It was a case of breaking new ground for the BRSCC Fiesta Championship racing with MRF Tyres as they visited Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire for the very first time in its current iteration. Fiestas have previously raced before in the days of their slot on the BTCC support package, but heading into the weekend only one driver in the entry had ever experienced it in a race weekend before.
Amongst the regular entrants from this season, the paddock welcomed back seasoned Fiesta racer Simon Horrobin who was making his first appearance of the season and also experiencing the new MRF Tyres. Simon used the weekend as something of a test to get to grips with the new rubber and collect data ahead of preparing cars for prospective drivers before the end of the season and next year.
The Saturday afternoon qualifying session was stopped for a short while after Robert Stevens suffered a high speed moment out on the back of the circuit which saw him end up in the tyre barriers and out for the rest of the weekend with a damaged car. Once the session was able to be completed, the Watkins brothers Samuel and Joshua occupied the front row of the grid with Horrobin a superb 3rd on his return and defending Class C champion David Nye in 4th. However, in post-qualifying scrutineering, all of the top 3 cars were found to be running ECUs that were not compliant with the regulations. While Samuel Watkins was able to fix the problem and keep his pole position, both Joshua Watkins and Horrobin had their times deleted and were both forced to start at the back of the grid. This allowed Nye to move up onto the front row alongside Samuel Watkins for the start of Race 1.
From 5th on the grid, championship leader Harry Gooding stormed through to pick up the lead by the end of the first lap and while he tried to pull out a gap initially, he quickly found himself coming under pressure from pole man Watkins. On a couple of occasions, the 20Ten Racing driver looked as though an opportunity to pass may present itself, but in the end Watkins was forced to the sidelines when a wheel bearing problem put him out of the race and what could have been a strong result on his Fiesta return. This left Gooding out in front and virtually unchallenged for the remainder of the race, showing everyone why he was top of the points and a former Fiesta Junior champion with a drama-free run to the flag.
At the finish, Gooding was able to add another race win to his tally, with his victory margin ending up at just over 6 seconds. David Nye, using all of his experience from racing at Thruxton in the BTCC in previous years, managed to come home in second place but was put under pressure all the way to the flag by Tom Hutchins in his Nye’s old Fiesta from last season. Hutchins did end up 3rd, while 4th place went to the charging Simon Horrobin on his comeback as he tore his way through the field to pick up a strong result on his first race back. The top 5 was completed by Richard Ashmole who had a strong start to the race but faded a little before settling for his position. The remainder of the top 10 was filled out by Joshua Watkins, Jake Dawson, Class D winner Jamie White in 8th place overall, Ollie Hunt in 9th and Zachary Lucas finishing as the second Class D car home in 10th overall.
With White and Lucas in the top two Class D places, third in class went to Luke Bannister, who seemed to be improving more and more with new team Dennis Racing. Class A was won by Mark Court who managed to beat and therefore take more points from rival Colin Newbold, who was also hit with a ten second penalty post-race for starting out of position.
For the second race, Gooding lined up on pole as a result of his Race 1 win with Nye alongside on the front row once more for company, but when the lights went out it would be neither of them that would leave the Campbell-Cobb-Seagrave complex first. In fact, it was JamSport team boss Jamie Going that scored an absolute flyer off the line to go from the 5th row of the grid and charge from 10th to the lead, moving around the outside of Campbell corner to hit the front in the process.
Wasting no time to chase down and challenge his old rival, Horrobin began closing down the lead that Going had quickly built up in the opening couple of laps and by Lap 6 he was right on the JamSport driver’s tail. Also joining into the mix were Joshua Watkins and Race 1 winner Gooding, making a fantastic quartet fighting for the lead by half distance. Not long afterwards, Gooding was sensationally forced out of the race with wheel bearing problems of his own before both Danny Harrison and Ryan Faulconbridge would also suffer similar problems of their own.
Back at the front, Horrobin was shaping up for a move on Going to take the lead and eventually he did it on Lap 11, but a lap later the fireworks would really begin down at the complex. Shortly before their arrival, Mark Court had entered and then exited the pits with a fuel system problem and moments after leaving pitlane, he parked up on the approach to Campbell. With yellow flags present has he tried to restart and park the car in a safe place, the leading trio of Horrobin, Going and Watkins arrived into the zone. Going looked set to make a move for the lead on Horrobin, but at the last moment attempted to back out upon seeing the yellow flags. Not able to slow down enough in time, Going crunched into the side of Horrobin’s car, but the positions remained the same despite Going then forced to take to the grass to cut inside of Cobb corner moments later.
The remaining couple of laps reeled off and while Going did try again to displace Horrobin, the bright orange Specialized Motorsport car wouldn’t budge from the top spot. Horrobin picked up a superb win on his return to the championship with Going second and Joshua Watkins a very strong 3rd at the finish. David Nye and to settle for 4th place ahead of a personal best result for Ollie Hunt in 5th, while 6th and 7th were reserved for what became a race long dice between Class D leaders White and Lucas. On a number of occasions, Lucas was able to get the better of the reigning champion, but eventually White had enough to see him off and pick up another class win; Lucas was also hit with two time penalties for track limits, but maintained his 7th overall and 2nd in class. Richard Ashmole overcame contact on the opening lap to finish in 8th place, ahead of Mark Faulconbridge in 9th and Tim Bennett taking the final Class D podium spot in 10th. Class A would go to Colin Newbold as a result of Court’s earlier retirement.
Only two race weekends are left in the 2018 season, the first of which comes at Silverstone on the International circuit on September 22/23, where we expect more door handle to door handle racing to take place!
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