FIRST WIN FOR HAGE IN BRANDS THRILLER
It was a sombre mood at Brands Hatch following the previous days marshal fatality, but some clean and thrilling races from the Junior Saloons helped lift the spirits of a healthy crowd.
Qualifying was desperately close, but Harvey Caton just snatched pole by 0.034 secs from Charlie Hand. “I got lucky and had some clear laps early on,” said Caton. “I’m happy with the front row though,” Hand added.
As the lights went out Caton held the lead into Paddock Hill Bend, from Hand, Ruben Hage and Aaron Walker, but by the time they reached Surtees, Alfie Jeakins was into fourth.
The top three soon made a break, but both Jeakins and Walker were missing after contact with Oliver Cottam at Druids. “I got hit my about three-cars going into Druids, I was on the grass but managed to miss the wall,” said Jeakins.
Cottam emerged in fourth, from Walker and top rookie Will Redford sixth, while Ashley Gregory, Jamie Petters, Mathew Cripps and Tommy Gilham followed in close formation.
Hand had got the lead on the second lap, as both he and Hage relegated Caton to third. He was just starting to ease away, when the safety car was called out while Arwen
Graham’s car was removed from the exit of Graham Hill Bend.
There were a few spots of rain in the air too, but after two laps under caution it was green flags again from lap six.
Walker had managed jump Cottam to reclaim fourth and Redford was looking to challenge too.
Although Hand was trying to extend his lead again, the second placed duel was staying close. Into Druids Caton was on the attack and they were almost side by side before Caton went through into Surtees.
Walker was out after being hit in the rear by Cottam and Redford had also lost out to both Gregory and Petters.
By lap 10 the top three were well clear, but it remained any one from five for fourth place, with Cottam heading Gregory, Petters, Cripps and the recovering Jeakins.
It was still wide open at the front and with Hage briefly losing touch, Caton was free to challenge for Hand’s lead.
But as Hage closed in again, Caton led out of Druids on lap 12, but Hand took it back into Surtees,
With all three heading for Druids side by side a lap later, Hage went in third and came out as the new leader. “They had started to get away, but their fight allowed me back and and we went three abreast into Druids,” he explained.
But there was more dramas when the rain started to fall as they started the last lap. Caton was back in front out of
Graham Hill, but as they approached Surtees for the final time, all three slid onto the grass.
Hage finally won the drag through Clearways, with 0.176 secs in hand over Caton, as Hand settled for a safe third. “The rain was perfect timing, but I was almost sideways through Clearways when I got the lead back,” said the victorious Hage.
“I hadn’t realised it was the last lap,” said Caton. “I was happy to sit there, as Harvey and Ruben were really going for it, just to see if anything happened,” said Hand.
Gregory had managed to oust Cottam for fourth three laps from home, with Redford finishing top rookie and sixth overall. “Fourth from ninth was OK,” said Gregory.
“I lost the rookie lead when it popped out of gear at Graham Hill Bend, then the wipers hit my kill switch on the slowing down lap,” said Redford.
Petters still had his best finish, second rookie and seventh overall. “I lost out when I tried to challenge Ashley into Paddock, but the rain came too late for me,” he explained.
Jeakins, Cripps and James Wallis completed the top 10, with Loui Hounsell third in the rookies and 11th overall.
Published for the Junior Saloon Car Championship by Peter Scherer, August 2nd 2021