ALEX SOLLEY OPENS 2024 ACCOUNT IN SECOND PEMBREY ENCOUNTER

Alex Solley opened his win account for the 2024 Vertu MINI CHALLENGE Trophy with a dominant drive in the second race of the weekend at Pembrey.

The Graves Motorsport driver started the race from pole as a result of the reverse grid draw, and was able to retain his place at the head of the pack as the field stormed down to Hatchetts for the first time.

From that point on, Solley was able to control the race from the front with a number of titanic battles for position behind – which allowed him to simply drive clear of the pack and take the chequered flag comfortably clear of his closest challenger.

“Lap one was crucial to get a gap and from there I was able to maintain quite a reserved pace and maintain the tyres for the next one,” he said. “I made the most of the reverse grid pole and picked up the points, which is just what was needed.

“It’s so close amongst the top six that you need to maximise these opportunities and hopefully we can score more big points in the final race.”

If Solley’s run to victory was relatively serene, it was anything but behind as huge battles raged for the remaining spots on the podium.

Gabe Fairbrother and James Black held second and third through the early laps of the race, with Sam Gornall – who had crossed the line first in race one before picking up a penalty – charging through to fourth.

Black and Gornall both managed to get of Fairbrother on lap four, with Harry Hickton working his way up into fifth spot ahead of Jamie Keates – who had snared the race one win the previous afternoon.

The closing stages would prove to be particularly chaotic as the train of cars chasing Solley battled for the remaining spots inside the top three.

Keates fought his way ahead of both Hickton and Fairbrother into the top four just as Gornall battled past Black into second, with Keates then overhauling Black for third – taking a resurgent Rhys Hurd with him as he showed the pace that had carried him to the rookie title last season.

Hurd tried to make a move on Keates for third but in doing so, found himself being attacked by Black who moved into fourth spot, with Hurd then losing out to Hickton to slip back a further position.

Gornall had been able to keep Keates behind to secure second spot on the road but there would be a number of revisions to the result post-race following investigations into a series of incidents during the race.

Following contact with Black at turn one mid-way through the race, Gornall was handed a time penalty that dropped him behind the Graves Motorsport man in the results, which would have promoted Keates up to second had it not been for two penalties that he was handed following investigations.

After a one place drop for a clash with Fairbrother, the PerformanceTek Racing man was handed a further penalty for a yellow flag infringement – having overtaken Alex Keens when yellows were out following an off at the final corner for Matt Hammond.

That dropped Keates down from the podium places into P7, meaning it was Black who was eventually classified in second place, with Gornall in third and Hickton in fourth.

Hurd should have been fifth for his best result of the year, but the Chandler Motorsport driver was excluded for the results for overtaking two cars and making contact with Fairbrother during the yellow flag period.

That resulted in Fairbrother being classified in fifth place ahead of Alex Keens, with Keates and Luca Marinoni Osborne rounding out the top eight.

With Ronnie Smith forced out with a driveshaft issue after a trip off track, there was a new winner in the Rookie Cup for the first time this season, with Team Avago driver Joshua Wilbey leading the class home in eleventh place overall as he snared the first silverware for the team.

“It was a good race although we struggled for pace a bit towards the end,” he said. “We had a bit of luck early on with a few incidents ahead but it’s great to pick up the rookie win. We had to adapt a lot today with the different conditions compared to yesterday, but I think we dealt with it well.”

Hammond’s off into the tyres at the final turn meant Directors Cup honours went to Paul Manning for the second time this season.