Alex Denning converted pole into a sixth win of the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE season in race one at Brands Hatch, but fourth place for Sam Weller was good enough to give him an unassailable advantage in the championship standings.

Denning started from pole after leading the way in qualifying earlier in the day and made the best start when the lights went out to lead the field into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time.

The Graves Motorsport driver was able to open up a handy advantage immediately as the pack squabbled behind, with fellow front-row starter Matthew George coming under immediate attack from the other championship contenders behind.

Ronan Pearson managed to jump ahead of George on the run to turn one, where the Hybrid Tune man then found himself at the centre of a three-car fight as Weller went one side and Jack Mitchell went the other – with Mitchell emerging in third and Weller fourth as the field headed up to Druids.

On the run down to Graham Hill Bend, Mitchell then made a move on Pearson for second spot, edging ahead on the run down to Surtees to grab the position from the Scot.

With Denning more than two seconds clear at the end of lap one, he was able to control the race from the front to take a sixth win of the season, with Mitchell closing to within nine tenth of a second by the end and Pearson following him home to round out the podium.

“It might have looked like a comfortable win from the outside but it wasn’t where I was sitting,” Denning said, “particularly towards the finish. There was a bit of a vibration that felt exactly the same as when we lost a wheel earlier in the season and I was worried it was going to happen again.

“I think the fight for second is going to go to the wire now. Hats off to Sam for the job he has done but we’ve got the car working well and I’m on top of my game so I’ll be pushing hard to grab that runner-up spot.”

Weller would run in fourth place throughout, with Joe Tanner sitting behind as rear gunner to protect the points leader to the finish.

Weller now leads the standings by 52 points and although there are still 112 points up for grabs, the drop score of 71 he still carries is enough to keep him out of reach regardless of the results of the final two races to provisionally secure the crown.

“It’s going to sink in when I get my hands on the trophy but it feels weird to celebrate a P4 that much,” he said. “The car has been fantastic all year and we’ve been consistent which has proved to be the key factor for us.

“We’re still pretty new to this but I think the change of tyre for 2022 worked in our favour as it meant a bit of a reset for everyone. We’ve mastered how to work the new tyre and it meant we hit the ground running at Donington and could go from there. It’s an amazing feeling.”

George would run in sixth until the penultimate lap when he was forced to bring his car into the pits to retire, which looked set to hand the spot to Jason Lockwood, who battled his way through from 13th on the grid after a penalty carried over from Silverstone.

However, he would be forced to put with a puncture shortly before the race was halted when Billy Hardy went off and got beached in the gravel at the final corner – although the fact that the result was rolled back a lap meant he would end up classified in seventh spot.

Lewis Brown took eighth spot ahead of outgoing champion Dan Zelos, with the top ten being rounded out by Max Coates.