WILL ORTON OPENS MINI CHALLENGE ACCOUNT
Will Orton ended his first weekend in the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE with victory in the final race at Donington Park, which would come to an early end following an incident involving team-mate Sam Smith.
Orton started the race from pole position but it was team-mates Joe Tanner and Smith who got away better off the line before the Hybrid Tune pair clashed going through turn one – allowing Orton to reclaim the lead as Smith dropped back down the order.
That clash forced Dan Zelos – earlier double winner – to jump on the brakes and allowed Nelson King to come through into second spot, with Tanner and Zelos following behind when the safety car was called out to recover Billy Hardy’s car from the gravel at the Old Hairpin.
Orton continued to run at the front on the restart as Tanner moved ahead of King into third spot, with Dan Zelos then nipping ahead of the Cooper champion into the Redgate just before another safety car – caused this time by multiple incidents that saw James Griffith go off at the Old Hairpin, Barry Ward at the final chicane, and Daniel and Jamie Petters slide off at McLeans.
With cars recovered, the action got back underway on lap ten but only for a matter of seconds when Smith went off at speed going into turn one and collected Zelos – putting both out on the spot and resulting in the race being red-flagged so the two drivers could be attended to.
Zelos was able to climb from his car unaided and released from the circuit medical centre after checks, with Smith helped from his car before being also being taken to the medical centre, where he was conscious and talking before being transferred to hospital.
With the result of the race declared as of lap eight, Orton took the race win ahead of Tanner and King, with Dominic Wheatley classified in fourth spot for the Graduate win ahead of Jamie Osborne and Lewis Selby.
“It’s not the way you want to win your first race in the championship,” Orton said. “I felt I’d done well until that point and my thoughts are with both Sam and Dan after the incident.
“Overall, it’s been a great weekend for me as the only front-wheel drive experience I have is from Fiesta Juniors and this is a huge step up, and credit to all at Hybrid Tune for their work.”
Orton heads the points after the opening weekend of the year, ahead of Tanner and Zelos.