TIGHT COOPER FIGHT HEADS FOR SNETTERTON
The Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy rolls into Snetterton this weekend for the second meeting of the season, and despite the fact there have only been three races so far in 2023, a fascinating battle for title honours is already developing at the head of the field.
As a bumper grid arrives at the longest circuit on the calendar, it’s one of the most experienced drivers on the grid who leads the way, with EXCELR8’s third-year driver Tom Ovenden taking the early advantage in the championship standings.
Ovenden bagged the first pole position of the campaign at Brands Hatch last month and then converted it into victory in race one – albeit only after messing up the start and dropping down to third spot.
The former rallycross racer was then forced to recover from an off on the opening lap of race two to grab second place, and he repeated the result in race three to earn a 22 point lead in the standings going into this weekend.
His closest challenger ahead of round two is reigning Rookie Cup champion Jack Byrne, who kicked off his second year in the series with a trip to the top step of the podium.
Having shown front-running pace throughout his rookie campaign, it was only a matter of time before the Irish driver added his name to the list of Cooper class winners and he did it in fine style in race two at Brands Hatch.
That was one of three podium finishes across the weekend for the Graves Motorsport racer to leave him seven points ahead of team-mate Alex Solley, who followed up a third-place finish in race two with victory in the weekend finale at Brands – the second time he had won in the class.
The lead trio have already established a small buffer over the pack behind, which is headed by EXCELR8 racer Nathan Edwards.
Edwards carried the strong form he showed in the latter stages of 2022 into the opening weekend to grab three solid finishes, finishing just off the podium in two of the races.
Going into the weekend 23 points off the top three, Edwards will be eager to try and fight for what would be a maiden win but he’ll also have one eye looking over his shoulder with Nicky Taylor just two points behind in the standings.
Taylor kicked off his season with a third-place finish in race one at Brands Hatch and will be looking to make the most of his local knowledge to fight for a first victory of the campaign and close the gap on the lead pack.
James Black rounds out the top six – and tops the rookie standings – after an impressive debut weekend, with fellow Graves racer Frankie Taylor and top Directors Cup entrant Lee Pearce giving chase.
Pearce is a past winner around the Snetterton 300 layout and is one of four drivers covered by as many points in the standings, with Westbourne Motorsport’s Max Hall and Chandler Motorsport pairing Reece Lycett and Rhys Hurd hot on his heels.
Ashley Gregory, Luca Marinoni Osborne, Harry Hickton and Alex Keens round out the top 15 in the points.
After their dramatic incidents at Brands Hatch, which resulted in both drivers ending up on their roofs, Harvey Riby and Ben Taylor will both be back in action this weekend bidding to grab headlines for more positive reasons.
Although AReeve Motorsport’s Sophie Wright is missing this weekend, Jamie Keates joins the grid for his debut after injury ruled him out of round one. Keates will be joined at LDR Performance Tuning by Ben Jenkins, who switches over from Graves Motorsport for the remainder of the season.