Of the three Radical Challenge title contenders, championship leader Dominik Jackson will leave Brands Hatch happiest, having edged out his points cushion thanks to two key mistakes for title rival Jérôme de Sadeleer. However, a victory for the Swiss driver limited the damage and keeps the title battle balanced on a knife-edge heading to the series finale at Donington Park later this month.
The Brands Hatch weekend featured three different winners and three tense races condensed into a single day, meaning consistency would be key for anybody to get ahead. In truth, it could well have been a double for Jackson, had it not been for an error from de Sadeleer in race one that cost them both dear, and opened the door for Marcus Clutton to take his first points-scoring Challenge victory of the year.
Jackson then regrouped to control race two, before de Sadeleer’s weekend finally came good, ensuring that he stays right on the tail of the championship leader with a single round still to run.
Things looked to be going to plan for the title contenders as they filled the front row in championship order before race one, but the pack was soon jumbled after a mix-up on a safety car restart dealt a bitter blow for both Jackson and de Sadeleer, but set up Clutton to take a last-gasp victory.
Jackson left it late in qualifying to snatch pole, the championship leader edging de Sadeleer to top spot by 0.205sec with his final flying effort of the session. Clutton would start third ahead of Constable, on row two, but both would soon benefit from the bizarre incident.
Jackson got a solid start to hold off de Sadeleer into Paddock Hill as Constable made a fine move on Clutton stick for third at Druids.
Jackson looked comfortable out front in the early stages, extending his advantage over his title rival to the best part of two seconds as de Sadeleer’s attentions turned to holding off Constable, Clutton and Joe Stables as the top five pulled away.
But the order was turned on its head when the safety car was called after Brian Caudwell went off at Paddock Hill and struck the barriers. That bunched the pack back up and sparked the incident between the leaders. As Jackson and the following de Sadeleer warmed their tyres ahead of the restart there was contact into Stirlings, which sent Jackson into a spin and damaged the front of de Sadeleer’s SR3.
The net result was Constable leading Clutton and Marcello Marateotto when racing resumed, with de Sadeleer rejoining fourth and Jackson down in 13th and with it all to do. With the pit window opening shortly after the incident, Clutton stopped first, followed swiftly by both de Sadeleer and the recovering Jackson, who had worked his way nicely back up the order. With five seconds less to spend on his mandatory stop, Jackson vaulted back ahead of de Sadeleer as the two rejoined on the fringes of the top five.
One driver who stayed out was Constable, who used the clean air to pump in a series of quick laps before finally diving into the pits with just moments of the window remaining. The tactic worked, with Constable rejoining comfortably clear of Marateotto, who had Clutton crawling all over him for second.
Clutton showed his nose repeatedly into Hawthorn and eventually pressured Marateotto into a mistake at Clark Curve, the Italian skipping through the gravel and dropping to third.
The order seemed set, until one final safety car was called when Jon MacRae beached his SR3 in the gravel at Paddock. That was bad news for Constable, who had his lead eroded and was now faced with a single-lap shootout to the flag. Clutton sensed his opportunity, and attacked Constable when racing resumed, getting a good tow up Hawthorn Hill before eventually pulling off a brave move into Westfield to snatch top spot with just a handful of corners left.
Marateotto took third ahead of Jackson, whose strong recovery to fourth place at least helped him extend his points gap over de Sadeleer, who could only manage sixth with his damaged car. John MacLeod split the title chasers in fifth.
After his disappointment in race one, Jackson wasn’t prepared to let a second shot at glory slip away, and duly secured a seventh race win of the year to edge closer to the championship as de Sadeleer again had an outing to forget.
The Swiss racer was handed a five-place grid penalty for his part in the race one contact, so would start just seventh as his title rival lined up on pole.
However, Jackson got too much wheelspin at the start and was quickly usurped by the flying Mark Richards, who got a great launch from row two to streak into the lead at Paddock.
Jackson recovered to hold off the charging Constable for second, and soon set his sights on the race leader. Jackson whittled down the gap each lap, eventually securing the lead late in the seventh lap. Once ahead, nobody could touch him as Jackson surged to another victory.
Richards had his hands full with fending off Constable to take second, while race one winner Clutton took fourth after a last-lap charge just fell short. De Sadeleer’s race began well, with him picking off Clutton and Brian Caudwell on the first lap, but a spin exiting Druids on lap two dented his hopes and ultimately left him fifth at the flag.
Having endured a largely torrid weekend so far, de Sadeleer finally came good in the final outing with a controlled drive to net his sixth race win of the year, and limit the damage in the championship battle.
Jackson started the race on pole and led the entire early stages from the chasing Constable, Clutton and de Sadeleer as the top four largely broke away to form their own private battle. However, with all of the cars ahead of him having to serve additional seconds stationary during their mandatory pit stop, de Sadeleer could play the waiting game and limit the time loss to the leaders, knowing his faster stop would serve him well.
Of the top four, de Sadeleer and Clutton were the first to stop. But with Clutton carrying a 20-second success penalty from his race one win, he was essentially out of the fight. Whereas de Sadeleer rejoined in clean air and inherited the lead when both Constable and Jackson served their stops a few laps later.
Once ahead, de Sadeleer controlled the pace and survived a brief safety car restart late on to secure the win ahead of Jackson. Constable should have been in the running for third but copped a stop-go penalty for shaving a second off his mandatory stop time, which limited him to 12th at the flag.
That – combined with a technical issue ruling out the otherwise rapid Joe Stables – opened the door for series newcomer Shane Stoney. The current SR1 Cup dominator was on his first outing in an SR3, and shone in the final race, climbing from eighth on the grid to hold fifth for much of the race, and then move into a podium spot after the stops. Clutton harried the newcomer across the closing laps, but Stoney stood firm to grab a superb debut podium. Richards ended his weekend in fifth, just ahead of Elliot Goodman.
Marcus Clutton, Valour Racing (Winner race one): “It was a tough race. We had the 15-second success penalty from Silverstone and I never thought I’d be in a position to challenge for the win! After the incident under the safety car, it was myself and Jac. Jac wasn’t holding me up but when you follow a Radical really close you struggle with the front end. So I boxed early and got some clear space, then I just got so lucky with the second safety car. Without the safety car, Jac would have won, no doubts about that. Heading up to Hawthorns, I got a good run on him, he blocked me and I thought I’d try the switch back. I’ve never tried it before but I somehow pulled it off to nip up the inside, no contact just great racing.”
Dominik Jackson, RAW Motorsports (Winner race two): “I didn’t get a good start to race two and Mark got an amazing one, we got settled in and I was struggling to attack him so I dropped back. I caught back up then got an opportunity to pull off quite a decent move around the outside at Clearways. We’re in a good position in the championship after this.”
Jérôme de Sadeleer, 360 Racing (Winner race three): “The two first races were pretty tough, I had unfortunate contact with Dominik in the first race, I think he’s still unhappy with me. Otherwise the final race was pretty good, I kept it clean and the safety car before the pit stops benefited me, the second one didn’t but I was ahead and managed to pull a gap. A sixth win of the year is pretty good and I’m not far behind. If one of us gets a DNF either way, it’s going to be quite close to deciding a champion, so we just have to keep it clean, keep it consistent.”