MR2 championship - Race Reports & TV Coverage

MR2 Championship - October 14th 2012
Mallory Park Circuit

Mallory Park hosted the final two rounds of the hotly contested 2012 Toyota MR2 Championship last Sunday where the title winners would be crowned.

Two of the challengers were missing, sadly. Guy Hefford’s fire at Donington Park last time rendered his car unable to compete and Matthew Palmer, second in the championship before Mallory, blew his engine the day before whilst testing. These incidents left the championship as a two horse race between leader George Robinson and last year’s class B runner-up, Paul Hinson. It was Hinson who seized the initiative in qualifying by bagging pole position for both of the afternoon’s races, 0.3s ahead of Robinson who would twice line up alongside the RSR-prepared machine. Third on the grid went to the remarkable Jim Davies and his Rogue Motorsport Mk3 Roadster, the rookie giving away some 30bhp to the older Mk2s. He was joined by Matt Wallis for the first race and Ben Rowe in the second. Series veteran Clive Morphett finished his season well with a pair of third row starts in sixth. Stuart Nicholls made it two Mk3s in the top ten for race one, albeit down in 14th for race two. Lloyd Clarkson was unlucky to have an off in qualifying, bending the Mk2’s suspension somewhat. Paul Grimmett fared even worse, however, his engine letting go right at the end of the session. Mark Bithrey was another to suffer car failure in qualifying leaving him parked for the day.

Autumn sunshine greeted the 21 starters for the first race and as the start lights went out, Hinson shot off like a rocket. Never headed, he finished the 15 lap race over 4.5s in front. Behind him, the battle was fraught as Robinson, Rowe, Davies and Wallis fought over the podium places. Robinson, aware that he needed as many points as possible to defend his championship lead, initially dropped to third as Davies squeezed the nimble Mk3 past, but George re-took the place on the second tour. Rowe, the Devonian having his best championship weekend this year, followed him through to occupy third from Davies and Wallis, and this was how the places remained for 10 laps. Lap 11 was when it went wrong for Robinson, a half spin at Shaws Hairpin allowed Rowe and Davies through. As he recovered, Wallis used his greater momentum to get past Robinson into Gerards and demote him to fifth. The places stayed like this to the end, apart from Davies cheekily grabbing second from Rowe at the Lake Esses two laps from home. Nevertheless, Ben was delighted to finish third, his first podium in the championship after several seasons of trying.

Behind the leading group, a fine race was going on between Michael Wells, his brother Rob, Luke Austin, Paul Hutson and Clive Morphett. Clive lost a bunch of places on the first lap, dropping from sixth to 12th but fought well to get back to 10th. Stuart Nicholls won the family duel against his father, Mick, by a scant 0.3s, both Mk3s outside the top 10 this time though. Tim Heron and Peter Lewis were on the back foot from the first lap after they tangled at the first corner, Lewis spinning right across the wet grass and having to rejoin dead last. Clarkson was the races’ only non-finisher, the practice crash affecting the cars’ handling.

After a heavy mid-afternoon shower, the circuit was damp off line as the cars lined up for the final race of the season. Robinson got a better start this time and duelled with Hinson all the way round Gerards and along the back straight until he got his nose ahead into the Lake Esses. Like Hinson in race one, he held first place to the chequered flag, although it got very close at the end. Hinson had Rowe and Davies for company once again, Wallis getting past the Mk3 on lap three to take fourth. They circulated in this order until lap 10 (again, a pivotal lap) when a lunge by Wallis on Rowe went wrong at Gerards. Matt’s silver Mk2 slid backwards into Ben’s red and gold car and while they recovered, Davies, Austin and Rob Wells nipped through. Missing by now were Dan Holmes - the bright green machine losing its manifold and being pulled in for excessive noise after four laps - and Jamie Grant, the youngster spinning at the exit of Gerards and coming to rest in the gravel trap on the inside of the circuit.

As the extended race distance - 20 laps - wore on, so Hinson and Davies began to close on Robinson. Hinson, mindful of the fact he only needed a third place finish to clinch the class B title, allowed a charging Davies through on the penultimate lap. Jim couldn’t quite catch George’s AW Tracksport machine though and trailed him home by a mere 0.46s. Davies actually thought he’d won overall, assuming when he’d passed Hinson he’d done so for the lead! However, another second place and class C win was a great result, confirming him as both class champion and rookie of the year.
Behind Hinson, Austin came home a pleasing fourth, a solid result after a troubled season. Rob Wells followed him across the line to score a good fifth place, just ahead of a recovering Rowe. His assailant, Wallis, trailed in eighth overall, behind Morphett. Some way behind them was Hutson, Stuart Nicholls and Heron. Mick Nicholls had been part of the battle until a lurid spin two laps from home left him down in a lapped 16th.

At the time of writing, Paul Hinson’s class B title is provisional pending the outcome of a protest over his cars’ legality. Judgment is due within the week and the result will be confirmed soon after.

Report and photographs by Gary Walton.

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