The grids for Rounds 3 & 4 of the MINI Challenge were dominated by Arthur Forster (#1) and Gareth Nixon (#3) gaining pole position for both races in the S-Class and Club-Class respectively.
Round 3 was a race packed full of incident and excitement throughout. After a clean start throughout the field, Nathan Coulter (#16), aged only 16 and competing in his first ever car race collided with David Shepherd (#22) on the third lap. CoulterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s car ended up in the gravel trap with significant front end damage whilst Shepherd carried on with a damaged car to take only 4 points from the race, having finished in last place.
It should have been a lights-to-flag victory for reining champion Forster but a collision with a Club-Class back marker at the end of lap 12 of the 15-minute sprint race caused an electrical fault to occur and retirement from the race; handing a maiden victory to Allen Jackson (#77). Jackson had been holding off teenager Freddy NordstrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¶m (#44) for much of the race, with Forster in a commanding position when the incident occurred, after the race he commented ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI was overtaking a Cooper along the pit-straight when he just pulled across the track and collided into my car. The hazard lights then came on, then brakes locked-up at the entry to Paddock Hill bend and I went into the gravel trapÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Also of note within the S-Class were a number of stunning overtaking manoeuvres by novice, Gavin Bristow (#51) in the Oxford Associates car. Starting in 10th, Bristow made a poor start and dropped two places on lap 1 but fought back, passing cars at various places around the track, to finish in 6th position. Andrew Bailey (#5) completed the podium with a strong drive from the second row of the grid.
The Club-Class was won by Gareth Nixon who showed similar form from the previous event held at Snetterton to claim his second win of the season ahead of an inspired Jonathan Shepherd (#21) and Rob Austin (#24).
Although the lead may not have changed throughout, the race positions (and paint schemes!) were changing regularly within the Club-Class, much to the appreciation of the strong crowd around the circuit, many of who were from various MINI clubs based in the South of England.
Billed as the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“MINI FestivalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢, DunlopÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Great and BritishÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ event at Brands Hatch offered the chance for MINI drivers to take to the circuit in their own cars during the lunch break for a MINI Parade, the first 1000 people to arrive at the circuit also received a Dunlop Cap. Also on the race card were classic Mini Miglia and Mini Se7en Championships.
Round 4 of the MINI Challenge took place later the same day; the sun was hidden behind typical ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“grey and BritishÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ clouds but little threat of wet weather. Forster was passed by Martin Depper (#30) on the first lap who promptly pulled out a 2-second lead over the rest of the field. His hard work was ruined when a mistake by J. Shepherd at Druids hairpin landed him deep in the gravel, bringing out the safety car. This bunched the field of 32 cars back up together but Depper held onto the lead after the restart and was driving very well. Behind him, Forster held off a train of 8 cars including NordstrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¶m, A.Bailey and Jackson who were battling closely for third.
The safety car would once again be called into action; this time due to Charles Bloom (#2) who spun his Works Cooper S into the gravel trap before Clark bend, greatly reducing DepperÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s lead for the second time in the race, with only 7-minutes remaining. From the restart, Forster showed just why heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s champion material and passed Depper in the final stages, with only two laps left to run. NordstrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¶m held onto 3rd place and takes the lead in the S-Class points standings by a slender 4 points from Carl Bradley who had a disappointing weekend, managing only a 6th and an 11th place finishes.
It would seem that the Club-Class car to be in is the Advent Motorsport #99 car, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s been quick whoever has driven it. Ray McDowell, replaced Tim Crighton for the Brands Hatch rounds and lead for most of the second race denying Nixon a third Club-Class win, Graham Parsons (#20) completed the podium positions with his best finish of the season thus far. Nixon however stretched his lead at the top of both Club-Class and Overall standings to 23 and 14 points respectively.
Next on the Dunlop ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Great and BritishÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ calendar is the South Coast of Wales and a visit to the Pembrey Circuit in Llanelli.
Pictures come courtesy of Hyde Photography.