A mid-race safety car played into the hands of Andre Simon, who claimed top honours in the Class A and B one-hour race at Highlands this morning.
Simon led the race’s early stages, seizing the lead from pole-sitter Scott O’Donnell on the dash to turn one.
But O’Donnell fought back and reclaimed the lead a few laps later.
“We got a good run on Scott with the rolling start,” Simon said. “But it was clear through the Southern Loop he was much faster than me.
“So, I held him off for two or three laps then let him go.”
O’Donnell established a healthy margin over the chasing pack, yet all was undone when the safety car was deployed. A stranded car needed to be recovered, and race control opted to neutralise the field.
Simon was among several drivers who pounced on the opportunity to complete their compulsory pitstop.
However, O’Donnell stayed on track and was soon stuck meandering behind the safety car.
A radio issue meant O’Donnell didn’t know what was unfolding on track, costing him the lead.
“When the safety car came out, I didn’t get told to come in,” O’Donnell said.
“So, I did a whole lap behind the safety car and about a four-minute lap. So, yeah, a simple communication error. But the car went beautifully all race.”
When he did transit the pitlane the next lap, O’Donnell had relinquished the lead to Simon.
The Honda Civic of Daniel Cropp was another benefactor of the caution period, vaulting into second.
Down in third, O’Donnell was in podium contention but had a profusion of lap traffic between him and the front runners.
Up front, Simon controlled the rest of the race and collected the win.
“Redemption,” Simon described the victory. Twelve months earlier he had missed the first round of the 2020 series and suffered a dismal championship with reliability problems.
Now, he is back and ready to make a statement.
“[The win] feels incredible.”
O’Donnell picked his way through the slower lapped cars, eventually coming within 3.6s of Cropp. The little green Civic did enough to clinch second overall.
Dennis Chapman was fourth in the Track Tec Racing Audi TCR, with Mike Hall rounding out the top five.
Steven Kelly bounced back after his stoppage in qualifying to finish a commendable P7.
Main Image: Mark Petch