RHYS HURD BATTLES TO VICTORY IN THRUXTON OPENER

Rhys Hurd secured his first win of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season after overcoming a grid penalty to take the flag first in race one at Thruxton.

The reigning Rookie Cup champion had suffered a tough start to the season but showed improved pace from the outset around the fastest circuit on the calendar, which included going second quickest in qualifying at the wheel of his Chandler Motorsport-run car.

Pole sitter Alex Solley held the lead off the start when the lights went out before points leader Harry Hickton hit the front on the run up Woodham Hill for the first time, whilst Hurd was on a move from sixth after a grid penalty carried out from Pembrey to sit in third.

Solley reclaimed the lead from Hickton on lap two but by the end of lap three, it was Hurd who had moved into P1 when the leading trio went three-wide into Church and he managed to come out ahead – with Hickton holding second and Gabe Fairbrother coming through to third.

Hickton would have another run at the front when he and James Black drew ahead of Hurd on lap five but when Hurd then reclaimed the lead, he was able to break away at the front when Black and Hickton both took a trip across the grass at the final chicane.

As the fight for second continued, Hurd had broken the tow and took the flag comfortably clear at the front for his second career win – having also won at Silverstone last season.

“I got up to P3 on lap one which was a surprise and then we were in the mix for the win,” he said. “When I got to the front the second time, I could suddenly see cars on the grass behind me and I had a huge gap – and I had try and manage the gap and bring it home.

“It’s great to get that win and having drawn P6 for the reverse grid, I’ll be trying to do it all again later on!”

Whilst it was Black and Hickton who were initially leading the charge for second spot, Solley and the pack behind were able to close in to leave a train of cars dicing over the final laps.

On the final lap, two lines of cars would form heading up Woodham Hill and when they came out of the final chicane, it was Sam Gornall who suddenly found himself sitting in P2, having battled back from a tough opening lap that saw him drop down to ninth spot.

Black would cross the line in third spot to round out the podium, marking his third top three finish of the campaign.

“It was typical Thruxton with absolutely chaos in the pack and at one moment, I did get in front which was nice!” he said. “We had a bit of a kerfuffle at the chicane at one point which damaged the steering, but that was a great first race and we’ll go again in race two…”

Alex Keens and Fairbrother chased the podium pair across the line, with Solley taking the flag in sixth. Points leader Hickton would be of the late losers as he was shuffled back down the order to finish seventh, although he picked up the six bonus points for fastest lap.

Luca Marinoni Osborne, Reece Lycett and Harvey Riby rounded out the top ten.

Outside the top ten, Paul Manning took Directors Cup honours in twelfth place, one spot ahead of leading rookie Steven Chandler – who scored his first silverware in the series after team-mate Ronnie Smith ran off track and clattered the tyres before rejoining.

“That was really good,” Chandler said. “I’d like to be further up but we’re making progress and for the team it’s great to have top Rookie, top Graduate and the overall win. It was a difficult race in the pack and my steering got knocked out a bit which didn’t help, and the focus then was on bringing the car to the finish.”

Louis Fleet was the only retirement after being tipped into a spin following contact with Ashley Gregory, who herself had dropped down the order after being turned round going into turn one in the early stages.