Race Report – Royal Purple Hot Hatch & Yokohama | Demon Tweeks Stock Hatch – 01 Donington Park National
14th April 2016
The inaugural meeting of the re-launched Royal Purple Hot Hatch series at Donington Park was not only action-packed, but since the new grid of modified hatchbacks shared track space with the notoriously frantic Yokohama | Demon Tweeks Stock Hatch Championship, it was also as unpredictable as it was entertaining.
With the Mk6 Ford Fiesta ST making such a solid base for Hot Hatch competitors of this second incarnation, it might have been expected that these young Ford pretenders would be the weapons of choice for 2016 dominance. Over the first half of the race weekend though, the recalcitrant ST army was in gradual decline. This meant there was an opportunity to be exploited for the old hands and left-field choices – and exploit the chance they most certainly did.
The Fiesta of former Mighty Minis racer Alice Hughes suffered transmission maladies three laps into qualifying and missed race one by a matter of minutes, meaning that Class A pressure was soon firmly on the shoulders of Tom Bell and Alistair Camp. The duo’s Fiestas successfully locked out the front of the grid and were flanked by their Class B Ford sibling David Allen a row behind, yet as the lights extinguished for race one, it was down to a pair of Hot Hatch past masters to show the way forward.
Pole-sitter Bell surged from the line yet suffered gearbox mount failure as a result, instantly ruling him out of race one contention, with Camp managing just the opening lap in the sister car before engine issues forced an early retirement.
It was at this point that the quietly unassuming Matthew Howarth and his Mk3 Vauxhall Astra GSi took control of the race in a dominant fashion. A Hot Hatch car and driver combination from the formula’s previous incarnation; the Howarth car was soon trailed by Neil Stringfellow in another classic Hot Hatch weapon of choice, the Peugeot 205 GTi. With David Allen also off in the first lap, Howarth and Stringfellow exhibited a level of ability and consistency at the front of the field that’s not to be underestimated for the rest of the season, especially with the latter making his circuit racing debut.
In the Demon Tweeks | Stock Hatch field, it wasn’t long before the emergence of a new pair of duelling front-runners made themselves known for 2016 in the form of Paul Jarvis and Ryan Polley. It was the more experienced Stock Hatch racer Jarvis who took pole in qualifying, where the pair were split by Phil Law in his maiden outing with the ex-Deegan Saxo. Despite some early attempts on the Stock Hatch lead in race one, Law was soon fed back into battle with William Hunt. The Jarvis and Polley duo became re-acquainted ahead, repeatedly changing positions until lap four, from where Jarvis headed the Stock Hatch field to the flag by a margin of just 0.05secs. Law finished third with Hunt close behind, and David Hancox, Robert Fagg and Jon Hobbs kept each other honest in pursuit of a top-six finish.
In the second outing of the weekend, the corrected Hot Hatch cars of Bell and Camp started from the pit lane, which offered not only some lessons in overtaking from front-wheel-drive tin-top maestro Bell, but also a tense race for spectators, watching the Class A Fiestas fight their way through the both Stock and Hot Hatch fields and attempt to reel in the new, ‘old’ competition.
Once again it was Howarth who pulled a strong lead from the word go, making as much headway as possible before the seemingly inevitable appearance of the two Fiestas in his mirrors. With nearly two seconds per lap in hand from consistent second place man David Allen in his Class B Fiesta, Howarth was this time detached from the pressure of Stringfellow’s Peugeot 205, thanks to the Class B driver getting stuck in competition with the evenly-matched Stock Hatch frontrunners.
Bell made it up to 12th by the end of lap one and 7th after one more tour, and it didn’t take long to have Howarth’s Mk3 Astra in his sights. The purpose-built Class A Fiesta eventually made it past the previous generation Hot Hatch Vauxhall on lap seven, with Camp managing to follow suit shortly before the emergence of the last lap board.
David Allen was left to run without pressure behind the top three; managing to maintain a healthy gap back to where the Stock Hatch trio of Jarvis, Polley and Law were fighting not only for podium places, but also for overall on-track positions with Stringfellow.
It was 17-year-old Polley who came out on top of that second Stock Hatch outing, crossing the line for maximum drama with little more than 0.1secs in hand from Jarvis. As per the first outing, Phil Law was but a short distance behind the pair, clinching the fastest Stock Hatch lap of the day as further recompense.
In Class C of Royal Purple Hot Hatch, Adam Read took not only the class victory for race one in his BMW Compact but third overall, yet equally-matched rival Mac ‘Dr Evil’ McCarthy in his stealthy Fiesta managed to get the better of him on the second time out.
You can find the full results on the 750 Motor Club website at the link below, as well as a full gallery of photos from the Donington weekend:
Track Days / Test Days / MotorsportDays.com