Rallying

British Rallycross: Bennett wins opener as Patrick O’Donovan impresses

Feature Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

Oliver Bennett scored his first ever outright Supercar victory after a dominant display at Lydden Hill. His closest challenge came from debutant, Patrick O’Donovan.

At the start of the final it was Bennett who launched into the lead. Derek Tohill was hot on his heals ahead of Julian Godfrey, Ollie O’Donovan and Roger Thomas. Patrick O’Donovan led the trio who dived into the joker lap. Tristan Ovenden and Steve Hill were line-astern behind.

Godfrey and Thomas responded on lap 2 and took their joker laps. Godfrey slotted in just behind the younger O’Donovan while Thomas dropped into 7th. After a series of quick laps second and third took the detour route. Ollie O’Donovan dropped back to 5th place. Tohill, meanwhile could do nothing but drop behind the new second place holder, Patrick. Coming up to North Bend Hairpin O’Donovan went defensive and Tohill looked to get the cutback. Tohill went onto the grass as O’Donovan pulled out of the corner, holding onto second.

Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

Tohill had failed to use his best chance and had to settle for third on the road. The rest of the field remained static for the last couple of laps. It meant that Bennett cruised to victory by nearly 6 seconds. This gave him his first ever rallycross victory in an event that may be his last competitive outing in the self developed Mini. With Bennett a guest entry and not scoring points it gave Patrick O’Donovan the championship victory with Tohill second. Godfrey ended up third followed by Ollie O’Donovan, Ovenden, Thomas and Hill.

Tohill was given a verbal warning for the contact while battling with Patrick O’Donovan. However, this didn’t affect the finishing result.

Patrick O’Donovan “I don’t really know how that happened. In the final we had a good start. I managed to avoid the traffic. I had Sam telling me on the radio, defend, defend, defend. I don’t think I could have taken any more kerb or grass if I tried to.”

 

Derek Tohill “Lost the clutch in the final. Lot of revs but not going anywhere. You don’t need the clutch to change gear but you could hear it actually slipping in high load corners. I didn’t even know he’d jokered. I was kind of carrying the car home at that point.”

 

Ollie O’Donovan “Roger Thomas almost got me because I was so focused on [Patrick] ahead. What a race to watch. For an 18-year old to put in that performance, bloody well done.”

Semi-Final

Bennett took a commanding lead off the start but there was battling behind. Ovenden looked to assume second place before Patrick O’Donovan was able to find a gap up the inside. The pair made light contact though both came off unscathed. Dom Flitney slotted into 4th place with Hill leading Mike Sellar and Bradley Westgarth into the joker lap. 

Flitney held onto 5th spot when he exited the joker lap but it was Hill who slotted into 4th. The gaps stabilised throughout the rest of the race which gave Bennett pole position for the final. Sellar and Westgarth also failed to make the final.

Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

The second semi-final was full of drama. At the start Ollie O’Donovan jumped the start and was forced into taking a second joker lap. From the start poleman, Tohill, held the lead. Thomas made a great start to slot into second place. Jack Thorne led into the joker lap while Godfrey squeezed past O’Donovan on the entry to the alternate route. The trio quickly caught and passed Joe Booth in his manual transmission Subaru.

Andy Grant on his return to the category was holding onto third place and a transfer spot. Once he jokered he was set to drop down to 5th. However, at that exact moment Thorne spun the car in Chessons. The rear suspension arm had broken clean in half. With the wheel able to move completely freely it pitched him into a spin and out of the race.

Jack Thorne “The top arm on the suspension just sheered in half. Nice clean break so the wheel could do exactly what it wanted when it wanted. Just turned us around.”

It left O’Donovan to close the gap on Grant for the last spot in the final. The pair made light contact at several points throughout the closing laps. With 2 to go O’Donovan got a better drive out of Chessons and went around the outside. Grant dived back up the inside and hit into the side of O’Donovan putting him into a half spin. Grant continued in 4th while O’Donovan could do no better than 5th.

Out front Tohill was set to take an easy victory until the final sequence of corners. Brake failure into Paddock Bend put him wide and on the grass. Godfrey tried to close but came up short by a second.

In the stewards room after the race Grant was disqualified for contact with O’Donovan. This gave the Irish racer 8th place on the grid for the final while Grant’s day was cut short. He joined Thorne and Westgarth with early finishes.

Ollie O’Donovan “My view was he pushed me off the track. He brake tested me 4 times. I touched him but never pushed him. Clean overtake then he just dove into the back of my car.”

 

Andy Grant “In the semi-final we put a brand new set of tyres on and it was good. He did hit me several times on the rear. In the bottom corner he overtook me and then he cuts me off. Just split second. He spun round and that was that. I’ve been excluded from that race. If that’s what they say that’s it.”

Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

Qualifying

Only 2 qualifying sessions were run for the Supercar class, likely to reduce their running in this 11 round season. Oliver Bennett put in a perfect series of drives to top qualifying. The Mini driver was almost untouchable save for the start in Q2. There Tohill was able to lead into turn 1 and held that for the first few laps. Bennett needed just a single lap to undercut Tohill using his joker strategy to come out back in the lead. It meant Tohill finished second twice and was best of the rest in second overall.

Ovenden put in a mega drive in Q2 to secure third place overall. Ollie O’Donovan, debuting his new Proton Iriz stayed under the radar to go fourth overall. Hill showed strong pace in each session to slot into 5th place ahead of Thorne. Having won the final round of last season he had switched to a Citroen C4 for this round. He struggled with the start on worn tyres, instead choosing to save them for the final.

Patrick O’Donovan was an impressive third in Q1 after winning his heat. The reigning RX150 champion held onto the lead from pole position. In Q2 he looked to go around the outside of the fast starting Tohill and Bennett. However, he ran too wide and hit the end of the barrier separating the joker lap from the standard route. He spun around and gave himself a puncture and scored 13th out of the 14 cars. This dropped him to 7th overall.

Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

Thomas was 8th just ahead of Sellar. Godfrey could do no better than 10th after suffering with a misfire throughout the morning. His starts were strong but each session was easily overtaken by Thorne on the straights. Thomas also looked to overtake the 6-time champion into the Devil’s Elbow. The pair made light contact but that was enough to send Godfrey wide into the gravel. Thomas was giving a warning for the incident.

Roger Thomas “It was more of a rub than anything. No damage.”

Flitney in his Volvo C30 was 11th just ahead of Grant, Westgarth and Booth. Booth had been upgraded to the Supercar class after the Retro 4WD category had only 2 entrants including guest entry Steve Harris. Westgarth was debuting in his Mitsubishi Evo but was unable to use 4th gear. This dropped him back in a circuit that primarily needs 3rd and 4th gear for the car.

Points

Tohill takes the early championship lead on 24 out of a possible 26 points. Guest entry Bennett was effectively invisible for the championship which allowed the reigning champion a near perfect haul. Leading championship running, Patrick O’Donovan settles into 2nd in his first ever event on 21 points. Ovenden is in 3rd with 19 ahead of the elder O’Donovan on 17. Hill and Godfrey are tied for 5th on 14. Each driver may drop their worst score of the season so some of these results may well be the dropped score. The only exception is Grant as he was disqualified in a session which prevents this round from being his dropped score.

Feature Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport

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