ALEX SOLLEY BATTLES TO RACE ONE HONOURS
Alex Solley produced a battling drive in the opening Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy race of the weekend at Thruxton to score his second win around the fastest circuit on the calendar.
The Graves Motorsport driver had started from third on the grid and emerged unscathed from a chaotic opening lap that saw the positions shuffled at the front of the pack – with Harry Hickton emerging in the lead ahead of Reece Lycett and Solley as pole man Max Hall found himself shuffled back down to sixth spot.
Further down the order, Jack Byrne – who had undergone an engine change after qualifying – suffered an issue with the steering rack on his car which saw him suddenly slow going into Noble, with his car collected by Nathan Edwards behind.
Whilst Byrne’s car would come to a halt on the edge of the circuit to trigger a safety car, Edwards continued across the grass before coming to a halt in the middle of Thruxton’s runway – his car sustaining heavy damage that calls into question his participation in the remainder of the weekend.
By the time Byrne’s car had been recovered, it was lap six with Hickton leading Lycett away on the restart, just before the second-placed driver was handed a ten-second penalty that dropped him down the order.
The Chandler Motorsport man would remain in the thick of the action however until a collapsed shock absorber saw him retire to the pits.
Hickton was able to hold on at the front despite the best efforts of Solley to find a way through until he finally made a move stick heading round the back of the circuit on lap ten.
Solley would be followed through by a number of his rivals as Hickton found himself offline on the outside, and was able to hold on through the final laps to grab his second win of the campaign.
“I got into second quite early on and then got my head down,” Solley said. “I knew I had to optimise the slipstream and there were a lot of people trying to make a move.
“I honestly can’t recall the move on Harry as it was all such a blur, but I managed to get ahead. He put up a good fight!”
Rhys Hurd – having started back in seventh spot – would end up chasing Solley home in second spot after a battling drive through the field, giving him a first podium finish and a maiden rookie class win.
Hurd would try to find a way ahead of Solley on the final lap but also had to worry about Tom Ovenden behind, with a recovering Hickton also closing in over the final tour as he missed out on the podium by just 0.087.
“From seventh, I didn’t think I’d get to second and that it would be down to the luck of the tow,” Hurd said. “I went for a move on Alex on the final lap but couldn’t make it happen, but I’ll still take a first podium.
“I got a good start in that one and hopefully I can do it again in race two and get into the lead.”
Hall would end up taking the flag in fifth spot ahead of Nicky Taylor, only for the positions to be reversed post race when Hall was deemed to have gained an unfair advantage. Ben Jenkins grabbed his best result of the year to date in seventh, whilst Paul Manning rounded out the top eight and ended Lee Pearce’s run of wins in the Directors Cup – with Pearce finishing behind James Black in tenth.
“I think there was more time in the car in qualifying despite being in P9 but we gained a spot at the start and then tried to stay out of trouble,” Manning said. “I could see a blue car in my mirrors late on and didn’t know if it was Lee or not and ultimately it was, so it’s good to have held on and brought home a trophy.”
Frankie Taylor would cross the line in eleventh spot – ending his run of top-ten finishes but taking the Graduate Cup for the first time.
Luca Marinoni Osborne had looked good to secure the class win until he ran wide exiting the Club Chicane and clattered into the tyres late on.
“I’m over the moon,” Taylor said. “I struggled with the car a bit in qualifying as I wasn’t out on Friday, but I drove my heart out and got my first graduate win. My pace has been there this season, so the focus now is to push for an actual win.”
Alongside those previously mentioned, Harvey Riby was the only other retirement after a steering issuer saw him come into the pits.