2016 SEASON REVIEW – HONDA VTEC CHALLENGE
Robert Burkinshaw's mighty Integra Type-R was always a threat at every meeting – Photo: Jonathan Fletcher
2016 saw the Honda VTEC Challenge enter into its 6th competitive year, with a fantastic line up of drivers registered for the season ahead.
With a great calendar consisting of the usual 7 rounds provided by the team at the BRSCC, everyone was excited about the year ahead. With “Digitex” and “Hayfisher” providing TV coverage throughout the year, meaning the track action would be recorded for posterity.
The opening rounds at Oulton saw a welcome return for many of last year’s drivers as well as a number of drivers trying the series for the first time. The inaugural race weekend of the season saw a brace of race wins go to Peter Dixon in his CRX, with Rob Burkinshaw in his DC5 taking 2nd place overall twice. Jeff Cooper in a second CRX took two 3rd places overall. Completing the class wins for the weekend was Paul Donkin, who secured the “Production” class win in both races, mixing it up on track with cars from the “Tuner” and “Super Tuner” classes.
It was on to the “National” circuit at Silverstone for rounds 3 & 4 where grids continued to prove healthy, with more new drivers making their 2016 debut. Following gearbox issues at Oulton, Rob Burkinshaw was missing this event and any number of drivers had the opportunity to take the top step of the podium. Adam Jones, Paul Waddington and Mark Bennet went on to dice for the win throughout both races, with Jones leading the pack home in race 1 for his maiden win and Waddington going one position better in race 2 to secure his first race win also.
The series headed to Rockingham for Rounds 5 & 6 and with a freshly rebuilt gearbox in his Integra, Rob Burkinshaw was back and secured pole from Adam Jones. For race 1, the popular S2000 of Mark Bennett fought hard against Burkinshaw for the duration of the race, however it would be Burkinshaw taking the win from Bennett. Paul Donkin in the “Production” class Civic was faced with stiff competition, but managed to hold on for a 3rd place overall! Race 2 saw a reversal of fortunes for Burkinshaw and Bennett, with Bennett taking the spoils and his first ever race win after a tremendous drive! Again it would be Donkin taking 3rd place overall in his less powerful Civic, a testament to the set up and driver ability.
Rounds 7 & 8 was at one of the series regular tracks, (Snetterton) using the 300 layout. Burkinshaw in the DC5 secured two comfortable 1st places, whilst Mark Bennett followed up on his race win at Rockingham, with 2nd place overall in both races. For race 1, Adam Jones took the final podium place, having overcome a difficult start when gear selection hampered his progress. In race 2, it was Stuart King who joined Burkinshaw and Bennett on the podium, having come from the back of the grid, following a DNF in race 1.
Our first trip to picturesque Anglesey in Wales was the venue for rounds 9 & 10. Neil Wrenn secured his first pole position of the season, but was unable to capitalise for race 1. Burkinshaw picked up the pieces and continued with his winning form to take both race wins. The battle for the remaining podium spots were hard fought in both races. The two CRX’s of Jeff Cooper and Peter Dixon fought tooth and nail in race 1, with Cooper securing 2nd from Dixon. Race 2 saw Wrenn storm through the grid to snatch 3rd from Cooper whilst Dixon went one better and took 2nd.
Rounds 11 and 12 saw the competitors and teams return to Croft in North Yorkshire. It was local drivers Dixon and Cooper in the CRX’s that locked out the front row of the grid, both Burkinshaw and Stuart King on row 2. Taking the lead from the off, it was Cooper from Dixon and Burkinshaw in 3rd and after full race distance the positions stood. Race two saw Cooper and Burkinshaw battle for the win, with Cooper emerging victorious. Taking the final podium spot with a well-earned 3rd was Paul Donkin who was back out at his home circuit.
The final races of the season saw the series at Donington Park for the BRSCC “Finals”. A fantastic grid of Honda’s meant it would be an action packed event, and we weren’t wrong!
With new drivers in attendance, the results were anyone’s for the taking. First time out in 2016, Rich Hockley took pole is some really tricky conditions, with Matt Walker taking 2nd and Jeff Cooper in 3rd. Race one was a battle from the off, eventually going the way of Hockley who took his first win in the VTEC Challenge, closely followed by new comer Steve Sawley, with Matt Walker in 3rd. Race 2 was another hard fought and actioned packed event, with Jeff Cooper taking the win after driving through from last on the grid following a holed sump in race 1. Hockley and Sawley took 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Another great season for this popular series, which combines value for money and good clean racing with a paddock atmosphere that is both friendly and supportive to those needing any help to get out racing.