The 2018 SR1 Cup title fight cranked up yet another notch at Cadwell Park this weekend. Double victory for Ryan Harper-Ellam at the challenging Lincolnshire circuit sees championship leader, James Pinkerton’s advantage slashed from 26 to 14 points with just two rounds remaining.
There’s been nothing to choose between the two this season, each sharing the spoils so far. But with Cadwell ranking among Harper-Ellam’s favourite tracks, the 2017 Shootout winner held the upper hand against circuit debutant Pinkerton and planned to take full advantage.
Harper-Ellam got his Cadwell campaign off to a flying start by maintaining his 100 per cent SR1 Cup pole-winning record, turning that into an emphatic fourth win of the season. The Brackley ace managed to fend off a flying rolling start from Pinkerton, the duo running wheel-to-wheel before Harper-Ellam secured the inside line and the lead heading in to Coppice.
From there the 20 year-old set a blistering pace aboard the Gen 2, 175bhp SR1. Despite running on old rubber and on the back foot in terms of circuit knowledge, Pinkerton (Ramsey St Mary’s) delivered a faultless drive to a second place points haul, his best race lap just 0.103 off Harper-Ellam’s.
Will Hunt (Brighton) scored his third consecutive outright podium having applied race-long pressure to Chris Short (Wolverhampton). But a moment for Short approaching Barn in the final moments allowed Hunt to sneak through to the final step on the rostrum and cement his clean sweep of Rookie Cup class victories.
Slightly disappointed with his race one form, Pinkerton was determined to bring the fight back to Harper-Ellam around the tight and twisty, undulating Louth circuit. With Pinkerton once again nailing the start, the top duo ran millimetres apart down the pit straight and in to Coppice before Harper-Ellam moved ahead.
Harper-Ellam may have taken the early advantage, but by lap four Pinkerton had posted the top race lap time. From there the pair swapped fastest laps as the gap ebbed and flowed by mere fractions of a second, Pinkerton edging within 0.6 seconds with six minutes remaining before losing over a second lapping traffic.
Mounting a final push, Pinkerton posted one more purple lap on the penultimate tour before traffic looked to play a part once again, this time with Harper-Ellam losing ground. Although Pinkerton tried to take full advantage to draw alongside heading towards the line, Harper-Ellam hung on by 0.233 seconds.
Overcoming his race one disappointment, Short bounced back with a stellar race two start to overhaul and keep Rookie Cup rival Hunt at bay for third.
Julian Lay (Bampton) sealed his fourth consecutive class win to move to the top of the Fangio class battle, whilst Mark Williams (Dalkeith) took his second top-six finish of the weekend.
Ryan Harper-Ellam (Winner, race one and two): “Race one was good fun, I love it here, I always have. The circuit suits me and the SR1 is awesome round here, it moves around just enough for it to be so much fun with enough grip and power to be really quick through the fast stuff.
“I knew James was a bit more hungry in race two, as he knew what I was going to pull out of the bag, so the first corner was a lot tighter. There was just enough room for both of us, and the rest of it was just back and forth. He got a bit unlucky with traffic and then at the end I came up to some traffic and was basically at a standstill and he caught me, so I’m relieved to win. The battle between us is making the championship much closer, a lot of fun and it’s putting on some great racing. For me, I’d never say no to it being a little easier, but it’s fun so I can’t complain.”
James Pinkerton (Second, race one and two): “It feels great to retain the championship lead. I knew it was going to be a hard weekend, Ryan’s king round here. I knew I had to really switch something on for the second race and it came together. I love the track, and I got some good times so I’m happy with it. I’m really happy to get the fastest lap, it’s a shame on the last lap I had a 27 second lap [on the cards] and we just both hit a bit of traffic which put an end to that, but I’m still happy.”
Will Hunt (Third, race one): “It was very hot out there today! I didn’t get a good start and Chris got me, so I spent most of the race playing catch-up. Sadly towards the end of the race he made a little mistake, which gave me the opportunity to take the place but I suffered a bit of rear end damage in the process. But I’m really happy to get third and extend my lead in the Rookie Cup.”
Chris Short (Third, race two): “I’m so happy with this result, it makes up for the disappointment of race one where I was third for all of the race until spinning at the last corner, so I’m really pleased to be going home with one of these trophies. I got another good start and got ahead, and just had to get my head down and concentrate on what I was doing because I knew that Will was on a very similar pace. He was literally in my mirrors for the whole 20 minutes, but I kept on track. I’m really chuffed to be back on the podium, probably the best fun I’ve had in the car actually.”