Richard Towler rediscovered his winning form in the Virtual Fun Cup UK series after he charged to two victories in a thrilling pair of races at Thruxton to keep his championship hopes alive heading into the second half of the season.

Qualifying saw a mix up of the form book somewhat as Jay Shepherd put in a rapid lap to take pole position with Chris Hart also setting a time that gave him a personal best result of 2nd place on the grid, while title contenders Richard Towler and Riley Phillips lining up together on the second row behind them ahead of Piers Stockton, Julian Thomas, David Denyer and Jon Tomlinson.

Shepherd made a quick getaway at the start of Race 1 to lead the cars through Allard toward the complex as Towler stole 2nd place from Hart with Phillips also attempting to squeeze past in the first half of the lap. Towler immediately went on the attack to take the lead from Shepherd and took the place heading through the daunting and fast Church corner, before Shepherd was then mugged in a straight line by Stockton, Phillips and Hart and then lost another place to Thomas after Jay ended up sideways entering the Club chicane at the end of the opening lap. Phillips finally managed to get ahead of Hart before the former Fun Cup UK champion tried to repass entering the Campbell-Cobb-Seagrave complex but to no avail.

Hart did get his nose in front heading towards Church on the second lap, but Phillips performed the switchback and moved back through briefly before slight contact put Phillips onto the grass exiting the final chicane and then exiting Allard, losing him a position to Thomas and then making contact when Shepherd tried to follow through, causing the WASPP car to half spin. Back with the leaders, Stockton had latched onto Towler’s bumper and after considering a move into Church he was then caught and passed by Hart to claim 2nd place, as both drivers continued to chase after Towler in their efforts to steal the lead. Just behind them, Phillips was all over the rear wing of Julian Thomas for 4th place, bump drafting him through Church as the pair decided to work together to catch the top three, with Phillips eventually making a pass exiting Club chicane.

Phillips watched on as Stockton and Hart continued to switch places back and forth for 2nd place as Towler continued to escape up the road, but it all went wrong for Hart when he ran wide onto the grass on the exit of Cobb and spun his way down to 7th place as a result. While Hart was spinning again in his efforts to catch up, Phillips was tailing Stockton in an effort for the pair to close down Towler who was almost five seconds in the lead by this point. Despite this, Towler continued to slowly edge away as Phillips and his cause was aided further when the pair became tangled up with backmarker Chris Weatherill exiting Church, sending both cars spinning across the grass. Stockton incredibly managed to rejoin still in 2nd place, but now had Julian Thomas right behind him at full speed, while Phillips got back underway one place back in 4th.

Phillips made a late lunge on Thomas into the complex, but tapped the rear of his car in the process, leading him to duly hand the place back straight away on the exit to avoid any penalty. Staying with him through Church, Phillips lined up for another attempt, breezing past him before the Club chicane. Hart, meanwhile, was busy battling with the other two Racelogic cars of Denyer and Tomlinson, eventually managed to close in to the latter and pass him to move back into the top 5. Ahead of them, Phillips was back on the tail of Stockton, looking inside at Club and claiming second place, but a mistake on the exit put Stockton back in contention to repass and stuck with him.

But in the lead, there was no catching  Towler who clinched the first race win of the night with ease to put himself back on form in the season. Despite a brief switch heading onto the final lap, Phillips took 2nd place ahead of Stockon in 3rd, while Chris Hart managed to pick one more place and took 4th ahead of Thomas in the top 5. David Denyer and Jon Tomlinson took 6th and 7th places, ahead of Walton, Iley and Trossel in the top 10.

With the top 8 places reversed to make the grid for Race 2, Chris Walton started from pole ahead of Tomlinson and Denyer, but his lead didn’t last long when Tomlinson passed him into Campbell. Walton took over again into Club chicane, but behind the leading pair Hart came storming through and almost ended up taking the lead on the exit, but his questionable line was followed by an even more questionable move to try and slot in front of Tomlinson, who ended up tagging Hart and spinning him into Walton, leaving both cars tumbling down the pack.

This left Tomlinson leading with Stockton in 2nd place, with Phillips, Towler and Thomas in hot pursuit to complete the top 5 at the end of the opening lap. Phillips and Towler applied pressure to Stockton and the lead group approached Club chicane together. While Stockton ran too deep and rejoined to a tap from Towler behind him, Phillips stole the lead from Tomlinson and managed to start pulling away in due course, while Towler did pass Stockton for 3rd with Tomas and Denyer looking on in 5th and 6th places respectively.

Tomlinson’s race then took a nosedive when an unintended tap from Towler behind him in the middle of Club chicane sent him off into the barriers and out of contention for at least a podium. Ahead of them, Phillips survived more contact while lapping Chris Weatherill before the backmarker was tagged by Chris Hart and David Denyer also spun in sympathy too. The championship contenders now held the top three places in the race with Thomas tagging along in 4th for company and Towler immediately began pushing hard to close down Phillips ahead of him. He wasted no time in bringing the gap down to virtually nothing and attacking into the complex, Towler was quick to apply the pressure as the race headed towards half distance.

Towler managed to sneak up the inside into Goodwood, holding the line into Church to initially complete the move before Phillips performed the switchback and retook the lead head into Club chicane. In almost a carbon copy of a lap earlier, Towler set up a move into the complex, carried the line into Goodwood and tried to pass again through Church, only this time Phillips held on around the outside and did so through Club as well. While the pair continued to run side by side, Stockton and Hart were closing in fast thanks to their squabbles. Out of Church, Stockton inserted himself into the lead battle and Phillips ended up running through Club chicane offline, forcing him to cut the complex and lift off to avoid gaining an advantage, pushing him down to 3rd after Stockton took to the grass approaching Campbell. Phillips wasted no time in repassing Hart into Church for 3rd, but Hart stuck to his rear bumper and dived back through again into the chicane and immediately set off to try and catch Towler.

Despite Stockon disconnecting inside the last ten minutes, the remainder of the race saw positions unchanged and Towler completed a strong night’s work with his second win of the meeting, holding off Chris Hart for 2nd place with Phillips completing the podium in 3rd. Thomas picked up 4th ahead of a personal best finish for Jon Iley with 5th, followed by Denyer, Tomlinson, Trossel, Walton and Weatherill.

Scott Woodwiss


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