Double Ferrari UK Challenge victory for Fleming and Rees

Double Ferrari UK Challenge victory for Fleming and Rees

The inaugural round of the 2024 Ferrari UK Challenge season commenced at the historic Brands Hatch circuit earlier today where spectators witnessed a flurry of competitive racing action between the Trofeo Pirelli and Coppa Shell drivers. Tasked with the challenge of mastering two circuits over the course of the weekend, Race 1 saw the deployment of the mile-long Indy circuit configuration. On Sunday, Race 2 changes to the more technical and considerably longer GP layout.

 

Qualifying 1. In Trofeo Pirelli, Thomas Fleming (HR Owen) was able to continue his blistering pace from Free Practice 1 to claim a maiden pole of the season, managing a best time of 46:469 – almost a second ahead of Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst) - who joins the front row after securing his 47:373 lap time.

 

In Coppa Shell, series rookie Darren Howell (JCT600 Brooklands) achieved a remarkable debut result in qualifying to secure his pole advantage, laying down a 48:595 flying lap. The returning Gary Redman (Graypaul Nottingham) also showed serious intent upon his return to the series - just 0.010 seconds behind Howell – to secure second.

 

Trofeo Pirelli. The track was warmed by the afternoon sunshine, which saw track temperatures rise from 8 to 20 degrees. The improved conditions allowed drivers of the Trofeo Pirelli class to push from the first lap, with Fleming and Morrow both charging into turn one at Paddock Hill. The latter skilfully closed the door on a determined John Dhillon (Graypaul Birmingham) to hold his position in the pack. Haymandra Pillai (Jardine Colchester) made a strong start and neatly took advantage of an opportunity to pass Gilbert Yates (Charles Hurst) on the run up into Druids.

 

Pillai continued to push, quickly building pace in the early laps to initially threaten the experienced Dhillon during the preliminary stages of the race. At the front of the pack, Fleming demonstrated driving skill and speed which earnt him his Ferrari Challenge World Championship title in Mugello last year, delivering consistent sub-48 second laps to build a significant lead from Morrow in second.

 

By the middle of the race, the order was set. Pranav Vangala (HR Owen) valiantly fought to catch up with Yates but was unlucky to spin and lose ground on his English counterpart. The Safety Car emerged following an incident in the Coppa Shell class, which locked the order and close the two classes back up. With 6 minutes to go, Race Control confirmed the conclusion of the race and a comfortable win for Fleming after his domineering display on the track.

 

Coppa Shell. The Coppa Shell race was a gripping and highly competitive affair. Robert Rees’s (Dick Lovett Swindon) technicians did a remarkable job of repairing his 488 Challenge Evo following a spin in Q1 which meant he was unable to set a competitive qualifying time. Starting in last position motivated him to push, gaining two places before the first corner at Paddock Hill. Polesitter and racing debutant Darren Howell (JCT600 Leeds) also made a successful breakaway, building up a gap of over a second from his nearest competitor Gary Redman (Graypaul Nottingham). 2019 Coppa Shell runner-up Redman valiantly attempted to fend off a charging Peter Hunter (Stratstone Manchester), but Hunter was in fine form, finding his way past Redman in the frenetic early stages of the race.

 

Rees’s electrifying start filled him with confidence and he put this to good use by making short work of his Coppa Shell competition. Rees mercilessly took advantage of a two-way tussle between the battling Hunter and Redman, before slipping past Howell on the inside of Druids a few laps later to secure the lead. From there, track positions stabilised until the Safety Car was called out following an incident in which Steven Dopson (Dick Lovett Swindon) somehow managed to up-end his car against the tyre wall exiting Paddock Hill. Fortunately, Steven was unhurt, but the position of his car meant that the race had to be called at that point, which confirmed Rees as the winner in a thrilling Coppa Shell series opener. 

 

Brands Hatch, 21 April 2024.
The inaugural round of the 2024 Ferrari UK Challenge season continued today at the historic Brands Hatch circuit, where spectators witnessed another action-packed day of competitive racing in the Trofeo Pirelli and Coppa Shell classes. Sunday presented drivers with an opportunity to experience an alternative track configuration on the longer 2.4-mile GP circuit.

 

Qualifying 1. In Trofeo Pirelli, Thomas Fleming (HR Owen) continued his electric pace on the very technical GP circuit, laying down the fastest time of 1:27.873. Newcomer Gilbert Yates (Charles Hurst) demonstrated his significant improvement during the session, pushing the 488 Challenge Evo with great success to achieve a 1:28.781, placing him second on the grid. An incident involving Haymandra Pillai (Jardine Colchester) brought out the red flag and a subsequent early close to the session after 27 minutes.

 

In Coppa Shell, Robert Rees (Dick Lovett Swindon) saw a vast improvement in his fortune during qualifying on Saturday, as he posted a blistering flying lap to secure pole with a time of 1:32.051. Conversely, Darren Howell (JCT600 Brooklands) was unlucky to suffer an early spin coming out of Paddock Hill, which ruled him out of Race 2.

 

Trofeo Pirelli. Poleman Fleming made a great start, building a lead ahead of Yates within the first few corners. Further back in the order, John Dhillon (Graypaul Nottingham) spotted his opportunity to pass Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst) as they exited Druids, but Dhillon ran narrowly wide, allowing Morrow to valiantly claim back the position. The threat clearly motivated Morrow, who pushed onward towards second-placed Gilbert Yates, bringing the gap down to below 1 sec by lap 4.

 

A gearbox issue 10 minutes into the session disrupted Morrow and forced his retirement by lap 6. This allowed Dhillon to continue his charge towards the podium places. The incident behind served as motivation for an already determined Yates, who subsequently capitalised and strengthened his grip on second place. Meanwhile, Pranav Vangala (HR Owen) continued to show great improvement, posting quicker times as the race progressed. But once again, it was the talented Fleming who maintained his blistering, consistent pace ahead of the field.

 

With 10 minutes to go, Dhillon found his best rhythm of the race and began to close in on Yates, closing the gap to less than 1 sec by the final lap, but the UK Challenge debutant remained cool and composed, assuredly holding on to second place. Fleming delivered his second successive victory of the weekend, followed by Yates, who secured a first podium on his maiden weekend in the series. Dhillon followed close behind, achieving his second podium trophy of the weekend.

 

Coppa Shell. Saturday’s race winner Robert Rees (Dick Lovett Swindon) pushed his 488 Challenge Evo hard from the start and quickly consolidated a 5 second lead ahead of the group. Behind him, a determined Peter Hunter (Stratstone Manchester) sensed an opportunity to pass confident rookie Mike Dewhirst (Dick Lovett Swindon) after only a few laps. Despite Dewhirst’s lack of initial race pace, he was not willing to relinquish a podium place to returning racer Gary Redman (Graypaul Nottingham). Dewhirst pushed his car to the limit and established a comfortable lead ahead of Redman by lap 7.

 

Dewhirst’s pace improved and before long he appeared in Hunter’s rear view mirror. The Dick Lovett Swindon driver pushed relentlessly and with 10 minutes to go, the gap between the pair had reduced to just 0.3 seconds. However, Dewhirst lost a few seconds after a mistake in sector 2, relieving the pressure on Hunter.

 

In the final laps, Robert Rees continued his dominant display lapping on average 1 sec quicker than his Coppa Shell counterparts, and secured his second win of the weekend, 13 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

 

Club Challenge. Spectators also had the opportunity to enjoy the Club Challenge track activity over the course of the weekend. The Club Challenge format focuses on individual driver improvement and is specialised for drivers who to want to develop and hone their racing ability. Piloting Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo race cars, Club Challenge provides an excellent platform for drivers who may be considering competing in the Ferrari Challenge UK series in the future. 

 

Next Race. The next round in the Ferrari Challenge UK race series takes place between Friday 10 - Saturday 11 May 2024 at Oulton Park, Cheshire. Both qualifying and race sessions can be spectated live at the circuit or online at live.ferrari.com.


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