The UK-based 2006 MINI Challenge kicked off at Snetterton Circuit in the Norfolk Countryside on the 1st of April. Amongst the grid of 32 cars, no such fools included Freddy Nordström (#44) and Carl Bradley (#4) in the S-Class, who took pole positions for Rounds 1 and 2 respectively.

The following day saw the 15 minute race take place on a damp but drying track with ominous grey clouds overhead. A first lap incident at ‘Riches corner’ saw pole man Nordström take to the bumpy and grass covered run-off area causing considerable damage to his front bumper grill and radiator and dropping him from first to tenth place by the end of lap one.

Defending S-Class champion Arthur Forster (#1) took the lead but was passed first by Bradley on lap six who then took control of the race and led until the chequered flag to take the win on his championship debut in the Coastal Racing prepared car. Simon Baker (#7) and Forster both of who drive Forster Motorsport prepared cars took the other S-Class podium positions.

In the 130bhp Club-Class, favourite Rob Austin (#24) was spun around before even reaching the start finish line on the first lap with damage causing him to retire. Eric Bailey (#36) won the class by a comfortable margin with a very close three-car fight for second behind him headed up by Gary Kounnis (#47) making for a good day in the Forster Motorsport camp.

Round 2 saw a ‘lights to flag’ win by Bradley to make it two wins out of two races. Nordström’s repaired Works MINI Cooper S made it to second place with student David Shepherd (#22) who graduated from last seasons Club-Class also reached the S-Class podium.

Gareth Nixon (#3) in his striking “chequered flag” livery MINI Cooper won the Club-Class in comfortable style, 9 seconds ahead of Bailey and Tim Crighton (#99), who had suffered considerable front right damage in Round 1 soldiered his Advent Motorsport car to third.

Oxford Associate Race Team driver Gavin Bristow (#51) finished as the top Novice driver, eighth in both races, in his first ever circuit races. He’d previously only competed in British National Rallying and was thrilled at the result and beating proven circuit racing drivers.

The next rounds of the MINI Challenge will take place at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on the 29th and 30th April, as part of the second weekend of Dunlop’s Great & British Motorsport Festival.

(Photos courtesy of ‘Steve Hyde Photography’ the official championship photographer)