Current Radical Challenge Championship leader, Jack Lang took double race honours in rounds 10 and 11 of the 2017 title fight, winning the two 20-minute sprint races at Rockingham today. But it was reigning Champion Steve Burgess who made a welcome return to the top step of the podium as the season reaches the halfway point, bouncing back from a DNF in race two to win the 40-minute endurance race on Saturday afternoon.
Following a clean sweep of pole positions and race wins at Silverstone last weekend, Bradley Smith continued his impeccable qualifying form to secure pole position by 0.252 seconds from Lang. Oliver Barker, currently third in the title fight, clocked in just 0.109 adrift of Lang and 0.240 ahead of Burgess, while Brian Caudwell and Kristian Jeffrey completed the third row. Tom Harvey punched in the fastest time for the Team pole position, 17th overall, amid an incredibly close 25-minute session which saw 2.030 seconds cover the first 18 cars.
Race 1 / Round 10
Lang nailed the best start of the field to lead Barker and Burgess into turn one, with polesitter Smith slotting into fourth. While Lang pulled out a 1.4 second lead by the end of lap three, Burgess and Barker battled, the latter setting a blistering pace of three consecutive fastest laps on route to snatching second at Deene on lap five.
Quickly on terms with leader Lang, Barker halved the Gorse Motors driver’s advantage next time round as a fierce fight for third between Radical stalwarts Burgess and Smith unfolded. Both battles came to the fore at Tarzan on lap eight, as Barker took Lang for the lead while Burgess and Smith tangled, resulting in Smith’s premature retirement and a 14th place finish for Burgess.
On flying form, Barker pulled out a 1.654 lead ahead of a one-lap safety car to remove a stricken car from Deene. Back to green with four minutes remaining, Barker looked to have the win in the bag. However, there was still time for one more twist in the round 10 tale as Barker slowed to a halt on School Straight leaving Lang to retake the lead and secure his second win of the season.
Kristian Jeffrey had a strong race from sixth on the grid to take second ahead of Stuart Maloney in third, both drivers achieving their best results of the season so far. Jack Manchester put in a credible performance to finish fourth from 16th on the grid, with Spencer Bourne and John Caudwell rounding out the top six. Tom Harvey took the Team spoils an impressive seventh overall, 10 places up on his starting slot.
Race 2 / Round 11
A repeat performance saw Lang double-up and take his third win of the season in race two, but this time Smith was with him all the way. Leading from the lights, Lang took command over Smith and Burgess. Although Barker initially ran fourth, he was one of several cars caught up in the opening lap melee at Deene, which would result in several knock-on retirements. Consequently, it was Lang, Smith, Burgess, Brian Caudwell, Maloney and Dominik Jackson claiming the top six slots first time round.
Running nose-to-tail, rarely more than 0.5 seconds apart for 15-laps of the 1.94-mile circuit, the leading duo traded advantage each lap, Smith closing on the Gorse Motors man through Yentwood and Chapman Curve while Lang was the quicker through Pif Paf and onto the Steel Straight. Despite Smith’s valiant efforts, the order remained unchanged for Lang to take his second win of the weekend.
Although Caudwell kept on terms with Burgess throughout, until the defending champion retired with engine issues in the final stages, a 10 second penalty for a false start meant he classified fifth. Maloney continued his best Radical Challenge weekend so far to keep Barker at bay for his second visit to the Rockingham rostrum, while Jackson completed the top six. Brian Harvey followed son Tom’s sterling race one win with another Team victory to extend their championship advantage.
Race 3 / Round 12
Another storming start, this time from the second row for the 40-minute enduro, once again put Lang at the front of the field, a move down the inside of turn securing the early lead from Barker and Smith. Although Smith attempted a counter attack at Deene, it was Barker that emerged race leader exiting Yentwood, ahead of Lang, Smith, Burgess, Brian Caudwell, Manchester.
Their progress, however, was swiftly put on hold as back-to-back safety car periods, respectively required to recover Mark Crader’s car at Chapman Curve and Manchester’s car from Tarzan, took up much of the first 10 minutes of racing.
Back to green with 28 minutes remaining, Barker set about building up as big a gap as possible ahead of the pit stop window to negate his additional 15 success seconds. Although unable to match Barker’s outright pace, Lang headed the multi-car fight for second from Burgess, Caudwell and Tom Harvey. Further back, Jeffrey led Jackson, Bourne, Baxter, Brian Murphy and Maloney, all jostling for seventh ahead of the pit stop window.
Barker’s strategy played out to perfection. Re-joining right behind Lang before moving up to third the following tour, the Nielsen Racing driver slashed second-placed Caudwell’s 3.6 second advantage to line up a pass four laps later. Running side-by-side across the line for the 25th time, Barker completed the move at Deene with three minutes to go. Despite taking a further 1.5 seconds a lap out of Burgess on the final tours, the RAW Motorsport champion sealed his third victory of the season from Barker and Caudwell.
Lang completed a stellar points haul, adding fourth to his double race wins, comfortably ahead of Baxter who scored his best debut Radical SR3 season finish to date in fifth. Tom and Brian Harvey completed a faultless weekend and a hat-trick of Team class wins with sixth overall to cement their place at the top of table.
Steve Burgess: “It’s nice to end on a high! Points-wise this weekend it hasn’t been brilliant, a bad finish in race one and a DNF in race two. But a win in race three and 80 points is good for the championship. We’ve got a few weeks before we’re out again now. I’ll try and get out and do some testing. I like Snetterton so hopefully I can get a good result.”
Oliver Barker: “It’s been a really difficult weekend with the DNF and someone ran into the back of me in the second race which caused quite a lot of damage to the car, but I still managed to finish fourth, which I was pleased with. But to be on the podium in the third race with double points, fantastic.”
Brian Caudwell: “I’ve enjoyed the weekend. I’ve struggled through the year. I’ve had handling issues with the car and maybe been over-driving. And, of course, when you get a run of bad results your confidence starts dropping, so it’s nice to start feeling that it’s me driving the car again. Hopefully this is the start of a bit of consistency.”
The Radical Challenge field now enjoy a summer break before returning to action at Snetterton on 26th August.
For full Rockingham race results visit www.tsl-timing.com