Brown and Butler-henderson share Mini wins as title battle heats up
Defending Mini Challenge champion Charlie Butler-henderson and Cooper class graduate Nathan Harrison remain closely matched on points after two Jcw-only confrontations at Brands Hatch. Harrison scored a pair of podium places and CB-H had a fourth place and a win.
Perhaps the star of the weekend though was Jono Brown. After a torrid opening round when he crashed out at Donington Park, he gave himself the ideal tonic with pole and a commanding win in race one. Brown used his qualifying tyres in a controlled drive to victory. This would leave him a new set on which to challenge from fifth on the part-reversed race two grid.
A close contest for second made Brown’s task easier. Harrison had the place for much of the race, but Chris Smith moved ahead when it mattered with a bold move at Surtees. ButlerHenderson finally passed Rob Smith for fifth on the road and finished right behind Luke Caudle, who was subsequently penalised down to 10th for a jumped start. Caudle had a restricted qualifying session because of a misfire and started seventh, but a good getaway was deemed a little too quick, and the time penalty followed.
New tyres or not, Brown could make no impression from fifth in a processional second race. ButlerHenderson soon took command and managed the gap back to Harrison, poleman Rob Smith, Chris Smith and Brown. Rob Smith felt he’d overheated the car and lost power on the parade lap, costing time early on.
Still short of seat time in the family team’s new Bentley, Jordan Witt nevertheless qualified almost 2s faster than Richard Chamberlain’s Porsche for the GT Cup and proved to be in a class of his own in all three races. With Chamberlain clear in second, by the end of race one John Dhillon’s Ferrari 458 was being caught for third by Gareth Downing’s Lotus Evora. Both were in the sights of Darren Nelson, whose Lamborghini missed qualifying with a gearbox issue and progressed from last on the grid to fifth, but the laps ran out before any of these places could change. Sixth man Tom Webb, with regular co-driver brother James absent on a stag weekend, won his class.
Witt again dominated race two but Nelson and Chamberlain enlivened things with a start-to-finish contest for second, although the Lamborghini was ahead all the way. Downing was fourth and Webb fifth, benefiting from a first lap spin by Dhillon. This left the Ferrari driver playing catch-up into sixth place.
The third race, with pitstops, had the same winner, but the Lamborghini crashed early on and Chamberlain caused a red flag premature finish after shunting out of Hawthorns. Dhillon was joined by Aaron Scott to take second place.
Blancpain’s amateur-only GT Sports Club races were dominated by Polish driver Michal Broniszewski in a Ferrari 458. Most of the action was in the fight for second. Martin Lanting’s 458 had the place in race one until he clipped a backmarker and spun off at Sheene, and Nicolas Vandierendonck dropped back after putting his Chevrolet Corvette through the Paddock gravel. This left Patrick van Glabeke in another 458 to take second, with Karim Ojjeh’s BMW M6 third. American surgeon Steve Earle won the class for drivers aged over 60.
Ojjeh passed van Glabeke for second in race two when the Ferrari had a wobble through Paddock. The Corvette fell back to fourth and dropped to ninth in the results after a 30s penalty for overtaking during a full course yellow.
The Caterham Graduates enjoyed their second meeting of the year, with five classes in action over three doubleheaders. First up was the Classics, where the top three drivers were tied on points. Graeme Smith put an end to that by winning twice – in race one he jostled for position early on before breaking clear on the final lap to win as his rivals battled.
Smith made it a double in race two, squeezing past Steven Mcmaster into Brundle and Nelson in another welltimed last lap move to snatch top spot.
Declan Dolan and Luke Cooper took a class win apiece in the pair of Caterham Super and Mega races. A strong start for Cooper in race one looked like putting him in control, only for a surging Dolan to sneak ahead in a blanket finish.
Cooper bounced back in race two, edging away from the pack to secure top spot. Meanwhile, Andy Molsom claimed wins in the Super Class, beating closest rival Edward Benson both times.
Three cars were in the mix for overall victory in the opening race for Sigma and Sigmax groups. Dylan Stanley, Lee Bristow and Scott Lawrence from the faster Sigmax class parried for most of the distance, with Lawrence beating Bristow at the finish.
In race two, Bristow held off Stanley and Zoltan Csabai to win. Meanwhile, David Webber and Jamie Winrow took a win apiece in the Sigma Class.
Ed Moore had the opening Junior Saloons race in his control from the start, converting pole to a dominant win. Despite chipping away at Moore’s lead and setting fastest lap, fellow front-row starter Matthew Round-garrido couldn’t get close enough to challenge.
It was a similar story in race two, with Moore enjoying another lights-to-flag victory. Meanwhile, Round-garrido recovered from fifth on the grid to third, but couldn’t find a way past second-placed Charlie Kennedy.
Tom Howard and Mike Moss teamed up to win the opening GT and Production enduro. Having taken over from Howard mid-race in the lead, Moss held off a challenge from Ruben Anakhasyan to secure victory. Anakhasyan went one better in race two, beating a trio of BMWS to win.
With two wins and a second place, Liam Morley proved the pacesetter in the Division 1 Superkarts while Jack Layton retained his lead in the MSA Championship despite a retirement.
In the F450 category, Stephen Clark twice edged closest rival Phil Rowlands following a retirement due to an oil leak in race one. In the F125 Open class, reigning champion Lee Harpham fought off the close attentions of Morley.
There was a thrilling climax to the Britcar Endurance race, as Mike Wilds used all his experience from 51 years of racing to secure victory in the Ferrari 458 shared with son Anthony. Having chosen to go to the finish without a late fuel stop, Wilds knew his chances rested on managing his pace to stay ahead of hardcharging Andrew Mckenna (who’d pitted with 20 minutes to go). It worked out perfectly for Wilds, with Mckenna losing time scrabbling past Manuel Cintrano into Riches, allowing Wilds to escape.
Among the notable performances further down the order was a recovering Nigel Moore, who set fastest lap of the race in the closing minutes despite his Audi R8 having earlier caught fire. But it was the indefatigable Wilds who stole the show.