On Sunday 11th June, all four of our Dick Lovett MINI Centres took our MINI customers to watch a day of racing at The MINI Challenge at Silverstone Race Circuit.
We began the day at each of the Centres, before setting off in convoy to Silverstone to enjoy the ultimate in MINI racing along with a bespoke hospitality package which included entry to the Circuit, VIP parking, lunch and drinks for our customers.
We also enjoyed a behind the scenes tour with MINI Challenge Driver Rob Smith,
who came second place in Race 1.
Brett Smith extended his points lead in the MINI CHALLENGE JCW Championship in an emotionally charged first race at Silverstone, winning the day after his father Jeff was hospitalised after a serious accident in the British Touring Car Championship.
Brett was the star of the first race, leading from lights-to-flag to secure his third consecutive race victory this year and stretching his points advantage in the process.
Brett’s biggest challenger was his namesake Rob Smith, who finally got to show his potential with a fine drive to stick to the rear of Brett’s car like a limpet throughout.
“That’s a special win for me. I was exhausted an obviously concerned for my dad.”
Rob Smith added: “I knew I had the pace but I couldn’t get around Brett. Everywhere I was faster is where it’s hardest to overtake – places like Maggotts, Becketts and Stowe. I decided to stick behind him and we worked together to tour clear. The pace is there to win.”
Mark Wakefield emerged from a tight fight for third place after a terrific scrap with James Turkington. Max Bladon held third for the first few laps ahead of Charlie Butler-Henderson, but both drivers would hit problems, and each other.
Wakefield initially stole fourth from CB-H into Club and then tried a similar move on Bladon a few laps later. It worked, but delayed both cars at the same time. That allowed CB-H to close in and the three ran together into Brooklands on lap three. CB-H inadvertently tapped the rear of Bladon in the pack, with Bladon skirting off and falling to sixth.
Things then went awry fro CB-H when his car slowed on the Hangar Straight a lap later. “It just lost power,” he rued. “I have no idea what went wrong but I’m gutted. I just got alarms and then it cut out.”
That left Wakefield and Turkington to fight for the final podium spot. Turkington stole ahead on the penultimate lap with a fine move at The Loop, but a sideways moment at Copse allowed Wakefield back ahead on the last lap.
“I thought I had it and then the rear just stepped out mid-corner and I had to work hard to catch it,” said Turkington, who celebrated his best result yet in the CHALLENGE.
“That race was brilliant, I loved it,” said Wakefield. “Club is clearly my favourite corner for overtaking!”
Behind Turkington, Bladon completed the top five ahead of the charging Henry Neal, who surged up the order from starting P17. Team Dynamics worked on the toe settings of the car to correct an imbalance, and Henry put in a fine drive to finish sixth ahead of George Sutton, Reece Barr, Stuart Gough and Lawrence Davey.
Race 2 Report:
Max Bladon secured his second victory of the season in a truncated second race at Silverstone. Much of which took place under the safety car.
Bladon started second on the grid, behind Henry Neal, but made a strong start to pile the pressure on Neal through Copse and into the Maggotts-Becketts complex for the first time.
The two ran nose-to-tail into the first Maggotts section before rubbing into Becketts, with the contact sending Neal’s car spinning off the circuit and out of the lead. Bladon suggested that Neal had braked mid-corner and caught him out, but Henry’s face post-race told a very different story.
The net result was Bladon at the head of the pack with James Turkington second from Rob Smith, Mark Wakefield, George Sutton, Reece Barr and Brett Smith, who got a tough start and was mired in the pack.
With Bladon out front, Rob Smith began to pile on the pressure as Wakefield managed to work his way past Turkington, who was shuffled back to fifth in a handful of corners.
Rob Smith started to close on Bladon, but was unable to make a move as the safety car came out after JM Littman hit the barriers hard at Copse.
With the race neutralised for a few laps, Bladon was facing a 10-minute restart. He controlled his pace behind the safety car and bolted at the first opportunity, just as Wakefield started to close dramatically on Rob Smith.
“My power steering failed completely behind the safety car so there wasn’t much I could do as Mark was coming past me,” said Smith.
But Smith’s luck was in as the red flags came out on the same lap when Ryan Dignan’s car slewed across the track and refused to re-fire. The result was called with five minutes left on the clock.
“It’s good to get a win but it was a bit of a rubbish race,” said Bladon. “I wanted Rob to hold Mark back a bit after the restart but now I know why he couldn’t manage it! Rob was pushing hard in the first stint, but I felt I had things under control.”
Rob Smith was put back into second with results counted back a lap. “I’m well pleased with that,” he said. “Finally a bit of luck comes my way. It’s a shame we didn’t get the win today but two second places is a pretty solid weekend.”
Wakefield was a disappointed third as he felt he had the pace to fight for a higher step on the rostrum. Brett Smith finished his weekend with a fourth place.
Turkington took fifth ahead of Reece Barr, George Sutton and Brad Hutchinson.
One man on a charge was Charlie Butler-Henderson. He started back in 25th place after his race one engine issues, but charged up to 13th spot by the end of lap one. Sadly his fightback was curtailed by the stoppages.