Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Junior Saloon Car Championship racer Charlie Hand had a career best weekend at Cadwell Park, with a brace of solid second places.
The Crawley based teen is in his second season of racing in the junior formula, which caters for 14-17 year olds and now runs with Westbourne Motorsport. They have also given him work experience in their workshops, as well as placing him on their driver development scheme, following a successful 2019, his first racing cars. After the qualifying session at Cadwell Hand was second quickest and a mere 0.191 secs off pole position. “I got my fastest lap about three quarters into the session, then didn’t really get another clear lap after that,” explained.
“Everything felt good really, maybe there were a couple of corners I could have improved on, but overall I was happy with that,” he added.
As the lights went out he made an excellent start and led as they climbed the hill into Charlies. Both poleman Alex Solley and former Champion Lewis Saunders were in the fight too and on the second lap Solley sneaked ahead. “I got a good start, just took off, but then Alex got a run on me into the Gooseneck,” he said. Saunders then closed in to threaten for second place, but Hand was still focussed on regaining his lost lead. “Alex made a mistake at the Gooseneck, touched the grass and ran wide, so I was back in the lead again,” he explained. But Saunders seized his chance too and for a couple of laps they ran nose to tail, barely inches apart. “I knew Lewis was there and knew he was going to try and get me,” he added.
It was into Charlies on lap seven that Hand was forced to surrender, but with the race red flagged early, he was still a clear second and only 0.866 secs away from a maiden victory. “It was close all the way and a great race for me,” he said.
For the second race he was third on the grid and starting directly behind rival and race one winner Saunders. He managed to follow Saunders and slot into second place from the start and although he quickly consolidated his own place, he started to lose touch with the lead too.
“Yes a good start again, better than I expected, but I made one mistake at the Gooseneck, he broke the tow and Lewis was gone,” he admitted.
The whole of the lead group became spread out fairly early into the race. “I pushed hard but need to look after the car with our next races at Croft this weekend. I just couldn’t catch Lewis though, but I finished the race clear second, my car intact and with both mirrors n too, so got to be happy,” he concluded.
Any disappointments Lewis Saunders had at not retaining his Junior Saloon Car Championship title last season, were quickly erased with an outstanding double win at Cadwell Park. Despite the delayed start to the season Saunders was quickly into his groove in qualifying. “It seemed quite effortless as we had done all the hard work testing at Croft, so just got into it,” he explained after setting third quickest time only 0.199secs off pole position. “I felt there was possibly more to come, but not sure where at the moment,” he admitted. So it was the second row of the grid for the Bampton teenager, slotting into a challenging third as the lights went out and the action started.
After applying some early pressure to the duelling Alex Solley and Charlie Hand, he started to sit off the back and patiently waited for his chance. His decision proved to be the right one, as Solley made a mistake on lap five and touched the grass, giving Hand the lead with Saunders back in his wheel tracks. “It was entertaining for me, sitting back to find the strength of my own car and just see what happened. Alex Solley was unlucky and just lost it, so I was ready to go for it,” he said. After piling the pressure on Hand for a couple of laps, Saunders made his decisive move at Charlies on lap seven. “I had been watching to see how he reacted to my pressure, he defended to some extent and I knew it would be hard to get by, but I got him and managed to get away a little,” he said after sealing his round one victory by 0.886 secs. It was the same top three at the head of the grid for race two, but this time Saunders was in pole position.
He made a blistering start and started to pull away from Hand and Solley from the opening lap, after a Hand made a slight mistake and lost the tow. “It was great, I kept pushing hard and staying focused for the whole race though, as I didn’t want to make a mistake, even though I had an early gap,” he explained. Having made a few set-up changes after the opening race which had obviously worked, Lewis started the season in the best possible way, taking his second win of the weekend by well over nine seconds. “I was hitting all my apexes and getting the braking just right for the whole race, it felt like 110%,” he enthused.
As ever Lewis was grateful to Dad Ralph and Chris for the immaculate car preparation, plus the ongoing support and input he receives from British Touring Car team Ciceley Motorsport.
It’s less than a week before he is out again too, with rounds three and four taking place at Croft Circuit this weekend.
Published by Peter Scherer