Ashley Gregory completes debut Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy season
Concluding her season with a best result of seventh in the Rookie Class, Ashley Gregory brought her maiden campaign in the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy to a close at Brands Hatch, having shown exceptional promise during the course of the season, scoring two Rookie Class victories and an overall podium finish.
Concluding her season with a best result of seventh in the Rookie Class, Ashley Gregory brought her maiden campaign in the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy to a close at Brands Hatch. Ashley showed exceptional promise during the course of the season, scoring two Rookie Class victories and an overall podium finish.
The final round of the championship saw Gregory face adversity in changeable conditions with two retirements from the three races, however she can take away many positives from her first year of senior racing.
Ashley has shown excellent speed in her debut season of the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy and was aiming to end her campaign on a high at Brands Hatch. This was the second occasions on which the drivers had raced on the Indy layout in 2023, with the race weekend getting underway on Friday with a number of short test sessions. Mixed conditions were good preparation ahead of the competitive running with Ashley gaining valuable experience across the day.
Qualifying took place on Saturday morning and was held in extremely wet conditions. Due to heavy rain and standing water, the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy was the first session of the day not to qualify behind the safety car. Ashley built up her lap times well, however three separate red flags, combined with an early end to the session, this meant it was hard to get into a good rhythm.
Ending the session 15th overall, seventh among the Rookie Class drivers, this was a solid start to the weekend with Gregory aiming to push towards the top-10.
The opening race of the weekend was held in wet conditions, albeit under clearer skies. Starting from 15th on the grid, Ashley held her position on the opening lap before moving ahead of Gabe Fairbrother for 14th on lap two. Gregory continued to show excellent speed in tricky conditions to move ahead of both Lee Pearce and Luca Marinoni Osborne, elevating her to 12th at the conclusion of lap four.
Despite Fairbrother moving ahead on lap seven, Ashley was determined to fight back and looked set to challenge for a top-10 position before a safety car and subsequent red flag brought the race to an early conclusion. Finishing the race in 13th, seventh in the Rookie Class, Gregory knew she had the pace to move forward in Sunday’s two final races.
Race two on Saturday morning took place on a predominantly dry track, however with damp patches off line and low ambient temperatures, it was set to be another challenge. Lining up 13th following her race one result, Ashley made a great initial launch and was side-by-side with a rival entering Paddock Hill Bend. Misfortune then struck as low tyre temperatures and close-quarters racing led to Gregory spinning into the gravel and this ended her second race of the weekend early.
Lining up 30th overall for the final race of the weekend, the weather was once again changeable with a short rain shower prior to the race. Ashley made an excellent start and was on the fringes of the top-20 as the drivers arrived at Surtees for the first time.
Contact with a competitor then saw Gregory impacting the barrier and although the race was red flagged for another incident, she was unable to rejoin the restarted race. It was an unfortunate end to the season, with Ashley well-placed for a trademark charge through the field.
Although not achieving the results she aimed for at the final round of the season, it was a positive debut campaign for Ashley in the Vertu Motors Mini Challenge Trophy. The highlight of her season came at Croft where Gregory fought the race victory and led a number of laps before claiming a pair of Rookie Class victories, in addition to a third place finish overall.
Ashley’s final championship position of 22nd, 12th among the Rookie Class drivers, therefore does not reflect the speed she has shown throughout the course of the season. The flashes of speed she has shown will encourage Gregory heading into the winter where she will look to secure the funding for a full-season racing programme in 2024.