MR2 championship - Race Reports & TV Coverage

MR2 Championship - September 2nd 2012
Donington Park Circuit

A thrilling pair of races entertained the crowds as the Toyota MR2 Championship returned to Donington Park last Sunday for rounds 13 and 14.
With 35 cars jostling for space during the morning qualifying session, ‘traffic’ was the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Matthew Wallis starred with two superb laps that were good enough to earn him his maiden pole positions for both of the day’s races. He went very well at the championship’s previous visit to the undulating Leicestershire circuit in June so it wasn’t a complete surprise to see him right at the front - nevertheless, it was indeed a fine effort. He would be joined on the front by Matthew Palmer for race one and Guy Hefford in race two. Hefford put the matt black Mk2 on row two for the first encounter, looking to add some valuable points to his haul so far this season as he continued to close in on championship leader George Robinson. Robinson had a poor session by his own high standards, recording times only good enough for seventh and fifth for the two races. Alric Kitson, the MR2 Super GT racer, put his pristine white Mk2 in fourth and sixth, hoping for some good results as an advert to sell the car.

In class C for the Mk3 Roadsters, rookie Jim Davies continued his excellent form by qualifying fastest, just ahead of Stuart Nicholls. Nicholls spent a good part of the session in the gravel at Coppice after an error sent him bouncing across the kerbs and off the track. His new engine – the previous motor let go at Donington last time out – was feeling ‘tight’ as well; look out for a renewed challenge next time out. After her big accident at Anglesey last month, it was good to see Amy Atkinson back on track in a newly-prepared Mk2. She was joined by Rebecca Jackson, the journalist forsaking her usual Porsche 924 for a Rogue Motorsport hire car. She put the red Mk2 in 14th for the first race, 23rd for the second, and loved every minute of it.

Race one saw Wallis, Palmer and Hefford hugging the inside of the track as they charged down to Redgate on lap one. Kitson, meanwhile, had other ideas and blasted round the outside of them all to lead into the first corner. Hefford manage to relieve Kitson of the lead, however, further round the lap and led as they crossed the line from Kitson, Wallis, Palmer, Paul Hinson, Robinson and Davies. Luke Austin, Robert Wells and Nicholls completed the top 10.

Starting the second lap, Kitson wrestled the lead back again at Redgate, Hefford running wide across the grass on the exit as tried to resist the move. Wallis said, ‘Thank you very much’ and took second away from Hefford, only to lose several places a few laps later with an excursion off track.

The midfield battling was no less intense with Clive Morphett, Robert Wells, Nicholls, Rebecca Jackson, Michael Wells – the Anglesey winner unusually far down after gear linkage woes in practice – and Mark Bithrey all fighting for places. Nicholls had a moment which dropped him out of this pack and then found himself watching Tim Heron’s car rotating across his bows at Redgate. Heron retired on the next lap, as did Ben Rowe, beached in the gravel after a miserable race for the Devonian.

Back at the front, Kitson held on to record his third win of the weekend after victory in both of the previous days’ Super GT races. Palmer was an ever-present threat, grabbing the lead on lap seven briefly, and finished a mere 0.04s behind Kitson. Less than a second behind these two was Hinson, a clean race for the championship challenger. Robinson was fourth, albeit 10s behind the top three, with Davies an excellent fifth in the class C Roadster. Poleman Wallis recovered to sixth with Hefford a lowly seventh after more dramas off track during the race. Paul Hutson, Mark Warren-Leighton and Michael Wells rounded out the top ten. Two big movers during the race were Nick Firth, supported by his Le Mans racer brother Jody, who went from 23rd on the grid to eleventh, and Dan Holmes, the bright green machine gaining 13 spots from 28th to 15th.

With Kitson electing to withdraw from the days’ second race, 32 cars set off for what would turn out to be a truncated six lap sprint. Simon Bastiman and Paul Flinders were also missing, their cars too badly damaged following incidents in the first encounter. Wallis made a poor getaway from pole and was headed by Hefford, Hinson, Palmer and Robinson on the first lap. Davies in the Mk3 also had a storming first lap, up from eighth to fifth amongst the more powerful Mk2s. Hefford locked a wheel into the chicane at the end of the first tour, ran wide over the kerbs and recovered as Hinson was driving around the outside of him. Hinson was forced off across the grass and gravel, allowing Palmer through to lead from Robinson. Hefford held third from Davies with Hinson dropping right back to ninth. Palmer held on to his lead quite comfortably to the end to score the victory whilst behind him it became very frantic. Davies got past Robinson on lap four to move himself up to a brilliant second place, setting a new class lap record on the way. Robinson and Austin dropped a further five seconds behind him but the race lost Hefford on the seventh lap as he was off at the Old Hairpin, his car ablaze which brought out the red flags to end the race prematurely. The marshals extinguished the fire but the car was quite damaged – a real blow to his championship hopes with just two rounds remaining. To add to his woes, he was excluded from the results for a separate incident earlier in the race.

Hinson recovered to fifth at the flag from Morphett, Nicholls – two Mk3s in the top seven – Michael Wells, Paul Grimmett and Paul Hutson. Poleman Wallis retired on the last racing lap and was unclassified as a finisher – his joy after qualifying diluted somewhat – and guesting lady racer Jackson didn’t even get off the grid as her car stuttered with a suspected fuelling issue. She was still as enthusiastic as ever afterwards though, already planning a return to the championship in the future. Dan Holmes had another storming race, up from 27th to finish 13th with Mark Snelling and Tim Heron also making up good ground.

With the championship still close at the front, the cars and drivers head of to another Leicestershire circuit, Mallory Park, on October 14th where it will all be decided.

Report and photographs by Gary Walton.

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