Dunlop Mini Se7en & Mini Miglia Challenge Rounds 11 + 12 – Saturday 19 August
Unseasonal weather blighted the penultimate rounds of the 2017 Challenge at Oulton Park on Saturday, with rain and chilly temperatures putting a dampener on the Mini Festival North.
Both Mini Se7en races were interrupted by red flags, with several cars out of action after several unfortunate accidents in the tricky conditions.
Darren Thomas took victory in the dampish morning race from championship leader Charlie Budd in second and Spencer Wanstall third, the result declared at 6 laps, and with most of these run behind the safety car. In the less damp but equally slippery afternoon encounter, a multi-car incident at the first corner required a restart, Budd finally getting the monkey off his back with his first win in the series to strengthen his championship lead.
Wanstall improved one spot to second, with reigning champion Ashley Davies adding a third to his earlier fourth. A pair of fifths for Lewis Selby keeps alive his hopes of catching Budd for overall honours.
A record 10 cars represented the ever-increasing, budget-tuned, S-Class. A first and second for Shaun Tarlton has just about done enough to regain him the title he won back in 2014. Closest rival Ben Butler was restricted to a best of third and then fourth.
Early-season challenger Justin Cooper endured a frustrating weekend in which his title hopes disappeared, just like his caravan floor after a puncture en route from his Norfolk base, then the awning blew away during the overnight gale in Cheshire!
In his first outing of the season in a new car, Nick Croydon-Fowler was bang on the pace to shadow Tarlton home in the opener before going one better in the second, with Andy Dickinson joining them on the podium after a dogged drive to third.
On his return to Mini Miglias, 2011 champion Endaf Owens was immediately on the pace in the wet opener but soon found himself off track which necessitated a safety car whilst the tyrewall was repaired. When the green lights flicked on again, it was teenage novice Alfie Brown who showed a-mature-head-on-young-shoulders to take a brilliant debut win, holding off series leader Rupert Deeth by 1.159s at the flag in a time-shortened race.
Another former champion, Kane Astin was right on their bootlids in third, in a contest that the commentator described as “the best race of the day…”
A drying track produced an equally enthralling battle in the late-afternoon race (the only one of the day to run its scheduled distance, including six for the BMW MINIs!), Brown again in contention before he ran out of brakes and wisely pitted as others continued to go off.
Deeth and Owens – the latter remarkably back on track after repairing his bashed car in just over 3 hours - gradually dropped the rest, Deeth virtually assured of reclaiming the title with victory number six of the season. In third, Sam Summerhayes claimed only his second podium of the year, just edging out Dave Drew who moved up to third overall on points, behind Aaron Smith who recorded just a fifth and a DNF.
In the concurrent Mini Libres, Devonian Peter Crewes has nearly wrapped up the invitational class despite not being the quickest over the weekend. However, in the earlier wet race he was wily enough to be in the right position to inherit the lead when Paul Thompson went off before recovering at the tail of the group.
Then, in the later event, Crewes was able to nurse his ailing car home behind Thompson after title rival Gary Warburton lost drive when leading, having been second in the earlier race.
Interestingly, this was the first time in 34 years that the Mini Seven Racing Club had tackled the short 1.66-mile Fosters circuit, and so all of the fastest laps were newly established, as both Se7en (850cc to 1000cc) and Miglia (998cc to 1300cc) formulae have increased engine capacities since then!
Round 11 Mini Se7en (6 laps)
1 D Thomas
2 C Budd
3 S Wanstall
4 A Davies
5 L Selby
6 P Spark
1 S Tarlton
2 N Croydon-Fowler
3 B Butler Round
12 Mini Se7en (12 laps)
1 C Budd
2 S Wanstall New lap record – 1:16.776 (77.55 mph)
3 A Davies
4 P Spark
5 L Selby
6 G Hunt
1 N Croydon-Fowler
2 S Tarlton New lap record – 1:18.791 (75.57 mph)
3 A Dickinson
Round 11 Mini Miglia (9 laps)
1 A Brown
2 R Deeth
3 K Astin
4 S Summerhayes
5 A Smith
6 C Peacock
1 P Crewes
Round 12 Mini Miglia (18 laps)
1 R Deeth New Lap record – 1:09.042 (86.24 mph)
2 E Owens
3 S Summerhayes
4 D Drew
5 K Astin
6 M Sims
1 P Thompson New lap record – 1:18.791 (75.57 mph)
Next round: Rockingham 30 September-1 October
Words: Rich Williamson
Racing • 22nd Aug, 17 •