‘Butler-henderson starts title defence with a win’
Reigning Mini Challenge champion Charlie ButlerHenderson and Nathan Harrison shared the race wins at Donington Park on a weekend the organisers would probably rather forget.
Driving standards were called into question after races littered with red flag stoppages and the cancellation of an entire round after a multi-car accident. But, when racing finally did break out, there was much to enjoy from the 255bhp, 30-car JCW grid.
Harrison is a star in the making. Of that there is little doubt. The former British karting champion dominated the Cooper Class last year and secured pole for his first appearance among the turbocharged cars.
Butler-henderson lined up fourth for the first race, but the red flags flew before he could do much when multiple cars tripped over each other at the Craner Curves. CB-H made no mistake at the restart and jumped past Harrison and early leader Chris Smith before leading almost from start to finish. Harrison shadowed him in second with Smith third.
The first attempt at race two was an unmitigated disaster. Drivers complained of a lack of rear tyre heat in their Dunlops from Saturday, so two green flag laps were brought in for Sunday’s races. But when Bence Balogh was elbowed across the grass at full tilt and helplessly slid back across the track at Mcleans on the first lap, the resulting tangle accounted for multiple retirements. The red flags flew again and, with a heavy clean-up operation needed, the cars were sent back to the paddock.
MSVR initially rescheduled the race to take place at 1900hrs, but eventually canned it due to timetable concerns ( see Racing News).
That meant race three effectively became round two, with the grid decided by finishing positions from Saturday. Butler-henderson started on pole with Harrison alongside, and this time Harrison made no mistake, slipping into the lead at the Old Hairpin and not looking back.
Butler-henderson shadowed him for much of the race, but throttled back when light rain began to fall. “You can’t win a championship on the first weekend so I’m playing the long game and taking no risks, especially after how this weekend has gone for some!” said CB-H. David Grady took third, ahead of Chris Smith.
The Challenge’s combined S and Cooper Class grid did manage all three races, and produced a hat-trick of Cooper wins for Max Bladon. Josh Gollin provided stern opposition in all three. Bladon even beat a five-second track limits penalty in the last outing to secure his treble.
Steve Cocker should have won all three S class races, but recurrent turbo issues limited him to just the first, while Scott Jeffs did the double in the other two.
Butler-henderson (r) and Harrison shared the wins
The 30-car JCW field had some issues, but still starred