BRANDS HATCH COOPER AM/PRO RACE REPORT - MINI CHALLENGE

BRANDS HATCH Mini Festival Cooper Pro/Am Class

Qualifying    Saturday AM           Weather: Cloudy/Dry      Duration: 15 minutes

With a nice covering of cloud and good temperatures, the 18 Cooper Pro/ Am cars were all eager and pent up ready to “put the pedal to the metal” In the Pro class of 11 cars, favourites to go well was Sam Weller, Matt Hammond, Jessica Hawkins (Class leader), Martin Poole and the 2 Waltons.  New for this weekend was Sarah Moore, with Aaron Reeve providing the car. Sarah has been racing in Ginetta Juniors, an LMP3 Ligier JS P3, a Toyota GT86 CS-V3 with 2 wins and 4 pole positions. How would she take to a MINI COOPER?

In the Am class of 7 cars, Stuart McLaren, Chris Middleton and Andy Godfrey have all gone well in the championship to date. New driver for this weekend is Chris Day who works with Excelr8 using the car that Daniel Bishop has had great success with.

Fastest of the pro drivers was Sam Weller, Matt Hammond was right on his tail, 0.014 behind but on the front row of the grid. Next up was Simon “Minion” Walton and Jessica Hawkins, with a disappointing P4. Sarah Moore was in P10, a bit disappointing but she was new to the car.  In the Am class, Chris Day certainly put his marker down, followed by Stuart and Chris.

Qualifying Results:

Cooper Pro:
P1: Sam Weller
P2: Matt Hammond
P3: Simon Walton

Cooper Am:
P1: Chris Day
P2: Stuart McLaren
P3: Chris Middleton

Race 1           Saturday PM           Weather: Cloudy/Dry      Duration: 15 minutes

Sam Weller made a great getaway and just left the rest of the field in the dust. His lead just grew and grew. Matt Hammond was quick but he had Owen Walton and Jessica Hawkins to worry about. Halfway through the race, Sam seemed to slow but more importantly for Matt, his car just came alive, quickest lap after quickest lap 57.607 in a MINI Cooper! Matt passed Sam with ease but Sam stayed with him. Owen Walton and Jessica Hawkins had a great race but Jessica could not overtake. She dropped a few places then came back eventually finishing in P4. In the Am Class, Stuart McLaren got P1 as predicted as well as fasted lap. A big surprise was for Chris Day with a P2 on his first time out, Chris Middleton had to settle for P3 So a win for Matt Hammond and Stuart McLaren.

Race 1 Results:

Pro:
P1: Matt Hammond
P2: Sam Weller
P3: Owen Walton

Am:
P1: Stuart McLaren
P2: Chris Day
P3: Chris Middleton

Race 2 Sunday AM Weather: Bright/Dry Duration: 15 minutes

16 cars formed up on the grid, start position in the order they finished the last race on Saturday. Matt Hammond at home in pole position, next to Sam Weller. Followed by Owen Walton and Jessica Hawkins.

Lights go out and away they all stormed. Sam Weller getting a great start and got the jump on Matt Hammond. Owen Walton stayed in 3rd and Jessica tucked in behind him. All seemed to be playing a waiting game. I guess if you overtake late there is no time to be overtaken again! Lap 10 and it all happened. Matt overtook Sam and Jessica pushed up into 3rd, leaving Simon Walton to grab 5th then 4th the back to 5th. Meanwhile, Sarah Moore was climbing through the field going from 7th to 4th at one point overtaking Jessica Hawkins. Lots of chopping and changing of places as the whole midfield went round Brands like a snake. Great to watch with cars drafting one another. In the Am class, Chris Day was to get an awful start, I think he went off track at Graham Hill Bend, the whole field passed him and he never recovered. Stuart McLaren led the class followed by Chris Middleton and Neal Clarke. Lap 15 and Chris passed Stuart to get the P1 in Am class, with the last lap board out no time to get him back. Back to the Pro Class Martin Poole was moving through the field as Jesica Hawkins was struggling with her car and having to Lap a back marker.
So win number 2 for Matt Hammond in a great show of driving a Cooper to the limit. An AM class win for Chris Middleton.

Race 2 Results:

Pro
P1: Matt Hammond
P2: Sam Weller
P3: Martin Poole

Am
P1: Chris Middleton
P2: Stuart McLaren
P3: Neal Clarke.

Race 3 Sunday PM Weather: Bright/Dry Duration: 15 minutes

Last race and reverse grid time. Simon Walton on Pole alongside Jessica Hawkins, row 2 had Martin Poole and Sam Weller side by side. Matt Hammond was back on the 3rd row alongside Owen Walton. In the Am Class, Adrian Norman was on pole alongside Andy Godfrey, row 2 had Neil Clarke and Stuart McLaren. Chris Day and Dale Jameson were on the back row. 4.30 on a bright summers evening and it all happens. Great racing with a Matt Hammond going from 4th to 5th to 3rd and then to 1st ending up with a 7.1-second margin over 2nd place Martin Poole who did lead the race at 1 point but was unable to keep it with Matt so quick. Jessica was hanging to P3 to get her only trip to the podium this weekend.

Andy Godfrey in Am class secured his first win he was duly followed by Stuart McLaren and Chris Day, who this time did not put a wheel wrong.

So Matt Hammond did what Max Bladon did last year and got a hattrick of wins in one meeting. What a way to end the day.

Race 3 Results:

Pro:
P1: Matt Hammond
P2: Martin Poole
P3: Jessica Hawkins

Am:
P1: Andy Godfrey
P2: Stuart McLaren
P3: Chris Day