SNETTERTON EPISODE II: RETURN OF THE JUNIORS
The halfway point had almost been reached for our lively bunch of Fiesta Junior drivers as they made another trip to Norfolk and their second pair of races on the Snetterton Circuit, once again on the 300 layout. Having begun the season there in April in bright and sunny conditions, with the odd sprinkling of rain between both days, the weather that greeted the teams on Saturday for practice and qualifying was cloudy but remained dry.
Points leader Harry Gooding was coming off the back of his strongest weekend to date, having secured a win and a second 2nd place from the previous meeting at Rockingham. This now left him 3 points ahead at the top from Carlito Miracco, who subsequently revealed that he would be leaving the Fiesta Juniors to make the step into senior racing. This meant that Rockingham had been his last races with us, so we wish Carlito all the best for the future in his career. We know how talented and determined he is and we’re sure he’ll make it to the top of motorsport within the next few years.
As it was, when the drivers headed out to set the grid for Race 1, it wasn’t Gooding, April winner Elliot Wilson or Rockingham first time winner Bradley Burns on pole or even on the front row. Instead, James Waite managed to usurp everyone else in the session with a pole time of 2’20.846, the only driver to reach a sub-2’21 lap from the entire entry. The youngster lining up alongside him was another shock, as in only his second ever qualifying session in a car, Specialized Motorsport’s new recruit Nicholas Reeve put in a stellar time to end up just over a tenth and a half away from Waite in 2nd. Another surprise came from local lad James Hillery, returning to his home circuit with a vengeance after poor fortunes in the previous two meetings. 3rd on the grid was just rewards for his team’s hard work fixing numerous engine and gearbox issues.
4th came Elliot Wilson for Race Car Consultants ahead of a 3rd row consisting of an improved performance from Jack Davidson and then points leader Gooding. Lochlan Bearman couldn’t better 7th alongside Danny Harrison with Burns 9th on Row 5 with Ronan Quinn. One driver majorly out of position was Callum Hawkins-Row, with the Jam-Sport driver forced to start at the back of the grid after technical issues prevented him from setting a quick laptime.
As the cars lined up to begin the first race, spots of rain began to fall keeping everyone guessing over just what conditions we were going to end up with or if the rain would last. Immediately Waite grabbed a better start over Reeve who seemed to bog down, allowing Hillery, Wilson and the rest of the cars around them to sweep past. Bradley Burns found himself getting out of shape before they’d even reached Riches for the first time, but carried on unscathed.
Waite led the pack into Montreal with Wilson and Hillery, the latter receiving a nudge from Gooding to dislodge the HillWood Motorsport driver from 3rd place. Down in the mid-pack a slow exit from Hawkins-Row appeared to catch a fast approaching Ben Swift out as the pair and Burns all appeared to come together on the straight, although all 3 carried on with little to no apparent damage. The rain appeared to intensify slightly with several drivers making use of their wipers to maintain clear vision.
By the end of Lap 1, Waite still held the lead from Gooding, who had manoevered his way past Wilson and allowing Hillery to retake 3rd and Lochlan Bearman observing in 5th. Into Lap 2 and the chase was on for 4th as Bearman and Davidson continued to close, which seemed to pay off as Bearman attempted to get his nose up the inside at Agostini but to no avail; missing a shift on the exit didn’t help him either.
The order would remain relatively the same until the end of lap 4 when Gooding took over from the front as Waite’s car appeared to begin floundering with problems. Sadly, they would spell the end of his race after a strong start and shortly after, Hillery would yet again be forced to succumb to issues too and cruelly continuing his run of rotten luck in the wake of his strongest performance to date. Whilst all of this was going on, Ronan Quinn has been steadily making progress from 10th on the grid – by midway through the race he’d sailed right on to the back of Gooding’s car and dutifully took the lead on lap 5. Bearman would quickly follow suit as the Epping man looking to be on course for his first circuit racing podium. Gooding, meanwhile, had fallen into the clutches of main rivals Burns and Wilson with the former beginning to mount a charge as Wilson watched on.
The steady fall of light rain was still present and starting to make the circuit slightly tricky to handle for the drivers, yet this was their first race in anything other than bone dry conditions. Towards the bottom end of the field, Nicholas Reeve didn’t seem to have found the same pace that had been present in qualifying as he was forced to settle for battling with Ben Swift and Cameron Pugh over 8th. Lewis Kent also became embroiled in the battle, leaving the 4 cars to dice it out in earnest in the remaining laps.
Meanwhile, Burns had finally found a way past Gooding to steal 3rd leaving the points leader off the podium and with Wilson and Davidson still in close proximity. However, that pack that was now fighting over what had become 7th place were still going at it and for some, fortunes were about to take a sharp nosedive. Heading through Coram, Reeve had created a gap to the cars behind led by Danny Harrison. Ben Swift was swarming all over him to take the place with Pugh and Kent also looking on. Heading through the long right hander before Murray’s, Kent took the wider line and found better grip and while he pulled himself alongside Pugh, he simply couldn’t slow down enough for the apex and ended up harpooning an unsuspecting Swift. Both cars were left stationary on the grasp with Swift very much aggrieved and venting his frustration.
All of this came as the leaders were starting their last lap, but with the track now starting to become slick from the rainfall, drivers were left scrambling for the brakes to slow down enough for Montreal as Bearman, Burns and Gooding all came close to leaving the circuit. With time running out and cars stranded at Murray’s with no means of getting going again, the decision was taken to throw the red flag and declare the result before the chequered flag.
This left Ronan Quinn to become the 5th different winner in this season’s championship from 7 races and much deserved after a brilliant drive from 10th on the grid. Lochlan Bearman’s camp were overjoyed at his first podium in 2nd with Harry Gooding managing to reclaim 3rd right at the end. Bradley Burns just missed out on the rostrum, yet 4th was still just rewards for a gusty performance and Elliot Wilson had to settle for 5th, unable to repeat his success from the season opener. It was another career best finish for Jack Davidson in 6th, Danny Harrison made 7th ahead of Ben Swift who was declared as 8th despite the incident with Kent, while the top 10 was completed by Nicholas Reeve and Cameron Pugh respectively.
Thanks to his charge to victory, Quinn would start the second race from pole position, yet the weather was starting to become more of a factor. The drivers were now faced with a firmly damp track to contend with, so much so that a couple of drivers decided to gamble on the conditions getting worse and elected to start on wet tyres, one of which being James Hillery who was forced to begin from the pitlane while the team frantically changed tyres as the field lined up for the lights.
Bearman would take his first ever front row start in 2nd, with Gooding and Burns right behind them on Row 2. Wilson and Davidson held the third row, Harrison and Swift would start 7th and 8th and Reeve and Pugh completed the top 10.
At the green, Gooding grabbed the best start of the front two rows as he nudged Quinn out of the way and immediately began pressuring Bearman, whose start had also been good enough to temporarily put him in the lead. Burns kept a wide line and despite a tiny amount of contact, between Bearman and Gooding, the Jam-Sport man had enough to take the lead through Riches. The outside line worked for Burns as the extra grip allowed him to take 2nd before Montreal. At the hairpin, Cameron Pugh had a hairy moment when he simply couldn’t slow down and ended up shooting straight on and deep into the grass – thankfully missing the barriers!
Before Palmers, Bearman retook second and began exerting pressure on Gooding for the lead. In the tricky conditions, the wide line is favoured and Bearman looked to use this to his advantage; while he did well to pull alongside initially, the attempt was thwarted. The field continued round onto the Bentley Straight, although Ben Swift was finding the track difficult to handle as he twitched at Williams and then found himself out of shape at the Brundle-Nelson complex, bounding over the grass as he rejoined which forced his bootlid open!
Quinn bravely took 2nd from Bearman into Murrays before the end of the 2nd lap as Gooding tried to make his escape in the lead. The leading group, also consisting of Burns, Kent, Davidson and Wilson were also joined by James Hillery, a lap down due to the tyre change but keeping pace with the leaders because of it. Lap 3 began in earnest with Kent making a pass on Davidson for 5th at Montreal, but further around the lap Gooding became loose through Oggies allowing Quinn to sense an opportunity. Down into Brundle and Nelson, Bearman thought about lining up Quinn for a move for 2nd, however Burns would be quick to try and capitalise but to no avail.
Lewis Kent was daring enough to try the outside move through Coram a second time and thankfully didn’t make contact but didn’t gain the place on this occasion, although his interest in passing Burns did push the red #9 wide over the exit kerb. Kent would then come under pressure again from Davidson as the leading 6 (subsequently beginning to leave Wilson behind) started Lap 4. Quinn had now decided he’d had enough of staring at Gooding’s bootlid and threw a move down the inside at Montreal for the lead. Gooding’s cutback allowed him to draw alongside once more and while there was some panel rubbing on the exit, Quinn still had the line to complete the move at Palmers. Gooding’s straight line pace, however, was evident and after once again drawing level towards Agostini, the exit was strong enough to take the inside for the left hander at Hamilton and re-take the lead.
However, it all appeared to go topsy-turvy in one corner as moments later, it was Bearman that emerged in the lead exiting Oggies with Gooding and Quinn wide and on the grass. There appeared to have been contact between the two as Quinn’s car dropped to crawling page while Gooding, now with rear bumper damage, was now right in the middle of the leading pack with Kent inheriting 2nd just in front. Gooding swept by again to repass the Essex Bodies backed car before Brundle, but Kent was by no means done. Staying close as they move into Lap 5, Kent braked at late as he dared into Montreal in an attempt to duplicate Quinn’s move. Thankfully, despite Gooding ominously trying another switchback, the move was done and Kent was through.
Gooding would eventually make it back through as Kent slipped to 5th, but now his path was clear he decided to home in on leader Bearman. With Bradley Burns sticking close and the conditions practically dry, the final lap promised to be something dramatic. The leading trio turned through Riches line astern and Gooding ran slighty wide onto the grass but remained in 2nd. However, it was into Montreal once again where the race was decided. Bearman did his utmost to defend from Gooding to his outside, but going slightly deep didn’t help and when Gooding moved to make the switchback, contact was made forcing Bearman onto the grass. Sadly, Lochlan would be forced to drop down the order after the collision, eventually making the flag in 7th.
Meanwhile, Gooding sustained last minute pressure from Burns at the Bomb Hole as the pair went side by side and the #9 nearly had it done, however the inside line was good enough and through the final corners Gooding held his line and the place to take his 3rd win of the 2016 season. Behind them Jack Davidson scored an excellent 3rd place to record his best ever result ahead of an equally exceptional run from Lewis Kent to 4th and Elliot Wilson completing the top 5. James Waite was able to quietly move up to 6th in the end ahead of the limping Bearman, with Sikander Hussain and Callum Hawkins-Row managed to salvage 8th and 9th respectively from a weekend where both suffered poor fortunes. Cameron Pugh also recovered well from his grassy excursion on the opening lap to wind up 10th.
With Gooding remaining at the top of the table and his pursuers doing all they can to stop him, it should make for an interesting second half of the season for our Juniors. Their next stop will be at the fearsomely fast Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire, a circuit with a reputation as being both one of the fastest in the country but also a real car breaker. Let’s see what lies ahead for FJC as the 2016 campaign continues.
You can find a full breakdown of the weekend’s results from Snetterton HERE.
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