After the earlier Radical Clubman’s Cup race after the Formula Ford stanza, it was the turn of the premier UK Radical racing series, the SR3 Challenge, to take too the track. Despite a smaller than usual grid for this 90 minute endurance race the race still promised much excitement as some of Britain’s premier club Sportscar drivers took up their places on the starting grid. There was drama before the start however as rainfall over the back section of the circuit meant that one side was relatively dry whilst the other half was a completely wet circuit, leaving a massive headache for the drivers and teams before the start.
It was the Peter Belshaw/Phil Keen car that took place with amateur driver Belshaw taking the start, with soloist Lewis Plato alongside him on the front row. The Andy Cummings/Bradley Ellis SR3 took 3rd as ex-British GT champion Ellis took the start with another soloist Shahin Nouri completing row 2. From the start Bradley Ellis rocketed into an early lead as the rest of the field tip toed around the first laps on the greasy track. As Ellis and Lewis Plato shot away from the rest it appeared they may be on different tyres to the rest, such was their early advantage. By lap 7 it became clear tail enders Manhal Allos and Ossy Yusuf were the only one’s on wet tyres as they both set a string of Fastest laps, although their wet tyres would soon be destroyed by the rapidly drying conditions.
By lap 17 it became clear the crossover point for dry tyres had been reached, as Ellis began setting a string of his own fastest laps to only extend his huge lead from the rest behind. The hopes of 3rd man Jasper Westerholm took an early hit as he was forced in for an unscheduled stop on lap 21 with a right rear puncture, dropping him well down the order. Between laps 25 and 30 the lead dice was hotting up as leader Ellis and Plato in 2nd began trading fastest laps between each other.
On lap 32 the pit window opened for the cars in group A of the pit schedule, with 2nd man Plato and Peter Belshaw immediately taking advantage of this and pitting from their positions. The A group were all quick to pit in the subsequent laps although for the B group it took them a little longer to make their mandatory pitstop’s. Bradley Ellis was unsurprisingly the last to stop as on lap 42 as he handed over to his amateur team mate Andy Cummings with a significant lead of a lap and a bit over the rest. At this point of the race it was the Kevin Mills Radical SR3 of ex-single seater champion Scott Malvern who was setting the pace with very quick 1m04.2 lap times as he made up some ground lost in the first stint by co-driver Nick Jones.
The impressive stint from Malvern didn’t last much longer sadly as he caused a Safety Car deployment on lap 47 to recover his car after crashing, although when later interviewed he explained a gear selection issue caused the off. The Safety Car was ill-timed for Cummings as he lost almost all his advantage as the rest made up their lap to him up front. Things quickly got even worse for Cummings as he was forced to pit for a stop/go penalty, only reducing his lead further as the Safety Car came in on lap 51.
After his stop/go penalty allowed Lewis Plato into the lead of the race on lap 52, it was a tall order for amateur driver Cummings to keep up the professional drivers in the cars around him for the remainder of the race. A car off at Quarry necessitated another Safety Car on lap 56, although it’s very late deployment almost caught out the leading runners as they were forced to quickly slow down behind it. The Safety Car came in on lap 59, and Plato soon set about building a lead to the rest from the re-start. Ex-British GT and TVR Tuscan racer Phil Keen made light work of Cummings at the Esses to claim 2nd on lap 61, with a second penalty for Cummings effectively destroying his chances of a top 2 result as he was forced to pit again late on lap 66.
The final laps provided a showdown finish as Keen began closing on Plato at the rate of 0.5 seconds per lap as he hunted for the win, with his first challenge for the lead coming at the Esses on the penultimate lap. The final laps were tense for the leading two although eventually Lewis Plato came home for victory by only 0.3 seconds from the Belshaw/Keen car after 90 minutes of flat out racing. The greatly unlucky Ellis/Cummings car came home 3rd from a lapped Jesper Westerholm in 4th, with Manhal Allos and the Kim/Moseley cars completing the top 6 in an exciting endurance race from the Radical SR3 Challenge.
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For more info on this exciting Radical series please visit the link below