REEVE NICKS HIS INAUGURAL VICTORY AT SILVERSTONE
With the end of the 2016 season closing in, the Fiesta Junior Championship will certainly go down as the most successful year the series has had to date. Heading into the Silverstone National meeting for Rounds 11 & 12, points leader Harry Gooding was hoping that he’d be able to consolidate and even further extend his lead in the standings, but as free practice got underway on Saturday it turned out that he would have to play second fiddle to someone else.
That someone was Specialized Motorsport’s Nicholas Reeve, who has shown rapid progression ever since only debuting in the Championship back at the 3rd meeting at Rockingham. After managing a front row start at Snetterton and a pair of podiums at Castle Combe, Reeve began Silverstone as he meant to go on with the fastest time in both practice session, followed by an even more impressive first pole position. His time of 1’10.737 just edged out Bradley Burns by less than a tenth of a second, while Lochlan Bearman picked up a strong 3rd quickest exactly a tenth away from his new teammate; Lochlan had joined Specialized in the break between Castle Combe and Silverstone. Gooding would join him on the 2nd row in 4th ahead of team-mate Callum Hawkins-Row and Elliot Wilson. There was a personal best 7th quickest for Christopher Mackenzie alongside the returning James Waite on Row 4, with Lewis Kent and James Hillery completing the top 10.
The Juniors took to a dry track in relatively bright conditions for the first race with all eyes on Reeve to see how he would fair on his first start from pole. When the time came to drop the clutch and get underway, the front row picked up an equal launch which benefitted Burns rather than Reeve as the inside line would give him the hole shot into Copse corner. Bearman didn’t get away as well as he’d hoped and was overhauled by the Jam-Sport pair of Gooding and Hawkins-Row, along with pressure from Wilson to his outside.
As the pack charged towards the right hander of Maggots before the long Wellington straight, Reeve had already retaken the lead before the corner as Burns and Gooding gave chase. On the straight, Burns swarmed all over the back of Reeve’s car looking for an avenue to get by, however the Specialized youngster was determined not to give way. While the two Jam-Sport boys continued their pursuit, a hole had formed in the field with the next pack a couple of seconds away and led by James Hillery. The reason for this? An unfortunate multi-car incident back at Maggots. Elliot Wilson, Ben Swift, Cameron Pugh and James Waite were all involved, while Lochlan Bearman was also tagged in the melee but carried on. As for the quartet, they were sadly all out on the spot.
This undoubtedly prompted the safety car to make an appearance, neutralizing the field until the end of lap 5 when racing was able to resume. The other on the restart remained as Reeve in the lead from Burns, Gooding, Hawkins-Row and Hillery. The top 3 grabbed a fast restart, leaving Hawkins-Row to instantly come under attack from Hillery behind. Given the fact that up until this point the HillWood Motorsport driver had only scored a best result of 7th back at the season opener at Snetterton, Hillery’s car was working on song after a string of reliability problems. Up ahead, Burns again considered attacking Reeve into Brooklands at the end of the back straight but on this occasion it was nothing doing. Whilst the duels for 1st and 4th intensified, Gooding was left to look on in 3rd with a few car lengths gap to each but keeping a watching brief on the leaders.
Over the next couple of laps the field remained as it was with no changes to the order and drivers content on running in close proximity to one another. Hillery continued his attack on Hawkins-Row for 4th in a battle that would have been reminiscent of their karting duels together just a couple of years ago. Into Brookland, Hillery attempted to set up an outside pass but the Jam-Sport driver in front was wise to the attempt and cleverly held his line to prevent a pass. Nonetheless, Hillery’s pressure was relentless, never allowing the car in front a moment’s relaxation.
Whilst all this was going on, a superb scrap for 7th place was occurring between Lewis Kent, Sikander Hussain and a much improved Christopher Mackenzie. The three cars piled into Brooklands together on Lap 8 with Kent heading the bunch, but running too hot into the following corner at Luffield only opened the door for Hussain to steal the position with Mackenzie also following suit. Not content with one place, Mackenzie then began hustling Hussain for 7th himself with Kent staying right with the pair in an attempt to fight back. Mackenzie swept to the outside and Kent to the inside, leaving Hussain trapped in the middle of a 3-way drag race to Copse. He was forced to back out when they got there, leaving the two either side to dive for the apex and while Kent went to look for his apex, Mackenzie threw caution to the wind and just sailed straight around the outside of the pair!
It would have work had he not run over the kerb on the exit and allowed Kent to retain his momentum and the right line on the run to Maggots. This, indeed, was enough and Kent was back to P7 with Mackenzie now a place higher than the lap before and Hussain at the back of the group – or at least for a moment. Kent then ended up running wide on corner next, allowing both cars behind to draw alongside once more as they charged off down to Brooklands once again.
Meanwhile up at the corner itself, Hillery was getting impatient. A braking duel with Hawkins-Row left him to desperately hold on around the outside to gain the inside line at Luffield. Despite this, Hawkins-Row calmly remained on his path and shut the door on any potential move. By this point, the race was in its closing stages and Bradley Burns has remained behind Nicholas Reeve all race long. However, a superior exit off Luffield helped him alongside through Woodcote and the pair were dead level across the line as they started the final lap. As Gooding continued to watch on, Burns seized his chance and snatch the lead into Copse for the final time, however Reeve’s run on the racing line gave him all the momentum he needed to try and retake the place. Side-by-side as they raced towards Maggots, Gooding began to close and could almost sense his chance as Reeve had the line and retook the lead.
Burns’ wider line only allowed Gooding to pounce immediately and dive for 2nd through the corner, but Burns incredibly had enough grip on the outside to see off the attack and hold in. From there, it seemed there was no more opportunities to pass and as the final lap rounded out, Nicholas Reeve went on to clinch a spectacular first win of his circuit racing career as the 6th different winner for FJC this season, after a rapid rate of progression since his debut. Burns and Gooding remained as they were on the podium places, while Hawkins-Row did see off Hillery’s constant attacks to remain 4th. That said, Hillery’s P5 was his best result to date and seemed to signal the turning point in his fortunes. Danny Harrison was another to score well with P6 ahead of the battling trio of Kent, Mackenzie and Hussain who finished in that order. Lochlan Bearman did well to recover to 10th after being the innocent party in the first lap incident.
By the time the second race had rolled around, the elements had already had their say on the track conditions. Heavy rain from earlier races had left the track saturated and a tricky test lay ahead for the Juniors to handle. Reeve had been able to win from pole in the dry, but now he would have to do it all again in less than favourable conditions. Burns was again alongside him on the front row with a Jam-Sport second row of Gooding and Hawkins-Row. Hillery and Harrison would occupy Row 3 ahead of Kent and Mackenzie with the top 10 completed by Hussain and Bearman.
It was more of the same from the first race at the start with the front row pair pulled away at level pegging on the run to Copse. The fast starter in the pack by contrast was Danny Harrison, shooting away from the 3rd row and driving through the middle of the two Jam-Sport cars in front of him to be 3rd by the time the pack reached the first corner. Gooding ran slightly wide on the exit kerb allowing Hawkins-Row to move alongside to try and take 4th, which he did when they reach Maggots. Lewis Kent had also started well and had moved ahead of James Hillery who had slipped back to 7th, which almost became 8th when former karting teammate Lochlan Bearman found more grip on the outside of the corner, but ran a little too wide and lost momentum.
As the field splashed its way down to Brooklands for the first time, Hawkins-Row had a run on Harrison and coolly slipped by under braking on the inside, while behind his teammate Gooding a passing attempt was made by Hillery inside of Kent, but with the better grip in the conditions found on the outside, Kent manage to see off the attack before Luffield. Harrsion, meanwhile, had retaken 3rd from Hawkins-Row at the same corner just in front, leaving the latter to plot another move. Burns led across the line from Reeve as they entered the second lap with Harrison doing all he could to hang on and when Hawkins-Row went a little too hot into Maggots, this now opened the door for Gooding to try and take advantage.
Sure enough, Harrison found himself in a Jam-Sport sandwich heading into Brooklands but somehow he was still able to cling to 3rd, all the way through to the middle of Luffield. Gooding made the cutback on the exit as Harrison tried to squeeze Hawkins-Row out wide over the kerb as much as he was allowed. Gooding appeared to lose momentum briefly at this point and the pair to his outside drove past side-by-side through Woodcote. Finally, Hawkins-Row sent one round the outside at Copse to take 3rd but yet again, Harrison repassed to somehow continued to hold on! Eventually, something had to give and it did so back at Brooklands, when Hawkins-Row appeared misjudge his braking in the wet conditions and tapped the rear of Harrison’s car. This put him slightly off line through the corner but at Luffield Gooding elbowed his way to the inside, leaving the door open for Hawkins-Row still trying to follow through.
By this point, a pack had formed for 3rd as along with this trio, they’d been joined by James Hillery, Lochlan Bearman and Lewis Kent, creating a sensational 6-way tussle for the spectators. This was in no way troubling the top two as Burns had a clear track in front of him and was doing his best to take advantage. Reeve was just over a second away at this point while Gooding was trying to make a break in 3rd. But for 4th, Hawkins-Row would again make contact with Harrison under braking, only this time it would send Harrison sideways in a big way. On full counter-steer to correct it, he somehow managed to hold on but in addition also lost out to Bearman and Hillery as he recovered.
It seemed as though Hawkins-Row wouldn’t be allowed a moment to relax as straight away Bearman was there attempting to put pressure on the #41 for 4th. His run off Maggots put him alongside for Brooklands, but through the next sequence of corners couldn’t quite find the drive to get the move done. Eventually, it came down the pit straight as with major confidence off the racing line, Bearman swept around Hawkins-Row to finally steal 4th. With one Jam-Sport car down, the Specialized man was now primed to hunt down Gooding for a podium place.
By this point both Burns and Reeve were in a race of their own out in front with a comfortable margin back to 3rd place. Gooding himself occupied it still with a nice gap back to teammate Hawkins-Row in 4th, who once again came under attack from Hillery in the closing laps, albeit briefly as his pace dropped off a little. From there, it looked plain sailing as Burns completed the final laps to win his second Fiesta Junior race of the season. Reeve came away with another healthy 2nd place to add to his podium tally, while Gooding’s 3rd place was virtually unchallenged come the chequered flag. Lochlan Bearman’s hard drive was rewarded with 4th ahead of Hawkins-Row in 5th and Hillery in a strong 6th. Christopher Mackenzie finished 7th ahead of Elliot Wilson and Cameron Pugh, with Sikander Hussain completing the top 10.
Gooding’s lead in the standings now sits at 51 points from Wilson in 2nd, whose strong results in the early part of the season have helped him remain as high as he is. The same can be said for Lochlan Bearman, who sits 3rd despite only taking two podiums. His run of consistency has helped him place higher than some who may have visited the rostrum more often. Bradley Burns is now 4th ahead of Lewis Kent, while other key drivers are Hawkins-Row only placed 7th and Nicholas Reeve already up to 9th.
There’s just two meetings left in the season now with the penultimate destination of 2016 being the wonderful location of Anglesey in North Wales, a circuit that’s nestled on the Welsh coast and provides a fantastic backdrop to two races which could and should be very entertaining.
Previous Race Reports