MATT HAMMOND GRABS VICTORY IN DONINGTON OPENER
Matt Hammond made the most of being on pole position as he mastered tough conditions at Donington Park to take a first win of the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season.
Having earned his place at the front of the field for the third time this year in the dry on Saturday, Hammond was in the best place possible to deal with heavy rain that would lead to Sunday’s race action being subject to a delayed start – with the field then circulating behind the safety car for a lap before the action was able to kick off.
With clear vision in front, Hammond was able to control the race from the front although points leader Nelson King would keep him honest throughout as the pair edged away from the fight for third place behind.
King would have a look at trying to get ahead of Hammond more than once during the six laps of competitive racing, but it was the former champion who was able to hold on to grab his first win of the campaign.
“Under the safety car, I was trying to see where the water was on the track but having no spray when we kicked off was ideal – I feel sorry for those behind,” he said. “We pulled a little gap over Nelson but he edged back up to my car but he wasn’t getting through today.
“That win has been overdue and it was needed to boost the morale, and to do it in those conditions shows what we can do.”
The leading pair would end up seven seconds clear of the fight for third spot, with Joe Wiggin forced to defend throughout from Tom Ovenden.
As with the pair ahead, Wiggin would stay ahead of Ovenden throughout despite the best efforts of the EXCELR8 racer as Wiggin took his second podium finish of the campaign.
“That wasn’t an easy race and although it’s not the result I wanted in those conditions, a trophy is a trophy,” Wiggin said. “Those two boys ahead were like ducks to water but I was drowning and they cleared off. But I’ll try to swim rather than sink in race two…”
Charlie Mann had run fifth in the early stages of the race but would be forced to retire early on after contact with Lee Pearce at the Melbourne Hairpin; Pearce having charged up the order from eleventh on the grid to quickly get up into the top six.
Mann’s demise promoted Nicky Taylor to fifth ahead of Pearce but on the penultimate lap, Pearce managed to nip ahead at the final corner before closing onto the rear of the battle for third on the final lap.
“I’m used to slippery conditions from the short oval tracks and I enjoyed that one,” Pearce reflected. “I thought we might be able to make up a few places and when people were cautious early on, it worked to my advantage. I’m well happy with that one.”
Pearce’s joy would be short-lived however, as he was handed a 20 second time penalty post-race for the clash with Mann that dropped him down to 15th place in the end results
It meant Taylor was promoted into fifth spot having made up ground from his eighth place on the grid after a two-spot penalty, with Jack Byrne and Alex Solley following behind.
Tyler Lidsey had been right in the heart of that battle until he ran into problems on the final lap and dropped back down to twelfth spot – allowing Nathan Edwards, Frankie Taylor and Alfie Glenie to round out the top ten.
Despite the challenging on track conditions, only two drivers would fail to make it to the finish, with Barry Holmes spinning off at McLeans to join Mann in retirement.