Dominik Jackson successfully defended his Radical Challenge title to be crowned 2019 Champion in the #ChallengeDecider at Donington Park, becoming the first in series history to claim back-to-back spoils in the process.
The RAW Motorsports charge from Lincoln had to endure a roller-coaster weekend in challenging conditions to achieve his goal. Entering the season finale 57 points ahead of 360 Racing’s Jérôme de Sadeleer, and with Fix Auto with Hart GT’s Jac Constable still in the picture, Jackson saw his advantage cut to 35 points after de Sadeleer’s race one dominance.
The former SR1 Cup Champion then took up the title lead following Jackson’s DNF on Saturday afternoon. In the end, a stellar drive from 15th on the grid, perfect pit stop timing and heart-breaking issues for de Sadeleer ensured Jackson double glory.
Whilst Constable may have been put out of the championship fight in the first outing of the weekend, the 21 year-old from Fleet collected the remaining race victories to cement his third place in the standings.
Swiss racer, de Sadeleer got his title assault off to the best possible start, converting pole position into his seventh win of the season amid a dramatic first 50-minute encounter impacted by sporadic heavy rain showers.
Once clear of the early safety car, de Sadeeler, Jackson, Marcus Clutton and Constable took off line astern at the restart. Tip-toeing into Redgate as the rain continued to fall, a slither wide from Jackson allowed Clutton and Constable to slip through, dropping Jackson to fourth. Meanwhile, half the field opted to pit and switch to wets – a decision that would split the field and ensure lapping traffic would become a significant factor.
As de Sadeleer set about pulling a gap on Clutton, Jackson played the waiting game. A game that paid off as no sooner were those stops complete, the rain eased off. That left the leaders to lap their way through the field, which in turn gave Jackson the opportunity to re-take Constable on the cusp of the pit stop window, when the rain began again.
Carrying 15 success seconds to de Sadeleer’s maximum 20 into the mandatory stops, Jackson predictably emerged ahead of de Sadeleer, but then Clutton flowed out of the pits and split the pair. As traffic once again played a huge part, de Sadeleer pulled off a daring move to leap-frog them both in the thick of taking backmarkers. Although the gap between the top trio continued ebb and flow in traffic, de Sadeleer never looked back and the order remained unchanged.
Privateer Joe Stables delivered an outstanding recovery drive to finish fourth from 20th on the grid, ahead of SR1 Cup racer Chris Short on his Challenge debut. Chris and Daniel Headlam completed the top six, taking a convincing Team Challenge win the process.
Constable finished seventh after opting to change to wet tyres at the mandatory stops whilst a penalty for pit stop manning saw him re-join in ninth. Although he battled back to seventh, he was sadly out of the outright title fight. Jackson’s lead, meanwhile, was cut to 35 points.
Jackson got the start of the field for race two on Saturday afternoon, leading clean away from de Sadeleer, Constable and Clutton until a multi-car incident at Redgate required a red flag stoppage and meant he had to do it all again.
He did just that, leading from Constable at the second attempt, while de Sadeleer trailed in third having lost time with an excursion on to the grass exiting the chicane. As Jackson tried to edge clear, de Sadeleer gradually recovered the gap to Constable to challenge up the inside under braking into Redgate at the start of lap nine, only for Constable to successfully counter.
Making a move stick one lap later, de Sadeleer set off after Jackson and the pair proceeded to trade fastest laps. Yet Jackson was still able to keep de Sadeleer at bay 2.7s behind, until a mechanical failure ended his race at the Old Hairpin, gifting de Sadleer the race and championship lead.
Constable, however, refused to give up and launched a final attack approaching Redgate as the leading duo negotiated a backmarker. Although that move was unsuccessful and de Sadeleer took the flag first, a five second penalty for track limits dropped the Swiss driver to second and left Constable to claim his fourth Challenge win. That plot twist left de Sadeleer leading Jackson by just two points heading into the final 50-minute feature race of the season.
Series newcomer Chris Preen took his maiden Challenge podium after a thrilling race-long battle with Elliot Goodman and SR1 Cup graduate Short, while Spencer Bourne completed the top six.
Nick Hull took his maiden Team Challenge class win, 13th overall, in only his second outing in the series.
Heavy rain showers returned for the final encounter on Sunday morning and ultimately led to a race littered by three safety car periods, two of which fell in the first 20 minutes.
De Sadeleer managed to overhaul pole-sitter Constable to lead throughout the disjointed early stages and, once under green, got the hammer down to pull out a 5.3 second lead ahead of the mandatory stops. Jackson, meanwhile, was steadily climbing the order from 15th on the grid, to lie fourth and chasing Clutton, who put in a blinding opening stint to charge from 17th spot.
With a dry line beginning to emerge, Jackson opted to stop early in the pit stop window and return to battle shod with a set of Hankook slick tyres. De Sadeleer followed suit two minutes later but saw his championship chances disappear as the team struggled with a stuck rear wheel nut, leaving him to re-join over a lap down, just as a third safety car period was required to recover Mark Richards from the chicane gravel.
Back to green flag racing for the final time with 13 minutes remaining and Constable took up where he left off, only extending his advantage whilst Clutton sized up Preen for second, taking the place with an undercut at Redgate with eight minutes to go.
That in turn dropped Preen into the clutches of Jackson and the pursuing Stables, making it a three-car fight for the final place on the podium in the closing minutes. Although Jackson contemplated an ambitious move into Redgate entering the final five minutes, he bided his time to take third with just two minutes to go.
Despite trading places with Stables, Preen managed to re-take the place to hold on to fourth, while Spencer Bourne completed the top six.
Chris and Daniel Headlam took the Team Challenge class win, seventh overall, stealing the class championship crown from season-long leaders Anton Zakharov and Amir Feyzulin, by just six points.
Dominik Jackson, RAW Motorsports - Radical Challenge Champion 2019; “I’m just letting it sink in really. It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster the last 48 hours. To drop from 57 points ahead to two behind was pretty hard. I just tried to remain optimistic. Starting at the back in the wet I had a bit of advantage as I could work my way through.
“Today was a mix of things that gave us the win. We called the pit stop at the right time, Jérôme had an issue in his stop and the safety cars affected us in different ways. I was thankful to get to the end. The RAW Motorsports guys have done a fantastic job, especially this weekend.”
Jérôme de Sadeleer, 360 Racing (Winner race one): “I’m over the moon with the win. It was tricky staying on slicks when it started raining, but I had a huge amount of fun. I need to try and win every race if I’m to be in with a shot of the title and I still need a lot of luck as I know Dom is going to be pushing hard.”
Jac Constable, Fix Auto with Hart GT (Winner race two and three): “After race one and having some big issues to come back and take the win was needed. I got a really good start in race two. Had a good battle with Jérôme but managed to get back on the pace and pressure him and I was lucky with the penalty. Race three wasn't the easiest conditions I’ve ever raced, I won’t lie! We ended up nearly a lap clear at one point by reading the safety car. A double win, third in the championship. We wouldn’t have even thought about that at the start of the year, we can't be happier.”
For full race results visit www.tsl-timing.com
Radical Challenge 2019 Championship Standings (after 7 rounds)
1. Dominik Jackson 1097
2. Jérôme de Sadeleer 1073
3. Jac Constable 1020
4. John MacLeod 675
5. Elliot Goodman 665
6. Spencer Bourne 512
1. Chris Headlam / Daniel Headlam 301
2. Anton Zakharov / Amir Feyzulin 295
3. Nick Hull / Richard Avery 12