Dominic Wheatley says he is pleased with the progress made during his debut season in the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE having now broken into the top ten for the first time.

Wheatley made the step up from the Cooper class into JCWs this season as the defending MINI CHALLENGE Trophy champion having inked a deal to join Graves Motorsport’s expanded multi-car line-up.

Keen to keep expectations in check, Wheatley showed flashes of pace through the early part of the season, but was unable to make it into the top ten during the opening half of the year – despite going close at Brands Hatch.

Having seen mechanical issues hamper his chances of a breakthrough result at Knockhill after driveshaft failure, things came good at Snetterton last time out, with a ninth place finish in race two being followed by eighth in race three.

Having now broken into the top ten, Wheatley will seek to continue his forward momentum in the final two meetings of the JCW season at Silverstone and Brands Hatch GP.

“Through the first half of the year, every lap was a chance for me to learn but when we went up to Knockhill, I really felt we had the pace to push for the top ten,” he said. “It was probably the most frustrating weekend of the season because we certainly had the speed to be knocking on the door but then had the driveshaft issue in race two and then contact in race three that meant I had to retire.

“That is part of racing and there are always highs and lows, but I felt more confident heading to Snetterton, which is a circuit where I’d always gone well previously in the Coopers.

“We didn’t really do anything different compared to previous rounds, but it all came together for us. We worked hard in testing on things like the set-up and engineering of the car, and it was reflected in both the pace and the results.”

Having enjoyed plenty of success in the Coopers – aside from his title win – Wheatley is one of a number of Trophy graduates on the grid this season and he admitted that the step up into the JCW had been a big one to take.

“There has been a lot of things to ‘unlearn’ from the Cooper, which is relatively low in horsepower and over-gripped compared to the JCW, which is a similar weight but has a lot more power and a sequential gearbox – amongst other things,” he said.

“Everything is different and how you get round the lap quickly is a lot different. You can’t try and drive the JCW car in the same way you would drive the Cooper because it will bite you and you’ll be off in the gravel, so that is something that you have to get used to as a driver.

“With that in mind, I fully expected to be near the back to start and would have to chip away at it to work my way forwards. It was all about learning the car, improving my race craft and being consistent, and having now broken into that top ten, I want to build on it over the final two rounds.”

“Getting into the top ten for the first time was great, and we have to now try and build on it over the final two rounds.”