Jefferies sets sights on a series clean sweep as Askell beats Fletcher to avenge RD1 loss.

10th Electric Circuit

Round two of the MB Models King of Clubs series once again brought juniors, club and factory racers together, this time in glorious sunshine at Eastbourne Electric Car Club.

The innovative new Tamiya Junior-E class is the first official Tamiya race series in the UK since the Euro Cup. The class is aimed at introducing kids aged 12 and under to on-road RC racing. Stock Tamiya TT02's provide the drivers with an affordable yet capable car to start with, plus an upgrade path to faster racing in future years.

Eastbourne's Archie Matthews has been the driver to beat in the series so far. The ten-year old's main rival, also from Eastbourne, Finley Lanaway, pushed Matthews all the way in qualifying. An impressive win by Lanaway in the final round tied the qualifying scores. Still, Matthews TQ'd on the tie-break. 11-year-old Oliver Woodall impressed on his series debut, qualifying his Fortnite themed TT02 in third place. A mistake from Lanaway on lap two of the first final let Matthews capitalise on his holeshot, running away to a flag to flag win. Aldershot's 7-year-old star Maverick Adams completed the podium with an excellent drive. In leg 2, Matthews made the decisive error. Crashing on lap 3 let Lanaway take the win, Matthews recovering to second as Woodall beat West London's Reece Watts to third place.

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The youngsters were then able to watch a driver at the other end of his career, 12 times national champion Chris Grainger, push reigning champion Olly Jefferies hard in the Modified Touring Car races. Despite the best efforts from Grainger and eight more of the fastest drivers in the country, Jefferies completed a clean sweep of all four qualifying rounds and both finals to stamp his authority on the driver's championship.

The day started at a ferocious pace. Just five seconds covered the top six drivers in qualifying round one; local ace Ben Moorey mixing it at the front alongside King of Clubs debutant Kyle Branson. In round 2, Grainger found the pace to match Jefferies, taking the fastest lap of the race by 0.02 seconds. The smallest of margins, but psychologically significant. The race was on.

By round 4, Grainger was pushing hard to turn his speed into a round win. Racing on worn tyres, the Aldershot driver was behind Jefferies on track but ahead on predicted time with just over a minute to go. Starting lap 15, Grainger took too much kerb on the inside of the infamous Eastbourne kinked straight, launching his car into the air and cartwheeling down the track. The crashing car hit a trackside action camera, capturing spectacular footage that is sure to be popular on social media. Scant consolation, however, an opportunity lost.
With fresh boots for the first final, Jefferies lined up ahead of Grainger, Zak Smith, local ace Ben Moorey and Harley Eldridge to make the front half of the grid. In other top-flight motorsports, practising starts are routine, but we don't see RC drivers practising starts. Still, it would be no surprise to discover Jefferies had found something in testing to aid his getaway. A blistering start opened a 10 car length gap around turn one, and the race was done. Grainger and Moorey pushed hard in pursuit. A sub-14-second lap from Granger closed the gap a fraction on lap 3, but an error on lap 6 let Moorey through to second. Grainger was the fastest car on track for the final two minutes, almost regaining the second spot by the end. Still, the fans were left wondering just how fast Jefferies could go if he was pushed for the whole 300 seconds.

Leg two was a closer race with Grainger in touch with Jefferies on the opening laps. In response, Jefferies turned the screw, reeling off a series of four blistering sub 14 seconds laps: 13.83, 13.94, 13.81, 13.93 and the challenge was broken. Attention turned to a breathtaking 4 car battle for the final podium spot. Zak Smith, visibly frustrated by his performances so far, got away cleanly to hold P3 into turn 1. Moorey, Eldridge and Branson matched his start. At the end of the opening lap, the four drivers were bumper to bumper across the timing strip. Lap after lap, the four piled pressure on each other inches apart, stealing spectators attention from the leading cars. 13.5 National champion James Hart stated, "I've seriously no idea how they've not hit each other" from his vantage at marshall point 3.

Into the final minute, Eastbourne's Moorey had dropped away from the group leaving Smith, Eldridge and Branson in battle. Something had to give, and with just twenty seconds to go, 19-year-old Eldridge clipped a curb, and Branson was through into fourth, leaving Smith to take third. The appreciative applause from the spectators told the story, just a second covering the three drivers over the finish line after 21 laps of racing.

The stock touring car classes were equally exciting. In 13.5, Marcus Askell reversed his defeats to Eastbourne's Billy Fletcher after two close-fought finals. Fletcher's aggressive style around his home track left everyone in no doubt a pass would come if he could get close enough to Askell, but the Xray driver's pace was just too strong. This championship will go down to the wire. The 17.5 Blinky class is tantalisingly close too. The Westwood twins from Aldershot, Glenn and Jay, looked to renew their rivalry with pre-season favourite Glenn hoping to avenge defeats to Jay in round one. However, the crowd was denied the spectacle as a crash in qualifying two forced Glenn to retire from the meeting. However, it wasn't plain sailing for Jay as local club chairman Stu Colby TQ'd with impressive 3rd and 4th round wins. Adur's Matt Quinlisk showed his pace, qualifying second, leaving the remaining Westwood in third. The Quinlisk challenge in the first leg was short-lived, taking to the grass on lap 1 and dropping down the field. Colby led for much of the race until the pressure from the chasing Westwood forced an error allowing the Aldershot man clean through to win. The second final repeated the pattern, but this time Qunlisk stayed in the top fight. Westwood piled pressure on Colby before an excellent pass at the bottom hairpin to take P1. Colby pushed to get back in front, but an infield slide with just a few laps to go dashed his hopes and let Quinlisk through for the second spot.

Aldershots Michael Lee remains the man to beat in the Monitex F1 class, running away with TQ and a double win. The race for the second spot was hotly contested - three drivers in the hunt throughout the day. In the end, a double tie-break was needed to separate Danial Robins, Paul Ellis and Aidan Gale into that finishing order.

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Ollie Payne once again dominated the nascent MTC class, untouchable in qualifying or the final races despite Tom Dadswell and Stu Rands best efforts.
Local knowledge also proved crucial in the Tamiya GT-E class. Eastbourne regular Karl Mathews taking to win over TQ man Tim Harrop after Harrop lost control of his Tamiya TT02 once too often in the first final. Gavin Lanaway had a good run from sixth on the grid to complete the podium.

Modified drivers Grainger and Smith couldn't conceal their disappointment at being bettered by Jefferies in the post-race press conference. "Second is better than third, sure, but I'm not happy. I just have to keep trying," commented Grainger. Jefferies' response was ominous. "Winning all five and a clean sweep is my aim".

Jefferies, Askell, Westwood, Lee et al. might have won on the track, but after a brilliant event, many agreed RC racing was the real winner, with racers from all levels coming together to showcase just how glorious our sport can be.

Round 3 is on 27th June at Colchester Model Car Club.

Full race results and championship standings.