BUTLER-HENDERSON TAKES BACK CONTROL
Three different winners shared the spoils as the Mini Challenge JCWS headlined MSVR’S annual Mini Festival, but the happiest driver leaving Kent will be Charlie Butler-henderson who snatched back the championship lead.
While he didn’t win a race, two podiums from three races and trouble for all of his closest title rivals have helped the reigning champion open out the largest points cushion he’s had all season.
David Grady gave his title ambitions a shot in the arm with a win and a podium, while Brett Smith took a welldeserved maiden victory in the opener and Luke Caudle ended the weekend with his first race win in a year.
Qualifying marked the downfall of many of the regulars, with the ultra-close session determining who would thrive and who would struggle in the races. With track temperatures above 30 degrees, the two-litre turbocharged engines suffered for cooling in dirty air, with the ECUS reducing turbo boost and power in order to cope. It meant overtaking was at a premium, and those in traffic would struggle more than usual.
Brett Smith snatched pole by just 0.015s from Grady, with Rob Smith, Chris Smith and Butler-henderson all blanketed by less than a tenth.
Nathan Harrison led the points coming into the weekend, but he could only qualify seventh after struggling for rear-end grip and straight-line pace in the heat. CB-H’S other big rival, Jono Brown, started just ninth after struggling for a clear lap.
That began the downfall of both title challengers as both made little headway. Harrison would only record a hat-trick of ninth places to haemorrhage points, while Brown took a best of fifth in race one before engine issues limited his results in races two and three.
With both out of the running, ButlerHenderson grabbed a last-gasp podium with a daring lunge on third-placed Rob Smith starting the final lap of race one. Brett Smith led throughout from Grady.
Race two was almost a mirror, but with Grady taking the flag this time after slipping past Smith into Druids on the first lap. Butler-henderson tried to unseat Rob Smith again, but Rob was wise to it this time and held his spot on the rostrum.
Fifth place in that outing was good enough for pole on the reversed grid for Caudle, and he led both attempts at the final race, getting away well in the first before the red flags flew for a clash on the pit straight. That was a let-off for CB-H, who had lost his second place to Rob Smith. But with the restart going back to the original grid, it essentially handed him back second, and another hat full of points. The net result means Mini UK man Butler-henderson now sits 23 points clear of Harrison at the summit as he chases a second crown.
1 Caudle; 2 Butler-henderson +0.362s; 3 R Smith; 4 Grady; 5 Henry Neal; 6 Lawrence Davey. FL Chris Smith 52.899s (82.20mph). P Caudle. S 23.
1 Rob Austin (Cooper S); 2 Tim Porter (Cooper S) +2.966s; 3 Scot Adam (Cooper S); 4 Carlito Miracco (Cooper S); 5 Steve Cocker (Cooper S); 6 Keith Issatt (R56 Cooper S). CW Issatt, Max Bladon (Cooper). FL Richard Mills (Cooper S) 53.229s (81.69mph). P Cocker. S 34.
1 Austin; 2 Adam +0.049s; 3 Miracco; 4 Cocker; 5 Porter; 6 Issatt. CW Issatt, Bladon. FL Miracco 54.631s (79.59mph). P Austin. S 26.
1 Rob Howard; 2 Rupert Deeth +0.167s; 3 Dan Wheeler; 4 Damon Astin; 5 Paul Thompson; 6 James Coulson. CW Astin, Jim Burrows. FL Shayne Deegan 54.771(79.39mph). P Astin. S 18. 1 Deegan; 2 Deeth +9.045s; 3 Astin; 4 Drew; 5 Wheeler; 6 Kane Astin. CW Astin, Burrows. FL Deegan 54.886s (79.25mph). P Deegan. S 16. 6 Kieren Mcdonald. CW Josh Collins. FL Selby 1m00.429s (71.96mph). P Hunter. S 27.
1 Sam Tomlinson; 2 Greg Jenkins +1.820s; 3 Stuart Coombes; 4 Craig Pendlebury; 5 Morgan Harris; 6 Joshua Young. FL Harris 1m04.824 (67.08mph). P Tomlinson. S 15.
1 Jenkins; 2 Pendlebury +0.180s; 3 Harris; 4 Young; 5 Simon Carter; 6 Tomlinson. FL Tomlinson 1m04.306s (67.62mph). P Carter. S 13. 1 Endaf Owens (Mini Cooper S); 2 Nick Swift (Mini Cooper S) 0.068s; 3 Barry Sime (Morris Cooper S); 4 Nick Paddy (Morris Cooper S); 5 Mark Burnett (Austin Mini Cooper S); 6 Stig Blomqvist (Morris Cooper S). FL Owens 58.774 (73.98mph). P Ian Curley. S 18.
1 Owens; 2 Chris Morgan (Austin Cooper S) +5.754s; 3 Swift; 4 Jimmy Sime; 5 Paddy; 6 Burnett. FL Owens 58.649s (74.14mph). P Owens. S 15.
1 Nick Swift/ Phil Amming (Mini Cooper S); 2 Owens/ Wheeler (Mini Cooper S) +3.874s; 3 Nick Paddy/ Bill Sollis (Morris Cooper S); 4 Steve Jones (Morris Cooper S); 5 Peter Crewes/ Brian Johnson (Mini Cooper S); 6 Keith Padmore/ Nick Padmore (Cooper S). FL Paddy/ Sollis 58.460 (74.38mph). P Sollis/ Paddy. S 13.
1 Bill Richards (Rover Metro); 2 Lee Jones (Mini) +2.357s; 3 Jim Lyons (Mini Maxi); 4 Jon Lee (Lynx R1 Mini); 5 David Usher (Mini); 6 Peter Hills (Austin Mini). FL Jones 53.262 (81.64mph). P Richards. S 12.
1 Richards 15m30.173s (79.47mph); 2 Lyons +4.984s; 3 Shayne Deegan (Rover Mini); 4 Lee; 5 David Franks (Austin Mini); 6 Hills. FL Richards 53.139s (81.83mph). P Richards. S 10.