MAX HALL BATTLES TO FIRST JCW VICTORY

Max Hall overhauled defending champion Dan Zelos to secure his maiden Vertu MINI CHALLENGE victory in the opening race of the weekend at Brands Hatch.

Hall had qualified in pole position for the first time earlier in the day but with that time setting the grid for the final race of the weekend, the teenager would line up second behind Zelos for the opening 20 minute encounter.

Zelos held the lead when the lights went out at the start of the race as Hall was forced to defend his position from a fast-starting Lewis Selby, who cleared Marlo Cordell off the line and then tried to get ahead of Hall without success at Druids.

A clash involving Bradley Gravett and James Griffith at the same corner then saw the safety car deployed, with the action getting back underway on lap six with Zelos leading the way from his rookie team-mate.

Just a lap later however, Hall saw an opportunity going into Druids and threw his car up the inside to take the lead before starting to edge away from the champion.

Setting the fastest lap of the race, Hall raced clear to secure his first JCW victory by just under three seconds – making him one of the youngest winners in series history in the process.

“Dan is a tough competitor but I managed to get ahead of him into Druids when I saw the opportunity,” he said. “When he is your mirrors then you get worried so it was important to keep my head down and stay out of trouble. To win this early in the season is great, and hopefully we can add to it before the weekend is over.”

Behind the top two, Selby’s hold on third would only last until the second lap after the restart when Cordell managed to nose up the inside with a late move at Paddock Hill Bend.

Although unable to keep pace with the front two, Cordell was relatively comfortable in third until the finish, with Selby falling into the clutches of Dominic Wheatley as the two squabbled for fourth.

“This result means so much and I’ll that all day as there was a point last night when I didn’t know if I’d be racing,” Cordell said. “We had issues in testing yesterday and the team worked overnight to replace the engine – they’ve done a ridiculous amount. We then had a few issues in qualifying but the car was amazing in the race and having felt like we were facing another weekend with no luck, we’ve been able to turn it round.”

Wheatley would find a way through ahead of Selby on lap nine but by then, Cordell had enough of an advantage to be safe in the position, with the EXCELR8 man having to settle for fourth ahead of Selby and his NAPA Racing UK team-mate Jamie Osborne in sixth; a position he would hold from start-to-finish.

Having started back in 14th place on the grid following a difficult qualifying session, King wasted little time in making up spots to climb into the top ten and would eventually battle his way through to seventh, although not without incident after contact with Nathan Edwards at Graham Hill Bend.

That contact resulted in Edwards slipping down outside the top ten, but he recovered well to come through to eighth by the finish – the highlight coming when he dived down the inside of both Josh Porter and Tom Ovenden in one move as the trio went through turn one. Post race, Edwards would gain a further place as King was dropped behind him in the results for the earlier contact.

Porter and Lydia Walmsley rounded out the top ten, with Ovenden retiring late on as a result of a suspension issue.

JCW Sport kicked off with Dylan Hotchin at the front of the pack but when he missed a gear off the line, it allowed both Cameron Richardson and class debutant Chris MacKenzie to move ahead.

Hotchin battled ahead of Mackenzie shortly after the restart to reclaim second place and then took the lead when Richardson ran wide at the final corner as the pair diced for position.

“It was a tough race as I couldn’t get second gear at the start and lost places, and then by the end we had no front end grip as we just chewed up the tyres in the heat,” he said. “When I was battling with Cam for the lead, we were side-by-side into the final corner and he ran wide and into the gravel. Getting another win is good and we need to keep doing this for the championship.”

Richardson’s trip through the gravel dropped him down outside the top three, with Ben Crossley eventually taking second place when he got ahead of MacKenzie in the closing stages. Richardson was running fourth before being forced to pit late on, with the Invitational Class car of Scott Lear retiring to the pits before the start.