MR2 championship - Race Reports & TV Coverage

MR2 Championship - June 24th 2012
Donington Park Circuit

Donington Park hosted two thrilling races on Sunday for rounds 7 and 8 of the Toyota MR2 Championship.

After heavy overnight and early morning rain, a damp circuit greeted the 36 cars for qualifying. Championship leader Paul Hinson discovered just how slippery the track was as he spun off at the very first corner, Redgate, on the very first lap! Marshal-power got him back on track and he was soon tearing up the timing screens to grab pole position for both of the afternoon’s races. Cadwell Park double winner George Robinson was to share the front row with him, albeit half a second adrift of the yellow Mk2 on pole. Matt Wallis turned in a brilliant lap to grab third on grid, his highest ever grid position. Class C leader Stuart Nicholls was just as pleased with his fourth place, the damp conditions clearly suiting the more nimble but less powerful Mk3 Roadster. Championship challengers Guy Hefford – on his first outing at Donington – and Matt Palmer filled row three from Luke Austin, Michael Wells, Ben Cater – in James Cross’s 2011 championship winning car – and James McCutcheon.

Race 1 took two attempts to get going, confusion over green flags and start lights going on, off and on again meaning an aborted start and a re-grid. Robinson got the re-start judged perfectly and led Hinson, Wallis, Nicholls, Palmer, Hefford and Austin into Redgate for the first of 8 laps. The field charged round the first lap in pursuit of Robinson but he was to be untouchable, the AW Tracksport car gradually eking out a lead that would be just under 4 sec by the end. Behind him, the battling was intense between the main title protagonists with place changes galore and real door handle to door handle racing. Nicholls, sadly, was to end his race early after the little Mk3 suffered terminal engine failure on lap 4. This was a real shame for Stuart as he was due to line up in a best-ever 2nd place on the grid for race 2. His father, Mick, fared even worse as his race was over on the 3rd lap, contact with Mark Snelling’s spinning Mk2 breaking the steering on his Mk3 leaving him stuck in the gravel at Coppice.

Another championship frontrunner, Michael Wells, ended his race prematurely too after going off at the Old Hairpin on lap 5. Austin, perennially unlucky this season, had worked his way up to 2nd by lap 5 when his red and white Mk2 came together with Hinson’s between McLeans and Coppice, the pair of them out on the spot. Hefford and Wallis were delighted to find themselves in podium positions with Palmer – a new lap record to his name - chasing them home in 4th. The sole remaining Class C Mk3 finished a remarkable 5th, Jim Davies’ Rogue Motorsport-prepared car avoiding all the spins and carnage around him to record a terrific result, especially from 15th on the grid! Paul Hutson was another big improver, from 18th to 9th.

Race 2 was run over 9 laps in lovely warm evening conditions and this time it was Hinson who got the jump from pole to lead the field round. However, it all went wrong at McLeans on the 2nd lap as brake problems sent him spinning into the gravel and retirement. A thoroughly dejected erstwhile championship leader left with nothing. In the meantime, the race at the front was electric, the top 5 of Robinson, Palmer, Austin, Hefford and Wallis with never more than a second covering them. Robinson led until the start of lap 8 when he missed a gear exiting the final chicane – Hefford needed no second invitation! Austin had briefly been up to 2nd but was demoted by Hefford and Palmer in quick succession, Luke wisely deciding to bring the car home rather than risk more damage. Fastest lap was his consolation. Robinson nipped by him at the end to grab 4th behind a jubilant Hefford – second and a win on a circuit he’d never been to before - Palmer and an ecstatic Wallis; even he wondered where his extra pace had come from this weekend! Cater had a fairly quiet race on his debut weekend to come 6th, well ahead of Michael Wells, Ben Rowe, Clive Morphett and Marc Warren-Leighton. Class C went once again to Jim Davies, despite being shunted off on the first lap and coming round plum last. He finished 23rd overall, just two places ahead of Mick Nicholls who was rueing a mid-race spin which probably cost him a maiden class victory.

The championship moves on to Anglesey next for two rounds on the Welsh coastal circuit where George Robinson will no doubt be looking to consolidate his newly-won championship lead. If last weekend is anything to go by, it should be a cracker!

Report and photographs by Gary Walton.

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