TOMMY Philp and Chris Burrage sprayed the champagne in the MRO 600 ranks this weekend as they popped the cork on 2018 with wins at Brands Hatch Indy.
The two may have shared the top spot all weekend, but they looked to be in for a fight when former Team Green Junior Cup runner-up and World Supersport 300 racer Luke Hopkins joined the party.
The 600 rookie stuck in a qualifying lap good enough to pip Sam Smith for second on the grid, less than half a second behind Philp on pole.
But tragedy struck for the Draper Racing rider when he missed the cutoff to join the grid for race one, meaning he’d have to start dead last.
The empty pole position made way for a charging Michael Mills, who launched from fifth on the grid to lead the first lap with Hopkins in tow.
But looming just behind was last year’s Champion of Brands Burrage, who snatched the lead from Hopkins on lap four and led all the way to the flag with Smith just 0.789sec adrift in second.
And after making up 10 places on the first lap, Philp impressively carved his way up to the final rostrum spot to salvage his pit lane folly. Philip Baker took the top Clubman honours in eighth overall, ahead of Andrew Smith and Richard Goode.
In race two, Philp shot off the line as Seton Tuning’s Burrage tucked in behind while their fellow front row-starter Sam Smith dropped to seventh on lap one.
But the GBM Kawasaki rider recovered to slot into the final podium position. And just as birthday boy Burrage looked to be reeling in Philp, the front-man pulled out the fastest lap of the race to ensure a comfortable two-second victory.
The top three Clubman remained on the podium for race two, but this time it was Andrew Smith taking the win in ninth from Goode and Baker.
Philp once again led the train of Burrage and Sam Smith in race three, seemingly running away with another win. But Smith put his head down shortly thereafter and drew back over two seconds to get within 0.3sec of victory just three laps from the flag.
But his eleventh-hour assault wasn’t enough, and he had to settle for a runner-up finish a mere 0.375 adrift of double-winner Philp as David Shelvey nabbed the final rostrum spot.
Andrew Smith also doubled up with another Clubman win in fourth with Baker and former Team Green Cup front-runner Ben Hawes in third.
The fourth and final race was cancelled due to track conditions.
*Main image: David Watson
*Burrage image: John Manclark