Smith stars to win opening Pre-66 Mini encounter at Brands
Jeff Smith took the victory in the opening Masters Pre-66 Mini race of the weekend at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, a controlled win from pole position qualifier Tom Bell.
Smith made a rocket-ship start from fifth, catapulting him into a position to challenge Bell immediately at the cambered Paddock Hill Bend right-hander, with Michael Cullen maintaining his grid slot of third.
Taking the lead on lap one, Smith had Bell just 0.2 seconds behind into the second tour but he increased his advantage to over a second the next time around and was never realistically threatened.
By lap seven, Bell had managed to close to within 0.7 seconds but leader Smith responded immediately by setting the fastest lap of 1m48.919 seconds. Former British Touring Car Championship racer Smith ultimately won by 1.1 seconds.
Behind the lead duo, Ian Curley took a lonely third place some seven seconds shy of the battle ahead. Curley was well placed to challenge Bell during the early exchanges, having moved up from fourth on the grid, but after losing some ground on lap five he had an uneventful race thereafter.
The major battle was over fourth, with nothing to separate Cullen and Nick Swift for the bulk of the contest The latter had started the race second on the grid but slipped back to fifth and wasn’t able to overturn Cullen, no matter how hard he tried.
By lap six, just 0.175 seconds separated them and Swift produced a great cut-back out of Druids to momentarily move ahead. Cullen, though, hit back on the GP loop and was able to keep his rival at bay.
Swift certainly deserved marks for effort, trying to pass multiple times at Hawthorn during the closing stages but to no avail. Ollie Streek was a distant sixth ahead of Dave Edgecombe, David Ogden, Nick Paddy and Spencer Wanstall.
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