Having suffered heartbreak at the season opener at Oulton Park, Ryan Harper-Ellam gave his SR1 Cup Championship aspirations the perfect shot in the arm by winning both outings during round two at Snetterton.
Brackley-based Harper-Ellam was the star of the weekend in Norfolk, securing twin pole positions before beating changing conditions to convert them into twin wins – his maiden victories in the SR1 Cup.
The SR1 Shootout winner timed his qualifying run to perfection, opting to pit under a safety car period before rejoining the track in clean air to pump in two laps good enough for the top spot in both of Saturday’s races.
Championship leader James Pinkerton (Ramsey St Mary’s) would line up alongside him, with SR1 newcomer Chris Preen (Studley) and Will Hunt (Brighton) sharing the second row.
The field switched to a rolling start ahead of race one, which alleviated much of Harper-Ellam’s pre-race concern. “At Oulton starts were my real weakness, so hopefully a rolling start will go a bit better!” he said.
Harper-Ellam nailed the throttle as the lights went out to slot ahead of Pinkerton into Riches. Harper-Ellam’s cause was helped further when Preen managed to squeeze past Pinkerton to snatch second, delaying both of the chasing cars.
With two cars battling behind him, Harper-Ellam surged into a comfortable lead by the time Pinkerton managed to reassert himself in second with a fine move on the brakes into Murrays.
Pinkerton pushed hard in his Gen 1 machine to repeatedly set the race’s fastest lap, but fell short of catching Harper-Ellam. Preen capped his SR1 debut with a podium, and in doing so secured the Fangio Trophy class honours.
GT3 racer Ollie Wilkinson (Leeds) secured a fine fourth place on his first outing in the SR1s, having emerged ahead in a tense battle with Julian Lay, Rookie Class winner Will Hunt and Chris Short.
Gavin McAlpine led Mark Williams home in eighth, while Paul Clark beat fellow Fangio Trophy runners David Tagg, Peter Devlin and Doug Newman home.
With one success already in the bag, Harper-Ellam was well placed to do the double from a similar position in race two. Aside from one crucial difference: rain.
Persistent showers soaked the track across the course of the afternoon, but abated shortly before the race start. It handed an interesting choice to the field – stick with dry Hankooks, or go for the softer, wet compound?
Most of the frontrunners opted to play it safe on the wets, but Pinkerton didn’t.
“It looked dry in the paddock so I didn’t change tyres, but when I got out onto the track it was soaking wet,” he rued. “I had no grip at all.”
Harper-Ellam again shot away as Preen shuffled past the slithering Pinkerton, who ran too deep on the brakes into Wilson hairpin when he tried to slow the car down. With Pinkerton falling back, one driver on the move was Wilkinson, who put in a phenomenal opening tour to rise from eighth to run second by the end of lap one.
“I went around the outside, seemed to miss all the trouble and passed about four cars into the hairpin,” Wilkinson said. “I just kept going, then suddenly realised I was in second!”
Wilkinson tried to chase Harper-Ellam, but had his mirrors filled with Preen’s car, so was more tuned for defence than attack. Harper-Ellam again ran comfortably clear, until the safety car was called to clear the stricken car of Hunt, which had stopped at Riches.
The race restarted for a single-lap dash to the flag. Harper-Ellam held his nerve to judge the restart nicely, pulling a few lengths over Wilkinson to secure his dream double. Wilkinson initially took the flag second, but was later penalised back to fourth for being out of position at the start of the race, having re-taken his grid position after spinning to the back on the green flag lap.
Double Fangio winner Preen was promoted to second, with Pinkerton a surprised third ahead of Lay, Short and Williams. Peter Devlin, Paul Clark and Kevin Childs rounded out the top 10.
The results mean that Pinkerton now leads Harper-Ellam in the title chase by 27 points heading into round three at Silverstone on June 23.
Ryan Harper-Ellam (Winner race one & two): “What a perfect weekend. I couldn’t have dreamed for better after what happened at Oulton. In race one I did a lot of the hard work at the start and got a bit lucky with the battling behind me, and from then on I just managed the gap and tried to look after the tyres.
“Race two was a tricky one. Again I managed to get a good gap straight away but the track was pretty slippery and I had to exercise a bit of caution. I was gutted when the safety car appeared as it destroyed my lead. I just had to keep my head for that final lap and not do anything stupid.”
James Pinkerton (Second race one, fourth race two): “It’s not been the best of weekends, but I’m still leading the championship, so it’s not all bad. The start of race one was pretty tight and I just lost out, which was a shame as I showed I had the pace in the car with the fastest laps. Race two was pretty much a disaster after the tyre decision, but at least it made for an entertaining on-board video! To get third in the end is really surprising, but great for the championship.”
Chris Preen (Third race one & two): “It was an interesting first lap in race one. I don’t think I got quite enough heat into the tyres so it was all a bit tail-happy, but I got it settled down nicely. But it was a good battle with James. I’m finding that I can brake harder in these cars with each outing, so it’s all good experience.”
For full results see www.tsl-timing.com.