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BYRNE FIGHTS BACK

After a strong start at the opening round on the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy, Jack Byrne’s challenge for the Championship title has had mixed fortunes as the series visited Snetterton and Thruxton before a short summer break.



The second round of the series made a stop at Snetterton Circuit in Norwich, the longest track in the UK at 3 miles long. After a strong start in Brands Hatch with three podiums, Jack was hoping for more of the same and qualifying second quickest, behind Graves team mate Nicky Taylor who was on his home track, it was looking promising.



Starting on the front row of the grid for Race 1 and getting a good start he led into the first bend and held it until a mistake causing him to run wide at Oggies dropped him back behind Taylor. The battle for 2nd was a frantic six way race long affair, with places changing on each lap and Jack would ultimately cross the line in 4th - however a post-race penalty would push him back to 12th.


With the good qualifying position eroded for Race 2 , Jack would start Race 2 from 12th position with the aim to get into a top 6 position and hopefully benefit from reverse grid for race 3. Fighting his way up to sixth before a safety car was deployed due to fluid on the track, the race was ultimately red-flagged. A sixth place finish, and the Irish luck gave him Pole position for Race 3’s reverse grid.


Leading away at the lights, Jack managed to stay ahead of the pack for the first lap then losing it briefly to Hickton before regaining the lead as the others fought it out behind. Holding the lead until the end of lap 5, Hall made a move to take the lead and Jack had to fight off Solley and Hurd to cross the line in 2nd bringing with it valuable championship points.




Just three weeks later the MINI Challenge Trophy would visit Thruxton Race Circuit for Round 3, this time on the TOCA package with the British Touring Car Championship. Jack got his first overall podium here last year in the championship and again was hoping for strong results and the championship points that go with it.


Fastest in FP2 and second quickest in FP1 in Fridays testing, Jack was confident of a strong qualifying position on Saturday morning. Engine gremlins had other plans though and after two laps of qualifying it was obvious that the car was down on power, diagnosed later as engine timing having jumped. This left Jack in 12th position after Quali and an epic battle against the clock to get a new engine fitted before Race 1 in just two hours.



Graves Motorsport pulled it out of the bag and with all hands on deck Jack made assembly with just minutes to spare. Jack got a good start in Race 1 but misfortune struck on the first lap, when contact with another competitor bent his steering causing him to lose control and get collected by the car behind, sending him off the track, his race over - with only his 2nd DNF in his racing career.


With the misfortune of Race 1, Jack would start Race 2 from pit-lane with a lot of work to do to catch the back of the pack. Eventually making his way up to P11 before his progress was cut short by a red flag and although the race restarted, only one more lap was raced before it was ended under a second red flag.


Sunday’s Race 3 was televised live on ITV, and Thruxton had a record sell out crowd for the British Touring Car Championship with Mini Challenge being the support race. Starting from P11 Jack was confident he had the pace to move up the field and after gaining positions in the opening lap, he moved into the top six on lap seven after a safety car period, then jumping to second place at the chicane on the penultimate lap. Heading into the chicane for the final time and not happy to settle for second though, Jack managed to nose his car up the inside of Ovenden who did his best to try and hold on around the outside going into the corner – which forced Jack to bail out and run across the grass on the second part of the corner.

Ovenden, though, having lost momentum was tagged by Solley which sent him into the barrier with Solley and Lycett also sliding into the barrier, Byrne taking the chequered flag in first place with chaos behind.




To take the win in the final race in front of the crowds in Thruxton, and with everyone watching at home live on ITV was great for both Jack and his sponsors and was some consolation for Saturday’s poor points haul.

Once the dust had settled after Race 3, Jack was off to some media duties for Mini Challenge, taking part in a Q&A session in the MINI Challenge VIP hospitality tent alongside British Touring Car drivers Tom Ingram, Nick Halstead, Ronan Pearson and Tom Chilton.


The championship now takes a short summer break before resuming in late July when it will re-join the British Touring Car Championship for the trip to Croft Circuit, and Jack, now sitting third in the overall points will be eager to claw back the points to push him nearer the top of the standings.




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