Ashley Gregory admitted her delight at securing a maiden podium finish in the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy as the 2023 season resumed at Croft.

Gregory had shown flashes of speed during the opening rounds of the campaign but also suffered her fair share of misfortune, including at Thruxton in the final meeting before the summer break where she was caught up in an incident on track.

Things didn’t start well when track action kicked off at Croft, with a puncture early on in the opening practice session being followed by a split brake hose that limited her time on track.

Despite that, she fought back well to secure ninth place on the grid – which marked her best qualifying result of the season to date – and she produced a strong drive in the opening race to battle her way through the pack to fourth place.

Not only did that give Gregory her first Rookie Cup win of the year, it also resulted in pole position for race two when the top four was reversed.

Leading the field away when the lights went out, Gregory then had to do it all again when the race was halted due to an accident and she would stay out front until lap four when Jack Byrne managed to get ahead on the exit of Tower.

Gregory was then forced to hold on around the outside at Sunny to stay ahead of Nicky Taylor before contact at the hairpin two laps later saw her demoted back to fourth spot.

Taylor however would be penalised after the race, promoting Gregory back into P3 for her maiden podium finish – alongside a second Rookie Cup win of the weekend.

“The weekend started out in a difficult way with limited running, but my goal was to try and break into the top ten in qualifying,” she said. “That’s exactly what we got, and P9 was the perfect place to start.

“The first race was awesome and I was able to pick my way through to P4 and get the Rookie Cup win, with the bonus of then being drawn on pole for race two.

“Starting from pole for the first time was pretty nerve-wracking – especially live on TV – but the feeling of then leading a race on the TOCA package in front of a big crowd was just insane.

“To come away from the race with a podium finish means the world to me and the team because this was always going to be a difficult season – given we are the only real privateer team and have no driver coach and no data to compare to.

“The team does a fantastic job and puts in endless hours working on the car both back at base and at the circuit, so this is a great way to reward them”