HARRY STAKES HIS CLAIM FOR THE THRONE AT COMBE
Amongst a packed and varied timetable, the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship touched down at the ultra-fast and ultra-treacherous Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire for Rounds 9 & 10 of the 2016 campaign.
Off the back of a frantic pair of races at the second visit of the year to Snetterton, there had been wins apiece for Ronan Quinn and points leader Harry Gooding. The latter had racked up 3 victories so far and was hoping that more of the same was on the cards as the second half of the championship kicked off in earnest.
All signs of this certainly seemed to be apparent when Gooding stuck his Jam-Sport prepared car onto pole position for the first race by almost 3 tenths from his ever present teammate Callum Hawkins-Row, already enjoying an upturn in fortunes compared to Snetterton. The second row was reserved for Rockingham pole-sitter Cameron Pugh and race winner at that same event Bradley Burns, while Row 3 saw Nicholas Reeve turn in another impressive qualifying performance to line up alongside Ronan Quinn, fresh from his Snetterton success. Jack Davidson and Lewis Kent took the fourth row, ahead of Angus Dudley and Sikander Hussain in the rest of the top 10. The remainder of the grid comprised of Danny Harrison, Ben Swift, Lochlan Bearman, Elliot Wilson, Christopher McKenzie and James Hillery.
With the red lights going out, Gooding made a good getaway but equally as brilliant a start came from Bradley Burns from P4 has he charged alongside for lead through Folly and Avon Rise. As the pack piled into the daunting right hander of Quarry in two-by-two formation, Gooding held the inside line for the corner and maintained his place in the lead from Burns and Hawkins-Row, as the cars behind them jostled for position. Already attempting to go with the leading trio and form a breakway 6-car pack were Cameron Pugh, Nicholas Reeve and Ronan Quinn. Equally good starts also came from Angus Dudley and Lochlan Bearman, the latter now into 9th by the first few corners after starting outside the top 10.
The pack remained closely bunched together as the end of Lap 1 came and went with no-one in the top 6 making any changes. This didn’t come until Hawkins-Row gained a better exit from Quarry second time around than Burns and slid his way through at The Esses into 2nd to make it a Jam-Sport 1-2 at the front, with Pugh also applying pressure to the #9 for 3rd. Cameron’s attempts were short lived as a few corners later at Tower, Reeve found an opening on the inside for 4th place. Up ahead, Hawkins-Row was pushing a little too hard in his pursuit of teammate Gooding as he ended up bounding across the grass on the outside of Camp corner. He did well not to lose too much momentum, although Burns did remain close in turn – in fact his run was so good, he drew back alongside to retake 2nd into Quarry by boldly sticking to the outside line over Avon Rise.
At the same corner, Ronan Quinn found himself snatching a brake and locking a wheel which forced him wide, forcing him out over the grass and dropping down the field before eventually sadly retiring. The battle for 2nd place continued to rumble on behind leader Gooding with Hawkins-Row, Burns, Reeve and Pugh all bunched together, whilst Lochlan Bearman continued his impressive drive having reached 6th by this point. Lewis Kent was holding off an improved run from Angus Dudley in the fight for 7th, while both James Hillery and Christopher McKenzie had quietly picked their way through into the top 10.
Hawkins-Row was then shown a black and white flag as a warning for exceeding track limits one too many times, giving him something to think about for the remainder of the race. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the trio chasing him down behind didn’t seem inclined to give up their pursuit on a podium place either. Burns began exerting pressure as he moved this way and that around the #41 to try and distract him, however Callum remained cool and uninterested in Bradley’s advances for 2nd. Pugh’s charge, meanwhile, had fallen away somewhat and now he was in the clutches of a very determined Lochlan Bearman, who sailed onto his rear bumper in quick succession and looked like he was ready to pounce.
This was cut short by the appearance of the safety car, bunching the pack back up but in the process also seeing both Pugh and Bearman retire from the race a lap apart from each other for separate issues, ending two potentially strong races prematurely. The pack remained behind the safety car for until the beginning of lap 6 when racing resumed, with Gooding still in the lead from Hawkins-Row, Burns, Reeve and Kent, while a silent but solid run from James Hillery had seem him move up to 7th and quickly slide past Angus Dudley for 6th just after the green flag. Gooding now had it all to do again to rebuild his advantage from before the safety car period, while Hawkins-Row still had a feisty Bradley Burns pressing him for 2nd place and Nicholas Reeve watching on.
Towards the bottom of the top 10, Christopher McKenzie was out to prove his burst of pace was no fluke with a clean inside pass at Camp Corner on Jack Davidson for 8th place. Back at the head of the field and with the race’s final few laps counting down, Gooding had managed to find a small gap and this time Hawkins-Row appeared to be going with him, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process in his efforts to keep up. Nicholas Reeve, on the other hand, wasn’t yet done in pursuing his first podium and continued to hassle Burns as the top 4 moved onto the final lap. Gooding did also receive a warning for track limits, but for the remainder of the final lap it looked all too easy.
So, Harry Gooding charged home to make it 4 wins for the season with victory in the first race at Castle Combe with teammate Callum Hawkins-Row in second place on the road, yet he was sadly handed a 5 second penalty for further exceeding track limits after his first warning, pushing him off the podium and down to 4th. As it was, Bradley Burns was promoted to 2nd place, while Nicholas Reeve could hardly believe his luck as he moved into what was the first podium of his circuit racing career, one which he’d certainly worked for. Lewis Kent completed a solid top 5 finish, while Angus Dudley benefitted from more cruel luck for James Hillery as he grabbed 6th after more reliability issues for the HillWood Motorsport Car. Ben Swift ended up 7th from Christopher McKenzie, with Elliot Wilson and Danny Harrison completing the 10 finishers, as Jack Davidson was another driver who wouldn’t see the flag.
Moving into Race 2 Gooding was aiming to become only the second driver this season, along with Elliot Wilson at Snetterton, to score a brace of victories on the same weekend. That being said, he was in the perfect place in pole position with Bradley Burns alongside. Once again, the second race’s grid was a direct reflection of the Race 1 results, so Reeve and Hawkins-Row lined up on Row 2, Kent and Dudley on Row 3, Swift and Mackenzie on Row 4 and finally Elliot Wilson and Danny Harrison rounding out the first 10 starters.
Off the line, the best getaway came from Lewis Kent on row 3 who made a super launch and even managed to get a look in for the lead by the time the pack reached Quarry, while Dudley couldn’t avoid nudging the back of fellow Jam-Sport man Callum Hawkins-Row’s car under braking. Thankfully, there was minimal to no damage caused for both cars. By the time the field exited The Esses, Gooding led from Kent while Hawkins-Row got wildly out of shape on the exit but remained 3rd. Some superb getaways from both Ben Swift and Angus Dudley had seen them jump into 4th and 5th with Danny Harrison also following suit in 6th ahead of Reeve and Burns. James Hillery also made a pass to move up a place at Elliot Wilson’s expense at Tower.
By the end of the opening lap, Gooding was once again trying to stretch his advantage while Kent was able to hold on to 2nd place, albeit for another lap before losing it on Lap 2 to Hawkins-Row but remaning in 3rd. Nicholas Reeve was moving up well and had reached 4th by the end of the 2nd lap ahead of Ben Swift, Angus Dudley and Danny Harrison. Bad luck would strike Harrison just moments into Lap 3, however, as an apparent suspension problem forced him straight as he slowed for Quarry. The ended up nudging the tyre barriers and a frustrated Harrison could do nothing but bang his steering wheel and retire.
This would prompt the second safety car of the weekend as the field was once again forced to bunch up with leader Gooding forced to relinquish his advantage at the front once more. After 3 laps spent in formation while the marshals removed Harrison’s stricken car, the safety car pulled in and racing resumed with Gooding again getting an impressive jump on his rivals at the green flag. Hawkins-Row did he best to go with him, leaving Kent to attempt to fend off Reeve for 3rd, while behind them Ben Swift was becoming the cork in the bottle with Burns, Dudley, Bearman and Hillery all snapping at his heels together in one large pack. Burns powered past through Avon Rise, while ahead Reeve did indeed managed to squeeze past Kent into the Esses for 3rd. With Burns now trying to make a break it was Lochlan Bearman’s turn to try and make it past Swift, while behind them Dudley was doing his utmost to fend off the feisty pair of Hillery and Elliot Wilson, who had now joined onto the tail of the group duelling over 5th downwards.
Bearman moved through down the outside of Swift just before Camp, but in the process ended up carrying too much speed into the corner and ran wide. This led to a wild ride on the outside grass while keeping his foot in at the same time and Lochlan was very lucky to just avoid clipping the tyres before rejoining and losing out to Swift once more. Hillery and Dudley had been battling whilst watching this happen and while Hillery had almost been able to make it through, he appeared to lift off momentarily to anticipate the rejoining Bearman, allowing Dudley to remain ahead and Wilson to close in. Dudley had a chance to attack into Quarry but this cost him his place as Bearman took full advantage into the Esses to take P5. Wilson also managed to slide past Hillery for 9th.
Heading into the final lap, the top 5 looked set howeve Bearman didn’t seem content on settling for 7th and went on the attack out of Camp Corner as me bidded to move alongside Swift. With the superior exit and run through Folly he was up to 6th with relative ease. However at the head of the field, there didn’t appear to be any chance of beating Harry Gooding despite teammate Hawkins-Row closing in on the final tour and breaking the lap record for a Fiesta Junior around Combe in the process. Gooding powered through the final turn and completed an emphatic brace of wins with Hawkins-Row in tow to cement another Jam-Sport 1-2 on the podium. Nicholas Reeve prompted more Specialized celebrations with another 3rd place (this time on the road) and while Bradley Burns did cross the line in 4th place, he was sadly excluded from the result after being deemed to have failed to respect yellow flags from Harrison’s incident by the stewards.
This in turn pushed Lewis Kent into a superb 4th place while the hard-charging Lochlan Bearman was rewarded with a top 5 finish for his efforts. Ben Swift and Angus Dudley took some of their best results in recent times with 6th and 7th respectively, while Elliot Wilson managed to collect more points in 8th. There was relief for James Hillery as he was finally able to finish a race trouble-free to score 9th place, ahead of Christopher McKenzie and an ailing Cameron Pugh, still evidently suffering from his issues in Race 1.
With his most successful weekend to date, Harry Gooding has now opened up a 30 point advantage on dropped scores over Elliot Wilson with 236 to Elliot’s 206. Lochlan Bearman’s impressive run of consistency has helped him up into 3rd place on 199, now 13 points ahead of Bradley Burns in 4th. Callum Hawkins-Row has done well to rocket back up the table to 5th with a first win surely on the cards sooner rather than later, whilst Lewis Kent has maintained an impressive 6th spot in the standings. Ben Swift’s improved form has helped him to 7th place in points ahead of Sikander Hussain with Angus Dudley and Cameron Pugh completing the top 10.
It’s a return to Silverstone next time out as the Juniors make their second visit of the season to the Home of British Motorsport. This time, it’ll be on the National circuit on August 27/28 where Harry Gooding returns to the scene of his first FJC win back in April on the International. One has to wonder if he’ll be as fortunate this time around or whether his pursuers will have what it takes to put one over on him and potentially see a 6th different winner. The contenders are there, so only time will tell. Join us there!
You can find a full breakdown of the results via TSL Timing HERE.
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