Nathan Edwards made the most of his place at the head of the field with victory in the opening race of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE weekend at Oulton Park, making his maiden win the JCW class.

The EXCELR8 driver had picked up pole for the race by virtue of his having the best of the second quickest times in qualifying, and he nailed the start when the lights went out to lead into turn one for the first time.

Edwards was helped somewhat by the fact that fellow front row starter Max Hall was slow away from the line, which meant the teenager was looking to defend from Tom Ovenden rather than go on the attack.

As Ovenden duly took second place, it left Edwards with a lead of three-tenths of a second at the end of the opening lap, an advantage he was able to maintain in the early laps before starting to edge away from the pack behind.

Whilst Ovenden was able to keep him honest, Edwards was able to retain a lead of at least half a second throughout to ensure he was never at serious risk of being beaten and brought his car to the finish little under a second ahead of his team-mate.

“It’s bizarre as we didn’t do a lot of testing before the season and coming here, I never expected to be in the mix for a win,” he said. “I know its hard to overtake here and I had to stay ahead, and when Max got a bad start I got a gap.

“I knew Tom behind wouldn’t do anything stupid and it was a case of managing the tyres and keep enough in the tank that I could push if I could. We need to try and do the same tomorrow!”

The win for Edwards also marked the first time this season he has taken an overall podium finish, whilst for Ovenden, it was a best result of the campaign to date.

The fellow rookie had previously grabbed a pair of third place finishes at Donington Park during the opening meeting of the season and went one better having stayed clear of the battle behind for third.

“It’s been a good day today,” he said. “We struggled a bit in practice yesterday so I didn’t expect this morning to be P3 on the grid and finish in P2. That was the first time that I’d say I’ve got a good start and having had a bit of a dry spell since Donington Park, I’m pleased to be back on the podium again.”

That battle had been headed in the early stages of the race by Hall but on lap nine, Nelson King was able to find a way through into third spot having been fixed onto Hall’s tail for a number of laps.

Within a lap, Hall came under pressure from defending champion Dan Zelos who slipped ahead into fourth having earlier been able to take advantage of a squabble between Dominic Wheatley and Bradley Gravett at Island Hairpin to jump up the order.

As King took third spot, Zelos had to settle for fourth to mark his first non-podium finish of the season, with Hall taking fifth despite being handed a five second penalty for exceeding track limits.

Wheatley rounded out the top six ahead of Josh Porter, who fought back from losing a spot on the opening lap when Gravett rocketed up the order. When Gravett ran wide at the hairpin on lap eight, Porter was able to nip ahead with Lydia Walmsley trying to follow him through before contact from Gravett saw her forced to pull off a retire.

NAPA Racing duo Lewis Selby and Jamie Osborne did however manage to clear Gravett before the finish to take eighth and ninth, with a time penalty for Gravett meaning the top ten was completed by James Griffith.

Matt Hammond rounded out the finishers, with Marlo Cordell joining Walmsley in retirement when he was forced to pull off just before the half-way stage.