MATT HAMMOND KEEPS FAINT HOPES ALIVE WITH SECOND DONINGTON WIN
Matt Hammond kept his faint hopes of a second Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy title alive with a battling drive to victory in the final race of the weekend at Donington Park.
The race had kicked off in the most favourable weather conditions of the day, with Tom Ovenden lining up on the reverse grid pole ahead of Jack Byrne, with Hammond lining up on row two alongside race two winner Joe Wiggin.
At the start, Ovenden held onto the lead from Byrne going through turn one with Hammond slotting into third spot before he then nipped ahead of the Byrne on the run to McLeans to grab second, with championship leader Nelson King making up a spot to get ahead of Wiggin into fourth.
Further down the pack there was drama at the Old Hairpin as Paul Manning dived down the inside of Morgan Wroot and then suffered a small slide that saw him tagged by Wroot who was then tipped into a spin by the following Nicky Taylor.
It saw Wroot’s car spin back in front of the field – luckily without being collected by the pack behind – whilst Taylor was forced in to retire with damaged steering.
As Ovenden led the race from the front at the end of the opening lap, Hammond was under pressure from Byrne who reclaimed second when he got a run out of the Old Hairpin and slipped up the inside of the EXCELR8 Motorsport car, and then took the lead going through the Old Hairpin on the following lap when he slipped down the inside of Ovenden.
Ovenden fought back however going through Schwantz Curve with the pair going side-by-side, whilst King also looked to make a move on Hammond for third.
As it was Ovenden managed to reclaim the lead going into McLeans whilst King not only cleared Hammond for third, but also got ahead of Byrne for second.
Hammond quickly moved back into the podium spots when he dived down the inside of Byrne at the Melbourne Hairpin and by the end of lap four, he was up into second when he took advantage of King trying to go round the outside of Ovenden at McLeans to grab the inside line into Coppice.
The pair then ran side-by-side down the back straight before Hammond completed the move at the Fogarty Esses, with King losing time when he ran across the gravel – dropping him back towards Wiggin and Byrne, who had swapped places at the start of the lap.
With Ovenden and Hammond having a small gap over King, the two team-mates briefly swapped places at the end of lap five when Hammond went down the inside at the Melbourne Hairpin only for Ovenden to come back at him at Goddards, although Hammond managed to then make a move stick when he got the cutback out of turn one to lead going down the Craner Curves.
Putting in the fastest lap of the race, Hammond kept Ovenden at bay through the final laps to grab the victory, with King following the pair home in third to retain his handy advantage over Hammond to take into the season finale at Brands Hatch.
Wiggin looked set to end the weekend with fourth spot but would lose out to Byrne on the final lap, with Lee Pearce rounding out the top six having managed to beat Nathan Edwards to the line by just 0.023s.
The pair were part of a train of cars that would be battling hard for position throughout the race, with Tyler Lidsey, Charlie Mann and Alex Solley chasing them home to complete the top ten.