Nathan Edwards emerged on top of a race-long dice at the front to secure his second win on the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season in the opening race of the weekend at Silverstone.

The EXCELR8 Motorsport driver had qualified on pole for the first time earlier in the morning but went into the race expecting to face a huge challenge at the front of the pack given the fact that the long Silverstone straights provide ample opportunity for drivers to slipstream each other.

Edwards was able to hold onto the lead at the start of the race ahead of fellow front-row starter Sam Gornall, who managed to keep points leader Tom Ovenden at bay through the opening lap.

Ovenden however would then find himself in the wars on lap two as he looked to move up into second spot ahead of Edwards on the run down to Brooklands, with Gornall having nipped ahead of the leader at Becketts.

Running down to the corner on the outside of Edwards, Ovenden suddenly found himself three wide as Harry Hickton looked to split the EXCELR8 pair with slight contact with Edwards knocking Hickton sideways into Ovenden’s car.

That forced Ovenden wide before he rejoined but heading into Luffield, his car refused to turn left having picked up damage to the trackrod – meaning he slid wide into the car of Nicky Taylor, with Frankie Taylor also running wide in avoidance.

Ovenden would be forced to park his car on the side of the circuit, with Nicky Taylor picking up a puncture that meant he had to pit a lap later.

That came as the safety car was deployed to recover Daniel Armstrong’s car after a moment at Luffield, with Gornall leading the field from Hickton and Edwards; both of whom had survived the earlier contact at Brooklands.

Gornall held on at the restart, with Hickton briefly edging ahead across the line at the start of lap seven only for his Westbourne Motorsport team-mate to sweep back ahead going into turn one.

Hickton would try again coming out of Luffield on lap ten but as the pair ran together towards Copse, Edwards saw his chance to pounce from behind as he dived down the inside of the duo to grab the lead – being followed by team-mate Gabe Fairbrother who had fought his way from seventh on the grid up into fourth.

With Gornall having been run wide, he dropped back into fourth spot behind Hickton but by the end of the lap, the pair had both cleared Fairbrother to move back into the podium positions heading into the final lap.

At the front, Edwards had managed to gain a slender advantage and as the battle for second raged behind, he emerged from the final corner with a half-second gap to take his second victory in as many meetings.

“When I lost the lead, I was a bit concerned but I knew we had a quick car,” he said. “Sam did a mega job at the front, but EXCELR8 gave me a great car and to get another win is brilliant.

“I have to give credit to Harry during the move for the lead as he could easily have turned in and we’d have ended up in the wall but he spotted I was there and gave me the room. It was a hard and fair fight at the front, which is what the MINI CHALLENGE is all about.”

Hickton looked set to take second spot but coming out of the final corner, Gornall saw the chance to make a move and stuck his nose down the inside to reach the line just 0.072s ahead in second spot, giving him his best result of the season by far having not previously finished higher than twelfth.

It left Hickton to take third but only by the even smaller margin of 0.014s over Fairbrother, who was almost pushing Gornall over the line as the chequered flag dropped.

Rhys Hurd and Alex Solley would round out the top six and were within a second of the winner, with James Black and Jack Byrne following behind. That allowed Byrne to grab the Graduate Cup win after a below-par qualifying session that saw him start back in 16th spot.

Max Hall and Luca Marinoni Osborne rounded out the top ten, with the leading Directors Cup running being Lee Pearce back in 15th.

Armstong and Ovenden would be the only two of the 28 drivers not to make the finish, although Nicky Taylor would be a lap down as a result of his unscheduled pitstop.