- Chris Ashby
Ashley Gregory Scores Rookie Cup Podium On MINI CHALLENGE Trophy Debut
Ashley Gregory lifted the curtain on her Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season in spectacular style this past Easter weekend (April 8/9) by claiming a hard-fought Rookie Cup podium finish at Brands Hatch.
Making her return to racing in what is widely viewed as one of the most competitive one-make championships in the UK, the 18-year-old made an instant impact on the series as she claimed runners-up laurels in a frenetic second contest around the Indy circuit.
That podium, coupled with two further strong drives in the remaining contests, ensured she left the Kent venue sitting fifth in the Rookie Cup standings and on the fringe of the top ten on the overall leaderboard.
Getting to grips with her front-wheel-drive machine during Friday’s free practice sessions, the former Junior Ministox champion set a best time of 57.115 during Saturday’s qualifying to clinch a top ten start for race one.
Getting a good launch off the line, the Rawtenstall-based driver soon settled into a groove before an unavoidable trip through the gravel at mid-distance dropped her down the order. She was however able to recover and cross the line ninth of the rookie entrants and 18th overall.
Race two would see Gregory - who is backed by Pecometer Software, Available Car, Salford Car and Van Hire, Gianluca Photography, HMS Haulage, DMG Contracts, Northcoat, Wilson and Whiting, Lancashire Carpets, Lavender Hotels and Mintech Spares - really come to the fore from the ninth row of the grid.
In what was a 15-minute bout that had everyone on the edge of their seats, Gregory showcased all of her talent and experience to pick her way up the order; producing a number of eye-catching moves along the way.
Charging into the top ten come the latter stages, Gregory crossed the line in eighth, but even more importantly, second in the Rookie Cup category - netting her a first trophy of the season.
Riding high after her earlier podium heroics, the teenager signed off her debut outing in the series with another impressive display as she produced a battling drive to narrowly miss out on a top ten finish in 11th.
Ashley Gregory:“It’s been a really great weekend! To be coming away with a second place finish in the Rookie Cup and a solid haul of points is just fantastic and probably a little bit more than what we might have expected.
“Obviously coming back into full-time racing after a year out was going to be a challenge so I’m really proud with how I performed. We’ve had really good speed and some mega battles too.
“To be leaving Brands Hatch with a trophy is amazing and the perfect reward for all of the incredible sponsors that have joined me on this journey in 2023. Hopefully it's the first of many!"
Snetterton provides the next stop on the calendar for the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy on the 13-14 May.
Image from Graham Holbon Photography.