TOM OVENDEN WINS DRAMATIC SNETTERTON OPENER
Tom Ovenden extended his recent run of good form in the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy with victory in the opening race of the weekend at Snetterton.
Although the race was shortened in length to twelve minutes as a result of red flags in two of the earlier sessions, there was no shortage of action across the six laps of action as Ovenden grabbed a second victory of the campaign.
Matt Hammond had started the race from pole position and maintained the lead when the lights went out ahead of fellow front-row starter Nicky Taylor and his EXCELR8 team-mate Ovenden – with Joe Wiggin managing to grab fourth from points leader Nelson King on the run through turn one.
Taylor made an early move around the outside of the Montreal Hairpin to try and get ahead of Hammond and then launched his car down the inside into Agostini to hit the front, with Hammond trying to come back at him into Oggies.
That instead opened the door for Ovenden to sneak through and allowed Wiggin to then get a run onto the Bentley Straight – sweeping ahead of the pair to move into second spot into Nelson and Brundle.
Behind, King was able to get inside Hammond to demote the pole to fifth, with Charlie Mann then following him through by the end of the lap.
As Taylor and Wiggin looked to build a slender gap, King was heaping pressure on Ovenden for third spot and moved ahead going onto the back straight and on lap three, the points leader had moved up the second – diving down the inside of Wiggin into Montreal and being followed through by Ovenden.
The battle for second – which also included Mann and Hammond – had allowed Taylor to build a slender advantage but King and Ovenden would reel him in over the following lap, with the former briefly having a look into Agostini before settling back into his position.
Going into lap five however, Ovenden saw the chance to go round the outside of King at Montreal which then gave him the inside line for Palmer – where he slipped through into second spot.
The leading trio would be together by the end of the Bentley Straight and when Ovenden got the switchback going through the Bombhole, he was able to dive to the inside of Taylor through Coram to grab the lead with King trying to follow him through.
Taylor fought back at the final corner however, with Ovenden hanging on around the outside to take the lead over the start-finish line and both King and Wiggin following him through as Taylor was forced to take the outside line.
Wiggin then tagged King into Montreal for the final time after getting a push from Mann and ran wide, with Taylor forced to take avoiding action to leave him under attack from both Mann and Hammond. The Graves man was able to hold on to third however – helped by Mann and Hammond making side-by-side contact into Hamilton.
The squabble provided Ovenden with the chance to break away at the front and he duly took victory by two-tenths of a second ahead of King as he extended his run of podium finishes to five.
“I’m over the moon as the race was so tough,” Ovenden said. “I didn’t feel we had the pace but I had to be patient and managed to come out on top.
“Our season took time to get going but the whole team is working really well at the moment and I hope we can maintain this through the final rounds.”
King was left frustrated by contact during the race despite scoring a ninth podium of the season, with the race marking his first visit to the rostrum this season with climbing onto the top step, with Taylor able to fend off Mann and Hammond to grab third spot.
Post race, Mann would be hit with a ten second penalty for the contact with Wiggin on the final lap which demoted him down outside the top ten, with Wiggin moving up into fifth spot and leading rookie Jack Byrne – who came out on top of a race-long dice with Frankie Taylor and Alex Solley – rounding out the top six.
Tyler Lidsey and Morgan Wroot then completed the top ten; the latter enjoying his strongest run since switching to the PerformanceTek team.
All 30 drivers who started the race were able to make it to the finish, with one of the star drives coming from Nathan Edwards after he missed qualifying due to his electrical gremlins.
Edwards was able to storm his way through the field to finish in 15th spot.
“That was 100 per cent better than I expected,” he said. “It was pretty loose in the early laps, but I think I’m on course for making up the most places this season based on that!
“The electrical gremlins seem to be cured although we did have some issues with the brakes in that one but once we sort those, we should be able to make more progress as the car feels mint.”