The first of the visiting MSVR championships to get onto the track was the Mini challenge series, for the first of their two races of the day. It promised to be an exciting race as a wet qualifying session determined the grid, yet by the time of their race the track was rapidly drying, leaving some last minute decisions on tyres and set up before the race.
Championship leader Chris Knox claimed pole from Luke Caudle, with ex-Legends racer Lawrence Davey and Neil Newstead completing row 2. At the start of this 20 minute race it was Knox and Caudle who made the best starts from the front row, as the rest diced for position behind them. It didn’t take long before Caudle was putting heavy pressure on Knox for the lead, although they were still managing to pull away from the field despite their battle.
Lap 4 saw Knox beginning to settle in and establish a gap to Caudle of several seconds, as behind these two Davey was now challenging the fast starting Henry Duprey for 3rd also. At this point of the race Knox was simply dominating as by lap 7 he held a 14 second gap to Duprey in 3rd and was in complete control of the race. A lap later and Davey finally breached a stubborn defence of 3rd from Duprey, as he dived inside him at Tower. Things didn’t get any easier for Duprey as the closest challenger to Knox in the championship, Neil Newstead, went inside him at Quarry on lap 10 for 4th.
From here Newstead was the man on the move as he quickly caught and was challenging Davey for 3rd, although his brave attempt at taking the place at Bobbies on lap 13 went badly wrong, as he completely misjudged it and fell back several seconds, ground he was unable to make up in the remaining time. After 16 laps it was Chris Knox who came through for a comfortable victory from a lonely Luke Caudle in 2nd. Lawrence Davey completed the podium with Neil Newstead, Hamish Brandon and Henry Duprey completing the top 6 in 4th, 5th and 6th respectively. In the lower Cooper class it was reigning class champion Shane Stoney who came through for the victory.
Later on in the afternoon the Mini challenge returned for it’s second and final race of the day. The top 8 finishing order in race 1 was reversed for the grid of race which meant it was Patrick Mortimer on pole from Keith Issatt alongside him, with Henry Duprey and Hamish Brandon on row 2. The men to watch out for were Luke Caudle and race 1 winner Chris Knox, who were both on row 4 for this race. The rolling start was pretty uneventful although it didn’t stay that way for long, as a multi car accident in the lower Cooper class brought out the Safety Car at the end of lap 1.
It was two cars who were out of the race that caused the Safety Car, although frustratingly the barriers had been damaged in the accident, necessitating a red flag and 10-20 minute delay to repair them. For the re-started race the duration was cut from 20 to 15 minutes as the timetable was now well behind schedule. This time there was no major accidents on lap 1, and things were soon changing at the front as Caudle passed Newstead for the lead at Folly on lap 2. Seconds later the battle amongst the leading quartet got ugly as contact at Quarry left Newstead in the barriers and out of the race early on.
The Safety Car made yet another appearance on lap 4, with a further 3 laps being completed before it came in at the end of lap 6. Immediately from the re-start the leading quartet made a break from the rest as they started battling for the lead of the race. Despite a valiant defence from Caudle eventually on lap 10 Knox and Duprey were able to force their way through at the Esses. From here the leading four circulated in a tandem on the final lap as Knox claimed his second victory of the day, moving him even further ahead in the championship battle. Duprey came home 2nd from Caudle in 3rd and Hamish Brandon in 4th, with Alan Taylor in 5th and Keith Issatt in 6th completing the significant placing’s. Much like Knox, Shane Stoney came through to take his 2nd Cooper class victory in the day as he cements his position at the top of his class standings.
After two good races from the Mini challenge, they now have two more meetings in their season although with only 4 races remaining it’s hard to look past Chris Knox and Shane Stoney as the class winners, based on their dominant showings here at Castle Combe.
Photo credits go to http://www.bam-promo.com/news/panda-racing/brandon-do-battle-and-fortify-points-position-castle-combe/ and
For more information on this championship please visit their official website here