Title rivals Luke Caudle and Chris Knox battled it out for the victory spoils in the gale force winds and rain from the dissipating hurricane Katia, in the first quadruple header of the year. With neither giving an inch, they came away with two wins each.
Lee Allen started Saturday’s race from pole, but after a indifferent get away, was immediately involved in a red flag race stopping incident. “I got tapped and spun,” said Sam Osborne who just had the lead. But as Allen went sideways he was collected by Stewart Lines. Allen and Osborne restarted, but Lines and Kevin O’Connor failed to rejoin the grid.
On the restart Allen and Knox vied for the early advantage. “I got away reasonably and was on Lee’s outside through Turn One. I led into the Hairpin but Lee got me back exiting Church, before I had the run up to Rocket,” Knox explained.
As the field heading into the Corkscrew Allen got a tap from his father George which spun him, while Caudle joined Knox in an early break. But the luckless Finlay Crocker was already heading for the pits with a puncture.
Osborne headed the pursuers from debutant Rhys Lloyd, Andrew Bailey and George Allen, who had both Gavin Bristow and Lee Sullivan closing on him by the end of lap three.
Knox started to ease himself clear as Caudle had Osborne mounting a challenge for second. “I just kept my head down, built a gap and looked after the car,” said Knox after taking the victory by over two seconds.
“I had lost the splitter after going across the grass in the first corner incident. I think it damaged the steering too and it was a real handful,” said a delighted Caudle after keeping Osborne at bay. “I tried a move on Luke, but made a mistake and he drove away from me again.” Osborne added.
Lloyd retained his racelong fourth from Bailey and George Allen. Lee Sullivan clinched seventh after Bristow pitted, leaving Lee Allen and Craig Freeman to complete the R56 finishers.
Ant Whorton-Eales led the Club Class from the opening lap, “I just kept out of trouble,” he said. Dean Raymond took Patrick Mortimer for second on the run up to Rocket for the third time. “He drove a wide car, but once I was through I kept the gap to Ant stable,” said Raymond. “I tried to keep it wide but he still got me up the hill,” Mortimer replied. Justina Williams completed the class.
Knox made the most of his pole position at the start of Sunday’s first race, heading Osborne, Bailey, Caudle, Lee Allen and Lloyd on a close opening lap.
But as they negotiated the wind battered back straight for the second time, Osborne coasted into retirement with a coil failure. Caudle was up to second, but Allen fell back to as both Lloyd and Sullivan got by. “I over ran the Hairpin,” Allen explained.
As Caudle kept title rival Knox honest, Allen mounted his comeback. He took Sullivan through Church, followed two laps later by Lloyd at the Banking Hairpin and Bailey for third on the inside of Church. “I was comfortable until part of the window trim came off the pillar on the back straight and the wind forced the window down, it was a distraction and Lee got me, all in one lap,” Bailey explained.
Caudle was poised to challenge Knox when the flag came out, “I thought there was more time to go, and I was waiting for the last lap to make a move. The car was great, it was on rails,” said Caudle. “It was my now customary start. I saw Sam drop back but Luke caught me quickly.” Knox added.
Lee Allen consolidated third and Bailey retained fourth from the closing Lloyd. “I didn’t get a good start but it was a good race with Lee though, a bit close this MINI Challenge racing, but I like it” said Lloyd.
Sullivan and Lines had a late duel for sixth, which went in Lines favour from Rocket on the penultimate lap. George Allen. Bristow and O’Connor completed the top ten.
Whorton-Eales didn’t have it all his own way in the Club Class. “I had to work for that one, but Dean slightly outbraked himself,” he said. “Ant had to get physical. I didn’t think there was a gap, but he got through,” Raymond replied. Williams and Mortimer completed the class.
The gale force winds were joined by a threatening sky as the cars lined up in the assembly area. At that point tyre choice was, at best, a guess.
Knox got away well again from pole and was immediately joined by Caudle in a first lap break. Bailey was into third, from O’Connor, Lee Allen and Osborne, but it was the battle for the lead that had everyone’s attention.
It was nose to tail through Church for the second time, but Knox went wide into Rocket and Caudle seized his chance. “He got crossed up, but I had already fried my front tyres to stay with him at the start,” said Caudle.
It was an even spread behind between Bailey, O’Connor and Osborne, after Allen had dropped to seventh behind Chris Oakman. But as the race wore on the lead duel started to allow Bailey to close in too.
It was almost side by side for the lead into Rocket on lap nine, but a lap later Knox had the lead again. There was still nothing in it as they started the last lap, but lapping Lines at Rocket who was struggling on slicks Knox opted for the outside and Caudle the inside which gave Caudle the inside line approaching the drop to Corkscrew. Knox ran wide onto the grass and Caudle claimed the win. “I was on the wet grass at speed and just managed to squeeze between the barrier and Lloyd’s parked car, I’m not sure if it was luck or skill!” said a disappointed Knox, who still managed to retain second from the closing Bailey.
“Kevin O’Connor was getting closer and then I saw him have a moment, I nearly caught second at the end too,” said a delighted Bailey. “I was just glad I kept Sam back. I like the wet but was nearly off on the concrete, so backed off a bit,” O’Connor replied.
Oakman followed Osborne home in sixth, from Lee Allen, Freeman, George Allen and Crocker.
After an inspired tyre choice Patrick Mortimer opted for the full wet and took the Club Class win from Raymond and Whorton-Eales. “I just need a finish, so no heroics,” said Whorton-Eales.
The reverse grid gave Oakman pole, who along with team mate Bailey, were the only cars to start the final race of the weekend on wets.
Oakman led the opening lap, from Osborne, Bailey, Caudle. Knox, O’Connor and Lee Allen, but Osborne got a run on the leader up to Rocket and was ahead as they took the left hander.
Allen was third into Rocket but was already into second by the end of the lap, but had Caudle and Knox in is wheeltracks, as Oakman and Bailey fell away with their wets struggling to fifth and sixth.
The wet tyres proved to be the wrong decision as O’Connor, Cocker and George Allen all surged past Bailey on the back straight, and after Cocker got to the head of the trio, they were soon on Oakman’s tail too.
Osborne’s reign at the head of the field started to look threatened as Allen, Caudle and Knox continued to close. It was Caudle that became the aggressor, taking Allen for second on lap six, before charging ahead of Osborne through Church a lap later. “I couldn’t stop Luke, but held off Chris, as he seemed later on the brakes,” said Allen.
“It was really slippery at the start but my set up was fantastic. I kept sliding at the top of Rocket, but just did what I had to,” said Caudle. Osborne held off Allen to retain second, “my arms ache after doing four races. When I saw them all catching me I thought, Oh no, but the car was great” Osborne replied.
Knox fell back towards the end in fourth, “I felt the brakes were not as sharp as they had been so about two thirds in I thought I would rather finish fourth than DNF,” he explained.
Crocker had run in fifth after Oakman and Bailey had fallen down the order, but fell to the back of a three way fight with two laps remaining, as both Lines and Lloyd got by. “Not bad, at least I finished this one,” said Lloyd.
Sullivan, Allen Snr and O’Connor rounded off the top ten, with Whorton-Eales taking his third win of the weekend in the Club Class, from Mortimer and Williams. After Raymond retired with a broken radiator. “I had some contact at Rocket and both Ant and Justina went through, then Justina got sideways at the Corkscrew, lost speed and I couldn’t help but hit her and broke the radiator,” he explained.
Even though ‘Katia’ tried to spoil the fun the MINI Challenge’s first visit to Anglesey gave some great racing and praise for a great ‘racers’ circuit.
Published by Peter Scherer for Mini Challenge, September 12th, 2011