Owens storms to dominant SU Carburettors Masters Pre-66 Mini win at Donington Park

Endaf Owens took a dominant Masters Pre-66 Mini win at Donington Park, having shaken off the close attentions of Ian Curley and Jeff Smith early on. When first Smith and then Curley retired, Owens was home free to win by almost a minute.

It was mega, just brilliant!” said an elated Owens. “The first half of the race was really good – some nice clean racing with Ian and Jeff.

Elliot Stafford took second after a lonely race behind the initial top-three and a multi-car tussle behind him, that saw Nick Paddy come through to take third. Mark Burnett’s Mini Countryman took fourth when the Mini of Norwegian pairing Lars Ekorness/Edwin Solheim lost its engine on the penultimate lap.

We finished the car only last week!” said an equally delighted Stafford. “I missed a gear early on and that allowed them to break away. Yes, it was a bit of a lonely race but I’m happy to be second!

There was a lot happening!” Paddy said about his eventful race. “I came off once and went into the gravel – and to be honest, I thought that was it. But you can’t give up, you have to keep going – and here I am in third! Thumbs up to Masters too – everything was so well organised, and everyone was so friendly.

At the start, Jeff Smith got away well from pole but still lost out to Ian Curley and Endaf Owens into the first lap. Following the first three was Elliot Stafford, with Nick Swift initially on his heels, but Swifty had overrevved the engine coming out of the chicane and along with Dan Lewis was the first casualty of the race – and a very prominent one. Meanwhile on lap 3, Owens had nicked first place from Curley who kept on hounding the Welshman.

Ten minutes into the race, Owens led Curley by a whisker, but as Owens hit traffic, Curley was back in the lead, Smith and Stafford in the grandstand seats for the lead battle. Barry Sime had charged into fifth while Lars Ekorness had also found a way past Bell, who on lap 8 trundled into the pits with an overheating engine. Almost simultaneously, Owens was back into the lead, with not just Curley hot on his heels now – Smith had left Stafford behind to join the fight at the front.

The three-way tussle between Owens, Curley and Smith saw the latter take second place off Curley on lap 11, with Stafford in fourth now trailing the trio by nine seconds and running on himself. 14 seconds in arrears Sime and Ekorness battled for fifth, the Norwegian taking the place on lap 12. Dave Edgecombe, Stephen Woodrow, Mark Burnett in the Countryman and Nick Paddy completed the top-ten.

20 minutes into the race, Owens had created some breathing space between himself and the fight between Curley and Smith, but then Smith slowed coming onto the main straight, giving up on the chase having mistakenly selected first gear instead of third…

Curley himself was in trouble too – failing to heed to three previous warnings he was slammed with a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. This left Owens with an effective lead of seven seconds over Curley, as the pit window approached ever nearer. Stafford was still a lonely third, now 16 seconds down on Owens, while Ekorness and Sime kept switching places in fourth and fifth. Due to Smith’s demise, Will Nuthall had made his way into the top-ten.

The excitement now concentrated on the battle for sixth between Edgecombe, Woodrow, Paddy and Nuthall, with Woodrow finding a way past Edgecombe on lap 17. One lap later, Stafford was the first frontrunner to pit, joined by Woodrow and Edgecombe, and on lap 19, the race leader was in. The next lap, Curley was the last of the leaders to stop.

As the pit window came to a close on lap 23, Owens’ lead over Curley had grown to 12 seconds. 20 seconds further down the road, Stafford continued his lonely race, with four seconds in hand on Norwegian Edwin Solheim in the Mini started by Lars Ekorness. In fifth and sixth, though, Mark Burnett and Nick Paddy were all over each other, with Woodrow and Jimmy Sime two more seconds down. Dan Wheeler and Ollie Streek now rounded out the top-ten.

On lap 29, Curley was into the pits with an oil leak – another famous retirement. Owens now held a comfortable 51-second lead over Stafford, whose lonely race was now under threat, as Solheim was inching ever closer in third place. Slightly further back, Paddy was sixth on the road but in an actual fourth place because of Burnett and Woodrow being handed five-second penalties. Paddy was on a charge himself, though, first passing Burnett and Woodrow, and then hounding after Solheim. With five minutes to go, Paddy made it through up into third position.

As Owens won by nearly a minute, Stafford successfully hung on to second place, with Paddy taking third. There was drama right at the end when Solheim’s engine let go two laps from the end. This allowed Burnett to take fourth ahead of Woodrow, Jimmy Sime and Ollie Streek. Harvey & Rupert Death and Graham Churchill/Peter Baldwin took eighth and ninth, with Norwegians Ekorness and Solheim still classified tenth, a lap down.