wilson hairpin at one time, when Hutchison managed to sneak ahead, before Neal got him back on the final lap. That delayed Hutchison, allowing Poole to sneak back into third too.
“It was actually a really good fight but the conditions were less than ideal,” said Neal. “It’s great to equal my best result of the year, but I’d have loved a win. Mind you there’s next season for that.”
Nathaniel Gollin took fifth ahead of Sam Weller, Owen Walton and Josh Gollin, whose car still wasn’t on-song following his Friday engine failure and Saturday tangle.