The 2017/18 Essex Winter Series entered the second half of the season this weekend, with round 3 taking place to kick off 2018’s racing activities. In the Modified class, Olly Jefferies would have the opportunity to wrap up the overall championship title, with two rounds remaining, if he could secure a good set of points this time out. With Olly taking TQ and the A-final win at the opening two rounds of the series, he had a 4-point cushion over rival Elliott Harper. But Harper, fresh off of strong fourth-place finishes at the EWS International just before Christmas and the DHI Cup at the start of the new year, would be hoping to prolong the championship battle further.
Olly led away for Q1, but two-thirds into the race, he had an uncharacteristic mechanical failure, putting him out of the running and allowing Elliott to take first blood for Schumacher, ahead of Capricorn’s Kyle Branson and the Team Associated of Chris Grainger. Olly’s poor luck continued in Q2, but perhaps thankfully for him Elliott couldn’t capitalise again after an incident with a lapped car took him out of the running too. This left Chris to take the fastest time, ahead of Kyle and Harley Eldridge with her Yokomo. The third qualifier saw Olly back to form, swapping times with Elliott in the early part of the run, until the Xray pilot pulled out a small gap by the end to take a vital TQ. This left pole position and useful championship points to be decided in the final round, and after yet another close back-and-forth battle between the two championship protagonists, it was Elliott who took the round by less than one tenth of a second over Olly, meaning the Schumacher driver would line up on pole for the single leg A Final.
It was still technically possible for Olly to wrap up the overall championship if he could take the final win, but with Elliott now showing he could match the current BRCA champion on pace, it was set to be a tough ask. Elliott led away, with Olly not letting him get more than a half-second gap, as the two edged away from the third place starting Chris, who had to be wary of Kyle from fourth. Elliott withstood the pressure from Olly, as the two cars raced side-by-side a few times, until a small mistake from Elliott at the half-distance mark saw him taking a little too much kerb and thus allowing Olly, with all four tyres on the carpet, to out-drag him coming onto the main straight. Elliott picked up the challenge immediately but, despite doing all he could, he was unable to return the favour and so Olly ran out the winner ahead of Elliott, with Chris, Kyle and Harley maintaining their grid positions to round out the top five. This result means that the best Elliott could do in the championship hunt would now be to tie with Olly, but Olly’s third win today would be the deciding count-back, thus securing Olly the overall championship.
Touring Modified final results:
1. Olly Jefferies – Xray/Hobbywing
2. Elliott Harper – Schumacher/LRP
3. Chris Grainger – Team Associated/Reedy
4. Kyle Branson – Capricorn/Tesla
5. Harley Eldridge – Yokomo/LRP
6. Alan Bickerstaff – Team Associated/Reedy
7. Matt White – Team Associated/Reedy
8. Stefan Chodzynski – Schumacher/LRP
9. Brian Eldridge – Yokomo/LRP
10.Ollie Payne – Destiny/ORCA
In the Super Stock class, the championship could also be sealed, by Olly’s Xray team-mate Zak Finlay. Similarly to Olly, he had dominated the opening two events of the series, and backed this up with a strong podium result at the EWS International. Zak’s domination continued, as he topped every single round of qualifying, getting faster each and every time. It wasn’t as straight forward as the result might suggest, as he was pushed in every round by the privateer Xray driver Tony Broad, who was within a second or two of Zak each time. Behind these two, Schumacher’s Chris Ashton was making his debut in the Super Stock class, and secured third on the grid in front of the Awesomatix’s of Richard King and Ashley Wiffen.
In the A-final, Tony now knew a win was vital to keep the championship alive and, much like the Modified race, the crowd witnessed an exemplary two-car display of driving as Tony shadowed Zak’s every move. But, unlike the Modified A-final, the pole sitter made no mistake, and despite trying everything he could and proving that Zak’s dominance may be coming towards an end soon, Tony was unable to get close enough to make a serious passing attempt and thus Zak took home the A-final win and with it the Championship title. Behind, Chris had a lonely race to third place, as the Awesomatix duo had another great five-minute fight, with Richard holding onto fourth over Ashley.
Touring Super Stock final results:
1. Zak Finlay – Xray
2. Tony Broad – Xray
3. Chris Ashton – Schumacher
4. Richard King – Awesomatix
5. Ashley Wiffen – Awesomatix
6. Tim Hancock – Xray
7. Jamie Hickin – Yokomo
8. Matthew Worton – Awesomatix
9. Mark Buonaiuto – Awesomatix
10.Jack Ioannou – Xray
The championship continues with round 4 in February, as whilst the overall titles may be decided, the remainder of the podium, along with the Super Stock Sportsman title, is far from being fixed.