James Pinkerton secured the 2018 Radical SR1 Cup in a tight finale after Ryan Harper-Ellam’s dominant double victory ensured the fate of this year’s crown would be unclear until the final lap of the season.
Pinkerton held a commanding 43-point lead coming into the final double-header of the year, meaning Harper-Ellam’s only realistic hopes of snatching the crown rested on him triumphing in both encounters and his rival hitting trouble. On that count, Harper-Ellam did all he could by controlling both outings, but the consistency of Pinkerton ultimately won through as he maintained his 100% podium record this year.
Harper-Ellam started his weekend in dominant fashion, securing pole position in the tricky damp qualifying session to ensure he will complete 2018 with a 100% qualifying record, before leading every lap of the opener.
Title rival Pinkerton lined up second, with Shane Stoney leading row two from Dean Warriner. However, with a dry line emerging, tyre choice became a crucial factor. Both front row starters opted for dry Hankooks, as did Stoney, while Warriner took the softer wets. It all went wrong for Stoney from the start, when he stalled on the green flag lap and had to start last.
As Harper-Ellam bolted away, Warriner’s wets gripped better and he displaced Pinkerton for second into Paddock Hill Bend. That set up a brilliant tussle between the defending Warriner, Pinkerton and the recovering Stoney, who took just three laps to make it back into the top four. However, his progress was stunted when he copped a 10-second penalty for an out of position start as he attempted to retake his original grid slot on the green flag lap.
Despite the censure, Stoney persisted and soon latched onto the fight for second. Things were shaken up when both Warriner and Pinkerton were delayed by a backmarker into Paddock. Pinkerton was worst affected and lost ground to the charging Stoney, who then accidentally clipped the back of Warriner at Druids, forcing bodywork to rub on his rear tyre. All three cars continued and Warriner defended hard until Stoney found a way past at Graham Hill Bend.
However, with Stoney carrying that extra 10 seconds, he was demoted to an eventual fourth as Harper-Ellam took a crushing win from the promoted Warriner and Pinkerton.
The result meant Harper-Ellam closed the points gap to Pinkerton to 30, with 41 still on offer.
The deciding race was a more straightforward event. The threat of rain abated and the field was greeted with a bone dry, but chilly, final dash.
Harper-Ellam’s second-fastest time kept him on pole, with Stoney alongside and Pinkerton right behind. Yet again, Harper-Ellam bolted as soon as the lights went out and pulled a sizable gap to Stoney in the early laps.
Pinkerton meanwhile, well aware that just a top-10 would make him champion, kept a watching brief in third. The order was threatened when both Julian Lay and Warriner tangled at McLaren, summoning the safety car.
However, Harper-Ellam judged the restart to perfection and was untouchable on his way to an eighth win of the year, ahead of Stoney and an emotional Pinkerton – the new champion thanking his Avidity Motorsport team from the podium.
Mackenzie Walker capped an impressive debut SR1 weekend with fourth ahead of new Rookie Cup champion William Hunt, who recovered from a tough first outing to beat Rookie rival Chris Short to the laurels.
Warriner recovered to seventh, ahead of Gavin McAlpine and Motor Sport magazine's Lyndon McNeil, who acquitted himself brilliantly in his first ever race weekend to score an impressive ninth place.
David Tagg recovered from an early spin to score the season’s final Fangio Trophy win in 10th, and with it secured the class honours ahead of Paul Clark.
Ryan Harper-Ellam, double race winner, second in championship: “It’s been an amazing year, and to score another perfect weekend here is just brilliant. It’s obviously a shame to lose the overall championship, but I can’t grumble with eight race wins in my first year of Radical racing. Well done to James, he’s raced brilliantly all year. We’ve raced hard and we’ve raced fair. What a brilliant season.”
James Pinkerton, two third places, champion: “It’s just so surreal. To hear the word champion associated with me… I only sat in a race car a year ago and now… it’s just… I’m so happy! It’s been a long and a hard year and Ryan has been an incredible rival all season. I knew what I had to do so took things cautiously in race one, but in race two I was driving around just thinking about the numbers, so there was definitely more pace on the table, but I was probably a bit scared of going for it. But what a year! I definitely plan to stay with Radical racing next season.”
William Hunt, eighth and fifth, Rookie Cup champion: “I struggled a bit this weekend as it’s the first time I’ve raced here and the changing conditions made it quite tough to find the car’s limits, but it all came together in race two. I knew I had a decent points lead and saw Chris catching me in the last race, but I kept my head and stuck to my lines and just got to the flag first. To win the Rookie title is brilliant. It was my aim from the start of the year. I definitely want to be back and go for the overall next season.”
David Tagg, 13th and 10th, Fangio Trophy champion: “It’s fantastic to have won the class title, especially after such a hard race. I spun early on and had to recover from there and managed to get back past Paul and get the job done. I’d have to say to anybody looking to get involved just to do it. It’s been a brilliant year and I’d love to come back next season.”