The Dunlop Sport MAXX Cup is one of the main attractions of the Great & British Dunlop Motorsport Festival and with double the number of cars on the grid than there were twelve months ago the signs are good.
Both races were keenly contested with the first setting the benchmark for the rest of the season, six cars dicing it out for the lead for much of the race. John Thorne in the BMW M3 took the win although as he’s not registered for the championship, maximum points went to Shaun Hollamby in the SEAT Leon Cupra. Thorne won the second race as well but it was Martin Wallbank, in the Vauxhall Astra VXR, who grabs the points.
Snetterton Race 1 – Laithwaite leaps and Hollamby’s hailed
In race one Quentin Laithwaite in the Renault Clio made a blinding start to the race, roaring off the third row of the grid to mount an early challenge but it was Simon Shaw in the Vauxhall Astra VXR who lead into turn one just ahead though ahead of the SEAT Leon Cupra of Shaun Hollamby, with Martin Wallbank and his Vauxhall Astra VXR in third and Simon Gusterson’s Renault Megane R26 230 in fourth
Gusterson then found a way past Wallbank at Russell to go third on the opening lap but his rival was having none of it and retook third almost immediately. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the race, the front-runners dicing it out while John Thorne, who’d qualified quickest in his BMW E46 M3 was working his way through the order. Despite looking as if he’d taken pole position, Thorne was penalised for being underweight and was forced to start from the back of the grid and ten seconds later than anyone else.
So he was a man on the move and at the end of the opening lap had worked his way up into eleventh. Plenty of action then not just in the middle of the field but at the front as well with three seconds covering the top five.
Thorne continued to scythe his way through the less powerful traffic and was seventh at the end of lap two and then up to sixth a lap later.
The Gusterson versus Wallbank dice for third was relentless the pair continuing to play nip and tuck with each other, Simon Shaw still leading as they began lap four but being caught by Hollamby who was now less than a second away. John Allison, another Vauxhall Astra VXR driver, was hassling the battle for third but he had other things to think about as Thorne closed in.
Meanwhile Paul Taylor in the SEAT Leon FR lead from Laithwaite with the Vauxhall Corsa of Leyton Clarke in third and Adrian Miller and his Renault Clio Sport 172 fourth
Changes at the top of the order as lap five got underway, Shaw still lead with Hollamby second and Wallbank third but Thorne was setting a blistering pace, having passed Allison and Gusterson to go fourth. He also posted the fastest lap of the race so far, 1 minute 21.3 seconds
Thorne was really on a charge, passing Wallbank to go third at the end of lap five he then passed Hollamby followed by Shaw on lap six to take over at the front. However his lead was short-lived as he spun at Russell, forcing Shaw to take to the grass and Hollamby saying thank you very much to slip into the lead.
All change then on lap six and as they began seven it was Hollamby who led by four-tenths of a second from Shaw who was a second and a half ahead of Gusterson who’d gotten through to third and he in turn was almost three seconds better off than Wallbank
Whatever had cause Thorne to spin clearly seemed to be playing mentally on him, as he remained in sixth place on both lap seven and eight, after he’d rejoined following his spin.
Class B was still being fought over but despite the closeness of the leading three cars there was no change in the order with Taylor still ahead of Laithwaite and Clarke respectively
As they began lap nine there was hardly anything in it between the top six, all covered by less than five seconds yet there was a change in the order with Thorne’s BMW powering past Allison to go fifth
At this point Thorne was the only driver to post a lap inside 1m 22s and Gusterson the only other driver to go inside 1m 23s (1m 22.9s) while both Hollamby and Shaw were putting down times of 1m 23s
Gusterson, who definitely had the bit between his teeth, then passed Shaw on lap ten with Throne threatening in fourth. This tussle seemed to give Hollamby a little bit of breathing space at the front yet he still held an advantage of just under a second over the second car on the track
By lap eleven Shaw had dropped to fourth, with Thorne going up to third and as they went through the Esses, Gusterson defended desperately from Thorne but eventually the BMW driver powered past to set up his next target, race leader Shaun Hollamby.
At this stage he was a second and a half away from the lead car but as he was lapping at just under two seconds quicker then by rights Thorne should be on Hollamby’s rear bumper by the end of lap twelve
Yet it wasn’t to be as this amazing race took another twist in the tail, Hollamby going wide at the Esses and handing the lead to Thorne. The SEAT driver perhaps feeling the pressure yet he got back on the track to obtain second place
A quick recap of the order and on lap twelve it was Thorne eight tenths of a second ahead of Hollamby with Gusterson a further half a second back in third and just four-tenths better off than fourth placed Shaw. Wallbank though was trailing big time, almost eight seconds off Shaw and more importantly just three tenths ahead of Allison in sixth.
Then more thrills as Shaw and Gusterson tangled on lap thirteen, Shaw losing momentum and a little bit of time but managing to remain fourth
Meanwhile Thorne had opened up a lead of two point three seconds while Hollamby’s cushion over Gusterson as they started lap fourteen was now a little over a second.
Jade Edwards, in her MG ZR 160, was holding thirteenth place which proved unlucky for her as she comes in to retire with a lap to go and a change in class B as they began the last lap, Laithwaite still leading with Clarke now second, Miller third and Taylor dropping to fourth
As the chequered flag came out it was Thorne who takes the spoils while Hollamby grabs second despite a last gasp effort from Gusterson, just two tenths of a second between them while Shaw is fourth, Wallbank fifth with Allison sixth
Laithwaite does indeed go on to win Class B ahead of Clarke and Taylor respectively
It may be Thorne’s win but as he’s in the Invitational class for the championship it’s a full haul of points to Hollamby
“The car’s been great in testing,” declared Thorne. “it was thrilling working my way through the field but I still feel hard done by following the penalty.”
“The Sport MAXX Cup is great,” said Hollamby. “We just finished the car on Friday so we’ve still got work to do but the guys are doing a great job. It got a bit close out there at times, it was very exciting racing and great fun to be involved with.”
Snetterton Race 1 – Laithwaite all the way
Once again it was Simon Shaw who lead into turn one as race two of the Dunlop Sport MAXX Cup got underway, Gusterson was second but a mistake by Shaw at turn two at Sear has him going wide allowing Gusterson, Hollamby and Wallbank to pass him. So Shaw goes from first to fourth on lap one
Gusterson lead as they crossed the line to start lap two but an audacious move by Hollamby sees him go around the outside of the Renault Megane at turn one to take over at the front
Then it was Wallbank’s turn to pass Gusterson while Thorne, again carrying the ten second penalty, is up to seventh and nine seconds behind the lead car. Miller meanwhile leads Laithwaite in class B
As they begin lap four Shaw rejoins the fray after pitting while Hollamby is under increasing pressure from Wallbank and it eventually pays off for Astra man who takes the lead at turn one on lap five. Gusterson is less than a second down in third with Allison a further three tenths behind in fourth.
Thorne meanwhile is up to fifth as they lap five commences and looking to bridge and eight second gap to Allison
At the front Wallbank puts one point two seconds between himself and Hollamby, while Gusterson and Allison are right on the SEAT man’s case in third and fourth respectively
There’s one heck of a scrap taking place in class B, Miller and Laithwaite and then Clarke not far off in third place, just trailing by a couple of seconds but the attention is once again drawn towards Thorne who is now four seconds behind the top four.
Laithwaite then takes Miller on lap six while Thorne is up to third on lap seven and then second on lap eight. There’s also a change further back in the order with Allison passing Gusterson to go fourth
Wallbank still lead as they completed lap eight but the gap back to Thorne is barely two tenths and it’s no surprise when Thorne then takes the lead. Laithwaite meanwhile has pulled a second and a half out on Miller in class B
So with three minutes left on the clock and Thorne still leading, four seconds ahead of Wallbank who is two ahead of Hollamby and he in turn has a gap of three tenths between himself and Gusterson. Allison is a further four seconds down in fifth with Laithwaite still maintaining that second and a half ahead of Miller
As the flag is waved to signal the end of the race, Thorne crosses the line first with Wallbank second but he’s slowing and just manages to see off the threat of Hollamby and Gusterson
“Martin found some speed that time,” said Thorne, following win number two. “I tried to be a bit more conservative in my driving especially after my embarrassing spin in the first race. Thoroughly enjoyable.”
“I had a bit of straight-line speed and the overall package was much better this time around,” said Wallbank. “We’re going to do some testing and get the car firing even quicker.”
“Adrian drove a really good race,” said class B winner Laithwaite. “When I saw him coming I knew it would be a fight and it was. Last year was a toe in the water for me as far as this series was concerned but we’re doing the whole championship this time around and as we lead the class then it looks like a good decision!”