COLE BEATS TRIPLE CHAMPION BRAY IN MG TROPHY THRILLERS
Multiple MG Trophy champion Chris Bray admitted he felt rusty as he climbed back into the cockpit of his ZR 190 for the first time in over a year.
Two action-packed and enthralling races soon sorted that out as the MG season started with a bang at Donington Park, but the superb Doug Cole prevented the 2009, 2012 and ’14 title-winner from marking his comeback with a victory.
Cole was content to sit behind polesitter Bray in race one, as the number two car built a comfortable lead early on after an explosive start. But Cole bided his time, clawed his way back into contention and the lead was soon changing hands every lap as the pair squabbled and jostled.
Behind was an equally intriguing battle for third as series newcomer Lee Sullivan battled with Paul Luti and Fergus Campbell in the B Class. It was impossible to count the number of overtakes.
However, just as the race was about to reach a thrilling finale, Sam Ray’s leftfront wheel came off at the Old Hairpin and his ZR 170 flew into the gravel trap.
A red flag ended the fun prematurely and, after some discussion, the win was awarded to Cole and third place to a jubilant Sullivan.
Round two also did not disappoint.
This time, Cole did not want to sit around in second for long and quickly got past Bray. But the former champion seemed to have the faster car as he hounded his rival at every turn.
Cole’s defensive display was outstanding though and time and again he thwarted Bray into Redgate, when it looked certain the polesitter was about to fly past. Sullivan, again, took third.
While Bray could not celebrate his comeback with a win, Jason Simm had no issues as he powered to a convincing victory in the Cockshoot Cup.
The 2014 champion, who missed last season, started on pole but lost his lead to the TF LE 500 of Phillip Standish.
Simm got past quickly and regained the lead, but his expected race rival Gary Wetton had less success. It took him three more laps to get his ZR 190 through at the Old Hairpin but, by that time, Simm had disappeared.
Further back, Carl Chadwick was lucky to escape with limited damage to his Midget when he spiralled out of control and thumped the barriers hard on his way out of the chicane.
Helen Waddington was less fortunate as her heavy collision with Ian Wright knocked her out of the race and caused the second red flag of the day.
In the MG Cup, Thomas Halliwell got his season off to a flyer with two race wins in his ZR, with James Darby and Paul Eales completing the podium both times.
A fascinating four-way scrap, which also included Richard Wilson, was the highlight of race one as the four jostled for position on the opening lap.
Halliwell clearly had the faster car though and he dived down the outside of Darby along the main straight. However, he then rapidly jinked to the inside and completed a stunning move to take the lead. He won by over 20 seconds.
In race two, he was even more dominant as he took the lead on lap one from Eales and drove into the distance.
In the revamped one-class Metro Cup, Ben Rushworth led from start to finish for a convincing win in his Rover 100 ahead of Mike Williams’ Rover Metro and Andrew Ashton’s Rover Metro GTI.
Williams and Ashton enjoyed a close battle for second for the majority of the race until Ashton’s steering column broke during the final laps. He visibly slowed, allowing Lee Connell and Oliver Hood to close in, but their intense battle over fourth allowed Ashton to preserve a big enough gap and hang on to third.
Despite changing his car prior to the meet, Brian Arculus won in the Iconic 50s Sports Cars & FISCAR race by a commanding margin from Graham Coles.
Arculus was due to race in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta SVZ but a late change made no difference, as he got past Coles on lap two and raced clear to win in his Lotus Elite.
Veteran racer Arculus made it a superb double later on with Equipe GTS victory. An early pitstop seemed to hurt him but he took advantage of Rob Cull’s retirement and held off David Beresford’s MGB Roadster.
Elsewhere, James Dunkley drove faultlessly on his way to victory in the MG Midget/sprite Challenge, from Edward Reeve and Richard Wildman.
Dunkley took the lead from the start and won by 16 seconds.
1 Doug Cole (ZR 190) 16m47.599s (84.71mph); 2 Chris Bray (ZR 190) +0.312s; 3 Lee Sullivan (ZR 170); 4 Fergus Campbell (ZR 170); 5 Paul Luti (ZR 170; 6 Jake Fraser-burns (ZR 170). Class winners Sullivan; William Payne (ZR 160). Fastest lap Cole 1m21.888s (87.00mph). Pole Bray. Starters 27.
1 Cole 20m51.298s (85.29mph); 2 Bray +5.760s; 3 Sullivan; 4 Luti; 5 Robin Walker (ZR 190); 6 Campbell. CW Sullivan; Payne. Fl Cole 1m21.525s (87.39mph). P Bray. S 25.
1 Jason Simm (ZS 180) 17m27.490s (74.68mph); 2 Gary Wetton (ZR 190) +7.635s; 3 Phillip Standish (TF LE 500); 4 David Morrison (Midget); 5 Ray Collier (ZR 170); 6 Howard Hunt (ZS 180). CW Morrison; Adam Key (F VVC); Jeremy Toes (Midget). FL Simm 1m21.513s (87.40mph). P Simm. S 21.
1 Thomas Halliwell (ZR) 20m26.460s (81.21mph); 2 James Darby (B GT) +20.277s; 3 Paul Eales (B GT); 4 David Thompson (ZR 170); 5 Richard Wilson (B Roadster); 6 Clive Jones (B Roadster). CW Darby; Eales. FL Halliwell 1m25.944s (82.89mph). P Dan Ludlow (ZS 180). S 18.
1 Halliwell 20m18.457s (81.74mph); 2 Darby +29.227s; 3 Eales; 4 Wilson; 5 Thompson; 6 Shaun Holmes (C GT). CW Darby; Eales. FL Halliwell 1m25.151s (83.67mph). P Ludlow. S 16.
1 Ben Rushworth (Rover 100) 20m22.400s (81.48mph); 2 Mike Williams (Rover Metro) +2.946s; 3 Andrew Ashton (Rover Metro GTI); 4 Lee Connell (Rover Metro); 5 Oliver Hood (Rover 100); 6 Richard Garrard (MG Metro Turbo). FL Williams 1m26.263s (82.59mph). P Rushworth. S 23.
1 Brian Arculus (Lotus Elite) 21m04.871s (78.74mph); 2 Graham Coles (MGA Coupe) +16.843s; 3 Jonathan Smare (Lotus Elite); 4 Bob Lines (MGA); 5 Glenn Tollett (MGA Sebring); 6 John Reeve (MGA). CW Coles; Tollett; Nick Ashman (MG TC). FL Arculus 1m28.390s. (80.60mph). P Smare. S 11.
1 Brian Arculus (Lotus Elite) 39m55.080s (77.28mph); 2 David Beresford (MGB Roadster) +8.779s; 3 Pete Foster (Triumph TR4); 4 Craig Taylor (MGB Roadster); 5 Henry Rice (MGB Roadster); 6 Jonathan Smare (Lotus Elite). CW Beresford; Taylor; Glenn Tollett/ Rory Tollett (MGA Sebring). FL Brian White (Triumph TR4) 1m27.656s (81.27mph). P White. S 27.
Albone could only watch disconsolately from the adjacent marshals’ post as Cutmore staved off Al Boulton (Spire), who survived a moment of his own but kept second ahead of 2013-14 champion Matthew Higginson, who aced the front-engined split in his well-developed and brilliantly driven AB Arion.
Defending champion Scott Mittell’s day started badly, when a loose ignition wire hobbled his new Mittell MC-53’S Suzuki engine, leaving him 29th.
The Hampshireman scorched to fourth, but with race two’s grid based on second best practice times he was faced with having to do it again.
Boulton made a flying start this time, but Albone’s patched up car was ahead when a threecar mid-pack incident between Lodge and Deer Leap brought out red flags. Albone was caught napping at the restart and as Boulton shot ahead he was eighth (with Mittell 14th) half way round lap one.
It all went wrong for Mittell when he dived past Paul Rogers’ Contour at Old Hall on lap two, only for Andrew Nelson (MNR GM2) to drop two wheels on the grass ahead of them then nail Mittell amidships as he rejoined, firing Scott’s car backwards into the barrier, without personal injury. With time running out the race was voided.
Mark Higginson scored a splendid maiden victory in the Civic Cup in his FN2 model having narrowly fended off Jon Peerless who got the better of autograsser Mark Grice, more used to a twin motorcycleengined Mini pick-up than his Japanese machine.
Top qualifier Carl Swift started from the pitlane after a frantic radiator change but recovered to fourth. The 1600cc cars left later, from a sub-grid, Dave Buky triumphing over early leaders Chris Coomer and Ben Sharpe, who were split by Antony Turner at the chequer.
Andrew Gaugler scored his maiden victory in the reversedgrid sequel, keeping his smart Yellow Speed car ahead of Swift, whose attempt to pass at Druids mid-race was robustly thwarted. James Griffith beat Peerless to third once they had shrugged off a jostling quartet.
Classic Stock Hatch graduate Mervyn Beckett held the early 1600cc advantage, but Coomer shot through to defeat Buky by 0.2s, with Sharpe and Turner third and fourth.
Honours were split between Clive Hudson (Eclipse) and first time winner Rob Johnston (Cyana) after two cracking Sport Specials contests. Top qualifier Johnston did most of the chasing, but beaten by 0.09s in the slippery opener memorably snatched retribution in the subsequent dash photo-finish.
Cheshire autograss champion Phil Cooper was delighted to finally add his name to Bikesports’s winning alumni, the Radical PR6 driver’s speed and consistency seeing off the challenge of former Jade racer Alan Hogg, breaking a sevenyear sabbatical in the ex-tim Gray Spire GT3.
Cooper and Darcy Smith (Radical SR4) led a seven-car train in the dry second stanza, in which Philip Knibb – forced to miss race one by driveshaft failure in qualifying – powered his 1500cc Radical SR3 onto the tail of Cooper’s 1340cc machine. Joe Stables drove father Richard’s PR6 superbly to a close third, with fastest lap.
The 5Club Mazda MX-5S populated the day’s largest grid. BRSCC championship convert Sam Smith put last year’s dominant driver Ben Short under enormous pressure in race one, with Will BlackwellChambers on his back bumper.
The day’s finale was riddled with drama. A first-corner shemozzle forced a stoppage, after which Smith’s “brake failure” at the Island hairpin cannoned Short into WB-C, wrecking the latter’s right rear corner. Adam Bessell and Roger Chesneau duly outsmarted Kris Greatrex – who with brother Jason had sandwiched them after the melee – for memorable maiden podiums.
A drying track levelled the Roadsports enduro, polesitter Alec Livesley chasing Steve Hewson’s speedy Peugeot 106 until the mandatory stops, before powering his Jensen-healey to victory. “I was sideways on the straights before the circuit came to me,” said Livesley. The tussle for third saw Allan Gibson (Lotus Exige) eventually find sufficient grip to displace Darren Langeveld’s nippy Renault Clio.