As might have been predicted, the Mini Se7en and Miglia Challenges were the crowd pleasers at the Hampshire circuit’s half-century meeting, with four drama-filled races over two days.
The Mini Se7ens kicked off the race action on Saturday afternoon, former Metro champion Tom Sanderson eventually converting pole position into a first series victory in only his second season in the category. Having blown an engine in qualifying, Darren Thomas’ untried replacement was a flyer to give him second ahead of points leader Max Hunter and quickest-over-a-lap, Daniel Budd in fourth.
Dom Burger took fifth ahead of S-Class winner Scott Kendall, once initial leader Nick Croydon-Fowler had dropped out. Hot, humid conditions caused several overheating issues, but of note James Bull still managed to set a new S-Class lap record, and Julian Proctor stormed from the back of the grid into the top 10.
A mid-morning Sunday start for the Miglias opening race was shaping up to be a belter when yellow flags at the chicane initiated the first of two heavy Mini accidents.
Having perhaps expected the stranded car to have been removed out of harm’s way, the leaders arrived next time round to still be greeted with yellows, and in trying to avoid overtaking, the cars of Rupert Deeth and Alfie Brown were suddenly spearing off left into the barriers after contact, thankfully both emerging ok.
As soon as the safety car had returned to the pits, the frantic pace picked up again and, timing his run to perfection, Dave Drew came through to take a popular victory ahead of Nick Padmore, Aaron Smith and Kane Astin, the latter setting a new lap record from the sixth row. Among the six Libres to start, Jonathan Lewis took a class debut win ahead of David Franks.
In the second Se7en encounter, Thomas had established a narrow lead over the jostling pack when on lap 4 there was an almighty commotion over the far side of the circuit and a car could be seen tumbling over the barriers into a marshals’ post.
After a short safety car period, red flags halted proceedings as rescue vehicles and ambulances were despatched, followed by an unnerving silence with an incident this serious, but gradually the news filtered through that the two people taken to the medical centre were up and walking, a marshal with bruising and cuts but otherwise ok, and Daniel Budd whose #47 it was that had gone off.
Surveying the remains of the ‘shell later it is testament to current build integrity that Dan was unharmed, if perhaps still in shock. The result was taken on countback to 4 laps, giving Thomas the win ahead of Spencer Wanstall, Sanderson and Hunter, with Croydon-Fowler leading the S-Class at the time.
After that sobering reminder of the sport’s inherent danger, the day’s events were brought to an uplifting conclusion with an absolute belter of a Miglia race. Lap after lap the lead would change hands, with Drew and Smith mostly out front, along with Astin, Peacock, Charlie Budd and, after a mammoth effort to straighten his car from the morning off, Deeth, all of them getting a nose in front at some point.
The latter looked to have pinched it with a couple of laps to go, but just overcooked it into the chicane which allowed Drew and Smith to open a tiny gap as the rest had to lift to avoid the half-spun car. In a final last lap, hold-yer-breath attempt, Drew went to the outside but Smith just held the perfect line to squeeze him out, with Astin, Peacock, Budd and Jason Porter virtually tied together behind.
In the Libres, newcomer Franks took the win from Ian Fraser, after early leader Lewis pulled off. As in the three previous races, the crowd gave a standing ovation.
With three UK meetings completed, the M7RC now heads off across the North Sea to Zandvoort in Holland for Rounds 7 & 8, over the 7-8 July weekend.
Race 1 13 laps
1 19 Tom Sanderson
2 20 Darren Thomas
3 46 Max Hunter
6 708 Scott Kendall (S-Class)
Race 2 4 laps (red-flagged)
1 20 Darren Thomas
2 5 Spencer Wanstall
3 19 Tom Sanderson
5 777 Nick Croydon-Fowler (S-Class)
Race 1 13 laps
1 29 Dave Drew
2 56 Nick Padmore
3 21 Aaron Smith
7 666 Jonathan Lewis (Libre)
Race 2 14 laps
1 21 Aaron Smith
2 29 Dave Drew
3 11 Kane Astin
12 186 David Franks (Libre)
Words by: Richard Williamson