MR2 championship - Race Reports & TV Coverage

MR2 Championship - April 1st 2012
Silverstone National Circuit

Paul Hinson kicked off the 2012 750MC Toyota MR2 Championship in the best possible way on Sunday with a two pole positions, two race wins and a new lap record.

The 2011 championship runner-up was in fine form as 35 cars arrived at a sunny Silverstone for the first of seven rounds that will total 14 races. His bright yellow Russ Hennessy-prepared Mk2 took pole position in the morning qualifying session by just 0.04s from series regular Guy Hefford, another man determined to secure the title after a few seasons of being there or thereabouts. 2011 top rookie Matthew Palmer was 3rd with local youngster Luke Austin alongside. Completing the top six were Devonian Ben Rowe, back for another campaign with his ever enthusiastic father David, and young George Robinson, a regular pace setter over the last season or so. Class C for the less powerful but lighter and more nimble Mk3 was topped by Mick Nicholls, the Hertfordshireman qualifying ahead of his son Stuart, whose almost identical blue Rogue Motorsport-prepared Roadster was sporting some new aero for 2012. Nicholls Jr clearly wasn’t impressed at being beaten by ‘the old man’ and could be heard muttering something about team orders in the paddock… Class A for the oldest Mk1 cars only attracted one entry, Darren Cox placing his car 30th overall ahead of five of the more powerful Mk2s.

Race one was a controversial affair, Hefford arriving at Copse first after getting a better start than Hinson. In fact, Palmer also beat Hinson to the first corner but the stewards declared that Hinson and Hefford had jumped the start and were penalised 10s after the race. Poor Austin had a torrid race, a self-induced spin at Becketts on the first lap left him way down the field after Ben Rowe was left with nowhere to go but into Austin’s passenger door, putting Rowe out of the race on the spot and Austin back in 15th place. Luke then set about a storming charge back through the field, getting as high as 6th and challenging Matt Wallis when he spun again on the last lap on oil, damaged his driver’s door against another car and eventually finished a disappointed 14th. The damage to his car was more severe on closer inspection, sadly, the lap one impact breaking his rollcage at the base and putting him out for the day. Last lap beneficiaries of the oil included class C winner Stuart Nicholls, who got past his dad on the first lap, Towcester teacher and series veteran Rob Barnett, and Lee Gambell. Darren Cox’s race in the lone Mk1 only lasted until lap four when he retired with mechanical woes. Palmer’s joy in winning his first race was short lived, however, as he was later also given a 10s jump start penalty dropping him to 3rd behind Robinson (who started correctly) and the winner, Hinson.

32 cars took the start of race two later in the day with Austin, Lloyd Clarkson and William Gallacher all non-starting. Ben Rowe’s day didn’t get any better as he didn’t even get to Becketts this time, spinning off into the gravel at Maggots on the first lap. This race was all about Hinson and Hefford, Guy initially getting the drop on Paul and leading for the first two laps until the yellow car slid up the inside of the matt black one at Brooklands on lap three. Hinson was never headed again but Hefford kept him honest for the remaining 10 laps, never more than tenths of a second behind. Robinson was a distant, by MR2 standards, 7.8s behind at the flag with first race retiree Michael Wells an excellent fourth. The next gaggle provided some terrific sport, finishing some 22s behind the leaders but Gambell, Matt Wallis, Barnett, Stuart Nicholls (class C winner again) and Paul Grimmett were tied together by the proverbial short piece of string all race long. Darren Cox saw the chequered flag this time out and duly took a class win in the sole Mk1.
The first round saw the debut of quite a few drivers, one of most interesting being Towcester’s Christopher Salt. A race marshal for 30 years, he decided it was time to step off the banking and see what it was like on the other side of the barrier. By collecting vouchers, he paid for his ARDS test and hired a Rogue Motorsport Mk2 for his first race. He qualified in 33rd place for race one and came home 29th, including an obligatory spin, and his second race saw him battling with Simon Wallis and Paul Garside for another 29th place finish. Above all though, he had great fun and experienced something that not that many of his fine colleagues in orange do.

Report and photographs by Gary Walton.

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