Steve Burgess took a brace of Radical Challenge race wins at the season-opening rounds to leave Donington Park at the top of the title table. He shared the weekend spoils with series newcomer, reigning SR1 Cup Champion Jérôme de Sadeleer, who notched up his first victory of his debut Challenge championship campaign.
Burgess opened his 2018 account with a stellar win from pole position in challenging conditions, as sunny skies gave way to heavy rain, turning the compulsory pit stops into a tyre gamble.
The local racer led from the start of the first 40-minute race of the season but Dominik Jackson was with him all the way, even getting the jump on the former Champ through the pit stops to briefly emerge as race leader before Burgess battled back.
Despite both drivers opting to remain on slicks while the majority of the 25-car field changed to wets, a 27-second advantage over third-placed Kristian Jeffrey ensured the leading duo remained unchallenged.
The fierce fight for third was initially led by de Sadeleer, who kept an insistent Kristian Jeffrey at bay until a spin dropped the Guyanese driver down to eighth. A superb recovery drive and pit stop, however, saw Jeffrey jump back up the order.
Recovering from a slow stop, de Sadeleer set a blistering pace running on wets and looked promising to challenge Marcello Marateotto for fourth. A red flag stoppage with four minutes to go, due to a spun John Caudwell at Coppice, curtailed his plans.
Adrian and Joe Watt took the first Team class spoils of the season following a storming drive from the back of the grid to 12th overall.
Burgess doubled-up with pole-to-flag win number two in the 20-minute sprint race on Sunday morning. Another superb start ensured the 2016 Champ romped clear from the lights ahead of a short safety car period on lap three, before the RAW Motorsports driver built up a comfortable lead by way of setting consecutive fastest laps heading to the flag.
By contrast, a slow front row getaway from Jackson sparked a squabble for second from which Mark Richards emerged behind Burgess, followed by Jackson, de Sadeleer and Jeffrey.
Once clear of the full course caution, Jackson made his move on Richards for second, whilst de Sadeleer and Jeffrey battled at close quarters for fourth. The Swiss driver was able to push on and pass Richards for the final place on the podium, damage to Jeffrey’s car dropped him down the order.
Despite the consistent efforts of Brian Caudwell, on a blistering charge from 12th on the grid, Richards held on to bag points for fourth with Richard Baxter completing the top six.
Although John Caudwell initially led the Team class battle, a spin on lap 11 allowed Joe Watt to take the win from Peter Tyler.
Clean away for the final 40-minute endurance race of the weekend, pole sitter Burgess briefly led the field from de Sadeleer, Jackson and Richards before back-to-back safety car periods absorbed the first 10 minutes.
Back to green flag racing just eight minutes ahead of the pit stop window, Burgess plan to put the hammer down and pull out a big enough gap to negate his maximum success seconds penalty was no longer possible. But the local Nottingham man still gave his all to post continuous fastest laps as he built up a 4.6 second lead before pitting. With Burgess, de Sadeleer and Jackson all serving success penalties, all eyes were on penalty-free Richards who inevitably led the pack with the stops complete.
Richards’ lead was short lived due to a pit stop infringement which necessitated a stop/go penalty, dropping him down the order, gifting de Sadeleer a clear run and six-second buffer to Burgess with only two minutes remaining. Jackson, who stayed within 0.7 seconds of Burgess continued his consistent podium form to secure third.
Mark Crader was only one place off equalling his career best finish, ranking fourth ahead of Elliot Goodman. A determined Kristian Jeffrey rounded out the top six after a stellar charge from 19th on the grid and race-long battles with Barry Liversidge and Brian Harvey.
John Caudwell and Stuart Moseley took Team class honours, a just reward after a roller-coaster weekend for the Nielsen car.
Jerome De Sadeleer (Winner race three): “I'm so glad to be on the top step. I came into the weekend not knowing where I'd be. I finished around mid-pack when I did the final race last year, so finishing this race in first place gives me confidence heading to Brands Hatch.”
Steve Burgess (Winner races one and two): “I couldn’t ask for a better start to the season with two wins in the first two races. I'm over the moon with second in race three. With the safety cars at the start I didn't think there was going to be any chance to be this far up. I had no idea where I was when I came back out after the stop, I just had to drive flat out for the final 20 minutes.”
Dominik Jackson (Second races one and two, third race three): “It was a shame that the first half of race three was ruined for Steve and I with the safety car periods as it meant we didn't have an opportunity to build up a gap, but I'm happy to take a clean sweep of podiums at the end of the day.”
Kristian Jeffrey (Third race one): “We really got lucky in race one. In the dry we were P4 and while trying to catch Jerome I spun and dropped down to eighth. I recovered in the wet to get back to third. The conditions were very tricky and I opted to go for wets at the pit stop. It was a rollercoaster ride and we were lucky to come away with P3.”