Nelson King extended his winning run to four races with victory in a truncated opening race for the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy at Thruxton.

The Graves Motorsport driver had qualified on pole position for the first time in qualifying ahead of former champion Matt Hammond, with the pair going side-by-side on the run up to Campbell when the lights went out for the first time.

Emerging from the complex however it was Louie Capozzoli – who had qualified third – who came out in front having managed to nip ahead of the pair to grab the lead.

King tried to come back at Capozzoli on the run up Woodham Hill for the first time but instead lost out to Joe Wiggin as he grabbed second, with Hammond having slipped back to fourth.

Capozzoli’s time at the front wouldn’t last for long however, with King managing to get ahead of the pair in front at the start of lap two to grab P1.

Before the race could develop however, the safety car was deployed for an incident at Village involving John McGladrigan and Sophie Wright.

Trying to make a move for position, McGladrigan suffered a spin in his PerformanceTek Racing car at one of the fastest parts of the circuit and was then clipped by Wright – who ended up sliding off into the tyre wall.

“I was trying to find a way ahead of Brendan [Fitzgerald] and the car just washed out,” McGladrigan said. “There were a few cars behind me that had to decide which way to go and Sophie was just unlucky – she picked the wrong side as my car spun back across the track.”

The safety car would head out to allow the two stricken cars to be recovered, and would be forced to stay out longer than planned when a front-left wheel failure saw Frankie Taylor’s car end up stricken on three wheels on the exit of the final chicane.

Quick work from the marshals saw the LDR car removed to a safe place to allow the race to resume for what would be a two-lap sprint to the finish, with King holding on to the lead on the restart from Capozzoli, Wiggin and Alex Solley – the latter having managed to get ahead of Hammond before the caution period.

Solley however would drop out of the victory fight at the start of lap ten, with Hammond and Nicky Taylor both getting ahead and the pair then cleared Wiggin on the run up Woodham Hill.

Heading into what would be the final lap, King had pulled a small gap over Capozzoli and Hammond but the two chasing drivers were able to make use of the tow to close in on the run to the Club Chicane.

With King defending his lead, Hammond tried to launch his car around the outside of Capozzoli but couldn’t get through – leaving King to cross the line first to grab his fourth win of the campaign.

“I was a bit worried when the safety car was coming in as I’d have been happy to see it stay out to the finish!” King said. “It was actually a really good race in the laps we did as I got overtaken and then managed to get the move done to reclaim the lead at the right time.

“I think luck was on my side because Louie was having to defend from Matt on that final lap – he was on a real charge. It’s great to get the win.”

Capozzoli would end up just a tenth of a second behind in second place, with Hammond taking the flag in third to pick up his second podium finish of the campaign.

The lead trio would break away from Taylor in fourth as he kept Wiggin and Lee Pearce at bay, with the top eight being completed by Paul Manning and Nathan Edwards.

Work is now ongoing on the damaged cars of McGladrigan and Wright ahead of race two, which is scheduled for 17:45.