THREE DIFFERENT WINNERS IN SEASON OPENER!
The 2022 Radical Challenge season got off to a dramatic start at Donington Park, with three different drivers visiting the top step of the podium.
James Lay took charge in the opening race, from Noah Degnbol, Anthony Ayres, John Macleod, Jason Rishover and Chris Preen.
“It was Ok for the first few laps and then it started spitting with rain,” said Lay.
Degnbol headed for the pits to change tyres, but the safety car was out and there were further stoppers for wets.
The green flag was out from lap six and it was Ayres chasing Lay for the lead, with John Macleod a close third.
But Mark Williams was flying on wets after starting dead last. On lap eight he ousted Lay, Ayres and Macleod to lead as the safety car appeared again, with Lay in the Redgate gravel after breaking a rear upright and Ayres having slid off at McLeans.
The track was drying out however and Williams suffered on his wets, as Macleod became the new leader, from Ben Stone and Rishover, all three covered by just 0.396 secs, before a gap to Williams, who was trying to hold off Elliott Goodman.
“I had taken a risk staying out, but it worked when I got the lead,” said Stone, as both he and Rishover got passed Macleod. “Ben had got me into Redgate and Jason followed him,” Macleod added.
“I had spun at McLeans on the second lap and was virtually last before the safety car, but then just worked my way back,” said Rishover.
But Stone was now under pressure and was caught out by backmarker Andy Lowe turning in. Rishover was ahead with a lap to go, but it was a desperately close final lap.
“I managed to get back ahead into the chicane, but Jason got me back on the exit,” said Stone. So it was a win for DW Racing and Rishover by just 0.161 secs over Stone, with Macleod just inches behind in third.
Goodman had taken fourth with a couple of laps to go and had also closed considerably on the lead trio, while Degnbol and Preen finished nose to tail in fifth after a last lap exchange.
With cars off at Redgate from the start of race two, the safety car was soon in action again. “I was taken out before the first corner,” said Goodman. Four into one at Redgate doesn’t work,” added Chris Myhill as both joined the retirement list.
Lay had the lead from Rishover, Ayres, Macleod, Stone and Chris Short, but from the green flag the lead pair made a telling break.
Ayres had lost out to both Macleod and Degnbol on lap four, but a lap later Degnbol was through and clear in third, as Ayres and Macleod continued their duel.
“I had lost temperature in the tyres behind the safety car,” Ayres explained.
The top three had started to close up until Lay started to stretch his lead, with Rishover losing out to both Degnbol and Ayres on lap nine. “I had tried for the lead but the tyre pressures were down and I got understeer,” said Rishover.
After another brief safety car interlude it was a five lap sprint to the finish. Ayres had managed to snatch second from Degnbol on lap 15 and was right with Lay a lap from home.
“I saw an opportunity and took it,” said Ayres, as he snatched the win for Mectech. “He got alongside into Coppice but got a better exit out,” Lay explained after dropping to third behind Degnbol.
Rishover still held on for fourth, with Macleod and Short completing the top six.
The final race of the weekend featured an early break between Lay and Degnbol. They ran nose to tail for 10 laps before Degnbol scythed ahead into the chicane.
Preen, Short and Rishover ran in formation for third, until Rishover started to lose ground and pitted with a paddleshift problem.
Macleod and Goodman were the rest of the top six until Jacek Zielonka took them both to move up to fifth.
With Nicholas Francis off at the chicane, the safety car came out, which coincided with the pitstop window.
Both Degnbol and Lay had gone by before the rest of the field pitted and it was to cost them dearly.
Short rejoined as the new leader, with Macleod taking Preen for second from the green flag.
While Macleod started to close on Short’s lead, Preen was starting to fall into the grip of the pursuing Zielonka, after he demoted Peter Tyler.
Short successfully defended his advantage over the remaining laps for his first Radical win on UK soil.
“I had sat behind Chris Preen in the first half as he defended well, but when I left the pits after the stop I had a clear track, so I just managed my tyres and didn’t push too hard,” said the RAW driver.
Macleod started to lose ground with a broken exhaust and was forced to surrender second to Zielonka on the last lap. “The best 45 minutes of my racing life,” said Zielonka.
“I was catching Chris until the exhaust went, but I made a mistake running wide at McLeans and then lost second into Redgate on the last lap,” Macleod added.
Lay and Degnbol both mounted stern recoveries to come home in fourth and fifth after swapping again three laps from home, while Ayres also recovered from being knocked off to complete the top six.
Ben Caisley and Daryl De Leon shared the SR1 Cup victory spoils.
From the opening lap of race one Tom Wood was in charge from De Leon and Caisley.
Wood’s lead soon became dominant, with Caisley still trying to hold onto De Leon, while Dougie Bolger was solo in fourth.
After a brief safety car spell De Leon managed to hold onto Wood as Caisley lost out. At the flag is was only 0.368 secs between the lead pair, but both received track limit penalties.
De Leon had 15 seconds and Wood five, which handed victory to Caisley, from Wood, Ross Allen, Bolger and Brian Caudwell, with De Leon dropping to sixth. “I didn’t even see any warning flags,” De Leon admitted.
Making up for his race one misdemeanours, De Leon was a dominant winner in race two, with two safety car interventions failing to put him under threat.
Caisley lost second to Bolger on lap six, but both held station and were comfortably clear of fourth placed James Ockenden. “I made a mistake at Coppice and he got me into the chicane,” Caisley admitted.
Frazer McFadden and James Hadley rounded off the top six.
RACE REPORT BY PETER SCHERER