16th Apr, 2019 ‑ Car Features 

Chills & Thrills

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Near-freezing conditions greeted the M7RC for the opening National rounds at Croft, but some sizzling Mini racing helped warm the cockles for the hardy spectators.

Four action-packed races and record speeds injected much-needed ‘heat’ into a numbingly-cold meeting in North Yorkshire on 13-14 April, as the 2019 National Mini Challenges got underway on the newly resurfaced Croft circuit.

First off on the Saturday afternoon were the Se7en/S-Class cars, a strong grid led away by Joe Thompson, fresh from his impressive Miglia debut at Silverstone a fortnight earlier. Dropped oil interrupted the flow of a furious multi-car lead battle, but through it all Thompson kept a cool head to hold off Jeff Smith in second, the latter having started from the seventh row after qualifying out of session.

Andrew Deviny pipped Dom Burger for the third podium spot once Spencer Wanstall’s engine lost its water a couple of laps from home. From the ‘B grid’, reigning S-Class champion Scott Kendall led from the start to rise to sixth overall, with Jo Polley taking second in class three places further back.

Novice Jack Shearing got the better of Stuart Gilby for third in class, the pair having a great duel dodging oil and scattered gravel!

The Miglia/Libre encounter closed the first day’s racing, and what a belter it proved to be. Half-a-dozen cars were in with a shout before Lee Deegan hit the front. However, a slight off instantly dropped him back down the order before a superb recovery drive saw him work his way back in front once more to snatch the win ahead of reigning champ Aaron Smith.

Kane Astin edged third from Rupert Deeth, Colin Peacock and Joe Thompson, the latter emulating father Paul’s double-category campaign of 2008.

In the invitational Libre class, Rob Davis took advantage of an opening lap fracas to open up a clear gap, leaving Justin Cooper and reigning class champion Phil Harvey to give chase, before the latter ran wide and found the tyrewall. Newcomer Josh Evans meanwhile recovered from an early delay to edge out Cooper for second near the end.

Sunday afternoon felt even colder to those outside of a ‘cosy’ race car, and red flag delays in other races served only to prolong the wait. The Miglia/Libre grid went first this time, and once again several cars were on the lead pace before it boiled down to a straight fight between Deegan and Smith.

The lead changed several times before Smith made it stick, despite a last corner attempt at the hairpin from Deegan, and just 0.118s the difference at the flag! Deeth, Thompson and Astin were constant shadows for the final podium place after Peacock dropped out.

The Libre top three may have ended in the same order as the day before, but that didn’t tell the whole story. Cooper and Davis initially traded the class lead in an entertaining dice with Tony Le May’s Miglia. However, the recovering Evans – after another early delay - gradually caught and passed them all, before Davis got back past as Evans’ overworked tyres lost grip. Thompson improved on Deegan’s new Miglia lap record from the day before, likewise Evans who lowered his own best Libre time.

In the final Mini race, an early safety car slowed the pack for a few laps while Shearing’s S-Class was towed out of the barriers, but thereafter the Se7ens’ lead battle was on record pace, and when the chequered flag was waved after 11 laps it was Burger who secured his maiden victory in the formula by just 0.133s, after a superb performance to get ahead and stay there.

Thompson’s second place was enough to take the series lead, as Jeff Smith edged out Leon Wightman for third, the latter delighted to record a strong finish and further lower Thompson’s 1-day-old lap record, having non-started the day before.

S-Class honours again fell to Kendall by a clear margin, also with an even quicker best lap time, but the chase behind saw a great effort from Thorburn Astin - up from the back of the grid after a DNS in the first race - who looked on for second in class before gearbox issues allowed Polley to snatch back the position.     

The Dunlop National Mini Challenge supported by Mini Spares now gears up for its much anticipated invitation to the BTCC meeting at Thruxton over the 18-19 May weekend, with live TV coverage and massive crowds guaranteed ‚óŹ



Race 1                        Se7en/S-Class                        12 laps

1st            4            Joe Thompson           

2nd            35            Jeff Smith

3rd            77            Andrew Deviny

6th            708            Scott Kendall           


Race 1                        Miglia/Libre                        13 laps

1st            48            Lee Deegan

2nd            1            Aaron Smith

3rd            11            Kane Astin

13th            500            Rob Davis


Race 2                        Miglia/Libre                        13 laps

1st            1            Aaron Smith

2nd            48            Lee Deegan

3rd            23            Rupert Deeth

9th            500            Rob Davis


Race 2                        Se7en/S-Class             11 laps

1st            28            Dom Burger

2nd            4            Joe Thompson

3rd            35            Jeff Smith

8th            708            Scott Kendall




Croft Circuit:            2.1250 miles

Miglia                        J Thompson            1:33.326 – 81.97 mph

Libre                        J Evans                        1:35.465 – 80.13 mph

Se7en                        L Wightman            1:43.056 – 74.23 mph

S-Class                        S Kendall            1:44.892 – 72.93 mph





1            J Thompson            39 pts

2            D Burger            37

3            J Smith                        37


1            S Kendall            40 pts

2            J Polley                        38

3            S Gilby                        34


1            L Deegan            39 pts

2            A Smith            39

3            R Deeth            35


1            R Davis                        20 pts

2            J Evans                        16

3            J Cooper            12



Words by: Richard Williamson

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