The start of Round 2 of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK was slippery for the First Practice sessions with rain at Oulton Park, with all drivers beginning the day on rain tyres. 16 drivers formed the grid using the International configuration at the Cheshire circuit, as class leaders Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst) and Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) looked to build on their double-win delight from the first round. Many struggled to find their pace, but the welcome return of the sun delivered an almost-dry track in time for the grid to switch to slicks in Q1. Despite H. Sikkens (HR Owen) 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.
Trofeo Pirelli. 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.
Coppa Shell. 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) and Jonathan Satchell (HR Owen) 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.
Qualifying 2 commences at 10:00 on Saturday, with Race 2 starting at 15:15. Unlike today, conditions are expected to be dry and sunny for the whole day.