For the third round of the season, the Elise Trophy returned to the picturesque and highly challenging Oulton Park circuit, a firm favourite with the drivers. The Cheshire track is undulating, with a mixture of fast and slow corners, that favours the brave and skilled.
Ken Savage has the most wins so far but Luigi Mazza picked up his maiden win here last year and will surely be tough to beat. Ben Hyland was another to score well and the races are sure to be close.
On a damp but dry morning Mazza and Savage continued their burgeoning rivalry as they battled for pole. Save was the early leader, lapping a second clear of the field, however late on Mazza posted a stunning lap which was a further second clear and that must have left quite an impression on the field. Behind Savage, Hyland continued his form at this circuit last year, to line up third but even he was unable to match the pace at the very front. The ever-improving Dan Plant would complete the second row with Sean Nash fifth on his return after his Snetterton crash.
Andy Dolan took sixth on his first session of the year, ahead of impressive rookie Chris Dunster, who lined up in front of ‘team mate’ Adam Bewsey. Tania Mann starts an excellent ninth, with Dave Carr also making the top ten, whilst oil leaks for Phil Stratton-Lake and Craig Denman left the former hoping just to make the start of the races and put the latter out altogether.
|The rivalry between the front row men continued into the first race as Mazza converted pole into the lead. Whilst they were pulling clear of the field, Dunster spoilt his grid position with a spin at Old Hall that sent him down the field. Also losing out was Mann, unable to maintain the pace that she had earlier in the day.|
Mazza initially tried to pull clear but Savage started to subject him to a great deal of pressure as the race progressed, however a few mistakes gave Mazza some breathing space. However Savage managed to regain his composure and chased Mazza all the way to the flag.
The battle for third was fiercely fought as Nash, Hyland and Dolan started to catch Savage at one point. Dolan’s clutch was playing up, however and this ended his participation. Nash and Hyland were soon joined by Plant and a charging Stuart Plotnek, and the complexion of this changed when Hyland spun and removed himself and Nash from the race. Plant was free to threaten a podium battle that now featured Plotnek and Bewsey but was only able to finish fifth behind Mazza, Savage and Plotnek, who had squeezed past Bewsey at the final corner of the race.
The lower reaches of the top ten were completed by Carr, Neil Livsey, Steve Train, Simon Jones and Nigel Hannam. The latter had just avoided the carnage caused when Dunster collected a spinning Will Price.
|1. Luigi Mazza||2. Ken Savage||3. Stuart Plotnek||4. Adam Bewsey||5. Dan Plant||6. Dave Carr|
At the front Dunster was increasing his lead, revelling in a position that must be unfamiliar at this stage in his racing career. However Mazza was quicker, now past Bewsey and closing very fast. Sure enough, by lap 5 he was through and just as this happened, Savage spun out of fourth and lost two places. By this stage the rain was starting to fall heavily.From the reversed top ten and in damp conditions, Dunster led at the first corner from Bewsey and Mann, whilst Carr dropped to seventh and a moment at Old Hall on lap three lost him even more places. Meanwhile Mazza was working his way up the field, into third by lap 4.
With Mazza shooting off into the distance, Dunster and Bewsey slugged it out for second. Hyland, no doubt seeing this ahead, took this as an opportunity to relieve them of their positions and chased hard. Passing Bewsey, he was right on the tail of Dunster on the final lap, trying an opportunity approaching Druids before a run exiting Lodge that very nearly gave him second.
Behind the finishing order of Mazza-Dunster-Hyland-Bewsey, Plant posted another fifth place, with new driver Axel Mertens an excellent sixth after starting near the back, and Dolan seventh. Savage had to make do with eighth place, with Train and Jones rounding out the top ten.
|1. Luigi Mazza||2. Chris Dunster||3. Ben Hyland||4. Adam Bewsey||5. Dan Plant||6. Axel Mertens|
Mazza finally gets a win under his belt in 2011 and there’s no sign of the intense competition between him and Savage abating. He will surely be keen to repeat this tremendous form at the coming rounds and it can’t be too long before Dunster challenges the order too. Fellow rookie Mann also showed flashes of form, particularly in qualifying as the openness of the field provides them the chance to shine.
The next round of the series is across the North Sea at the Dutch resort of Zandvoort early next month.