Round 6 of the Mini Challenge JCW Championship took place at Brands Hatch last weekend. The Quaife QBM2M-equipped Minis entertained as the DTM series visited the Kent circuit. We relive the highlights.
Ant Whorton-Eales extended his advantage at the head of the Mini Challenge JCW Championship after taking a controlled victory in the first race of the DTM weekend at Brands Hatch.
Following on immediately from the thunderous DTM qualifying on Sunday, the JCWs put in a star turn in front of a bumper crowd, with former touring car racer Whorton-Eales providing a master class in controlled driving.
AW-E’s weekend didn’t start smoothly, with his car suffering a driveshaft failure after just a single lap of practice on Saturday. Regardless, his JamSport team got him back into action for qualifying and he rewarded them with a front row start, falling just short of David Robinson’s pole position time.
Robinson got away well when the lights went out, but couldn’t pull a gap ahead of the charging Whorton-Eales, who squeezed ahead of third-placed Nathan Harrison on the run toward Paddock Hill Bend.
“The car had a lot of understeer for some reason and my run out of the final left-hander [Stirlings] was just dreadful every time because the car just didn’t have enough front end,” said Robinson after AW-E got the run alongside him into Clearways at the end of the first lap before edging into the lead into Paddock.
Robinson also fell behind Harrison and continued to third, lacking the pace to challenge the top two. “I’m disappointed with third in truth, but we’ll look at the car and I’ll look at my driving and try to come back stronger for race two,” he said.
Now ahead, AW-E soaked up pressure from Harrison, eventually taking the flag just 0.4s clear of his championship rival.
“It was a great race but I played it a bit cautious in truth,” said Whorton-Eales. “Nathan definitely has a better balance around the faster stuff on the GP loop, but we had the edge on the Indy Circuit. I stayed off the kerbing all race, which cost me time, but I was mindful of looking after the rear-left tyre around here.”
Harrison added: “I was hauling Ant in on the GP circuit, but in the end the tyres just went off and I didn’t have the grip to make a meaningful move. Second is good, but it’s not helping me when Ant’s winning.”
Jordan Collard secured a distant fourth, having lost ground in a tight battle with Rob Smith, Lewis Brown and Jack Davidson. Collard survived a tap from behind into the high-speed Hawthorns corner, fortunately managing to keep his car in a straight line. He picked up the place with a great pass on Smith into Druids as Brown got things wrong into Sheene and cruised through the gravel. Davidson lost control of his car and nudged the barriers at Westfield.
James Gornall took sixth, ahead of Henry Neal, Alex Morgan, Lawrence Davey and Luke Reade.
With just five races remaining, Ant Whorton-Eales tightened his grip on this year’s Mini Challenge JCW Championship trophy after doubling up in front of the DTM crowd at Brands Hatch.
Despite starting back on row four, Whorton-Eales fought through the pack to snatch a hard-fought victory, even if he didn’t really think it would be possible.
“I said to the JamSport boys in the collecting area before the race ‘OK, let’s go and win this then shall we?’ but in truth that was a total joke, I was expecting maybe third, so this is brilliant,” said the double victor.
The reversed grid placed newcomer Alex Morgan was on pole position, and he duly led the pack away as Rob Smith got a great launch from row two to slot ahead of Henry Neal and run second.
Smith knew he had to make his early pace pay against the less experienced Morgan, and repeatedly tried to put the leader off, but Morgan held firm at the front for the first stage of the race.
Whorton-Eales opted to go right around the outside of everybody at both Paddock Hill and Druids, and slotted behind Neal into fourth by the time the pack headed around Surtees, before then snatching third with a well-timed move into Westfield.
Once on to Smith, Whorton-Eales pressured the top two, and then pulled off two remarkable braking moves to snatch the lead. Firstly he ran to the outside of Smith before diving back across the track to run tight to the apex on the brakes and slot into second. He then repeated the spectacular move to grab the lead from Morgan with a few minutes to go.
“Boy this car has some brakes on her!” he beamed afterwards. “I’ve not done that move for a few years, it’s an old Clio Cup tactic of just trying to brake later than everyone else and hope it sticks. It did… twice!
“We’ve had a great front-end on this car all weekend, and I think it showed in that race as I could put the car anywhere and have grip. I think if Alex had been in the series for more than just this round, I wouldn’t have won and he’d have been up the road. But luckily for me it all worked out.”
Morgan resisted Smith to snatch second on his maiden weekend. “I’m made up with that!” he said. “I’ve not done much racing this year, mostly testing, and the JCW looked like great fun so I decided to give it a go. I was team-mates with Ant in Clios years ago so I know him well. It was good to fight with him again, even if I’m not used to the brakes on these cars yet.”
Smith was happy with third. The Mini UK team lowered his ride height in an effort to settle down the lively rear end that threw out the balance in race one. “The change worked nicely and I felt much more comfortable, but I didn’t quite have the edge that Ant did. Still, it’s good points for second as Alex isn’t in the championship,” said Smith.
David Robinson capped his weekend off with a battling fourth place, having recovered from what he labelled “a shocker” of a start that put him back to ninth at one point.
Jordan Collard was fifth, ahead of the struggling Nathan Harrison. “All weekend my car has been running about 10 degrees hotter than it should and in the traffic of the reversed grid race that really hurt me as it sapped power,” said Harrison. “We need to go away and look into it as there’s clearly a glitch somewhere.”
Luke Reade was seventh, ahead of James Gornall, Lawrence Davey, Brad Hutchison and Lewis Brown, who put in a stellar drive to secure an 11th place finish having started 26th.
Learn more about the Quaife QBM2M 6-Speed Sequential Gearbox, as used in the Mini Challenge JCW race cars:
- Large 85mm shaft centres
- 6 straight cut, open face dog engagement gears
- Innovative range of alloy adapter rings to suit a wide variety of popular power plants
- Incorporates a fitted carbon fibre bellhousing cover for ultimate weight saving
- Quaife sequential gearshift configurable for front or rear wheel drive transverse applications
- Output shafts can be fitted with 110mm Lobro or 3-ear Tripode joints for commonly found driveshafts
- Wide variety of clutch spline options available
- Choice of Quaife ATB Differential or Tran-X LSD included
- Differential accessible via detachable cover for rapid servicing
- Optional LED digital gear position indicator available
- £8,075.00 + VAT & Shipping. Contact Mini Challenge for Mini F56 or Quaife for other FWD applications
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
2.833 2.071 1.611 1.316 1.105 0.958
1.286 1.045 0.870
1.381 1.200 1.043
Final drive ratio: