DOWN TO THE WIRE AT DONINGTON
The Excool OSS Championship concludes this weekend, featuring Alistair Smart's Radical – Photo: Miranda Young
It’s been a long season, but finally after plenty of thrills, spills, drama, excitement and controversy, it all comes to a head this weekend at Donington Park for our Finals Weekend on the National layout, with a whole host of championships heading there with titles still on the line and everything to play for.
Both of our Mazda championships still remain unsettled, particularly in the MX-5 Championship for the Mk1 models. The paddock will be bursting at the seams with no less than 60 cars entered for this weekend alone! There is of course very much still a title fight on our hands, with any one of 5 drivers still capable of ultimate glory. To make things even more nail biting, it’s incredible to think that both Darron Lewis and Sam Smith can’t be separated on points heading into the final weekend of the year, with a tie even after dropped scores. Lewis is only on top due to scoring two wins to Smith’s one, although both will need to be on their A game to try and stop the resurgent Brian Chandler. After dominating Croft in the same way he did earlier at Cadwell Park, Chandler is only a handful of points off the leading pair, while Ben Tuck and Simon Baldwin will also be waiting in the wings to pounce, the latter having suffered bad luck in the past two meetings and on the back foot having lead the points for so long previously. Baldwin may be down, but he most definitely isn’t out of it. This title will literally go any one of 5 ways and with such a large field, which includes recent GT Academy winners Matt Simmons and (newly crowned European champ) Romain Sarazin, it will be nothing short of epic!
The same adjective could be used to describe their younger brethren the Mk3s in the MX-5 SuperCup. One of the biggest grids of the year is expected to turn out with 32 entries, which will include returning drivers and first timers in the championship. Alan Henderson still has a championship to wrap up and given his fairly dominant form this season, it looks all but assured. Jonathan JJ Clements is guaranteed to race him hard all the way to the end, while key drivers Liam Murphy, Simon Goddard and Jonathan Greensmith won’t hesitate to throw themselves into the mix and cause headaches. Returning drivers to watch for will certainly be James Blake-Baldwin, Anthony Nield and ex-BTCC man Paul O’Neill, who graces the paddock with his “cheeky chappy” personality and brisk pace, having never been off the podium in previous SuperCup outings. It’ll be another 3 races that will be simply unmissable.
The Mighty Minis always put on a show and are a favourite in the paddock and with fans. Thankfully, their championship is still up for grabs with Liam Sullivan top of the table going into the final weekend. His teammate Brayden Fletcher, brother of actor and fellow racing driver Kelvin, is also in the hunt as well as Stuart Combes and potentially Steve Rideout too. 22 cars are expected for this meeting and the Minis have always been superb at creating a buzz. Expect nose to tail action all the way and cars going even as much as 5 or 6 wide on the straights!
Their more powerful cousins in the Super Mighty Minis will also decide their points battle. Currently Scott Kendall has a 4 point margin over reigning #1 Jamie White, who needs to bounce back strong after suffering engine dramas at Cadwell Park. Alex Comis is also coming on strong, as are Ian Slark, Anthony Ford, Dave Rees and Steven Dawson. This season Mighty Minis as a whole celebrated its 20th anniversary since its inception, so they’ll have reason to party come close of play on Sunday with two new champions.
One championship with plenty of soul and passion has got to be the Alfashop Alfa Romeo Championship. Thankfully, they’ve been able to secure one of their largest entries for the year here too with 28 expected to turn out in force. It’s still very much on for the overall title with Graham Seager’s Modified class Alfa GTV competing with Twin Spark’s James Bishop, so both will need nothing less than dominant weekends in their respective classes, with an 8 point margin between them. Ray Foley has been all but confirmed as Power Trophy champion, yet he’ll still have some friends to play with in the class including Keith Waite and David Lambourn. Key drivers in the other two are Bryan Shrubb, Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois in the Modifieds and Dave Messenger, Tom Hill, James Ford and Paul Plant in Twin Sparks. Their second race will be of significance for Twin Spark runners as they will compete for the Kevin Griffiths Trophy, in honour of the man who sadly passed away at Mallory Park in 2002.
Adding a Le Mans Series-style flavour to proceedings will be the Excool Open Sportscar Series (OSS). Mike Jenvey has secured the title already in his self-developed Jenvey-Gunn TS6, so it now leaves a fight for 2nd in points between veteran Ginger Marshall in his enigmatic Bowlby Mk2 and Graham Hill’s Class C Radical. With title also decided in Classes B, C and F, it just leaves A, D and E to be decided. One car in particular to watch out for is the returning leviathan that is Stephen Donovan’s 7-litre V8-powered Aquila CR1, along with its smaller siblings in Class E, where three Aquila Synergy machines will do battle.
The last of our series to compete this weekend will be the Toyo Tires Honda VTEC Challenge, once again joined on track by the Smart4Two Cup. As the series doesn’t feature points scoring, the drivers are simply out there to have fun and compete for trophies and bragging rights amongst the three classes – Production, Tuner and Super Tuner. Marc Kemp will be overall favourite again in his ex-BTCC Civic touring car along with sibling Martyn’s similarly modified Civic Type R, while Phil Wright “Pink Panther” Accord Type R can be expected at the front of Production class. The Tuner class should see battles between the likes of Stewart Hutchinson’s Integra and Mark Bennett’s S2000.
Finally, joining us on a jam-packed weekend to add a little bit of nostalgia to the paddock are our friends at HRDC. They bring their incredible variety of historic touring cars and GTs for their Allstars and Touring Greats series. Both races will be on Saturday with 15 minutes for the Allstars and a longer 45 minutes for the Touring Greats. Notable drivers that some touring cars fans will recognise include club regular Mike Jordan, as well as BTCC luminaries Steve Soper and 1990 champion Robb Gravett. Even legendary singer and guitarist Chris Rea is back out to play in his little Morris Minor.
If for some reason you’re unable to make it this weekend, then fear not because we have you covered. Not only will this weekend be covered live on both days by our friends at Downforce Radio, but for the first time ever we will be streaming Sunday’s racing on our YouTube channel LIVE for the very first time! We’re very excited about this and it means that you’ll be able to see championships decided as and when they happen. It’s safe to say that there’s no excuse to miss any of the action, either via radio or via YouTube!
We strongly recommend you subscribe to both (free of charge, of course), so you can find our YouTube channel HERE and Downforce Radio’s Spreaker channel HERE. You can also tune in live via Downforce’s website – www.downforce-radio.co.uk. You’ll be notified by both when they go live!
Weather wise, it’s actually looking a little bit chilly. Temperatures aren’t looking to move between 9 and 12 degrees all weekend, so our advice is to pack something warm and wrap up just in case. It will be overcast but no rain is predicted. Then again, when has the weather ever been predictable this country, especially on a finals weekend? You can find the full forecast at DONINGTON WEATHER.
Also, the final instructions, provisional timetable and packed entry list can be found at DONINGTON FINALS WEEKEND.