MINI CHALLENGE TROPHY GETS SET FOR FIRST BTCC APPEARANCE

The Vertu MINI CHALLENGE Trophy joins up the TOCA package this weekend at Thruxton for the first of three meetings in support of the BTCC, with the biggest grid of the season to date expected to contest the three races.

Heading into the weekend, Westbourne Motorsport racer Harry Hickton is the man to beat having scored his third win of the campaign at Pembrey last time out, whilst he has been a model of consistency thus far having only missed out on the podium in one of the six races run.

That gives Hickton a narrow lead over team-mate Sam Gornall once dropped scores are considered, with his goal being to try and maintain his impressive form – whilst also avoiding a repeat of the dramatic roll he suffered at Thruxton last year.

Gornall himself has enjoyed a strong start to the season, although an unfortunate DNF at Snetterton during round one has left him playing catch-up in the standings.

Three podium finishes at Pembrey last time out did him no harm at all and it could have been more had it not been for a penalty in race one that ultimately dropped him from first to second in the final results.

That penalty meant a maiden victory in the series for Jamie Keates, who sits third in the standings for PerformanceTek Racing.

Keates has been one of the starts of the season so far having taken huge strides forwards since last season and has been a firm fixture towards the front, albeit – like Gornall – having been hampered somewhat by a DNF at round one.

He sits just a point ahead of Alex Solley, who is the second highest scoring driver before drops are considered and arrives at Thruxton having also scored a win in Wales last time out.

Solley scored pole on his first appearance at Thruxton back in 2021 before battling to his maiden win, and picked up two more victories last season to leave him as arguably the expert driver that the others will want to beat this weekend.

Solley’s Graves Motorsport team-mate James Black maintained his solid start to the season with a personal best second place last time out after another strong showing on track that saw him move closer to his goal of securing a first race win, whilst leading rookie driver Ronnie Smith also scored his best result to date to sit sixth in the points.

Smith had seen his run of wins in the Rookie Cup come to an end when he was forced to retire from the second race at Pembrey, but the Chandler Motorsport man battled back in race three of the weekend to grab his first overall podium finish.

A handful of points further back lie Pembrey pole sitter Alex Keens as well as Reece Lycett, with the top ten being rounded out by Gabe Fairbrother and Luca Marinoni Osborne.

Lycett and Fairbrother have both made it onto the podium already this season, something Keens and Marinoni Osborne will hope to put right this weekend – the latter at the circuit where he scored his first top three finish last season.

Further down the order, the likes of Callum Eason, Frankie Taylor and Rhys Hurd are amongst those to have shown flashes of pace in the opening rounds who will now be pushing to break into the top ten.

Top Directors Cup entrant heading into the weekend is Ben Taylor after he scored a double class win at Pembrey, allowing him to move ahead of John Castle in the standings.

With Tommy Watson once again ruled out of action on medical grounds, JCW racer- and former Cooper champion – Matt Hammond will be part of the grid in a guest capacity for the second time this season, whilst Irish driver Mick Fitzgerald joins the field for the first time this season with PerformanceTek.