WILL Hodgson could be one of the early favourites for the Thundersport Elite 600 title after stamping his authority with a clean sweep in the opening round at Donington Park.
The 2016 Aprilia 450 Challenge runner-up made a return to the scene after nearly a full year out of competition in the last 12 months due to lack of finances.
But this weekend wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Wigan ace – he lined up on the third row of the grid as rain plagued Saturday’s qualifying session, leaving Manxman Andrew Dudgeon to take pole ahead of Luke Hopkins and Sam Munro.
With patches of water still plaguing the Donington tarmac, Scotsman Munro led from the off. But Sportsman Pete Riches soon snapped up the lead and began to pull away from the pack.
Just after half distance, however, the Ron Hodgson Cars R6 of Hodgson caught up to Riches as the two began a lone battle for victory. But with a lap to go and just a quarter of a second separating them over the line, Hodgson pulled ahead and took the chequered flag by 0.826sec from Riches and Ashley Milburn.
No Limits Club 600 champ Andy Guy snatched second place in the Sportsman class with seventh overall, ahead of Tom Collinge in 15th.
As fastest lap holder from race one, Crank Racing’s Milburn put the little yellow Triumph on pole for day two of action. But when the lights went out, Hodgson powered ahead of fellow front row men Milburn and Daniel Frear as the two tucked in behind.
Frear levered Hodgson aside on lap six, only to be pushed back into second the very next lap before slipping down the order suddenly, leaving Milburn to take advantage and hit the front.
But his lead was short lived after reigning champion Will White and Riches joined the party, the two completing the overall podium as Hodgson took another win by just under 0.7sec. Last year’s Freshman 600 ace Lee McLaughlin bagged second of the Sportsman runners in sixth, with EMRA Superport and Superstock 600 champ Will Shaw nabbing third.
Intent on leaving the track in style, Hodgson demolished the field by completing his hat-trick of wins with a 10-second victory over Riches and White after the latter two emerged victorious from a seven-way fight with Alex Baker, reigning Sportsman champ Lloyd Shelley, Irish Supersport champ Jason Lynn, Frear and Max Wadsworth.
With Riches easily taking his third Sportsman win of the weekend, Ben Wotton and Shaw took second and third in 11th and 13th, respectively.
“Minus a lap record, it was pretty much a perfect weekend,” Hodgson told UK Clubsport. “I wasn’t too sure how I would get on in the race before the weekend, as the 600 class is new to me and I’m unfamiliar with the other competitors.
“The first two races I felt if I could get a clear track I had the pace to pull a gap, and in the last race I was lucky enough to get to do that. I can’t wait for Oulton Park next – my home round.”
*Main image: Paul Soulby
*Riches image: Colin Port
*Bottom image: Steve Phillips