Pirelli shines through on MINI Challenge season-opener

On Saturday’s opening round of the Pirelli-supported MINI Challenge, reigning champion Chris Knox returned to form as he took the spoils in the first of two races at Silverstone. Lee Allen dominated the second race but Chris Smith stole the JCW Class points lead with two second place finishes. Henry Gilbert topped the Club class with his double victory.Now in its 11th year, the MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S race cars competed over two classes at the opening round of the seven-round series: the John Cooper Works (JCW) class and the Club class. The JCW class is provided with slick and wet options: the 225/625-17 DH slick and 225/625-17 WS wet tyre. The Club class has only one type available: an intermediate tyre that is suitable across a range of different wet and dry conditions.  In the JCW class, Scotland’s Chris Knox took the victory on the first race, but Lee Allen made amends for his race one disappointment by dominating the second reversed-grid outing.  Gilbert’s double class victory gave the Englishman the championship lead with 42 points. Chris Smith is second with 37 points, and Lee Allen lies third with 35 points.Race two winner, Lee Allen, said: “A first and third place finish is a great start to the year, so we’ve got to be happy with that. I felt I was beaten up a bit in the first race, and I really had to work my way back to finish third. For the second race I started fourth, and had a really good race. We had a really strong start and felt fully up to speed with the new tyre. We did a bit of testing earlier in the year and we have a good handle on the Pirelli tyres now.   We were learning up until Friday night and we have now found a great set-up with the tyre for increased durability.”“The competition from Saturday’s race was first class,” said Carl Naylor, Pirelli Tyre UK motorsport manager. “This is the first year that we have supplied control tyres to the MINI Challenge and we are delighted to play an integral part in one of the most exciting one-make championships in the UK. To have witnessed such closely-fought battles in both the Club and the JCW class is also very positive for the championship, and I look forward to what is expected to be another thrilling race next month.”The second round of the MINI challenge will take place on 7th May at Castle Combe where competitors will face two 20-minute races to be screened live on Motors TV.