Oulton Park: Round Eight
ANOTHER DOUBLE FOR SOLLEY, BUT SAUNDERS LOOKS SAFE AT THE TOP
Alex Solley secured his second consecutive winning double in the Junior Saloons at Oulton Park, but with next weekends planned finale at Brands Hatch looking doubtful, Lewis Saunders is the Champion in waiting.
Charlie Hand was on pole for the first race, but it was red-flagged at the start, with Molly Dodd, Scott Sumpton, Harry Rice and Bradley Orr all eliminated at Old Hall.
From the restart, Saunders, led Hand, Solley and Harvey Caton as they opened an early gap.
Cresting Hilltop for the second time Hand started to make his move for the lead, while behind them Deagen Fairclough had started to close in fifth, from James Black, while Ruben Hage demoted Ashley Gregory for seventh at Knickerbrook.
“I had second at the start but was driving for the Championship, so I didn’t take so many risks and Alex caught up,” said Saunders,
Hand’s challenge had succeeded and by the end of the lap he was in front, Saunders retook at Old Hall before Solley joined in to make it three again at Knickerbrook. Caton was also under pressure from Fairclough and Black.
The two separate battles had both closed up on lap four, making six in a row through Cascades. A lap later Fairclough knocked Caton sideways at Cascades, before straight-lining the chicane.
As the fight for second intensified, Saunders got a break, but it didn’t last long, once Solley had got past Hand. “I struggled to find a gap at the start, but I braked later when Charlie got messed up and went ahead up Clay Hill,” said Solley.
Solley had begun to close and led out of Old Hall on the eighth lap, while Fairclough was trying to regain fourth from Black, but more contact with Caton, leaving his rival being tapped sideways at Knickerbrook. “I went down the inside on Lewis, but then tried not to watch their tussle behind,” Solley explained.
The three were all back in line though, until it was side by side through Knickerbrook and up Clay Hill for Saunders and Hand over second place.
Solley was left clear to secure the win, but Saunders and Hand charged up to Island for the final time. “We were having a right ding dong, but I think he out braked himself at Island and that was that,” Saunders added.
“I had a terrible start, too much wheelspin. But Lewis and I swapped a few times but I had a wheel on the dirt at the chicane, then tried to follow Solley when he got the lead. But I got forced wide at Island and couldn’t turn in,” Hand explained.
Saunders came home a clear second, with Fairclough regaining third from Black on the last lap, only to be penalised back to fourth for taking an unfair advantage.
Hand recovered to finish fifth, with Hage rounding off the top six. “I pushed hard to try and close the gap but locked up at the Hairpin on the last lap after Caton closed the gap on him to 0.178 secs. “I had a good race until I was tapped at the chicane and couldn’t get the right gear on the exit,” Caton added.
Gregory was eighth, with Archie Tompson and Ben Greenhill completing the top 10.
If race one was close, race two was even closer at the start, with Saunders and Hand rubbing door handles through Cascades and Solley inches behind.
Over Hilltop Saunders led, before Solley got by into Knickerbrook, only for Hand to go by up Clay Hill.
It was still close on the second lap. But Hand had broken clear and left the Saunders and Solley duel to be joined by Fairclough, who forced Solley onto the grass through Cascades.
With Saunders arriving at Knickerbrook sideways, Solley was second again on the exit and by the end of lap four Solley had joined Hand in the clear.
The lead suddenly came down dramatically and Solley led again over Deer Leap on lap five, only to swap back at Old Hall. It was side by side at the chicane, but Hand held it as Saunders, Fairclough and Caton fought for third.
But into Island a lap later Solley was forced wide and dropped to fourth, only to find himself fighting for the lead again with Saunders, after Hand’s throttle cable broke at Old Hall and he had to park up Old Hall.
The race was red-flagged and taken back to lap five, with Solley declared the winner, from Saunders, Fairclough, Caton and Hage.
Gregory was sixth and Black, Archie Handy, James Wallis and Greenhill completed the top 10.
The final rounds are scheduled for this weekend at Brands Hatch, so watch this space to see if it happens, either way, Lewis Saunders looks set to be crowned 2020 Champion.
Race Report & Image credit to Peter Scherer.