Tom Ovenden enjoyed the rare feat of leading at Thruxton from start-to-finish after securing victory in the opening Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy race of the weekend.

The EXCELR8 Motorsport driver had qualified on pole position in qualifying and was able to retain the lead when the lights went out as team-mate Matt Hammond came under attack from Charlie Mann on the run through Allard for the first time.

Hammond quickly reclaimed second from Mann on the run up the final chicane, with the team-mates working to try and break away from the pack behind before the safety car was deployed for the first time after Louie Capozzoli was left stranded at the chicane after contact in the pack.

Ovenden retained his place at the front on the restart from Hammond, with Mann and Nelson King behind briefly making it a four way battle for the lead before a second caution period – this time after newcomer Jack Irvine slid off into the tyres at the final chicane.

It resulted on a one-lap dash to the flag, with Ovenden able to hold off Hammond’s challenge to secure his first win of the campaign.

“I didn’t expect the race to go like that, although me and Matt had a plan to try and work together,” he said. “We couldn’t break away with the tow and the safety cars probably helped, but our pace in clean air was good and I could keep my nose out front.

“The start of this season has been a bit frustrating after the way last year ended on such a high with my win at Silverstone and it’s taken time, but I’m glad to be back on the top step.”

Hammond took second spot ahead of top rookie Jack Byrne, who secured a first overall podium finish following a strong run through from eighth on the grid.

The Irish racer was involved in a heated battle with championship leader Nelson King and local driver Charlie Mann that saw the trio swap places on multiple occasions before Byrne emerged from the final lap with third spot.

King would take the flag in fourth ahead of Mann, with Oliver Meadows enjoying one of his strongest showings of the season to edge out Nicky Taylor for sixth.

Joe Wiggin, Lee Pearce and Frankie Taylor rounded out the top ten.

Capozzoli and Irvine weren’t the only drivers to run into trouble, with Alfie Glenie dropping off the back of the field after an opening lap clash with Sam Baker and Luca Marinoni Osborne.

Paul Manning and Alex Solley also clashed at the chicane although the most dramatic incident would come on the final lap when Clark Wells went off heavily into the tyres at the chicane.

Wells was able to climb from the car unaided.