ALEX SOLLEY DOUBLES UP IN SHORTENED SECOND RACE
Alex Solley made it two wins from two in the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy at Thruxton in a race that had to be red-flagged twice after dramatic incidents at the Club chicane.
Solley had started the race from pole position after his victory in race one and held the lead at the start from Rhys Hurd before coming under attack from his rival going into the chicane for the first time.
Hurd’s attempt to grab the lead saw the pair lose momentum as they were forced to cut the corner, allowing Tom Ovenden, Nicky Taylor and Harry Hickton to jump ahead on the run up to the line.
Solley quickly moved himself ahead of Ben Jenkins and the Hurd to move into fourth spot as Ovenden led the way, before an attempt from Taylor to take the lead at Club saw the front pair once again delayed.
It meant Hickton hit the front from Hurd, who had taken full advantage of the tow up Woodham Hill and then delayed cars ahead, to go from fifth to second, with James Black also vaulting up the order into third spot.
By the end of lap four, the train of cars dicing for the lead had been shuffled again as Black found himself on the wrong line as he slipped back to the lower reaches of the top ten, with Solley clearing both him and Hurd to move into second before making a move on Hickton for the lead on lap six – being followed through by Taylor going into the final corner.
Solley immediately managed to break the tow as his rivals squabbled behind, with Taylor holding on to second and Hurd fighting back onto the podium as he got ahead of Hickton into the chicane.
Next time around however, the race took a dramatic turn as Hickton – who had got back ahead of Hurd – clipped the first tyre stack at the chicane and was tipped into a roll in his Westbourne Motorsport-run car.
As the pack behind looked to take avoiding action, Hickton was clipped by Paul Manning and then hit again by Callum Eason, with the action immediately called to halt as Hickton was helped from his car and the heavily damaged cars were recovered from the circuit.
Black would also be forced to retire as a result of contact with Hurd as they tried to avoid Hickton’s car, whilst Max Hall suffered radiator damage that would result in him being unable to take the restart.
A number of others, including Manning and Hurd, would be forced to start from the pits when the race resumed with a rolling start behind the safety car, with Solley leading the way from Taylor and Ashley Gregory, who had come through from 13th on the grid to sit in a podium position – although she would then go off exiting the chicane at the end of lap one following a tap from behind, dropping her out of the battle at the front.
A further incident a lap later involving Sam Gornall and Harvey Riby on the entry to the final complex saw Riby slide off into the barriers and resulted in the red flag being shown for a second time with the result being determined by the positions at the end of the previous lap.
It meant a second win of the weekend – and third of the season – for Solley ahead of Nicky Taylor, with Ovenden rounding out the podium positions.
“I don’t really want to celebrate too much after that one as people have come out the race a lot worse off than me – and I’ve been in that position myself,” Solley said.
“I had made a mistake early on that cost me places and also had to deal with an ABS issue but for the team it’s good to secure a double win.”
Gabe Fairbrother would be classified in fourth spot ahead of Reece Lycett as he came from the back of the grid to secure a result that will put him on pole for Sunday’s finale.
Jenkins rounded out the top six, ahead of Alex Keens, Frankie Taylor, Luca Marinoni Osborne and Cameron Richardson.
Nathan Edwards was unable to take the start as a result of damage sustained in race one.