The third round of Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK was poised to be a scorching affair from the start, with track temperatures recorded at 48 degrees thanks to the sunny skies above Kent. Tasked with two track configurations to master over the weekend, extra levels of focus were required in Race 1 as the drivers battled with the shorter Indy configuration lasting just over a mile, whilst Race 2 changes to the more technical and much longer GP layout on Sunday for a totally different style of race.
Qualifying 1 Poleman H Sikkens (HR Owen) set his sights on a second victory in Trofeo Pirelli this season, as he looked to make up some ground on Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst, Belfast) in the standings. Sikkens laid some serious rubber down to reach the top step with a 47:434, with just 0.4 seconds separating the top five.
In Coppa Shell, the seemingly unstoppable Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) managed to take the pole advantage with a 48.029 in the final five minutes, to the delight of his nervous garage.
Trofeo Pirelli Family, friends and Ferrari fans alike welcomed the green light as the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo cars hurtled into the first bend side by side. Sikkens held his nerve, managing to retain the lead from the invaluable pole position earned early on, despite some close pushing from a compact and determined grid. Faisal al Faisal (HR Owen) squeezed past Cavers into second, whilst Morrow dropped a place into fifth, though only temporarily. John Dhillon (Graypaul, Nottingham) soon found joy twice over as he climbed two places in as many laps, thanks to Faisal’s brief track departure. Cavers and Dhillon sailed through Faisal’s dust cloud, as a
newly inspired Morrow took advantage through Druid’s with an inspired move up the inside of him too.
Sikkens fought tooth and nail to maintain track position in the clean air up ahead whilst it was déjà vu for a committed Cavers behind, who couldn’t catch the faultless Dutchman to mirror the story at Oulton Park.
Cavers set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit to deny Sikkens the full sweep of bonus points, but the top two remained unchanged for the rest of the encounter. Morrow soon regained another place to leapfrog Dhillon for third, where he would stay to complete the final three on the podium. The main action ensued just outside of the places in the battle for fourth as Faisal’s frustration brought out some incredible racing, as he harassed Dhillon lap after lap. His perseverance finally paid off in spectacular style as he came sideways out of Druids, leaving black tyre marks in his wake to take the fourth spot. Now equally inspired to replicate the recovery as Faisal had done, Dhillon’s determination landed him in trouble as he received a five second penalty for exceeding track limits. There was incredibly close racing throughout the
field which required maximum focus and great determination, which made the trophy presentation by 2023 Le Mans 24 Hour winner, James Calado, a fitting final touch.
Coppa Shell Another classic battle of the Pauls broke loose from the off, as Paul Rogers (JCT600, Leeds) stayed tight in second from Hogarth in front, with Paul Simmerson (Graypaul Birmingham) completing the trio in third. Having won here last September, Rogers was looking to repeat history and reclaim some points from the Coppa Shell leader, but heavy traffic throughout the race made for a difficult task.
With the original top three from the starting unchanged for some time, traffic from backmarkers produced some extremely tight racing with four drivers within less than a second of each other. Hogarth managed to use the traffic to his advantage to keep his lead at the top, leaving Rogers and Simmerson to battle it out between themselves for second. Eventually, Simmerson made the move on Rogers to take second, which he would ultimately keep thereafter, whilst Ferrari Challenge history was nearly made with an all-Paul podium.
However, it wasn’t meant to be this time following a sudden bunch-up of cars that reshuffled the order, sending Rogers down the places to his disappointment. An unsuspecting play from newcomer Chris Smith (Graypaul Birmingham), who had been patiently waiting in fourth for some time, finally went through to claim the first podium of his career as a worthy reward for a calm and collected display. Another special mention should be made for Stuart Marston (Maranello Sales), who at one point was second-last managed to climb back to fourth place in a hard-fought competition from start to finish. Hogarth made it five from five to continue his win-streak, claiming the full sweep of points with fastest lap and pole.
Tomorrow. Qualifying 2 will commence at 12.15 and Race 2 begins at 15:05, as conditions are expected to be even warmer than today with clear skies forecast. Both sessions will be available to stream live on the Ferrari Challenge website https://www.ferrari.com/en-EN/corse-clienti/live