Will Hunt recovers vital victory from Radical rollercoaster at Silverstone
Will Hunt recovered a vital victory from the Radical SR1 Cup’s double points endurance race on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit after his championship aspirations took a significant hit earlier in the weekend (14-15 August).
Hunt was marginally quicker than his SR1 rivals in Friday testing, but clean, traffic-free laps were at a premium and anticipation was subsequently high ahead of the joint Radical Challenge and SR1 Cup Qualifying session for Rounds 7 and 8 on Saturday morning.
Scorpio Motorsport’s Hunt gradually ramped up the pace over the course of the 20-minute session, which was punctuated by a Safety Car, but congestion remained an issue and the Motorsport UK Team UK Futures driver ultimately sealed fourth on the Round 7 grid with a 2m12.893s and third in the Round 8 starting order with a second-best time of 2m13.139s.
From the outside of the second row of the grid, Hunt made up places and was in among the SR3 tailenders when he became the innocent victim of a multi-car incident on the first run through Club Corner.
The contact was heavy and the damage terminal, and the non-score severely dented Hunt’s title aspirations, as he lost his grip on the championship lead for the first time in 2021, but a dogged performance in the second sprint race of the weekend went some way to limiting the damage.
Firstly, a concerted effort by Scorpio Motorsport to repair and set up Hunt’s badly damaged Radical SR1 ensured the Sussex racer had the tools to hold his own at the sharp end of the field.
Third and in the thick of the lead fight at the end of lap one, Hunt gained a position when main title rival Lay was tagged by a slow SR3 contender, but class leader Mackenzie Walker had already made good on his escape and was ultimately out of reach.
However, an unforced error at Abbey put Hunt back in Lay’s clutches; the pressure increased during the final four laps and the title combatants traded places three times on the penultimate tour of the 3.66mile Silverstone circuit.
Unflustered, Hunt immediately retaliated whenever Lay found a way through his defences, and the attack continued onto the final lap, the pair running side-by-side through Stowe, Vale and Club in an enthralling and respectful dogfight, Hunt crucially finishing ahead of and outscoring Lay.
Third again for the start of the double points endurance race on Sunday, Hunt initially got the better of Walker but settled back into his grid position as the top three – Lay, Walker and Hunt – broke free of the main SR1 pack.
However, conscious that Lay was beginning to stretch his legs out front, Hunt executed an unconventional lunge on second-placed Walker entering the infamous Maggots and Becketts sequence of corners.
He went on to decimate Lay’s lead, snatch the initiative and then edge out a 7.4-second advantage before the compulsory pit stops at half-distance, but a slow SR3 enabled Walker and Lay to re-engage, and Hunt had to work hard on ageing Hankooks to keep his foes at arm’s length.
Hunt rose to the challenge, managing his tyres and fuel impeccably in what was the longest race of his career to date, securing another victory, his fifth of the 2021 season counting for double points and putting him just one point behind Lay in the championship with only the ‘Donington decider’ to come (18 September).
“I really felt in the zone in the last race because everything just flowed beautifully,” said Hunt. “I consciously took a load of pressure off my shoulders and changed my mental approach, not over-analysing the events of Saturday, and I subsequently found a rhythm that helped me adapt to the deteriorating grip levels as the tyres fell away.
“On the whole, the weekend has been a complete rollercoaster, as losing the championship lead after being taken out of race one was hugely disappointing, but I did my best to claw back points in race two, and winning race three felt incredible. The fact is, I’ve been there or thereabouts throughout so I’m feeling relaxed and ready to go into battle in the final round of the season at Donington Park.”