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Searles Reigns Supreme at Lydden Hill

By Chris Bassett

T3 driver Terry Searles in his MG ZR put in a wet weather master class at Lydden Hill to win his first and second Cannons TinTops races’ of the season with ease.

TinTops The qualifying session was dry which saw Chris Whiteman (T3) qualify on pole by less than two tenths of a second from Tom Bridger (T1) and newcomer to the championship Reece Jones (T3). Championship hopeful Vic Hope (T3) was fourth, Russell Turner (T3) fifth and Cliff Pellin (T3) rounding up the top six. The initial (dry) race was declared null and void due to a technical fault at the start.

But just as the drivers were called to grid-up again, grey clouds appeared and spots of rain could be felt. An inspired decision by Searles to change tyres before the race saw him start seventh, but by the end of the first lap was in the lead, and pulling out a commanding gap; which by the end of the race was over 13 seconds. Reece Jones was unable to make the start after suffering gearbox problems.

TinTops Hope also had a good start ending the first lap in second place from Whiteman, Bridger, David Hutchins (T3) who moved up from eighth and Barnaby Davies (T2) who moved up from ninth while Russell Turner dropped back to seventh and was being chased hard by championship leader Neal Gardiner (T4) and Peter Osborne (TP), while Robert Farndon (T3) rounded up the top ten.

Further back Kieron Lehane (T4) made a good start from last position to pass both Robert Taylor (T4) and Oliver Davies (T2) who slipped from 11th to last by the end of the first lap.

Lap two saw Whiteman, who made a tentative start make his way past Hope who himself slipped back to the clutches of Davies (Barnaby), Bridger, Hutchins and the impressive Metro of Gardiner, who in the wet weather was able to mix it with the more powerful cars.

Osborne was being chased hard by Farndon and Turner, while Taylor had swapped places with Lehane with Davies (Oliver) hanging on as the conditions worsened. A lap later and the front runners’ positions remained the same, while Lehane and Taylor swapped places for the third time in three laps.

TinTops Davies (Barnaby) made his way past Hope and set off in pursuit of Whiteman who had built up a three second lead in second place, while Bridger, Hutchins and Gardiner were fighting the weather and each other trying to find a way past. Osborne was still being chased by Farndon who was not quite close enough to make a move, while Lehane and Taylor, although making it through a lap without swapping places, were glued to each other’s bumpers and closing the gap on Turner, with Davies (Oliver) beginning to close the gap on the two in front of him.

Davies (Barnaby) was edging closer to Whiteman, while Bridger had made his way past Hope; who was slipping further back as the race progressed. Farndon was again close to Osborne without being able to pass and Davies (Oliver) was now stuck to the duo of Lehane and Taylor.

Midway through the race and Davies (Barnaby) had caught Whiteman and made his move for second position. By that time Searles, who had an uneventful race, was able to build up a lead of around nine seconds from the chasing pack, while Hutchins had a spin and slipped behind Gardiner. The dual of the race between Lehane, Taylor and Davies (Oliver), saw them racing closely, and at most corners, almost touching.

TinTops Searles who was mastering the conditions, finished 13 seconds ahead of Davies (Barnaby), who himself finished a further six seconds ahead of Whiteman in third.

Bridger, while winning class T1, finished fourth ahead Hope and Hutchins who managed to regain position ahead of Gardiner who won class T4. Osborne, while finishing eighth overall took honors in the TP class followed closely by Farndon. A further ten seconds back was Turner and the lapped Lehane, Taylor and Davies (Oliver) finishing just 1.5 seconds apart by the finish line.

Race two remained wet and saw race one winner Searles draw eighth in the grid reversal, but again he proved his wet weather craft by leading the chasing pack by half way through the first lap, although this time he was pushed a little harder with everyone else also being on wet tyres.

TinTops Hope again finished the first lap in second, but this time was being chased by Osborne, Whiteman, Gardiner, Bridger, Hutchins and Davies (Barnaby). Taylor had a good first lap passing Farndon, Turner and Lehane who was again being chased by Davies (Oliver). Whiteman passed Osborne and began battling with Hope which enabled Searles to ease in front who began a sequence of setting six consecutive fastest laps. Bridger who was trying to find a way past Gardiner then retired. Taylor was able to pull out an advantage over the chasing Farndon who himself was being given a tough time by Lehane and Davies (Oliver) who had passed Turner.

Lehane managed to get by Farndon and began to close the gap on Taylor, with Davies (Oliver) pressuring Farndon. Taylor then retired allowing Lehane, Farndon and Davies (Oliver) to commence battle, while Davies (Barnaby) and Hutchins leapfrogged Gardiner into fifth and sixth respectively.

Upfront, Whiteman passed Hope and pulled out a four second lead by the end of the race. Further back Davies (Oliver) managed to get the better of Lehane, who in-turn stayed ahead of Farndon until the end of the race.

By the end of the race Searles had built up a lead of over five seconds over Whiteman in second with Hope finishing third – all in class T3.

Osborne, who finished a very good fourth overall won class TP ahead of Davies (Barnaby) – winner of class T2, Hutchins and Gardiner who won class T4, while Davies (Oliver) finished ahead of Farndon, Lehane and Turner.

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See you in 2019

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