The fight for the 2017 Radical SR1 Cup Championship spoils is set to run down to the wire thanks to the top two drivers, Jérôme de Sadeleer and James Pinkerton, claiming a win apiece amid fantastically close racing at Donington Park.
Entering the penultimate season rounds holding a 48-point advantage over Pinkerton, de Sadeleer threatened to seal the series title with two races in hand, but Pinkerton’s blistering Donington Park pace closed the gap to take the final championship battle Theo Snetterton.
Opening his Donington Park debut event in style, Pinkerton secured his maiden career Radical SR1 Cup pole position by 0.846 seconds from Works teammate Rob Courtneidge in Saturday morning qualifying. Swiss driver de Sadeleer clocked in third fastest ahead of Nielsen Racing’s David ‘Sven’ Thompson, while Andrew Ritchie and Nigel Paine, also taking Fangio Trophy pole, completed the top six.
Pinkerton then came tantalisingly close to turning that pole into his first Radical SR1 Cup race win in the first battle of the weekend. But de Sadeleer had different intentions and snatched the lead at the safety car restart with just three minutes remaining.
A blistering start saw Pinkerton lead the field from the lights while de Sadeleer took advantage of a slow away Courtneidge to slot into second. A quick to recover Courtneidge retained third with Thompson fourth ahead of Ritchie, while Peter Devlin completed the top six and headed the Fangio Trophy battle.
As the gap between Pinkerton and de Sadeleer hovered around six tenths of a second in the early stages, Thompson clearly had the pace to progress but an unsuccessful challenge for third resulted in a brief spin on lap four. With a mechanical issue bringing a premature end to Courtneidge’s race, Ritchie moved up to third with Thompson in hot pursuit.
The leading duo clear out in front, Pinkerton continued his impressive pace to build up a 1.9 second lead by the end of lap eight. Deployment of the safety car the following tour, however, erased his advantage as Thompson’s car was recovered from the Old Hairpin gravel trap.
Returning to green flag racing with just over three minutes remaining, de Sadeleer delivered a bold, textbook move to seize the lead into Redgate. Although Pinkerton clearly had the pace to match, there was only time for one more tour before the pair crossed the line just 0.121 seconds apart. Ritchie completed the round five series podium while Nigel Paine took the Fangio Trophy honours fourth overall, from David Tagg and Devlin.
Lining up in identical order for race two on Saturday afternoon, Pinkerton once again led the way, this time with Courtneidge second and de Sadeleer third exiting Redgate. A successful challenge by de Sadeleer for second heading in to lap two triggered a thrilling race-long battle, in turn allowing Pinkerton to stretch his lead ahead of the lap two safety car period.
This time, Pinkerton was more than ready on the lap five restart, remaining unchallenged to the chequered flag aboard the all-new for 2017 Generation 2 SR1 Cup car, while the battle raged for second behind him.
As the fierce fight between de Sadeleer and Courtneidge unfolded, the pair delivered faultless performances amid wheel-to-wheel racing. Matching each other’s personal best lap times whilst overtaking and counter attacking throughout the remaining nine laps, with de Sadeleer eventually taking the upper hand to secure second place on the podium.
Neilsen Racing boss Thompson made up for race one disappointment with a fourth-place finish, heading Ritchie by 0.4 seconds. Jerome’s father, Stanislas de Sadeleer completed his SR1 Cup debut in sixth, taking the Fangio Trophy laurels.
James Pinkerton (Runner-up Race One, Winner Race Two): “I very nearly had the race one victory, a couple more laps and I may have been able to regain the position but it was a fantastic move by Jerome. Race two was hard work! When the safety car came out I was really nervous, I thought oh no, not again! But thankfully I was a bit better on the defensive this time and managed to get away.”
Jerome de Sadeleer (Winner Race One, Second Race Two): “I wasn’t fastest this weekend, both Rob and James were faster. So, it was a lot of attacking. I was quicker in some corners and slower in others. A first and second in the two races for the points in the championship, that was important.”
Andrew Ritchie (Third Race One): “That was a bit of luck, with the two guys ahead of me spinning, but a podium is a podium and I’ll take it! If those guys could do the same in race two that would be great, but I don’t think that is going to happen! But it is about consistency and if I can keep it on the track and keep my times consistent then you never know.”
Rob Courtneidge (Third race two): “That was a great race with Jerome. I managed to get second off him a couple of times but he managed to get back past me. It was good, clean racing from Jerome. He’s been fast all season so to be able to match him in this race was really good.”
For full Donington Park race results visit www.tsl-timing.com