Heathcote takes storming win in second Classic Mini Challenge race at Silverstone
In a thrilling final race at the 2021 Classic, Nathan Heathcote beat Endaf Owens and Bill Sollis to improve on his second place in the first Classic Mini Challenge race of the weekend. Heathcote asserted his position at the front from lap 2, after which Owens moved past pole-sitter Sollis as well. Owens closed up on Heathcote at three-quarters of the race but the rallycross star regained enough margin towards the end to win by seven tenths, with Sollis in third, four seconds behind.
In their three-wheeled dance across the Silverstone circuit, Smiths Jeff and Aaron as well as Chris Middlehurst at one time put Sollis under huge pressure for third place before Sollis left them to fight on their own. Jeff Smith prevailed in this most intense battle of the race, leading Aaron Smith and Middlehurst across the line.
Ten seconds further down the road, William Dyrdal came out on top in a similarly well-contested fight for seventh place, Dyrdal leading home Phil Bullen-Brown, Nick Paddy, Michael Cullen and Jonathon Page.
In the race that would pull the curtains on the 2021 Classic, the track was in its best shape all weekend, with the sun out and still plenty of fans around. One driver not starting the race was Chris Morgan who had his left front wheel fall off his Mini on the warm-up lap.
After the start, Bill Sollis and Nathan Heathcote were side-by-side all the way to the Loop before Sollis gave way, but towards Brooklands Sollis slipstreamed his way back past again. Behind them, Endaf Owens, Aaron Smith and Chris Middlehurst were snapping at their boots, but just as Sollis looked in control he went wide out of Club, allowing Heathcote back into the lead.
So into lap 2, Heathcote was able to make a break from Sollis, with Owens slightly losing ground. Meanwhile, Jeff Smith had joined the fun up front to snatch fifth from Middlehurst, while Dan Wheeler latched on in seventh. Behind Wheeler, a three-second gap had opened to to the next group led by Nick Paddy, Michael Cullen and William Dyrdal.
On lap 3, Owens squeezed past Sollis into Abbey while the two Smiths put the erstwhile leader under pressure too. Heathcote meanwhile had broken the tow to Owens who himself had put some light between himself and Sollis, who was still chased by Aaron and Jeff Smiths, with Middlehurst and Wheeler trying to hang on.
Most eyes were now firmly on the two Smiths who put in a concerted side-by-side effort to pass Sollis before Jeff moved ahead of Aaron, with Middlehurst shuffling back to sixth only moments later. At the front, though, Owens was closing on the leader inch by inch, setting fastest lap of the race in the process. In the second group, meanwhile, Dyrdal had assumed the lead ahead of Cullen, Paddy, Phil Bullen-Brown and Jonathon Page. Ten seconds behind Page, a third group had formed in which Ollie Streek, David Ogden, Jo Polley, Hans Beckert, Roy Alderslade, Matthew Page and the Mini Countryman of Mark Burnett all debated 12th place.
With eight minutes left, Heathcote had just three tenths in hand on Owens, while Sollis had dropped away from the top two, his mirrors still full of three Minis pedalled by the Smiths with Middlehurst sandwiched in between. One lap later, Owens looked to have picked up some draft again as they left the other four three full seconds adrift. On lap 7, though, Heathcote had the gap to Owens back up to a full second, as Sollis had eased away from Jeff Smith and Aaron Smith, the latter having demoted Middlehurst back to sixth – and then, into Brooklands, Jeff went wide to allow Aaron up into fourth.
Now in a commanding position, Heathcote did enough to claim victory ahead of Owens and Sollis, with Jeff Smith recuperating to claim fourth ahead of Aaron Smith and Chris Middlehurst. Dyrdal won the race of the second group, beating Bullen-Brown, Paddy, Cullen and Page (J.), with Ogden crossing the line first in the third group, heading Streek, Polley and Alderslade.
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