STUART OLIVER TAKES EARLY ADVANTAGE
Stuart Oliver claimed an early two-point advantage after the opening four rounds of the new British Truck Racing Championship at Brands Hatch, with four different drivers taking race victories over the course of the weekend.
Oliver, who secured pole position during qualifying on Friday in his modified Volvo VH13 ahead of Luke Taylor, duly proceeded to open the new campaign with it's maiden victory, whilst reigning champion Ryan Smith led a resurgence from the fifth row of the grid to finish second after problems plagued his MAN in qualifying, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.
Shane Brereton kicked off a hat-trick of action-packed races on Sunday by taking a commanding victory ahead of new BTRA chairman David Jenkins, the two separated by a slender two-second margin. Mat Summerfield would take his first silverware of the season in third, whilst Michael Oliver continued to cement his improvement in the Scania with an impressive fourth.
It was in the third contest that the new champion showed his colours. Smith sliced his way through from the inside of the second row to swiftly take the lead, before stretching his legs and marking out a nine-second advantage. Though Oliver also looked competitive, his efforts to catch Smith were curtailed after struggling to pass Ray Coleman for second in the early stages of the race. Coleman would later fend off Brereton to claim the final spot on the podium.
Heartbreak struck Oly Janes in the fourth and final A class contest of the weekend, as the compressor on his Buggyra gave out on the penultimate lap of the race after a superlative defence from the six-truck train gathered behind. Janes initially slowed through Paddock Hill bend, allowing Summerfield in second to close on the inside through Druids. He would later go on to take his first victory of the season, though the sister MAN of Smith made him work for it. Dave Jenkins closed out the weekend with another podium finish, cementing his consistent early form.
The net result of the opening four rounds sees Stuart Oliver take a narrow two-point advantage into the second meeting at Pembrey, with champions past and present in Summerfield and Smith breathing down his neck in joint second, just two markers back. Shane Brereton sits another point further back, with Jenkins making it an incredible five points that covers the top five in the championship heading to South Wales.
It proved to be a near-perfect weekend for Finland's Mika Mäkinen as he dropped just a single point across the four B class races at Brands Hatch, claiming three victories and a second place to open up an early eleven-point advantage in the standings over reigning class champion Adam Bint.
Mäkinen came out on top of an all Sisu SL250 front row in qualifying, besting Tony Smith by over twelve seconds to open his account for the new campaign in this, his first full season of competition in the BTRC. Both Mäkinen and Smith resisted initially pressure from Andrew Lovenbury behind, before breaking clear together and extending their advantage for the remainder of the race. Lovenbury would be penalised for a false start, handing Adam Bint's Volvo it's first silverware of the season.
Race two would be the only interruption to Mäkinen's dominant form all weekend, though the latter may well feel robbed after the race was curtailed five minutes early as Steve Powell's Sisu lost it's front-left wheel and duly came to rest in the Paddock Hill bend gravel trap, bringing out the red flags. John Powell was duly declared the winner in his Ford Cargo, with Lovenbury making amends for his earlier error in third.
Spectators could be forgiven for experiencing deja vu in the final two races as Mäkinen further stretched his advantage. Simon Cole managed to secure his first podium of the season with second in the third race – albeit still an entire seven seconds adrift of the Finn. Tony Smith also returned to the rostrum after a frustrating second race.
Mäkinen nearly hit disaster whilst carving through the pack in the final race, as John Powell was left sideways after contact ahead and narrowly avoided the Sisu on Cooper Straight. Unfazed by the near-miss, Mäkinen continued his meteoric progress to the front of the field and relieved Adam Bint of a lead he would not relinquish on Brabham Straight with neither driver giving an edge. Paul McCumisky became yet another driver to taste champagne with third to round out his season opener.