KNOCKHILL JUNE 12/13 RACE WEEKEND PREVIEW: ETSL ST-XR CHALLENGE
The ET-SL ST-XR Challenge got off to an incredible start at the season opener at Croft a few weeks ago with an amazing grid of 30 cars, and now with the 2021 campaign underway it’s now time for the second weekend of racing this year. On this occasion, the drivers will head further north and across the border into Scotland as Knockhill Circuit in Fife awaits them. The local spectators are very much used to seeing Fiesta racing in action on a regular basis, but we have to wonder if they’ve quite seen action like ours!
The fight for the overall lead is sure to be between the bulk of the entry in the modern Ford Fiesta ST150s, which saw former Escort XR3i racer Chris Jones mark a near perfect transition into the class. He picked up two Class D wins as well as a victory and 2nd place in the overall result and he holds an 11 point advantage over long time ST-XR racer Lee Bowron, who looked mighty impressive on his return after his unfortunate accident at Cadwell Park that saw him miss most of the compacted 2020 season due to rebuilding his car. He and son Ryan were both looking fast at Croft and considering that both and fellow sibling Lewis are all on the entry list again this weekend, expect the Bowrons to be right up there on the pace from the very beginning of the meeting.
Other front runners to watch out for will certainly be last year’s vice champion Mark Robinson who will be hoping to make up ground after a hard weekend’s racing at Croft. He is currently the 5th best placed ST150 in the standings, but looks set to move up courtesy of both Mike Heath and Ralph Fernihough not on the entry list at the time of writing. The same can be said for Chris Grimes, who is part of the expanded Tensport Performance squad after they debuted last season. Chris has already proven himself to be a race winner and has quickly become an established front runner, so perhaps a good meeting here at Knockhill will help him make some progress.
One driver who will just be glad to be on the grid at all is Sam Beckett, after fortunes at Croft didn’t quite go his way and require an amazing effort from the entire ST-XR paddock to help him get back on track. In the first race, Beckett clipped a tyre stack inside of the first corner twice in successive laps, the second hit forcing him out of the race. Amazingly, everyone rallied round to ensure his car was back on track and despite not being back to full health, he still managed to steer it to 16th place overall. Since then, Sam and friends have been working tirelessly to get the car back into full race ready condition and incredibly it’s now completely fixed and looking as if the incident never happened! Sam will know he’s got some catching up to do and would love to bounce back with a strong weekend in Scotland.
Also keep an eye on the likes of Mike Blackburn, Paul Brettell, Ron Loffstadt, Luke Woodard, Chris Rowlands, Jordan Shorrock and Mark Blunt amongst the ST150s, whilst two new drivers make their debuts with us as Richard Steele and Gareth Pilling make their first appearance on the ST-XR grid for 2021.
The XR segment of the grid contains four cars, evenly split between a pair of Fiesta XR2s and Escort XR3is. Overall and Class A points leader Simon Robinson is another name not present on the entry list at the time of writing, which means that the second best XR2 in the standings, Paul Green, will have a chance to gain a large haul of points over him by before he reappears. His main opposition will be Alex Causer, who is currently the 4th best XR in the standings and will certainly want to push higher up the order if he can place will amongst his fellow classic cars. With the Escorts, Jason Heneffer is currently an impressive 4th overall in his example which is currently up for sale, so performing as top XR3i must certainly be an ideal advert for anyone wishing to buy it off him. If he finds himself in a position to challenge for the XR category crown, he might want to keep hold of it a little longer! Danny Leigh will be his direct opposition in another XR3i hoping to make an impact on his first 2021 start in the championship and he will certainly use Jason as a benchmark for his pace, so watch out for him to try and keep up. All in all, all four will be striving to leave Scotland as the top XR in the standings and try and make haste in Simon Robinson’s absence before he’s back on track in the following rounds!