M7RC SHINES AT THRUXTON BTCC
The Minis were the star performers at Thruxton over the 18-19 May weekend, in support of the hugely popular televised BTCC headline act, and earning praise all round after a quartet of hugely entertaining races.
With the weight of expectation upon its shoulders, the M7RC didn’t disappoint in its long overdue appearance at a British Touring Car Championship meeting. A quarter of a century after its last BTCC supporting role, the Minis gave the huge crowds plenty to cheer and were rewarded with standing ovations after all four races, as well as rave reviews from the ITV4 coverage on Sunday.
The Se7ens and S-Class went first on Saturday afternoon, and in a pulsating 10-lapper, up to nine cars were in the mix for overall victory. In a typical Thruxton slipstreamer, it came down to a last-lap swarm into the chicane, Darren Thomas coming out the other side with a small advantage, with Joe Thompson and Dom Burger touching wheelarches side-by-side through the Club chicane to take the remaining podium places.
Behind, Jeff Smith was knocked into a spin after a clash with Max Hunter, the reigning champion taking fourth from Andrew Deviny, Leon Wightman, Spencer Wanstall and Lee Roberts. In S-Class, Scott Kendall led from the class pole, with teammate Connor O’Brien getting the better of newcomer Damien Harrington.
Amazingly, the Miglia/Libre encounter was even better, and after countless changes of lead, it was Chris Morgan who executed the perfect manoeuvre into the chicane on the last lap, squeezing between his rivals and keeping it off the kerbs to record his maiden victory in the formula.
Kane Astin and reigning champion Aaron Smith took the next places ahead of Lee Deegan who bounced across the kerbs on two wheels, then Nick Padmore who had been leading in the run up to the final corner, from Jason Porter and Endaf Owens, the latter promoted up to sixth after Deegan was later docked 15 secs for exceeding track limits.
The Libre lead battle was just as frenetic, Rob Davis eventually taking his third win on the trot after Phil Harvey’s front-end began dragging on the tarmac following a touch at the Complex, allowing Steve Baker and Josh Evans to fill the medal positions.
With live TV for Sunday’s races there was an added frisson of excitement in the air, and the second Se7en/S-Class thrash was soon living up to expectations. Despite starting from the fifth row, Thomas moved up to lead very quickly, with a tremendous battle in his mirrors for second, the big screens erected for the TV coverage allowing spectators to see just how many lines could be taken around the fast sweeping sections on the far side of the circuit.
However, just as the field was jostling for position nearing the conclusion, a red flag for a stranded car cut short the entertainment, the result counted back to 7 laps and leaving a more than happy Thomas with double victory ahead of Burger, Deviny, Thompson and Roberts. Kendall again dominated S-Class to take 6th overall, with Harrington and Thorburn Astin – a great recovery from the back row – also making it onto the live broadcast podium.
The unlucky O’Brien had been holding second until a hub broke and pitched him into a race-stopping spin at the Complex, while a mention too for teenager Ben Cutler who was twice top S-Class novice in his debut event.
Capping off a superb display of club racing at its very best was the second Miglia/Libre thrash, and boy, what a treat this was for those lucky to witness it! Flat-out all the way round the 2.356-mile Hampshire circuit, the harmonious pitch of A-Series engines on-song held onlookers spellbound, with the lead changing constantly. In what proved to be a record-setting pace, it was Padmore who judged his last lap the best, ascending Woodham Hill in the pack before nosing ahead into the chicane and onto the chequered flag for a brilliant victory.
Once more Deegan was absolutely on the limit, climbing back up the order after a clash with Owens, and almost snatched second from Morgan on the run to the line, with Smith, Sam Summerhayes and Porter all within a blink. Fabulous stuff! Likewise the Libre contest, and again the leading pair of Davis and Harvey were mixing it with the midfield Miglias in style, Davis getting the nod once more with Baker overcoming Peter Hills for third, despite a mid-race spin that earned a huge cheer from the grandstands!
Next on the calendar for the Dunlop National Mini Challenge supported by Mini Spares is the eagerly awaited trip abroad to Zandvoort on the Dutch coast over 5-7 July, for Rounds 7, 8 and 9 in what promises to be an intriguing treble-header ●