After a challenging and exciting weekend of racing at Clay Pigeon Raceway near Frome in Dorset, Kai Hunter clinched his 8th final victory out of 10 starts to clinch the Junior Rotax British Championship and the Team Clay Racing secured thrilling victories in the second final for both Rotax 177 and Senior Rotax classes for Ethan Haynes and Oakley Pryer.
Elsewhere the Minimax battle saw some incredible duels for supremacy with Jez Williams clinching both finals at a critical moment in the championship race to become a serious title contender heading to the season finale next month at Forest Edge.
Archie Kitching solidified his status as the points leader by snatching pole position away from Tristan Rennie by a mere 0.01 of a second. But in the heats he couldn’t maintain that level of speed, as Alexander Hughes managed to score his first ever win in the British Championships. He claimed the win ahead of Jez Williams with Kitching in third, as Callum Voisin grabbed a fourth place finish in front of Tristan Rennie – promoted to fifth after a penalty for Harley Haughton – as Luke Evans was classified sixth. The second heat saw Williams find another level of pace and he would beat Hughes by 4 seconds, with Rennie ahead of Harri Reynolds who had made great progress for the second final. Kitching would place fifth as Haughton would reap the benefits of a penalty for Voisin to grab sixth.
Then came the start of a truly heroic run as Jez Williams again demonstrated his superior form at Clay Pigeon to grab a stunning win by over 8 seconds. The closing stages saw a majestic series of overtakes but despite struggling for pace in the middle of the race Archie Kitching was able to fight his way back to second in front of his team-mates Harley Haughton, Harry Reynolds and Sam Gornall, whilst Callum Voisin would be demoted from sixth after a post race penalty which handed the place to Ryan Willis. The second final didn’t see a drop in pace for Williams as he cantered into the lead again and scampered off to another solid win, with Kitching and Haughton completing the podium but only after a post-race penalty for Harri Reynolds dropped him down the order. Ryan Willis finished in fourth as a result whilst early favourite for the win Alexander Hughes valiantly fought back to fifth position after failing to start the first final with a mechanical failure, and Finn Smith gave his Team Clay Racing squad a heroic sixth place finish.
Tom Adams knew coming in to the weekend that he was the only man who could stop Kai Hunter becoming the British champion at Clay Pigeon, and he set out to fend off brilliantly in timed qualifying, with the top five separated by less than a tenth of a second. He would then go on to lead the first heat and clinch victory in front of Hunter and Harry Newman-Oakley. Ben Caisley would hang on to fourth, but sadly Matthew Higgins would lose his fifth position finish due to a loose front fairing which promoted both William Jenkins and Daniel Yates into the top six.
The two title protagonists had reckoned without the strong form of Harrison Collings who along with Ryan Taylor-Trueman upset the applecart to finish ahead of both Adams and Hunter in the second heat, with James Crossley running a high fifth in front of William Elswood. But Collings wasn’t done yet and he bagged a second win in the third heat. However neither Taylor-Trueman or Crossley were as fortunate, as they lost their top three positions due to front fairing penalties. This was great news for Will Jenkins as he was promoted to second position – his highest finish of the year – with Newman-Oakley in a solid third place. Caisley grabbed another strong finish in fourth but it would be Taylan Babbs and Jack Steadman who would join them in the top six.
Tom Adams would grab an early lead in the first final from the front row, and he would hold it for the entirety of the 27 laps to grab a second win of the season in a final. James Crossley shook the establishment with a fantastic second position in front of Kai Hunter, with Harrison Collings only able to salvage a fourth place finish from pole position. Ryan Taylor-Trueman fought his way to a fifth place finish, but William Elswood stole a stunning sixth place from a lowly 23rd on the starting grid. The second final however put all the debates to bed as Kai Hunter grabbed the lead from Adams on the second lap and despite an intense onslaught throughout was able to hang on to his slender advantage to clinch his eighth win in a final this season to become 2019 British Junior Rotax champion. Adams and Collings completed the podium whilst Elswood held on from Steadman, after Taylor-Trueman was demoted from fifth to sixth following a front fairing penalty.
Lewis Halliday began the weekend in heroic fashion by snatching pole position by just 0.03 seconds. Sadly he couldn’t maintain the pace initially as Oakley Pryer stole the first heat away with Tom Edmunds and George Holbrook giving chase to the line. Bradley Barrett stormed back to fourth in front of Halliday whilst Teddy Clinton maintained his starting position in sixth. Then Rhys Hunter channelled the pace of his younger brother Kai to grab a terrific win in the second encounter as Kieran Gifford and Luke Wooder joined him in the top three. Barrett and James Johnson both gained five positions from the grid to finish ahead of Ben Burgess, who made up an astonishing eight places to complete the top six. In a straight fight, it would be Hunter that drew first blood in front of Pryer in the third and final heat, with Clinton moving up to third position ahead of Ben Davis as Gifford was only just able to hold off James Johnson.
Rhys Hunter continued his solid form into the first final as he held off a tough challenge from Oakley Pryer to clinch his first win in a final all season, and with Gifford remaining in third position the front three positions would be the same for the start of both finals. Lewis Halliday finished a valiant fourth ahead of Ben Burgess, whereas it would be frustration for Lewis Malin as he would lose his sixth place finish to Teddy Clinton although it only cost him three places, and having started the race from back in 28th on the grid his recovery to ninth was nothing short of sensational.
The second final would be hit in the closing stages by a heavy rain shower with the whole field on slick tyres. It caused pandemonium and several changes through the field as overtake after overtake was attempted to varying degrees of completion, in one of the most thrilling races of the whole year. Oakley Pryer’s euphoria in crossing the line first was evident for all to see as he eclipsed Luke Wooder and from back in 27th on the grid Bradley Barrett, who came agonisingly close to the win himself leading for a couple of metres at one stage. Kieran Gifford held on to fourth but neither Rhys Hunter or Lewis Malin could claim their top six finishes after front fairing penalties struck them both. As they dropped out of the top ten in agonising fashion, it would be Teddy Clinton and Ben Burgess who reaped the benefits.
Clay Pigeon gave us one of the closest qualifying sessions in the British Kart Championships’ history. Colin Davis grabbed the pole by 0.03 seconds, with three drivers tied for the second place spot as Michael Cheek, Jack McConnell and Matteo Zanetti set exactly the same lap time to the hundredth of a second. There were many more equal times throughout the field as there were ties for 5th, 8th, 12th and 17th as the entire grid was separated by a mere three tenths of a second.
After the disappointment of losing his Glan-y-Gors win to a front fairing penalty, Matteo Zanetti was in no mood to repeat the issue in Dorset. He romped to a solid victory in the first heat nearly a second ahead of Colin Davis, with Nathan Chafer cementing his pace at Clay Pigeon with third. Michael Cheek continued his consistent run of form as the championship leader in fourth whilst Jack McConnell was able to beat James Moorcroft for fifth place. Zanetti would again eclipse Davis in the second heat, only this time by a massive four seconds gap, with McConnell finishing in the top three in his first Rotax 177 weekend of the British Kart Championship season in 2019. Sadly Chafer had originally been second over the line, but a front fairing penalty for the CRG driver washed it all away. Chris Thomas therefore grabbed fourth position ahead of him, but Ethan Haynes would also lose a high finishing position with a loose front fairing of his own. This gave fifth position to Luc Oliver ahead of Ian Branfield, with both men along with Thomas rising 8 places from their starting point.
Zanetti lost no time pulling a gap out in front in the first final, and continued on to the victory ahead of McConnell and the resurgent Haynes. Cheek finished in a solid fourth place ahead of Thomas and Oliver. But in the second race the tide finally turned as Ethan Haynes stormed into the fight, and despite overwhelming pressure from Zanetti, Haynes became the first man all weekend to defeat the Italian after a titanic battle. McConnell managed to defeat Moorcroft to the final step of the podium, whilst sadly Colin Davis couldn’t retain his fifth place finish due to being underweight in post-race checks. This would give Luc Oliver and James Moorcroft a finally lift up into the top six.
With one weekend to go, we have crowned a Junior Rotax champion in Kai Hunter but in the other three classes the title is likely to go down to the wire. The Rotax season will conclude in five weeks at Forest Edge Kart Club, whilst the IAME battle continues this weekend at Three Sisters Circuit in Wigan.