PHILLIPS DOMINATES LATEST VIRTUAL FUNCUP UK ROUND AT BRANDS HATCH


Riley Phillips ensured he was untouchable from start to finish in the latest instalment of the Virtual Fun Cup UK Championship, as he romped away to victory on the Brands Hatch GP circuit while his rivals scrapped over the podium places.

The advantage Phillips held over the pack was only a slender one in qualifying, as he managed to take pole position by a whisker under a tenth of a second from two-time race winner Richard Towler, followed by Piers Stockton with the 3rd fastest time, a personal best effort by David Denyer to put him in 4th and fellow Racelogic driver Julian Thomas completing the top 5 qualifiers.

Towler tried to draw alongside Phillips as the field charged off the line and into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time as the two Racelogic cars went side by side behind them for 3rd place, but just behind them, Jay Shepherd seemed to find more bad luck when he was tagged by Chris Bridle on corner exit and sent spinning onto the infield grass, into the barrier and bouncing back onto the track where he was collected again by Bridle and two other cars. With Phillips trying to escape up the road in the lead, Stockton made an attack into Hawthorns inside of Towler and took 2nd place before the end of the opening lap. Towler tried to retake Stockton into Paddock at the start of Lap 2 with the Racelogic duo on their heels, but an incident between the pair left Towler skating off the road into the gravel and dropping down to 9th place as a result, with plenty of ground to make up.

Moments later, Thomas ran wide at Surtees to allow Bridle through into 4th place, while behind him the third Racelogic car in the field was being steered by Jon Tomlinson and was coming under threat from a recovering Jay Shepherd. Catching him on the approach to Hawthorns, Shepherd made a dive up the inside, but on exit the two cars ended up banging panels with Tomlinson coming off worse as he spun off into the barriers. As if that wasn’t enough for Racelogic, David Denyer then got a tap into Paddock from Chris Bridle which allowed him and Thomas through and pushed Denyer down to 5th.

Heading towards one-third’s distance, the positions towards the front of the field remained somewhat static as Phillips continued to increase his lead to more than six seconds at this point. Apart from Jonathan Hoad putting the Trumans car into a spin into the barriers before Stirlings Bend, the rest of the pack continued to circulate in position for a few laps, with the closest battle being Richard Towler’s fight back through the field as he closed in on Denyer to break back into the top 5. Catching him on the approach to Clearways, Towler made an attempt to pass but made contact but then allowed Denyer to maintain the position fairly by letting him back through and then completing the pass later in the lap. 

Towler then spent the next 20 minutes closing down the 5+ second gap to Thomas and eventually with just over 20 minutes to go and after patiently biding his time, Towler slipped by to take 4th place and set off after Bridle’s 3rd place ahead of them; Thomas, meanwhile, had to take a trip to the pits shortly afterwards with an issue that required fixing. It didn’t take long for Towler to close down Bridle and elected to make the pass into Paddock. From there, Towler’s next target was to catch and pass Stockton for 2nd place, who by this time was now nearly 18 seconds behind leader Phillips. Once again, some quick laps from Towler helped him close in and attack. Heading into Druids, Towler attempted to pass but on corner exit he ran wide and ended up into the tyres, undoing all his hard work and forcing him to rebuild his progress with less than ten minutes to go and back down to 4th place behind Bridle.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for both Bridle and Towler to reel Stockton back in and the pair went on the attack with five minutes to go. Towler slipped by Bridle to take 3rd place back again and the three cars remained nose to tail as Stockton came under threat once again. Bridle managed to capitalise on a failed attempt by Towler to steal 3rd place back again, which Richard immediately took back heading into Druids and continued to press Stockton with time quickly running out. As they headed onto the final lap, Towler took a peek down the outside at Paddock but ended up sliding wide and yet again losing out to Bridle on corner exit, giving Stockton some much-needed breathing space for a moment. This was aided by Towler and Bridle continuing to wrestle over the final podium place, a fight was eventually settled at Sheene Corner when Towler ended up running across the gravel.

In something of total domination, Riley Phillips took the chequered flag to claim his second win of the season and his second in a row, eventually winning by more than 25 seconds in a race where no-one was able to touch his pace. Stockton managed to take a comfortable second ahead of Bridle in 3rd while Towler had to settle for best of the rest with 4th place after his early mishap. Denyer completed the top five from Shepherd in 6th, John Iley in 7th and Julian Thomas back in 8th after his pit stop. Next up will be a virtual trip across the Irish Sea to Mondello Park, a venue the Fun Cup UK Championship was due to visit on its original 2020 schedule.

Scott Woodwiss