SNETTERTON COOPER AM & PRO CLASS REPORT

Qualifying  – Saturday Am Weather: Bright/Dry, Duration 15 minutes

A very early start to decide the outcome of the Pro and Am classes of the MINI CHALLENGE. Expectations were high and the pressure was on to bring home enough points to claim the class wins in both classes. Nail biting is a bit of an understatement.

15 minutes for qualifying is not long at all. Warm the tyres up, get clear of traffic and have a few quick laps and it is all over. A visit to the pits to change tyre pressures is not a luxury, but maybe you have to forgo it with the clock ticking. 20 cars circulating can give problems in getting a clean quick lap, but at least you can pick up a tow on the windy straights. 7 laps are the target and most of the Pro drivers managed that amount. The fastest laps coming on their penultimate lap. Sam Weller was on fire and took just 5 laps to show how quick he can be. Matt Hammond was in P2 after having a time disallowed due to exceeding track limits, thankfully not his quickest lap. Martin Poole was very close behind in P3. These 2 had a great time qualifying, it looked more like a race! Richard Newman did well with P4 followed by Jessica Hawkins in P5. Darren Chatt was still having engine issues having an engine changed overnight for a fresh one.

In the Am class, Andy Godfrey showed Stuart McLaren that this weekend was not going to be easy with a P1 on his 6th lap, Stuart, try as he might, could not better his best time set on the 4th lap. Pressure may be getting to him. Chris Middleton was not far behind in P3. To add to the traffic issue, there were 3 guest drivers also in the mix. With Ethan Pitt, Rob Butler and Bryony King all putting in quick laps splitting the Pro class from the Am class. A great grid for the first race later on in the afternoon.

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

Am Class:
P1: Andy Godfrey
P2: Stuart McLaren
P3: Chris Middleton

Race 1 – Saturday PM, Weather Bright/Dry, Duration 15 Minutes

A superb start from Sam Weller pulling away by over a second on his first lap! Matt Hammond started well as Martin Poole and Jessica Hawkins slotted in behind. They kept that order for most of the race. With the lead of Sam being attacked and reduced until the penultimate lap when a late lunge by Martin on Matt and Richard Newman going into Coram, by the time they all arrived at Murray’s, they were all a bit all over the place, this allowed Jessica to capitalise and grab a much needed 2nd place, thankfully Matt and Martin held it together until the chequered flag, as Sam Weller had now extended his commanding lead still further.

Meanwhile, Owen Walton pulled into the bits with his front wheels out of line, he decided to retire as he still had a race to drop. Rob Butler in the guest class also retired, while Daren Chatt’s day just seemed to get worse as his chance of a win in the Directors cup seemed to fade into the distance.
In the Am Class, Stuart McLaren got his win over Chris Middleton and Gary Papworth. All had a straightforward race finishing very much how they started, apart from Stuart and Chris. Ethan Pitt in the guest class drove well and managed to keep Mark Cornell and Darren between himself and Bryony King.
Very little damage to any cars, no safety cars and a great watch for all the spectators in the Midday Sun.

Pro Class:
P1: Sam Weller
P2: Jessica Hawkins
P3: Martin Poole

Am Class:
P1: Stuart McLaren
P2: Chris Middleton
P3: Gary Papworth

Race 2 – Sunday AM, Weather Bright/Dry, Duration 15 Minutes

With only the Am Class decided in favour of Stuart McLaren it was all still to play for in the Pro Class. A DNF for Matt Hammond and a win as well as the fastest lap for Jessica Hawkins could still be a deciding factor. Matt’s to throw away and Jessica’s to seize. Yet again Sam Weller got a superb start while Martin Poole could not match his initial speed off the line. He slotted into 2nd. Matt and Jessica were having the drives of their lives, To be fair they were both over driving and had a few heart-stopping moments with cars on a knife edge. Matt momentarily dropped to 6th while Jessica charged into 3rd place, Matt regained his composure and pulled back to 4th just behind Jessica and that is how they crossed the line at the race end. Nail biting again and still, the class victory has to be decided. Matt Hammond getting then fastest points just to keep you thinking. Darren Chatt had more troubles retiring after 5 laps.

In Am class Stuart did it again, adding to his dominant form. I am sure he has been on the podium for every race this year! Next year he will be in the Pro Class so his Teammate Sam Weller will have to be contended with! Chris Middleton was in P2, I think he owns that position followed by Andy Godfrey who was having the time of his life with another P3.

Pro Class
P1: Sam Weller
P2: Martin Poole
P3: Jessica Hawkins

Am Class
P1: Stuart McLaren
P2: Chris Middleton
P3: Andy Godfrey

Race 3 – Sunday PM, Weather Bright/Dry, Duration 15 Minutes

Still undecided? It is close, very close. In 15 minutes time it will be over and we will know who is the Cooper Pro Class winner. Just to add to the tension, as it is the last race, the grid is being reversed for the first 4 places. On pole, it is Ethan Pitt a guest driver with great pace, it is only his second time out. Next in P2 is Matt Hammond, the 2nd row has Jessica Hawkins and Martin Poole, on the 3rd row is Sam Weller, determined to make it 3 wins out of 3 and Simon Walton (Directors Cup class winner). Am Class has a reversed grid too. With Dale Jamieson on P1 and Gary Papworth on P2. Stuart had already won the class as well as the Directors cup. So a relaxed race, I think not.

Lights out and away they go, Matt makes a great start and has a great tussle with Ethan Pitt, Sam Weller is again driving his socks off and takes the lead on the 3rd lap while Matt is trying to contend with Ethan and Jessica. Now Martin Poole comes into play as they all are racing neck and neck. At the chequered flag, it is Sam Wellers Victory but all the joy is with a very emotional Matt Hammond, at last, the class win is his. The first person to congratulate him is non-other than Jessica Hawkins who gives him a great big hug. Nearly had me crying too. In the Am class is was a victory yet again for Stuart McLaren, followed by Chris Middleton and Gary Papworth, Andy Godfrey having to settle for a P4. Still the end of a very exciting weekend to end what has been a very exciting series of races. Roll on 2018.

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

Am Class
P1: Stuart McLaren
P2: Chris Middleton
P3: Gary Papworth.