The Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK kicked off at Snetterton for the very first round of the new season, running with the Snetterton 300 configuration. The Norwich track has been on the calendar every year since the UK series launched in 2019, and it was the home for the weekend to a strong grid comprised of familiar Ferrari faces and exciting new contenders.
Qualifying 1. Day one saw a slightly disjointed Qualifying session, after 2 red flags from several incidents on the same corner. Several drivers collided on the Wilson hairpin (Turn 2); Graham de Zille (Meridien Modena) and Challenge UK newcomer William Tewiah (Graypaul Birmingham) for the first incident, and the second between Faisal al Faisal (HR Owen) and Robert Rees (Dick Lovett Swindon) before the session concluded with 3 minutes to spare.
In-between the stoppages, it was Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst Belfast) who set the pace of the Prancing Horses at sunny Snetterton after claiming the first pole of the campaign, registering an insurmountable 1:53:256 before anyone could retaliate. It was a shame for Carl Cavers (Graypaul Nottingham), who’d looked well on the pace in the practice sessions, but who couldn’t set a time in Q1 due to a troublesome heat exchanger.
Paul Rogers (JCT600) got off to a bright start to lead the charge in Coppa Shell, looking comfortable as any on the asphalt with a tidy 1:55:351. Fending off repeated attempts by Marcos Vivian (Maranello Sales) for the top spot, the 0.2 second gap would be enough for the JCT600 driver to take pole position. Both Morrow and Rogers would be rewarded with the advantage going into the afternoon’s race, as well gaining an additional championship point a piece in their respective classes for doing so.
Race 1. Morrow meant business, taking maximum points with a dramatic win in the Trofeo Pirelli, whilst Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) managed to avoid the chaos to emerge victorious in the Coppa Shell.
Trofeo Pirelli. A dry, grippy track and some wind in the sails from Q1 saw Morrow’s talent shine through, delivering the win with a dominating display. The experienced H. Sikkens (HR Owen) was raring to go and came roaring into turn 1 side by side with Morrow to make his intentions clear from the outset. Running slightly wide on the Wilson hairpin, Sikkens let Morrow run free to capitalise on a clear run, separating themselves from the rest of the field.
Meanwhile, John Dhillon (Graypaul Nottingham) briefly lost out to Coppa Shell poleman Rogers through Oggies before re-establishing himself in third to undo the damage. Despite missing Qualifying and starting on the back row alongside Faisal Al Faisal (HR Owen), Cavers came charging from the rear to gain 9 places inside the first lap, catapulting himself up to 6th position.
Just after 20 minutes into the race, an accident brought out the red flag halting the session with 9:30 minutes left on the clock. Morrow’s excellent work was now to be put to the test with a restart under the safety car, leaving a 2-lap dash to decide the podium places. Morrow brought home his first win of the year and clinched all available bonus points thanks to Q1 pole and the fastest lap of the race. Sikkens, sturdy as ever in second, and an incredible comeback for Cavers in third made the set.
Coppa Shell. In the Coppa Shell class, 6 out of 10 drivers were new to the series. It was a fantastic first race for the new drivers to see the fruits of their labour following some sharp testing times in line with the class above. Debutant Vivian showed great promise, overtaking Rogers to lead the class. A game of cat and mouse between good friends was heating up just behind as Paul Hogarth (Stratstone Manchester) and Paul Simmerson (Graypaul Birmingham) went toe to toe for the final podium spot.
Suddenly, Coppa Shell drama ensued as Rogers lunged for the top spot, colliding with Vivian on the way through; unfortunately, Rogers ended up in the barrier as the pair tussled for track position. Both drivers walked away unscathed thanks to the integrity of the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo design. The race was red-flagged immediately, with 9:30 minutes left on the clock and 13 cars remaining.
Hogarth, now running in first, had a task to keep next in line Simmerson at bay in second, with Marston close behind for the third step of the podium.
Tomorrow. Qualifying 2 will commence at 10:50, followed by Race 2 at 15:05.