Jack Rawles (#261) was delighted with his first Group B race win - Photo: Jon Elsey

Despite missing the first round of the season, James Harris is starting to place himself as an outside bet to be a championship contender after a near perfect day of racing at Oulton Park in Cheshire that saw him dominate the top step for the entire meeting.

Harris kicked off his Saturday with the fastest time in his qualifying group from Oliver Allwood, Paul Tucker, Brian Trott and Stuart Symonds, while Silverstone winner Joshua Jackson also put himself at the top of his group’s session from points leader Will Blackwell-Chambers, Michael Fisk, Charlie Burge and Samuel Smith.

With Harris starting on pole position alongside Joshua Jackson, it would in fact be the latter that took hold of the advantage in the opening lap. Jackson was able to hold on for three quarters of the race distance with Harris unrelenting in his pursuit to retake top spot. Eventually, Lap 8 would see Harris find an avenue to get through, but this only allowed both Allwood and Blackwell-Chambers to close in and at one point, Allwood had 2nd place on the penultimate lap. That said, his glory didn’t last as he was edged down to 4th by Jackson and Blackwell-Chambers while Harris went on to take win number one of the day. Martin Tolley would take the final top 5 spot as he also took the Masters win, ahead of Clive Powles (7th) and Kevin Brent (12th).

Patrick Collins would find himself on pole for the first Group B race with Nick Le Doyen alongside, from Richard Collins, Callum Warner and Simon Orange.  Both Collins, Patrick ahead of Richard, would end up running away at the head of the field leaving 3rd place downwards behind in their wake. Richard would stay behind in 2nd place with the gap less than a second all the way through, until a small mistake on the last lap saw him drop back a couple of seconds. The top two stayed as it was at the flag, ahead of a race long duel between Simon Orange and Callum Warner which the former would win. Oliver Robinson completed the top 5, who would also progress up to Group A for their second race.

James Harris would start the second Group A race from pole again, with Jackson also retaining his front row starting slot ahead of Blackwell-Chambers, Allwood, Tolley and Patrick Lay. This time Harris would retain 1st place on the opening lap, however Jackson was determined as ever to remind him that he wasn’t going away any time soon. For most of the race, Jackson was never more than just over half a second away, but by the time the chequered flag came around he had slipped a little further back to 1.6 seconds as Harris took his second win of the meeting. Another race long tussle between Allwood and Blackwell-Chambers fell the way of the former this time as the #63 was able to swipe the final podium place. Patrick Lay would then shift Blackwell-Chambers down another place to 5th on the final lap to complete the top 5. Martin Tolley (6th) once again took the Masters win from Powles (9th) and Group B race 1 winner Patrick Collins (13th).

Pole for the second Group B race was taken up by Sam Bailey with Max Norfolk alongside ahead of Matt Pickford and an out of place Charlie Burge and John Langridge, once again resided to competing in Group B after mishaps in their first races. Bailey would lead the first couple laps before Burge took over at the head of the field, although Bailey made sure Burge wouldn’t be escaping any time soon as the lead gap was always kept under a second for the entire race. Despite this, Burge wouldn’t budge and went on to pick up a Group B race win for the first time from Bailey and John Langridge, with Max Norfolk and Matt Pickford joining them in the top 5 promotion spots to see them all launched back into Group A for their last race of the day.

When that race came around, it was the same front row of Harris and Jackson once again with Allwood and Lay next to each other behind them. Blackwell-Chambers was back starting in 5th place alongside Martin Tolley, from Samuel Smith and Brian Trott. This time, Harris made sure he wasn’t going to be beaten to leading the first lap and retained the lead from pole into the first corner and throughout. Once again, despite a fair amount of pressure from Jackson immediately behind for the majority of the race, Harris wouldn’t be headed at all as he rounded off a near-perfect run of 3 wins out of 3 starts on the day. Jackson would have achieved the same feat for 2nd places had it not been for Allwood spoiling his party on the last lap by snatching the place for himself. Jackson would still come home 3rd, ahead of Blackwell-Chambers and Lay. Martin Tolley yet again was the highest placed Masters driver in 8th from Patrick Collins (10th) and Richard Collins (13th).

The final race of the day for Group B left Courtney Milnes sitting pretty on pole position alongside Jack Rawles, with Oliver Robinson and Jack Rawles on the 2nd row and Simon Orange and Nick Le Doyen on Row 3. Rawles picked up the lead on the opening lap leaving Milnes and Orange to duke it out for 2nd place, as the 3 cars drove away in what became a race of their own between them. Throughout the 20 minutes, Rawles was relatively unchallenged and managed to head home to the flag for his first ever MX-5 victory. Orange would indeed retain 2nd place by the end, however Courtney Milnes had every right to be delighted with her first podium in 3rd, finishing ahead of Oliver Robinson and Callum Warner in the top 5.

Even though it was another weekend where he wouldn’t see the Group A podium, Will Blackwell-Chambers is still points leader however his advantage has now been cut to just 24 points. Oliver Allwood is now the man who takes over 2nd place thanks to his trio of podium visits, while Samuel Smith drops to 3rd thanks to a less than satisfactory day’s racing. Joshua Jackson’s superb form of late has seen him shoot up the table to 4th just 11 points behind Smith now, with Masters points leader Martin Tolley also showing superb progress in 5th. Patrick Lay has retained a strong top 10 position in 6th from Brian Trott, with James Harris’s four wins in 6 races helping him push himself up to 8th. Charlie Burge and Paul Tucker round off the top 10.

Open straights and long corners await the drivers as the second half of the season gets set to kick off at the Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk. Will Blackwell-Chambers’ incredible start to the season with 5 wins is what’s keeping him in the lead of the championship, but is his form of late an indication that things may not be going his way for much longer? Or is it simply just a blot on his copybook that he’ll be quickly correcting when racing action resumes?

You can find the full breakdown of results from Oulton Park here – OULTON PARK RESULTS.

Scott Woodwiss

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