2014 Daytona TW Steel DMAX Round 1, Milton Keynes
One of the country’s biggest Arrive&Drive championships blasted off at Daytona Milton Keynes on Sunday 16 February, with over 100 entries for the first event of the ten-round Daytona TW Steel DMAX Championship.
With the Light, Intermediate and Heavy categories racing in both Endurance and Sprint contests the championship caters for all tastes and sizes. Drivers were greeted with mercifully dry conditions on the day. The morning’s Endurance qualifying was the first opportunity for drivers to dust off their overalls and get re-acquainted with the challenging 1360m International Circuit.
The Intermediates were the first to venture out onto the circuit, with James Pratt the only driver to dip below 1m10s in qualifying to snatch pole position from Tim McKeegan and Joe Holmes. Times tumbled as the track warmed. As McKeegan and Holmes jostled for second and third, Pratt appeared to be making his escape with a lead of over six seconds after just three laps. His efforts were soon to be thwarted, however, as kart problems forced an unplanned pit-stop that would drop him out of contention. This left Holmes with clear air, and he took full advantage to stretch an impressive winning margin of 28.9s after an hour of racing with Allan Curtis and Andrew Tempest coming through to take second and third.
The Heavies were next and it was James Griffith that set the pace in qualifying from Chris Carter and Tomasz Zautowicz. It was to be these three drivers that set the pace during the race, swapping positions throughout a dramatic hour of close racing that included a period of full-course yellow flags. The trio eventually crossed the line covered by just over five seconds, with pole-sitter Griffith taking the win from Zaustowicz and Carter.
The Lights class contested the final Endurance race of the day, with Ben Leslie and Chris Hackworth the early pace setters in qualifying. Pole was snatched by James Baldwin, who found clear air late on in the session to edge out the competition by just 0.168s. Come the race, the leading trio broke away from the pack and crossed the line in their starting order. Behind them were some fierce fights, with Paul Cox and Justin Harwood crossing the line just 0.163s apart in fourth and fifth.
In the Sprint heats, the three weight categories contest three heats with each driver given a mixture of grid positions. Results across the heats determines their grid position for the final.
The Intermediates went into their showdown with pace-setter from the Endurance race James Pratt once again leading the pack. Following mechanical issues, Pratt was keen for silverware. It was a day he will be keen to forget, however, as his fight for the lead lasted two laps. A racing incident at turn one saw Pratt spinning off and once again out of contention for the win. This left the door wide open for Endurance winner Joe Holmes to make a repeat performance, building a ten-second lead by the time the chequered flag fell. Behind the leader the chasing pack split into two groups, with Joseph Ellis, Ian Gough and Stuart Gough battling for second place ten seconds up the road from the trio of Sam Fisher, James Cleaver and Andrew Knapp who stayed within two seconds of each other over the line.
Chris Carter was on pole for the Heavies showdown after taking victory in all three heats, and a good start saw him open up a few kart lengths over Tomasz Zaustowicz and Robert Bennett. A clean sweep for Carter, who held off Zaustowicz to the line. Bennett looked to have done enough for third place, but he left just enough room on the penultimate corner for Chris Munro, and an opportunistic David Vincent to slipped through, demoting Bennett to fifth.
The Lights Sprint finale top three were covered by just a couple of seconds. Endurance winner James Baldwin led from lights to flag, but he was unable to break away from the chasing pack. Hounded by Chris Hackworth and Ben Leslie, it was an intense race showcasing the competitiveness of the championship.
The “TW Steel DMAX Driver of the Day” awarded with a brand new TW Steel watch. This weekend the bonus prize went to is Andrew Tempest. Round two at Daytona Sandown Park in Surrey on 16 March, book your place at www.daytonamax.co.uk