DONINGTON DELIGHT FOR NEW CHAMPIONS
Paul O'Neill (#39) won twice in the MX-5 Supercup, while Alan Henderson (white car, #90) claimed the title – Photo: Jon Elsey
The curtain fell on the 2015 season for several of our championships at Donington Park, with titles awarded after a long and arduous season for some. Some even went down to the very last race to decide who came out on top! All things considered, the season is now all but complete.
One of the main talking points for the weekend was the 5-way fight to be decide who would walk away from the meeting as this year’s Mazda MX-5 Championship victor. Darron Lewis, Sam Smith, Brian Chandler, Ben Tuck and Simon Baldwin all had a chance to claim it for themselves and as the meeting played out, it made for spectacular viewing. Smith drew first blood with pole for race 1 alongside Chandler, but come the end of Saturday’s Group A race it was Chandler on the top step of the podium once again. Fellow title challengers Tuck and Lewis joined him on the podium while Baldwin managed 5th. Smith, meanwhile, was unfortunately excluded from the result due to a technical irregularity during post-race scrutineering.
Chandler scampered away early in race 2 on Sunday before being briefly reeled in by the frantically chasing pack, including Lewis, Tuck and the returning Ben Short also thrown into the mix. In the end, #76 secured its second win of the weekend ahead of a dramatic last corner skirmish that saw Tuck come out 2nd ahead of Lewis and Short. With Chandler and Lewis now tied on points at the top with one race still to go, whoever finished ahead would take it. As it turned out, Chandler was the man to sweep the ultimate prize, following race winner Ben Tuck home in 2nd to claim it for his own. Short completed the podium again ahead of Smith and James Harris, with Lewis unable to better 10th.
In the SuperCup, many thought that Alan Henderson’s champion status was practically assured, but there was one man who decided to steal the limelight in the meantime. Ex-BTCC man turned ITV commentator Paul O’Neill made a welcome reappearance to the championship and promptly declared it with a front row start for Race 1 alongside Henderson. O’Neill went to win from Jonathan Greensmith and John Davies, while drama befell the title contenders. Henderson was thrown a 15 second time penalty for track limits and dropped to 7th in the result, while issues for Jonathan JJ Clements saw him classified last of the finishers and well down.
O’Neill doubled up on race wins come Sunday afternoon’s first encounter with Henderson 2nd and James Blake-Baldwin, another returnee, in 3rd. Clements clawed his way back up to 7th but knew that he would have a mammoth task ahead of him to cause an upset. Despite his valiant efforts, it proved to be all in vain. The final race of the season was an absolute cracker despite safety car interruptions between O’Neill, Henderson, Clements and Blake-Baldwin. At the flag the order was Blake-Baldwin ahead of O’Neill and Clements, with Henderson’s 4th place enough to hand him the SuperCup crown.
There were also titles to decide amongst the Mighty Minis. In the standard Minis, Australian Liam Sullivan didn’t put a wheel wrong all weekend starting with pole in qualifying before securing the top step in Race 1 ahead of Steven Rideout and Ladies’ Champion Caroline Gilbert. Sullivan then picked up where he left off in Race 2, topping off his title run with another win from Rideout and Gregory Jenkins. Front runner Brayden Fletcher suffered misfortune after failing to finish, which hit him hard in terms of lost points before suffering disqualification in the second race after the stewards didn’t agree with his last corner move, which put Stuart Coombs out of a podium spot and into the gravel.
With their slightly faster brethren the Super Mighty Minis, it was action all the way all weekend. While points leader Jamie White took pole by over a second, it was by no means that big a gap by the time Race 1 was complete. At the flag, it White who won but only from Ian Slark by the miniscule margin of 0.011 seconds! Scott Kendall ended up a couple of tenths back in 3rd. Race 2 provided some incredible action as the entire field ran together for the opening laps, swapping places hand over fist. As the race went on, the top 3 from Race 1 broke away and while White appeared to have everything sewn up, things got a little messy for 2nd on the last lap resulting in Slark and Kendall making contact at the Old Hairpin, with Slark sadly ending up beached in the gravel. Anthony Ford was the beneficiary as a result, rounding out the podium in 3rd.
The Alfashop Alfa Romeo ended their year with one of their best turnouts of the season, with two magnificent races alongside it. The title battle for overall honours was still up for grabs between Graham Seager (Modified) and James Bishop (Twin Spark Cup), as well individual championships to settle in each class. Seager claimed overall pole for Race 1 and promptly turned that into a race and Modified class victory ahead of James Nicholls and Bryan Shrubb. Keith Waite dominated the Power Trophy class ahead of Ray Foley and Ron Davidson, while in the hotly contested Twin Spark Cup, a packed field was topped by James Ford with Matt Daly and Tom Hill completing the podium.
In Race 2, Seager took off like a scalded cat and dominated from the front to secure the Modified and, more importantly, overall title for his own. Completing the podium behind him for the last time this year were Vincent Dubois and Chris Snowdon. Ray Foley completed his Power Trophy title run a class win to secure honours finishing ahead of Waite and Davidson, while in the Twin Spark Cup Daly went one step higher on the rostrum to complete victory ahead of Ford and Tom Hill.
Dubbed as one of the fastest championships in the country, the Excool OSS relished the opportunity to stretch their legs on the National circuit and put on a fantastic high speed display for the fans. With the A and E class championships still to be decided, there was still some relevance to the final races. Duncan Williams drove as if he was in a class all of his own as he followed up his domination of qualifying by blitzing the field in Race 1 by an entire lap before a 20 second victory in Race 2. Further class victories between both races went the way of Paul Spencer (A), Richard Wise & Graham Hill (C), Alastair Smart (D) and Kevin Suenson (E).
The Toyo Tires Honda VTEC Challenge & Smart 4Two Cup completed another season together with another healthy grid to round out the year. As it turned out, it become a race where the Tuner class cars won outright over their typically faster compatriots in the Super Tuner class. Stewart Hutchinson’s Integra claimed Race 1 victory by just over 2 seconds from Mark Bennett’s S2000, while Steven Barden put on a fine display to take 3rd and Production honours. Matthew Walker was the top Super Tuner car in 5th. Race 2 was much closer at the flag with the top 3 remaining the same, albeit Hutchinson only pipping Bennett at the line by less than half a second. Marc Kemp scored the final Super Tuner victory in what sadly could have been the last race for his ex-BTCC Civic.
Finally, our friends at HRDC provided wonderful historic entertainment on the Saturday with two races for those who like their racing old school. In the Allstars race it was the top step for Andrew Wolfe is his beautiful 1965 AC Cobra from Leo Voyazides’ equally gorgeous Shelby Daytona Cobra and Jack Young’s Jaguar E-Type. Meanwhile in the Touring Greats, Mike Jordan’s Austin A40 took the honours ahead of Neil Brown and Richard Dutton’s Austin A35 and Richard & Thomas Butterfield’s Jaguar Mk1.
This weekend saw plenty of live coverage, particularly from our first ever live broadcast on our YouTube channel which covered Sunday's races. If you want to check out what happened for yourself, then click the two links below to watch the action in all its glory. We've even timestamped all the races so you can jump to any one you like, because we're nice like that!
There was additional coverage provided on both days by Downforce Radio with commentary from Jake Sanson, who doubled up on circuit commentary also. Their live broadcasts of all the weekend's running can be found HERE.
It’s has been a sensational year for on track action in 2015 and the club wishes to sincerely thank each and every championship, its co-ordinators and personnel for their hard work and tireless efforts and its competitors for giving us one heck of a show all year round. A massive congratulations should also go to all of our newly crowned champions, who now have the off season to celebrate their success. Here’s to an incredible season and an even better 2016! Cheers!
By the way, if you want a full breakdown of the Finals Weekend, then look no further than right here – DONINGTON RESULTS.