Photo credit: (Jakob Ebrey Photography) Nelson King takes his eighth win of the season as Oliver Meadows has debut rookie cup victory
After a long summer break the MINI CHALLENGE UK Trophy series roared back into life at Thruxton supporting the popular British Touring Car Championship event for the third and final time this season. Entering the weekend teammates Nelson King and Nicky Taylor sat 1-2 in the championship standings with Alex Solley also in the running.
Friday’s test sessions saw four Graves Motorsport drivers inside the top ten with Nelson King and Alex Solley topping the first and second sessions respectively. Ben Jenkins was narrowly behind in 12th whilst running inside the top ten for the majority of both sessions.
Oliver Meadows was the star of an incident packed Qualifying session as he set the fourth fastest time. Almost as soon as the session started the final corner was under caution for a driver whose engine had expired, eventually causing a stoppage. As the session resumed Nelson King claimed 6th spot with Nicky Taylor in 9th. Alex Solley, Ben Jenkins and Alfie Glenie were all together in 19th, 20th and 21st.
The first race of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon and featured two safety car periods. The first lap saw Solley, Glenie and Jenkins all involved in the same incident and collide together as they avoided a car that had been tagged into a spin. All continued but with damage and a trip to the pit-lane for Glenie. King and Taylor made progress at the start and were with the leading pack, Oliver Meadows lost ground but steadily made progress to re-join the front group after the second and final safety car. After that a seven-way battle for the lead ensued featuring King, Meadows and Taylor who finished in 4th, 6th and 7th respectively with Taylor also setting the fastest lap. Solley climbed to 16th but was hit again, dropping back to 18th. He gained places back to finish 16th. Ben Jenkins was driving a wounded car after the first lap incident and finished in 21st whilst Glenie had to limp home with a puncture on the final lap.
The second race of the day was run as the finale of an action and incident packed BTCC race day. King and Meadows both lost a bit of ground on the opening tour but with Taylor in tow of Nelson King, the pair made progress up the field. On lap three Meadows passed rookie title rival Jack Byrne to lead the class whilst Nelson King set about closing the gap to the leaders with a new lap record. That created a four-way battle for the lead that quickly became six as Taylor joined. As the next few laps developed King made his way to the front and broke away with second place as Taylor got involved in the battle for the final podium spot, eventually having to settle for 5th. Oliver Meadows finished 7th but for the first time this season as the top rookie driver. King continued to lead to the line taking his eighth win of his championship campaign. Behind an eight-car battle featured both Solley and Glenie who after starting in 15th and 23rd, finished in 15th and 17th restively. Only 3 seconds separated the group between 9th and 17th. Ben Jenkins struggled with a gearbox issue that prevented him from getting involved in the battle for the top ten which his underlying pace showed that he should have been in.
Team manager David Graves said, "Our congratulations to Nelson on his eighth race win and to Olli on a long-overdue rookie class win which he has more than shown he is capable of throughout the season. Nicky had a solid weekend and is right in the championship hunt in third place. Alex, Ben and Alfie all had their work cut out after a difficult qualifying and their very unlucky race one first lap clash didn’t help them climbing the grid like we had hoped. Nevertheless, we know all three are capable of much more and we look forward to seeing them achieve those results at Snetterton next time out.
Our team are also thinking of Jonny Seargeant, Colin White and Mike Brown after their accidents, we wish them a speedy and full recovery.”
Nelson King’s extended championship lead while Nicky Taylor is in 3rd. The next round of the MINI CHALLENGE UK Trophy championship comes from Snetterton on the 17th and 18th September where they will be supporting the British Truck Racing Championship.