Oliver Hodgson wins 2017 IAME International Senior X30 Final!

It’s an event many would say Hodgson should have won for the last two years and finally Hodgson’s mission of winning the hugely competitive event has now complete. In a grid of 144 Senior X30 drivers picking a winner was extremely difficult but having been denied through mechanical problems two years in a row there was no driver more determined to win than Hodgson.

Hodgson got his weekend off to a great start with 4th place in qualifying putting him on the front row for all his seven heats. The PF International driver was able to convert that into five wins along with a 3rd and 4th place. His closest rival at the end of the heats was fellow Brit Mark Kimber with French driver Charles Tesnieres an impressive 3rd place after the heats were finished.

The 34th and final driver to join the Pre-Final grid was Jordan Brown-Nutley after a B Final that could be argued as the best race of the weekend. From the outside of row eight the Dan Holland Racing Driver slowly worked his way through the order and pinched the last space from Oliver Clarke at the last corner on the last lap in dramatic fashion.

A chaotic start to the Pre-Final saw Hodgson escape but in chase were Sean Babington, Tesnieres, Stephen Letts and Carlos Leon. The gap to bridge was half a second and the job was quickly completed by Babington who went straight into the lead on his approach to Hodgson. In 6th place Ryan Norberg had done a good job to catch the lead group and bring with him Felix Warge, Geoffrey Baudot, Dean MacDonald and Louie Westover as the Pre-Final began to intensify.

Joel Deputch (350) and B Final qualifier Jordan Brown-Nutley (2016)

As lap four began Hodgson went back into the lead as Letts was now 3rd and Norberg 5th. A few corners later and Letts was then into 2nd with Hodgson showing warning signs of escaping out front. More changing between Letts and Babington over the next two laps pretty much confirmed Hodgson the race winner but there was still a lot at stake behind.

In the battle for 2nd Norberg made his entrance after passing Babington and over the duration of the race was able to break clear from Babington slightly with Letts being hugely consistent in 2nd.  MacDonald and Callum Bradshaw was fighting for 5th with Tesnieres 7th as the last lap began.

Out front Hodgson took a comfortable victory from Letts, Norberg, Babington and Bradshaw who stole 5th from MacDonald on the last lap.

A Final Race Start

The Final

A clean start in the final saw a queue of seven drivers quickly escape which included Hodgson, Norberg, Babington, MacDonald, Bradshaw, Letts and Westover. The first change of lead came on the second lap with Norberg passing Hodgson at the hairpin. But a brave move going on to lap three saw Hodgson back through after some assistance from Babington saw the Brit get a mighty run towards turn one with Norberg dropping to 5th.

One corner later and it was Babington’s turn to lead with the whole paddock and fans watching on in anticipation.  As we went back to turn two the next lap Hodgson repaid the favour to Babington as he passed but the move saw Hodgson take some kerb and Babington was consequently forced on off the track momentarily which dropped the DHR driver to 7th place.

Ryan Norberg in 2nd place

It hardly benefited Hodsgon either as he gifted the lead to MacDonald before taking it back around three corners later. The danger man now looked to be front row starter Letts who passed Norberg for 3rd before going into second a couple of laps later. With Hodgson away and clear many would have expected drivers behind to work together but when in a queue of six to seven World Class drivers the best place to be and that led to an exciting battle.

Letts was one of the stand out performers throughout the weekend but his dreams of a podium died halfway through the race. After dropping to 4th his attempts to pass Westover for 3rd saw him off the track at turn two and he faced an uphill battle re-joining in the middle of the pack. A shame for someone who had driven so well all week.

Stephen Letts fought for 2nd until an off halfway through the final

From one Brit to another, Danny Keirle tipped by many to win the event started to hit brilliant pace in the final ad joined the fight for 2nd after Letts’ off with his first move on Babington for 6th.  As we started the final five laps Keirle had moved into 5th passed Bradshaw, Hodgson was in a two second lead and Norberg in 2nd was being caught by Westover and MacDonald.

With three laps remaining Westover had caught Norberg and dropped MacDonald in the process. As Norberg started to defend what followed was arguably the best move of the weekend with Westover passing Norberg around the outside at the hairpin in what was a perfectly executed move. But as Westover then got on the defensive he found himself dropping to 4th at the last corner as Norberg forced his way through with MacDonald being gifted 2nd as the pair ran wide.

There was nothing to choose between Danny Keirle (267), Louie Westover (226) and Sean Babington (201) in the battle for 4th as they crossed the line

With one lap remaining everyone waited to see Hodgson take victory, it had been three years in the making and at last he got the title he deserves and in dominant fashion winning by 4.5 seconds! MacDonald held on to take 2nd from Norberg with Westover 4th and Keirle 5th and Babington, Bradshaw, Lorenzo Travisanutto, Carlos Leon and Oscar Palomo Oritz rounding out the top ten.

Hodgson takes the flag

Summary

I don’t think anyone could argue against Oliver Hodgson being the worthy winner of this event. He’s had a brilliant year once again and has now ticked another World Final win off his list. Dean MacDonald was hugely impressive to finish 2nd given he’s been away racing in GT4’s this year and Ryan Norberg flew the flag for the States with his podium finish. In what was Westover’s second race as a Senior he is going to one to watch next year and Keirle seemed satisfied with 5th given the problems he had earlier in the weekend. You had to feel sorry for Letts, Lewis Malin and Mark Kimber. All driving very well in the heats all three deserved better results but someone has to hit bad luck and unfortunately they were three drivers who did on the weekend.

Hodgson (235) and MacDonald (351) shake hands after the final

Full result:

1st Oliver Hodgson (GBR)
2nd Dean MacDonald (GBR)
3rd Ryan Norberg (USA)
4th Louie Westover (GBR)
5th Danny Keirle (GBR)
6th Sean Babington (UAE)
7th Callum Bradshaw (GBR)
15th Stephen Letts (GBR)
16th Elliot Harvey (GBR)
18th Jordan Brown-Nutley (GBR)
21st Lewis Malin (GBR)
26th Morgan Porter (GBR)
27th Sean Butcher (GBR)
29th Mark Litchfield (GBR)
32nd Mark Kimber (GBR)
35th Oliver Clarke (GBR)
36th Derek Morgan (GBR)
37th Phillip Rawson (GBR)
39th Axel La Flamme (GBR)
42nd Jamie Flynn (GBR)
50th Thomas Turner (GBR)
76th Ben Davis (GBR)
83rd Charlie Lamb (GBR)
89th Thomas Westworth (GBR)
104th Oakley Pryer (GBR)
106th Matthew Graham (GBR)
122nd Stephanie Le Vesconte (GBR)