The Elise Trophy re-launched under MSVR stewardship at Donington Park with familiar faces at the top of the timesheets. Jason McInulty qualified on pole position for the opening race of the season, heading the first of two new classes. Whilst the Forced-Induction class leader had been established, the Normally-Aspirated category was headed by 2016 Elise Trophy Champion Alex Ball in second place.
From a closely-bunched rolling start, pole-sitter Jason McInulty led into Redgate for the first time, followed by the chasing pack which was headed by fellow front row starter Alex Ball. At the end of the opening lap McInulty had opened up a small gap, with Ball now concentrating on his own class and keeping main rivals Teddy Clark and John LaMaster in check. Behind them, a second group had formed consisting of John Atherton, Mark Bithrey and Dave Carr.
As the race settled down, McInulty was able to increase his lead over the following group whilst Clark successfully attacked Ball on lap three, moving into second place and the class lead. In the fight for fifth place, Atherton had slipped behind Bithrey as Carr’s challenge faltered, and he began to lose touch with the group. Meanwhile, close battles throughout the field, for which the Elise Trophy has long been renowned, continued to rage.
With half of the race now run, the lead reduced dramatically as the freed Clark reeled in McInulty and the pair crossed the line to begin lap six almost nose-to-tail. Just as it looked as though the lead may change hands, McInulty began to extend his advantage, heading Clark by more than five seconds at the chequered flag.
Clark did, however, take the spoils for the Normally-Aspirated class, with Ball just under three seconds adrift in third place overall. LaMaster took 4th and 3rd the the NA class, Carr and Bithrey completed the top six, followed by Atherton, Chris Marks, Danny Holland and Mark Richardson.
The traditional reverse top-ten starting grid gave Marks the pole position for race two and he led Richardson into Redgate from the standing start. Through the fearsome Craner Curves and out of the Old Hairpin, the faster-qualifying drivers began to assert their advantage, but new leader Richardson completed lap one at the head of the field, followed by Carr, Ball and McInulty.
With supercharged power, McInulty was back in charge after two more laps, with Carr, Mackenzie Walker, Ball, Clark and LaMaster making up the new top six. The leader made sure victory was in no doubt this time, building a considerable gap that would extend to just over ten seconds by the end of the race. With attention turning to the fight for second and Normally-Aspirated honours, Walker and Clark now disputed the place, followed by Ball, Carr and LaMaster.
Finishing positions looked set until the final lap when the simmering battle for second resulted in a coming-together for Walker and Clark just as McInulty had crossed the line. This gave Ball the class victory from Carr, LaMaster, Bithrey and Richardson. The top ten was completed by Atherton, Adrian Wootton, Paul Baker and Barry Strong.
With the Elise Trophy re-launched under MSVR stewardship, Jason McInulty provided a little continuity with victory in both races. The former Lotus Cup Europe class champion briefly looked vulnerable halfway through the opening race of the season, but surged ahead to a brace of comfortable wins for the new Forced-Induction class.
Teddy Clark was looking the class of the Normally-Aspirated field with a fighting second overall in the opening race, but an attempt to repeat this in the final encounter yielded retirement following a coming-together with rival Mackenzie Walker moments after McInulty had taken the chequered flag. This left 2016 Elise Trophy Champion Alex Ball to follow up third place in the opening race with the win this time. John LaMaster should be happy with a brace of third places in class.
The Normally-Aspirated class produced two very close races, with battles throughout the field, recalling the Elise Trophy’s past at its most competitive. The next round takes place at Cadwell Park on 18 May.
Photos courtesy of Mick Walker