Mechanical Misfortune Overshadow a Blistering Performance at Snetterton But Spirit Undeterred
Engine problems plague the number 31 Mini, but rising star Orton's masterful performance keeps fans and team Hybrid Tune hopeful for Oulton Park.
Last weekend saw rising star Will Orton face a series of formidable challenges at the legendary Snetterton race circuit during the third round of the 2023 JCW Mini Challenge. Despite the trials and tribulations, Orton demonstrated a fighting spirit and skill that left an indelible mark on both fans and his team, Hybrid Tune.
Coming into the weekend as championship leader, Will Orton was expected to have a promising run, as, after Friday's practice sessions, the young driver topped the timing sheets and set high hopes for the qualifying round on Saturday. However, a misjudgement by both Orton and guest driver Sam Weller saw both drivers run off the track and flat spot four of Orton’s six new tyres in qualifying - a significant setback given the limited tyre allocation rules.
Undeterred, Orton returned to the pits, set a blistering lap time, and took provisional pole, only to be overtaken by Zelos, his main championship rival, at the very end of the session. Orton's P2 in qualifying was commendable given the circumstances, and he entered Race 1 of the weekend with cautious optimism. Despite the tyre issues, Will ran a solid race and finished on the podium in third place, an optimistic finish given the tyre predicament.
Disaster struck on day 2 during Race 2 of 3 when a mechanical failure led to the engine of Orton's JCW Mini overheating, forcing him to retire prematurely and scoring zero points in the second race. As the Hybrid Tune team scrambled to fix the issues, Orton, invited by Mark Wagstaff of BTCC Blueprints, attended a signing session with Joe Tanner and Lydia Walmsley. Their appearance drew a large crowd, showcasing the growing fan base and recognition the young driver has been garnering.
Orton then faced the daunting task of starting from the back of the grid in Race 3 due to the previous retirement with tyres all past their best. Regardless, he charged through the field from the back to reach 8th place initially, and impressively looked to be hunting lining up to take the squabble for 4th place before a second engine overheating issue ended his run prematurely. The setback was significant, but the silver lining was that he had set the fastest lap of the race, showcasing his ability despite the hurdles.
The two DNFs at Snetterton allowed his main championship rival, Zelos, to take the championship lead. Orton’s disappointment was evident post-race when he said, "I'm gutted, if it's something I'd done like crashing into someone it's easier to take, but the fact that it's nothing I've done wrong has stopped me twice in a row makes it harder to take."
Despite the challenging weekend, all is not lost for Will Orton and the Hybrid Tune team. The focus is now on the next race at the renowned Oulton Park Circuit, a track famous for its blend of high-speed straights and challenging turns that will undoubtedly put all competitors to the test.
Will Orton, although experiencing a disappointing weekend at Snetterton, remains confident he can reclaim his earlier momentum. With the Hybrid Tune team working hard to ensure reliability for the next round, eyes will be firmly set on Orton's number 31 Mini as they look to rebound at Oulton Park, he has certainly demonstrated the speed, and Orton and his team are all set to tackle the next race with renewed determination.
As the anticipation builds for the upcoming weekend, fans and enthusiasts alike are waiting to see if Orton’s JCW Mini can once again rise to the top. This is the thrill of British motorsport, and for Orton, the race is far from over.