Oliver Barker dominated the Radical Challenge field at Snetterton this weekend, sweeping the board with three race victories from three pole positions, plus two fastest laps to climb the championship table with two rounds remaining.
Barker meant business from Saturday morning qualifying, coming out on top of a two-way fight for the top spot with closest championship rival Steve Burgess to take his first Radical Challenge pole position by 0.433.
As lap times tumbled on the drying track following early morning rain showers, Dominik Jackson took third fastest by just 0.010 from SR1 Cup graduate Richard Baxter. Jack Manchester clocked in fifth fastest ahead of a season best performance from Brian Murphy for sixth. Peter Tyler and Paul Gladdis set the Team Challenge pole position time, 11th overall.
Race 1 / Round 13
Barker turned his maiden SR3 pole position into lights-to-flag victory in the first 20-minute race of the weekend, but the Nielsen Racing driver didn’t have it all his own way with Burgess piling on the pressure.
Despite a superb start from both front-row drivers, Barker won the charge into Riches, leaving Burgess to slot into second. Manchester charged through from fifth before going off-track, leaving Jackson and Baxter to retain their starting order in third and fourth respectively.
Recovering from time lost in qualifying due to an air jack issue while pitting for tyres, current championship leader Jack Lang was the man on the move, charging from ninth to fourth in three laps. A mechanical issue in the latter stages, however, meant the 360 Racing charge had to settle for ninth.
Back at the front, Burgess refused to give Barker any breathing space and punched in a flying lap to close within 0.266 seconds approaching half distance. But a run wide following an unsuccessful pass at the hairpin lost vital time while Barker posted consecutive fastest laps to pull out a decisive lead.
Bar Baxter taking Lang on the penultimate tour for fourth, the order remained unchanged with Barker bagging vital points over Burgess and Jackson completing the podium. After a thrilling race-long battle, Elliot Goodman and Jason Rishover completed the top six. Tyler took the Team Challenge spoils, 13th overall.
Race 2 / Round 14
Barker served up more of the same for race two, once again leading Burgess from the lights, but it was Manchester that nailed the start to soar from sixth to third. Jackson slotted into fourth ahead of Mark Richards, triggering a race-long battle which would see the pair swap places throughout, with Sean Byrne sixth.
Barker pushed to build a seven-second buffer until Burgess span out of contention and the race at Murrays five laps in, offering some small reprieve to current title leader Lang, who was enduring a challenging weekend.
Clear of the resulting safety car on lap eight, Barker nailed the restart to pull two seconds clear ahead of a two-lap dash to the flag as Manchester battled a gear selection problem. Damage to Barker’s front splitter, however, allowed Manchester to close within 0.406 of a second at the line to claim his first Radical Challenge podium.
Jackson came out on top of the thrilling three-way battle with Richards and Baxter, in which the trio constantly traded places for the final step on the podium, while Lang secured his best result of the weekend so far with important points for sixth. The Tyler / Gladdis duo doubled up with their second Team Challenge win of the weekend, again placing 13th overall.
Race 3 / Round 15
Barker was on a mission from the rolling start of the 40-minute feature race, intent on building up enough of a margin to wipe out his 15 success seconds carried over from Rockingham. Leading the field from Burgess and Manchester, who once again delivered the best start to climb from seventh to fourth, Barker set off at a blistering pace and set eight consecutive fastest laps to pull out a nine second advantage before the pit window opened.
Meanwhile, in the early stages Burgess headed the fight for second from Jackson and Manchester with Lang close behind in fifth and Baxter sixth.
As Burgess, Jackson, Manchester and Lang all dived into the pits on lap 11, Barker maintained his momentum before pitting two laps later. As the pit stops played out, it was Jackson that emerged race leader with 0.547 in hand over Barker, followed by Manchester, Lang and Baxter. Burgess sat seventh having served a full 20-second success penalty following his Rockingham feature race victory.
Jackson kept an impressive pace and looked to have the edge on Barker but a run wide into turn one was all the invitation Barker needed to re-take the top spot with eight minutes remaining. From there, Barker continued his outstanding form to pull out a five second advantage by the chequered flag.
Jackson maintained his best performance of the season so far to score his highest podium finish in second, with Manchester third. Lang’s fourth place finish was enough to keep atop the title table, a spot he now shares with Barker, while Baxter and Burgess completed the top six.
In the Team Challenge, Tyler and Gladdis also celebrated a clean sweep, sealing class victory 15th overall.
Oliver Barker: “You can’t ask for much more than that, can you? What a great race and great way to finish the day. Nearly maximum points, which is what we needed coming into this weekend. With two rounds to go it’s all to play for now. Every lap had to be a qualifying lap in the final race, I was on the edge every lap. When I saw the chequered flag wave I was so happy.”
Dominik Jackson: “It was a shame not to take the race win. I ran just a little bit wide at turn one. I’d got the measure of Oli for a couple of laps and had a gap, but it wasn’t to be. To get my highest position in race three for the most points was good.”
Jack Manchester: “I think it was my start that really helped me out in that race. Going from seventh to fourth by the second corner, that made the difference. It’s a close field at the front and it can be such a hard track to overtake with everyone being so evenly matched, so that start definitely helped me.”
For full race results visit www.tsl-timing.com