Donington Park hosted the opening round of the 2017 Santander Consumer Finance KTM RC Cup, with the opening race held on an overcast Saturday and races two and three taking part under brilliant blue skies on the Sunday.
The numbers of riders in the eight round, 20 race series has swelled in 2017, and 22 pilots headed out for their first competitive outing at the Leicestershire circuit fresh from a briefing and track walk with series ambassador Jeremy McWilliams.
The fight for grid positions was fierce in bright, gusty conditions. Fighting an onslaught of fresh riders to the championship, it was sophomore Jack Nixon that used his experience from last year’s season in the series. The latest crop of young guns were, however, hot on the heels of Nixon, with a pair of rookies, Spanish-based Brian Hart and 14-year-old Fenton Seabright, forming the front row for race one.
Under threatening skies, race one was full of intense action, with a brace of battles quickly forming. Up front, it was Fenton Seabright making the most of his front row start, with Jake Nixon applying early pressure. The pair regularly swapped places over the opening laps, and this allowed Alicante-based Brian Hart to join the fray. The final few laps of the eight lap race saw overtakes at almost every corner, but some smart defensive riding allowed Jack Nixon to seal a victory by just 0.045 seconds from Brian Hart.
Calm, bright conditions greeted the riders for their second race, held on the Sunday of the event. The packed Donington crowd enjoyed a busy first lap that saw the pack establish an order with Brian Hart leading in the opening laps. In second place, Seabright couldn’t quite keep with Hart’s pace – and soon had issues of his own in the form of both Jack Nixon and a rejuvenated Kade Verway battling hard to tag onto the back of the group. With Hart’s lead stretching out to over two seconds by mid-distance, the battle behind saw overtakes galore. The pace, however, caught out Verway with two laps left, the Silverstone-based rider asking too much of his bike on the exit of Goddards and crashing out unhurt. The fallen machine put pay to Jack Nixon’s hard charge, which saw him take the fastest lap and a new lap record in the process, and the winner of race one had to settle for third spot. Seabright took second place and Brian Hart scored a well-controlled win to the delight of his well-travelled team.
The best action was reserved for the last race of the day. In perfect conditions, the three main protagonists from the opening races served up a classic. In the early stages it looked as it Brian Hart was going to capitalise on his race two victory, but a determined fight from Fenton Seabright saw him take the lead by mid-race. The top three were all circulating in the 1 min 50 bracket, well under lap record pace. Braking issues saw Hart fall back into third in the final throes of the race, leaving Jack Nixon fighting tooth and nail for the win. But not even a heart stopping high side – declared the save of the day – could stop Seabright from taking the win, meaning that it was a win apiece for the leading threesome – and a great sixth place for the only girl in the race – Annabel Thomas.
Given that the top three stepped on every step of the podium, the championship is tied after Donington with Brian Hart, Jack Nixon and Fenton Seabright all boasting a haul of 61 points apiece. The championship now moves to Brand Hatch Indy circuit between the 14th and 27th of April. For more infomration visit www.ktmRCcup.com.
Jeremy McWilliams – Santander Consumer Finance KTM RC Cup Ambassador
“The weekend has been really positive and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The feedback from the riders and progression from the first session has been truly outstanding – some big strides have been made by everyone. I’ve been so pleased to see the progress of the riders, how they’ve listened to the advice I’ve offered and then delivered on track. We’ve worked hard and got a really good base setting for the riders now, we’ve seen some brilliant races and the series is delivering exactly what it set out to do. I hope to join the series later in the series to see how they’ve progressed from this first round.”