TROPHY BATTLE GETS SET FOR BRANDS HATCH FINALE
A season that started back in early May will finally draw to a close this weekend as the Quaife MINI CHALLENGE Trophy campaign draws to a close at Brands Hatch.
Although two drivers remain in contention – mathematically at least – for the championship title, the reality is that it will take a huge turnaround in fortunes for Nelson King to miss out on the crown, having been the man to beat all season.
King kicked off his campaign with a triple win at Pembrey and has been out front all year thanks to a stunning run of form that has seen him take no fewer than nine wins.
Even though he failed to win at Donington Park last time out, the only circuit where he hasn’t scored at least one victory, King has a lead of almost 100 points in the championship standings over nearest rival Matt Hammond.
Although there are more than 150 points still on the table in the final three races once bonus points are taken into account, King also has a drop score of 57 in his back pocket compared to 35 for Hammond – which strengthens the Grave Motorsport driver’s position at the top.
Indeed, should race one go his way, King could wrap up the title in Saturday’s opening race at his home circuit – leaving Sunday free to celebrate success…
Whilst former champion Hammond retains a mathematical chance of taking top honours for a second time, King can’t afford to relax, with the EXCELR8 driver heading into the final round in a rich vein of form.
Hammond took his first wins of the campaign at Donington and had finished in the top two in the last four races, whilst he also has the best qualifying average of the year – having only missed out on the front row once all season.
Although he readily admits that the title is King’s to lose, Hammond won’t go down without a fight particularly when he is also trying to to wrap up second in the championship standings ahead of team-mate Tom Ovenden.
Ovenden – who grabbed his sixth podium of the year in the final race two weeks ago – has been another driver to consistently fight at the front this season, even though some unfortunate results have dropped him out of contention for the overall title.
The former rallycross star moved into the top three at Donington at the expense of Nicky Taylor, who suffered a badly-timed DNF for the second meeting in succession to lose ground in the points.
Taylor is a driver who therefore heads into the finale feeling he has something of a point to prove, especially when he is the highest placed driver in the points who has yet to take a race win.
Taylor has a slender lead over Jack Byrne and Joe Wiggin, both of whom have hit form in the latter stages of the season.
Irish privateer Byrne scoring his third podium in as many meetings at Donington Park as he wrapped up the Rookie Cup crown whilst Wiggin battled to his first win of the campaign for the PerformanceTek Racing-run Pantera Carpentry squad – the win coming in run of results that has seen him finish in the top six in nine of the last ten races.
The pair are split by a single point in the standings and will have eyes on Taylor ahead, whist Charlie Mann and Alex Solley round out the top eight going into the finale.
Mann found himself in the wars at Donington Park after being forced to retire for the first time this season in the opening race, whilst Solley has slipped down the standings having failed to make it onto the podium in the last ten races.
Others to watch this weekend include Nathan Edwards, fresh from three top tens at Donington Park, as well as Lee Pearce – who recovered from a race one penalty to fight forwards for two top ten finishes of his own.
That allowed the pair to move into the top ten in the standings ahead of Louie Capozzoli who, as at Donington Park, will not be present this weekend.
In total, a field of more than 30 cars is set to do battle around the short Indy circuit, with Lauren Tayla returning to action with AReeve Motorsport and Jordan Kerridge making his debut in the series with EXCELR8.