Round 2 brought the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK series to Oulton Park, a staple circuit in every driver’s career. Under cloudless skies, the Cheshire track never fails to produce high-octane drama, and this occasion was no different on the 4.3km International configuration for both races. Home-town hero, Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) pulled off another double-header to make it 4 straight wins in 4 races.
Despite H. Sikkens (HR Owen, London) leading for most of the session in Trofeo Pirelli, with 5 minutes to go and increased grip beginning to work in his favour, Morrow pipped Sikkens to the top of the leader board by a mere tenth with an excellent 1:40.419, making it 3 out of 3 for his sizzling streak on pole. In Coppa Shell, Paul Simmerson (Graypaul, Birmingham) registered a 1:41.393, making amends for his last lap mistake in Round 1 to give himself the best chance to control Race 1. But Simmerson is not going to have an easy race, because local driver, Hogarth, who qualified in second, will be fighting hard for the win at his home circuit.
Blue skies emerged at the perfect time to mark the start of Race 1, as Poleman Morrow looked to capitalise early on the advantage he’d earned in Q1, but Sikkens had other ideas by overtaking into the first turn. Close behind was Carl Cavers (Graypaul, Nottingham), who had the best seat in the house for the battle for the top spot, if either of the two front-runners made a mistake. Half-way through the race, Morrow finally reclaimed the lead of the race through Old Hall, which he defended right to the chequered flag.
Cavers couldn’t quite make up the deficit to Sikkens, despite the Dutchman overcooking it on a few occasions, detailing just how fine the margins are between the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evos on a difficult track. Cavers commented “It’s really hard to overtake round here, unless someone makes a mistake. Andrew [Morrow] capitalised on a very slight mistake, and I mean, the slightest of mistakes from Hans, but he was there ready to go!”
Morrow’s performance earned him all available bonus points for pole position and fastest lap yet again.
Home-race hero, the mighty Hogarth’s reign continued as he took Race 1 by the horns, claiming another victory on his own patch. Living just 20 minutes away from the circuit, he enthused in a pre-race chat with the race commentators that Oulton Park was the “best race on the calendar”. When asked why this was, he joked that it was because he could “sleep in his own bed”; a helpful home comfort that paid dividends towards a hat-trick of wins this season.
Starting from second, he had the determined Simmerson to pass, whose defence tactics proved to be a force to reckon with. The two Pauls were barely millimetres apart from corner to corner in the first lap, but showed tremendous respect for each other as part of their long-standing friendly rivalry.
After losing out to Hogarth through Old Hall in the early stages, Simmerson failed to reclaim the top spot despite pushing Hogarth in every corner, especially towards the end of the race. Paul Rogers (JCT600, Leeds) and Jonathan Satchell (HR Owen, London) also fought a close battle throughout the race, but it was Satchell who took the final spot of the podium in Coppa Shell.
Unfortunately, last round’s double podium placer Stuart Marston (Maranello Sales) was forced to retire early after a crash in Q1 meant his car suffered damage that couldn’t be fully repaired in time.
Trofeo Pirelli came to a dramatic conclusion, as Carl Cavers (Graypaul, Nottingham) leap-frogged from third to snatch pole from H. Sikkens (HR Owen, London) in the final few minutes with a 1:39.278 before the Dutchman had any time to counter. “Getting past is so difficult, so I knew this morning that we had to be on the front row to have a chance,” said Cavers. Less than 2 tenths separated the top 3, with 3-time winner Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst, Belfast) starting from the second row for the first time this season. When asked if he could hold off the Northern Irishman in the afternoon’s race, Cavers said “Let’s see. He’s got the hard yards to do, I’ve just got to keep focused.”
In Coppa Shell, Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) dazzled again with a 1:40.755 to set pole, bettering his starting position of second from Friday’s qualifying session. With a quartet of race wins on the horizon, it’s clear how much fun he’s having out there this year, this time on the track he grew up on: “It’s always a pleasure to be driving a Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo around here. I love the circuit… Let’s see if we can continue it this afternoon - one more job to do!” It’s an all-Paul top 3 once again, with Paul Simmerson (Graypaul, Birmingham) and Paul Rogers (JCT600, Leeds), as Race 2 shaped up to be a box-office contest!
Starting from pole, Cavers earned himself a fantastic shot at a first race win of the season, as Morrow started in third. The current series leader found himself in unchartered territory behind two more experienced drivers. Unfortunately, Cavers’ lead didn’t last, as Sikkens, who also started on the front row, lunged ahead into Turn 1, a carbon copy of the move he pulled exactly 24 hours before. Morrow was pushing hard, but unfortunately a small error meant he forfeited 2 places and slipped to fifth.
Faisal al Faisal (HR Owen, London) profited from Morrow’s mistake to move into the third podium spot, with Graham de Zille (Meridien Modena) close in fourth. Desperate to make up ground, Morrow set his sights on de Zille ahead and quickly recouped a place. Sikkens and Cavers were in close combat, but the Dutchman refused to relinquish the top spot.
Faisal began to feel Morrow breathing down his neck, while de Zille watched patiently behind. Some spirited driving through Old Hall corner culminated in the trio running 3 abreast on the exit, with Morrow finally sneaking past Faisal further down the road at Hislops to take third. Cavers squeezed every ounce of rubber out of the Pirelli tyres, but ultimately had to settle for second, having perhaps overcooked them from his phenomenal Qualifying session. Sikkens had a comfortable advantage to take his first win of the season, however Morrow claimed a bonus point for fastest lap.
Hogarth made it 4 wins in 4 races in stunning style after an enthralling Coppa Shell battle. After being duped at Turn 1 by friend and Ferrari nemesis, Paul Simmerson (Graypaul Birmingham), a textbook battle between the pair ensued with Hogarth’s fairy-tale finish under threat. In the battle for third, history soon repeated itself from Race 1 as Paul Rogers (JCT600) lost out to Jonathan Satchell (HR Owen, London). Rogers’ tactical decision to relent in Q2 in favour of starting on the left-hand side of the grid didn’t quite work out as planned, though he wouldn’t give up till the bitter end.
Simmerson and Hogarth fought from kerb to kerb in contention for the lead, before Hogarth gained the place back for the final time. Satchell confidently maintained track position to claim the third podium spot in as many races. Newcomers Julian Dye (Maranello Sales, Egham) and Peter Hunter (Stratstone, Manchester) battled for fifth and sixth after climbing past Chris Smith (Graypaul, Birmingham) who unfortunately had a spin.
It was a mixed weekend with lessons learned up and down the field, but star of the show, Hogarth, deserved every point earned on the top step.
Trofeo Pirelli Standings: Morrow tops the table with 64 points to continue a fantastic first season, while Sikkens and Cavers are separated by just 4 points with 51 and 47 respectively.
Coppa Shell Standings: Hogarth’s winning streak continues with 66 points earned from 4 emphatic wins. Simmerson lies in second with 45 points with Satchell in third on 40.
Schedule: Round Three of the championship takes place at Brands Hatch next month on Saturday, 24 and Sunday, 25 June. Day 1 will feature on the technical Indy circuit with Day 2 using the iconic GP configuration.