QUALIFYING - New this year, the Hot Hatch Challenge – a series of individual races rather than a season-long contest – shows every sign of emulating the success of the long-running Saloon Championship which begat it. Indeed, with just 0.392s blanketing the best qualifying laps of the top three in a 17-strong field, driving cars from five marques, Monday’s competition was red hot.
Triple Combe Saloon champion Will di Claudio led the way from Class B, recording a 1m13.258s (an average speed of 90.91mph) – in his fleet 1700cc Peugeot 106 GTI. May 8’s victors Chris Southcott – whose Peugeot 205 GTI is powered by a 2-litre Mi16 engine – and Josh Harvey (2.0 Honda Civic EG) cut 1:13.620 and 1:13.650 respectively to head Class A. All three were comfortably Harvey’s race record of 1:13.902.
Although destined not to start, fourth placed Chris Rawlings (1.6 Peugeot 106 GTI) was a couple of seconds shy of di Claudio’s well-sorted W-A-S Racing Pug, with Joe Dorrington (205), Matthew Bawtree (Honda Integra DC2) next up. Class C pacesetter Tony Cooper (1.6 Peugeot 106 GTI) gridded seventh, his 1:18.659 narrowly outpaced A men Sam Stride (Civic) and Jamie Bigwood in the quickest of the Renault Clios.
Cooper’s rivals Jon Lannon (Citroen Saxo VTS ‘Golden Nugget’) and 106 duo Shaun Goverd and Rob Channing were separated by a second, this looking forward to a tough race. The Clios of Callum Burgess-Smith and Graham Cox were split by Saloon stalwart Ray Ferguson, doubling-up in his bricked-up MG ZR. The pack was rounded-out by Adam Hall (ZR) and James Dyer-Bufton (Civic).
RACE - Di Claudio, Southcott and Harvey set off like rockets, but the prospects of a great contest were erased within two laps. Hampshireman Southcott had been all over Bath ace di Claudio when he dived past into Tower. As Chris jumped on the brakes his rears callipers grabbed, flicking the gunmetal and dayglo green Peugeot round 180 degrees. Unfortunately Harvey’s Honda was collected as it spun. Both were out with damaged front corners. “My fault, I’m afraid,” admitted Southcott. “I like to know where the brakes bite. When the fronts locked on the warm-up lap I wound the bias three turns to the rear. That caught me out and Josh had nowhere to go. I must apologise.”
Following a three-lap safety car interlude (to atone for which five minutes were added to the race as the CCRC had been running only nine behind schedule) di Claudio stayed clear of Dorrington. Joe was “really chuffed” to have posted his first race finish – a class-winning second overall to boot – which erased memories of dispiriting unreliability. Bawtree kept third, staving off Stride who had ousted Bigwood at half-distance.
Cooper led the fast-starting Channing initially, but Lannon bounded back from an early moment to split the Peugeots in his Puzzle Card Citroen as Cooper made it a hat-trick of Class C wins. The spectacular Lannon set the best lap of the podium trio, separated by 3.6 seconds at the chequer. Ferguson and Burgess-Smith also went the full distance.
Goverd, Hall and Dyer-Bufton finished a lap down while Cox struggled to the end on three cylinders.
Posted on Friday 1 June 2018