WILL ORTON BATTLES TO RACE ONE VICTORY
Will Orton battled his way to the head of the pack to snare his fifth win of the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE season in the opening race of the weekend at Silverstone.
The Hybrid Tune driver had qualified on the second row of the grid in a tightly-fought session that saw the leading four covered by less than a tenth of a second, with points leader Dan Zelos having scored pole to maintain his 100 per cent qualifying record.
Zelos was able to hold the lead at the start ahead of Nelson King, with Orton initially holding onto third spot before he nipped ahead of his Graves Motorsport rival ahead to take second mid-way through the opening lap.
At the start of the second lap, Orton then saw his chance to get ahead of Zelos on the exit of Copse and managed to grab the inside line for the run up to Becketts, securing the lead and somehow remaining out front for the rest of the race despite being forced to punch a hole in the air for the pack behind.
Orton would be aided by the fact that his rivals were squabbling for position behind, with Zelos under constant pressure from King – who would briefly edge ahead in the closing stages before Zelos immediately responded to reclaim the spot.
The margin of victory at the flag would be just over half a second as Orton regained the ground lost to Zelos in qualifying, with the gap between the pair once again sitting at 70 points.
“It’s hard to break away here so when I got to the front, it was all about trying to hold on,” Orton said. “I had to manage a bit of a vibration late on but to get the win is great.
“The battle behind worked in my favour as Dan had to be mindful of the fact that if he tried to get ahead of me, it could mean he was passed by Nelson. But it was a good clean race, and one I really enjoyed.”
Behind King, Oliver Meadows just missed out on the podium in a strong fourth place, having set the fastest lap as he closed on to the back of the top three, with a small gap back to Thomas Jack Lee in fifth.
Lee had started in seventh spot but jumped up into the top six on lap one when newcomer Spencer Stevenson dropped down the order, and then battled ahead of James Griffith to grab fifth place on lap four.
The teenager then eased away from Griffith, as he was forced to defend from Josh Porter, Dominic Wheatley and Sam Smith to snare a top-six finish.
Griffith would also take the Directors Cup win for the first time this season.
“It’s been a tough year but I’ve got the good luck charms with me this weekend as the kids and wife are both here!” he said. “I lost touch with the top five as there was a little bit of contact with Thomas which meant I lose the tow, and then I had to battle to keep the others behind. But I’m chuffed with the result and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Elsewhere, Lydia Walmsley took the flag in tenth spot ahead of Stevenson, with Joe Tanner back in twelfth place as he battled a turbo problem. Bill Hardy, Jordan Kerridge, Simon Reed and Lewis Selby rounded out the finishers.
Bradley Gravett was the only retirement, with Jamie Osborne missing the race due to feeling unwell and a mechanical issue ruling out Ryan Faulconbridge.