What. A. Race.
The final two races were always destined to be thrillers, with four drivers all in with a chance at the title. But nobody could have predicted just how exciting the climax to the season was going to be! Highs and lows for a lot of drivers in tricky conditions saw Matt Luff crowned the 2022 Milltek Sport Civic Cup Champion on Sunday, after winning the first of the two races at Snetterton.
Morgan Bailey, claimed victory in the second of the two races, meaning he became this year’s runner up. Last year’s Champion, Alistair Camp, finished third in the drivers’ standings this time around, following an incident which saw him retire early in the second race.
For the Production Class, Alfie Jeakins claimed two second place finishes which was enough to crown him Champion in this category (for cars with fewer modifications).
After 14 rounds it was still tight at the top, with the Champion status hanging in the balance, being able to go to any of the following four drivers. Alastair Camp (236 points), Matt Luff (227 points), Morgan Bailey (225 points), or Dan Thackery (217 points).
It was tight in the production class too, with it coming down to two drivers, Alfie Jeakins (278 points) and Loui Hounsell (252 points).
Whilst competitors were able to drop their two lowest scores in all the previous 14 rounds. Regulations dictate that this option isn’t applicable to the final meeting. Therefore, it was a straight fight for the share of the 52 points on offer: 25 points for a win in each race, and then an extra point for setting the fastest lap in each race.
15 minutes is all that was on offer, on an extremely wet track, to decide the grid position for the first of the final two races of the season. Given the circumstances it was always going to be a frantic and intense session. From the off It was clear that grip levels were a lottery. This inevitably saw the red flag emerge during the session.
Thackery seemed to have mastered the conditions the best of all competitors, albeit only marginally. It was Luff who stopped the clock a miniscule 0.009 seconds behind! Rob Butler was a further 0.442 seconds back in P3. Followed by Camp in P4, Harvey Caton in P5, and the final title chaser Bailey in P6, 0.866 behind Thackery on Pole.
Production Class saw Hounsell, Jeakins and Mark Hughes round out the top three positions.
Attempting to predict the results of the first of the two races was made even more difficult due to the heavy rainfall. With the inside of the track proving to have less grip than the outside of the track, it was Luff who took advantage of the slow getaway from Thackery once the lights went out.
For championship leader Camp, contact with Butler at Wilsons Hairpin – saw him slide wide and drop down to fifth. By the end of the first lap, Luff and Thackery managed to put three seconds between themselves and the rest of the pack. Consisting of Bailey, Jack Harding, Camp. Followed by Bradley Lane, Harvey Caton, Will Redford and Butler.
Butler squeezed past Redford into eighth place after two laps had passed. Dave Buky, managed to get ahead of Edmundson to claim tenth place, on his return to the Championship. Claiming tenth was pivotal, as it means that he was on pole for the final race of the season (as the top ten from race one is reversed for race two).
Despite having steamed-up windows, Jack Harding managed to pass Camp with only 5 minutes to go. This battle saw Harvey Caton and Bradley Lane join the now four-car battle for fourth place.
Camp, fully aware to retain his advantage in the Championship he had to finish fourth, unfortunately slid wide which saw him momentarily take to the grass. Losing him another place in the process. Further up the road, Luff claimed his second win of the year, managing to take the championship lead, ahead of contenders Thackeray and Bailey.
Hounsell claimed the Production class win for the fourth time this season, which closed the points gap on teammate Alfie Jeakins.
Unlike the first race the track was all but dry for the second, albeit the temperatures in the late afternoon meant that grip was going to be invaluable. Regarding the title, Luff started a single point ahead of Camp, eight points ahead of Bailey and Thackery. Each of the four still holding a mathematical chance to claim the honours.
Redford made the most of his pole position and led the field ahead of Buky, Butler, Lane, and Bailey. Camp was sandwiched between this group on the exit of the first corner.
Camp sadly spun into the barrier not long later and despite the former Champions best efforts to continue, his Civic was too damaged to go further than the pit lane.
Later in the lap there were even more spins, with Buky going off followed shortly by Caton. Redford was consolidating his lead ahead of Bailey, Butler, Lane, Thackeray, Holding, and Luff (who was now in seventh place)
Luff managed to pull off one of the moves of the season on the next lap. He passed four cars between Brundle and Murrays, taking himself straight up to third in one swift motion. Setting his sights on Baily next, but in typical motorsport fashion. It’s not over, until it’s over.
Six minutes left of the final race and with Bailey needing to put cars between him and Luff to be in with a chance of gaining the point difference to secure the title, he slowed just enough to back Luff into the chasing pack of Butler, Thackeray, Lane, and Harding.
Luff was in a decent position to make a move on Bailey, but at the same time he had to defend his place. With two laps to go, on the run up to Wilsons Hairpin there was contact. Luff leaving the track and clipping the exact same barrier Camp had done earlier. This impact removed his front bumper and plenty of other ancillary items. Surprising everyone however, he continued, but now in eighth place and with his car looking a little worse for wear.
Redford then slowed and momentarily went off the track, causing himself to drop to sixth significantly behind Luff.
It was now a three-way battle for the race out front, the trio initially led by Thackeray, the n Lane, and then Bailey, who went on to take his fourth victory of the season.
Luff managed to pass the finish line in fourth, despite the steam coming out of the front of his car. Meaning the 2022 Milltek Sport Civic Cup Championship title was handed to Luff. Winning by just three points.
After the race, Luff was elevated to third place after Thackeray was relegated to fourth, after being penalised for two places for causing a collision. Early race leader Redford ended up finishing in fifth, ahead of Butler, Harding, Caton, Brennan, and Edmundson.
With Hounsell recording his second Production Cup victory of the day (and fifth of the year). It was Jeakins, who secured second place, meaning he had managed to get all the points needed to secure the title. Hounsell finishing second in the season standings and Hughes in third.
“Today has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I was quite nervous this morning, especially with the weather the way it’s been, so it was a relief to win the first race.”
“As for the second! After a good start and after I saw Alistair go off – which was a huge surprise – I knew I was in with a chance. But then when I was turned into the barrier, I thought it was all over. The car didn’t handle straight from then on, but I just kept going and with a little help from Rob my teammate and then a bit more luck, I managed to make it to the line.“It’s been a fantastic championship and I’ve really enjoyed the racing, especially against Alistair. I hope we’ll be competing against each other next year”
“This has been an awesome year. I’ve really enjoyed it and the racing has been so close. It’s also been great to compete against my teammate Loui. He’s helped me out a lot during the season and it’s great to come away as the class champion!”
We would like to congratulate all participants for making this season so exciting, with a special mention to Matt Luff and to Alfie Jeakins for winning their respective championships. We look forward to see you all again next season, raring to go again!
Check out the nail-biting finale here.