NELSON KING STRENGTHENS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH RACE TWO WIN
Nelson King strengthened his advantage at the front of the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy standings with victory in the second race of the weekend at Snetterton.
King had started the race from the front row of the grid after his second place finish in race one and slotted in behind Tom Ovenden at the start of the race, with team-mate Nicky Taylor holding on to third.
The main battle would be for fourth spot, with Joe Wiggin getting ahead of Matt Hammond doing into the Montreal Hairpin – before the former champion was shuffled out of line going through Agostini to slip right back down to eighth spot.
Ovenden’s lead would only last as far as Nelson’s on the opening lap, when King saw the chance to make his bid for top spot and slid up the inside with Taylor then briefly grabbing second going into Montreal on lap two – only for Ovenden to fight back immediately to reclaim the place on the run down to Agostini.
However, crossing the line to start lap three, Ovenden’s car would suddenly slow to a crawl as he dropped out of contention, promoting Taylor into second spot and making the battle behind for the final step on the podium.
At the front however, King was unchallenged as he made it nine wins for the season ahead of his team-mate – who now sits second in the standings as part of a Graves Motorsport 1-2.
“It might have looked like it was a comfortable win but it certainly wasn’t,” King – who will now start the reverse grid final race from P6 – said. “When the lap is so long, you can easily make a mistake that costs you a lot of time so you have to maintain your focus all the time.
“I knew early on that we had the pace on the EXCELR8 guys and the move on Tom was a bit daring. I wanted to get ahead as soon as possible because I didn’t want to get caught up in the squabbles behind, but I’m looking forward to a good battle in race three.”
With the top two having gapped the group behind, it was the fight for third spot that would grab the attention as the race wore on, with Wiggin, Jack Byrne, Frankie Taylor, Hammond and Charlie Mann all involved in the fight.
Taylor briefly grabbed the position from Wiggin on lap three only for the PerformanceTek Racing driver to fight back immediately, with Taylor then taking the spot back when he went round the outside into the Montreal hairpin on the following lap.
It wasn’t to last however, as Wiggin launched a bid to reclaim the position going into Brundle, with Byrne following him through into fourth. Behind, Hammond had taken sixth ahead of Mann and Alex Solley, with the trio involved in a three-way fight of their own for position.
Lap five saw the positions change again as Taylor dived down the inside of Byrne into Montreal to go fourth and then took third from Wiggin at Brundle, but Wiggins then dived down the inside into turn one at the start of the next lap.
The battling pair had Byrne right on their tail however, and he saw his chance to make up two spots in one go going into Montreal as he swept from fifth to third in one go.
Taylor, WIggin and Hammond then ran three wide down to turn three, with Taylor emerging in front of the three ahead of Wiggin and Hammond,
Byrne would hold on through the final lap to take third spot for his second overall podium of the season, with Taylor, Wiggin and Hammond following directly behind. However, Taylor would be hit with a five second penalty for exceeding track limits that undid his good work, and dropped him down the finishing order.
“That was by far the hardest race I’ve had so far,” Byrne said. “We’d got up to sixth in race one before a penalty dropped me back a few spots, so I was hoping to get back into the top six again to benefit from the reverse grid and try and go for the podium in race three.
”We managed to do it in that race instead which is great, and it was a really big battle throughout. Every time we turned into a corner there was someone else leading the pack or someone else trying to get alongside you so it was really tough going.
“It was only the final lap where I really got a gap and before that, it was a case of trying to attack or defend – sometimes both!”
Taylor’s penalty meant it was Wiggin who would be classified in fourth ahead of Hammond and Mann, with Solley the final driver in the train fighting for the podium spot in seventh.
Tyler Lidsey took eighth, with Taylor then slotting into ninth after his penalty ahead of Nathan Edwards – who continued to recover from his issue in qualifying as he made up a further five spots.
Ovenden would return to action after a trip to the pits but had dropped off the lead lap and would end up classified in 29th spot, with Louie Capozzoli the only retirement having brought his car into the pits after two laps with a brake issue.