Conditions were overcast and damp, with a wet circuit following overnight rain as the heavies headed out for the first session of the day. Early lap times were well over 90 seconds as drivers struggled to get to grips with the conditions. Chris Munro put himself out in front on lap 3 with a 1:35.791, however his lead was short lived. As the drivers acclimatised it was Thomas Pughe who gained an advantage with a 1:35.334, Zaustowicz and Lee Witney followed him up the leaderboard into the top 3 with a 1:34.939 and a 1:35.049 respectively.
With 10 minutes of the session gone, drivers were still experimenting, with many having spins and few drivers improving on their times. That was until Zaustowicz stormed into the lead with a
1:33.948 with just over a minute to go. Munro followed him through with a 1:34.403. It looked like that would be enough to secure a front row slot on the grid, until with just one lap remaining Pughe stormed back into the lead, with a 1:32.962, finding substantially more grip than any of his competitors. The conditions led to a larger gap between most drivers than usual, with 4 seconds separating the top 10. Zaustowicz completed the front row, with Munro and Witney on row 2, and Adam Nakar making a late surge to round off the top 5.
As the karts were prepared for the race, the rain began to hammer down once again, meaning that any dry lines created in qualifying were destroyed. The reports from the race observers were that turns 8 and 6 looked particularly slippery as the drivers headed round for their warm up lap. It was Pughe who got us underway, running slightly wide at turn 1, which allowed Munro through to the lead from 3rd. Zaustowicz followed through into 2nd, with Adam Daly making a fantastic start, gaining 6 positions on lap 1 moving up to 3rd. Pughe was the big loser, dropping down to 7th.
Zaustowicz looked to be finding more grip on circuit as he looked inside and out as they came up the back straight and into turn 9, Munro doing well to hold onto 1st. Pughe looked to be finding his feet as he passed Nakar and Vinod Hirani, moving back into 5th. Daly then lost control into turn 10, dropping him down to 6th at the end of lap 3.
Lee Witney was all over the back of Nakar for 3rd as they crossed the start line for the 5th time, with Pughe setting a fastest lap, a 1:33.468, to try and join the battle for 3rd. The pressure told, with Witney spinning at turn 5 dropping him back into 5th. The rain had stopped, and the track was beginning to dry out, with Pughe moving through the pack and back into 3rd, setting a new fastest lap in the process, a 1:31.804, substantially quicker than anyone on the circuit with 15 minutes gone. Zaustowicz was also finding grip on circuit, with a look around the outside, only to switch back and pass Munro up the inside of turn 5. However his lead was short lived, with Munro throwing his kart round the outside of 9 giving him a better line for 10 to move back through to the lead. It was Pughe who seemed to be in a league of his own, setting a 1:31.460 as he passed Zaustowicz for 2nd.
Witney and Nakar continued to battle it out 8 seconds back from the front 3, for 4th and 5th. Pughe then made a move to pass Munro for the lead on lap 12, Munro tried to look for a gap into the final corner, but Pughe held on and was seemingly too quick for his competitors, as he pulled out a slight lead in front. Further back down the field, Daly and Tommaso Ammendola both span battling for 7th and 8th. Blaise Sienko and Chris Peberdy, not to be outdone, also both span battling for 9th.
Pughe’s hard work was all undone on lap 14, as he lost control at turn 8, allowing Zaustowicz and Munro back through, with Zaustowicz into the lead for the 2nd time on the day. On their 17th lap, Pughe and Munro swapped position 4 times as they battled for 2nd. As they hit the halfway mark, Pughe finally made a move stick, as the leaders lapped Richard Newton at turn 9. He was into his rhythm, setting a new fastest lap a 1:30.828, lapping over a second quicker than anyone else on the circuit as he hunted down Zaustowicz yet again.
Sienko and Ammendola had a big knock through the final 3 corners as they battled for 7th, but the race observers, taking the conditions into account, decided not to take any action. Hirani was ahead of the pair in 6th, lapping very consistently to remain 2nd in the Super Heavy class. Back at the front, Pughe and Zaustowicz ran side-by-side for the 2nd half of lap 24, with Pughe finally making a move stick at turn 10, to move back into the lead. Daly passed Ammendola, but cut him off illegally at turn 6, so allowed him back through, which the Race Director took into account as he gave him a warning flag rather than a penalty.
Munro and Zaustowicz were held up as Daly was slow to respond to the blue flags on circuit, the traffic led to a change of position, as Zaustowicz was visibly frustrated, gesticulating to the marshals as he crossed the start-finish line. The next driver to be lapped was Ammendola, with Zaustowicz again feeling hard done by as he lost more time than his rival Munro getting through. With just 10 minutes remaining, Pughe had pulled out a 5 second lead from the pair of them, with Witney and Nakar back in 4th and 5th respectively, having remained consistent following an action packed opening 15 minutes.
The drivers seemed to all be settling down for the final few minutes, only for Ammendola to lose control into turn 2 with 2 laps remaining, losing 8th to Daly. But up at the front, Pughe brought it home for a fantastic win, showing substially better pace than any of his rivals throughout, despite a couple of spins. Munro came home in 2nd, from Zaustowicz in 3rd. With Witney and Nakar holding on for 4th and 5th.
Some of the drivers were caught out as qualifying started on time, with 2 or 3 still standing in the pit lane and missing the beginning of the session.
It was Steve Moody who set the early pace with a 1:32.162, only to quickly be bettered by the two youngsters, Joshua Craft and Max O’Shaughnessy who were up to 1st and 2nd respectively after 5 minutes. O’Shaughnessy and Craft continued to swap best lap times, until Ben Leslie put in a fantastic lap, storming into the lead by 8 tenths with a 1:30.848 as the drivers acclimatised, and the circuit began to dry out following a busy morning. It was then Cobb and Leslie who began to trade best lap times, with Leslie the first man under 1:30.00 for the day.
Harrison Pughe showed a turn of pace, moving up to 3rd with a 1:31.532 with 5 minutes remaining. Some drivers were clearly getting used to conditions quicker than others, with yellows out at regular intervals as there were spins at turns 6 and 10. The rain than began to fall again with just 2 minutes remaining, making it difficult to improve their times. But that didn’t hold Leslie back, as he put in a 1:29.200, a full 1.5 seconds clear of Cobb in second with a 1:30.702. Max O’Shaughnessy held on for 3rd, with Craft joining him on the 2nd row with Pughe 5th holding off Jake Butler behind.
The drizzle had continued before the race start, so the circuit remained wet as Leslie led the pack away for the race start. Cobb ran wide, allowing O’Shaughnessy into 2nd. Despite the close quarters racing, all drivers made it safely through the first 2 sectors. O’Shaughnessy and Leslie had a fantastic duel at the front, as the lead changed hands 5 times over laps 2 and 3 the two side by side, swapping positions 3 laps in a row across the start / finish straight. Graeme Cobb was holding off Butler for 3rd, Butler having made his way passed Pughe on lap 4. Craft was back in 6th, with Seb Goldsmith, Steve Moody, Cameron Noble and Karlis Elmanis rounding off the top 10.
The absolutely fantastic racing continued up front, with O’Shaughnessy and Leslie wheel-to-wheel, continuously swapping positions and doing a great job of avoiding one another despite the tricky conditions and close proximity of the racing.
As they crossed the line for the 7th time, O’Shaughnessy looked like he had finally begun to pull out a slight gap. Further back, Craft was making a charge, setting a fastest lap, a 1:30.487, as he passed Pughe at T5 for 5th position. Pughe then had a moment off the circuit at T1, but did well to keep it out of the tyres, not losing any positions in the process.
Craft then continued his great drive, passing Butler for 4th as he charged through the pack. Leslie set a fastest lap after 15 minutes as he closed the gap to O’Shaughnessy and passed him at the final corner. They then touched wheels at t4, both doing well to keep their karts pointing in the right direction, before O’Shaughnessy got back through for the lead. In the battle for 3rd, Craft briefly passed Cobb, with Butler joining them in a 3 way tussle for position, Butler trying a double move into 4, only to lose out on the exit. Next time around, on lap 13 Craft made the move stick, with Cobb holding Butler back in 4th. However the respite was only brief, with Cobb feeling the pressure, and losing control into T9, spinning his kart and dropping down to 6th, promoting Butler to 4th. Whilst this was happening, Kameron Khan span at T6 dropping down to 14th.
T6 was proving precarious, with Moody also going off, and dropping from 6th to 14th. As Leslie tried to close the gap at the front setting a new fastest lap, a 1:29.518, just 3 tenths off his qualifying lap. Further back in the pack, the battles continued to rage, with just 8 seconds separating 8th and 13th, Dean Thomas leading the group, from Moody, who had just passed Charlotte Manton in just her 2nd DMAX round, with Sam Bennett and Elmanis rounding off the group.
At the half way stage, there were possible reports of damage to Leslie’s kart, with reports from observers of excessive kerbing leading to a potentially damaged sprocket. Moody’s day went from bad to worse, as, having begun to make his way through the pack, he span out of the last corner and then used his hands to try and push himself back onto the circuit, an illegal manoeuvre, which led to a black flag being issued by the Race Director.
Khan then pulled off the circuit with 25 minutes remaining. He had been off the pace, and decided enough was enough, bringing it into the pits before deciding to retire and watch the rest of the action from the side-lines.
Having had a quiet day up until lap 24, Cameron Noble spun out of the last corner, allowing Thomas to catch and pass him, but Noble was quickly back up to speed, passing him through into T4. Further up the field, Cobb was not giving Pughe a moments rest, as he pressured him for 4th position.
On lap 35, O’Shaughnessy reasserted his dominance, setting the fastest lap of the day, a 1:29.149 to increase his advantage to over 8 seconds, looking like he had done enough to secure victory if he could keep it pointing in the right direction. The track was really beginning to dry out, with 2 minutes remaining, O’Shaughnessy pumped in consecutive fastest laps, ending up as the only driver under 89 seconds, on a 1:28,904. He came home for a comfortable victory with a gap of 10 seconds following a great drive from Leslie in 2nd. Craft held on for 3rd, with Butler coming home in 4th, and Pughe holding off the advances of Cobb to round off the top 5.
As the Inters began the final endurance qualifying of the day, the track continued to dry out as those watching expected to see lap times tumbling throughout the session. It was Mike Coppin who got out of the block quickest, starting off proceedings with a 1st flying lap time of a 1:33.074. But his lead did ’t last for long, Trundley, with a 1:30.659 as the timing screens were lit up green as all drivers set new fastest laps as they got used to conditions on circuit.
With the track still extremely slippery, and following a strong qualifying, Coppin span his kart on the warm-up lap, having to let all drivers through, with J Conroy making the same mistake further down, ensuring an interesting race as 2 of the quicker drivers would have to make their way through the pack as Cousins moved through and took the lead.
Mahony span at the first corner as the field parted around him, an unbelievable scene followed as Series Director Jim Graham realised he was the nearest Race Official and had to run over to rescue Mahoney’s stranded kart. Mahony span again at T5 to find himself right at the back of the pack. On an unbelievable 1st lap, J Conroy went from 21st to 6th, and Coppin went from 22nd to 10th with some amazing passes and opportunistic driving from the both of them.
Trundley then moved back passed Cousins at the end of lap 2 with a fantastic move around the outside of the final corner, going on to set a fastest lap, a 1:28.437 to cement his place in the lead. Coppin continued his fantastic start, passing Tempest and Cook to take 4th position on lap 5. Cook then lost 3 positions on lap 6, with James Perry moving through and battling side-by-side as they crossed the start / finish line. Amidst the bustle of the first few laps Stuart Shearman was shown a warning flag for contact at T6, it was deemed an advantage by contact, but the Race Director decided against a penalty, as he let his rival back through, with neither driver deemed to have lost significant time or any positions.
There were battles up and down the field with a busy midfield. Andrew Tempest, Cook, J Conroy and Tim Ellis were locked in an extremely close battle for 7th; whilst at the front of the field, Cousins and Trundley were exchanging fastest laps, with Trundley setting a new quickest on lap 11, a 1:28.218. Richard Allison then heated up the battle for 1st, having a spin in front of the leaders, with both of them having to take avoiding action, with Cousins seeming to lose slightly more time than Trundley. Ellis was the next driver to take an excursion from the circuit, damaging some tyre barriers on the outside of T9, and requiring rescuing by the track marshal team.
Cousins then dropped to 5.5 seconds back from Trundley as he had a half-spin at T5, allowing the champion to build up a fairly sizeable lead. However, Trundley was then held up by Shearman as he tried to pass through briefly allowing Cousins to close up. At the halfway mark, Mahony was shown a warning flag following excessive use of the kerbs, but regardless he was making a good showing of scything back through the pack, up to 12th place.
Further back, J Conroy moved into 7th position, as he passed Cook, lapping quicker than most drivers around him, his eyes now fixated on Bourke, 9 seconds up the road. Mahony then received another warning for excessive use of the kerbs, as he moved passed Stobart for 11th, chasing down a place in the top 10.
Over the next phase of the race, most drivers seemed to settle into their rhythm, with less drivers taking excursions from the circuit, and many beginning to lap on similar times, therefore nullifying the threat of those around them. An exception to the rule was Peacock in 3rd, who continued to improve his lap times, setting a 1:27.694, the second fastest time of the day, as he pushed to secure his place on the podium, with Coppin 8 seconds back down the road, though, without any failures or serious mistakes, it looked unlikely he could improve on that, with 30 seconds the gap to Cousins and less than 15 minutes remaining. Ollie Kemp had a spin with 10 minutes remaining in 20th position, with the Daytona test driver having to take urgent avoiding action to avoid a collision. Trundley took half a second from his fastest lap, but Cousins quickly followed up with a new fastest lap of the race as they crossed the 50 minute mark.
Nigel Foot beached his kart on the exit of T5, causing localised yellows which bunched much of the field together, the gaggle of drivers was directly infront of the leaders as the race entered its final 5 laps. And that was the last action of note for Trundley, who brought it home safely for another fantastic win in testing conditions. Cousins had a strong showing for 2nd place with Peacock also deserving of the final spot on the podium. A fantastic recovery drive, following his mistake on the warm-up lap earned Coppin 4th place, with Perry holding onto 5th. Bourke and J Conroy crossed the line side-by-side, with the former doing just enough to hold onto 6th spot.
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