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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Top-10 finish for Ashley Gregory at Pembrey

Ashley Gregory is aiming to establish herself as a consistent top-10 challenger in the Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy - and she continued her strong start to the season by securing a top-10 finish in race 2 at Pembrey.

Ashley Gregory, Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy, 2024 Pembrey
Photo credits: Danny Dzenis

Ashley Gregory continued her strong start to the Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy by securing a top-10 finish at Pembrey. After qualifying in 12th position, Gregory finished a wet race one in 15th position after running inside the top-10 in the early stages. Race two brought Ashley’s best result as she took the checkered flag in 11th position, later promoted to tenth. Despite an unfortunate retirement in race three while battling for a top-10 position, it was a productive weekend for the young racer.

Opening her 2024 season at Snetterton, it was an encouraging start for Gregory who returned to the Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy for her second campaign. Ashley scored three good finishes in Norfolk and ended the event with an excellent race three which saw her pushing towards the lead group of drivers. Now arriving at Pembrey Circuit, Gregory was aiming to establish herself as a consistent top-10 challenger.

Qualifying took place on Saturday morning and was set to be closely contested with the short nature of the track, combined with the slipstream effect. The fastest times in the session came in the opening laps and Gregory set the 12th quickest lap overall, ninth among the Graduate Cup runners. Her time of 1:09.008 was just half a second away from the pole position lap set by Alex Keens, indicating the competitive nature of the championship.

The grid for race one was based off the second fastest time set in qualifying and this put Ashley in 10th position. It was a productive first lap for Gregory in damp conditions who moved into eighth and was holding well with the leading group of drivers. On lap five, she moved into seventh position following an overtake on Ronnie Smith and was now less than three seconds away from the race lead.

As the second half of the race began, Gregory began being shuffled down through the field with Reece Lycett the first to make a move. Pembrey Circuit can very much be a momentum-based circuit and worked against Ashley as she fell to tenth on lap ten. Heavier rain also started to fall which proved an extra challenge as both Matt Hammond and Steven Chandler passed the young driver on lap 11.

Gregory was further shuffled down the field in the final laps, taking the checkered flag in 15th position, tenth in the Graduate Cup, in what was a race of two halves. Nonetheless, Ashley’s speed in the first half of the race was extremely encouraging and proved she could hold her own with the leading drivers.

Ashley Gregory, Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy, 2024 Pembrey
Photo credits: Danny Dzenis

The weather was much improved for the first of Sunday’s two races with Ashley lining up from 15th after her race one result. It was a good start for Gregory who moved up one position on the opening lap, before taking over 12th position on lap two. A fantastic side by side battle then saw Ashley elevate herself into the top-10 by lap three, before Luca Marinoni Osborne claimed the position.

Now defending from Joshua Wilby, Gregory was starting to lose touch with the group ahead and was instead focused on protecting her position from behind. After opening up a more comfortable gap, Ashley was able to set faster laps and this resulted in a personal best time on lap 11. Now much faster than the group of drivers ahead, Gregory was quickly making inroads on the drivers inside the top-10. Taking the checkered flag in 11th position, she was later promoted to tenth following the disqualification for a rival, with Ashley also claiming eighth in the Graduate Cup.

Grid positions for the final race of the weekend were based off the fastest times from qualifying and this saw Gregory start from 12th position. After holding her position on lap one, Ashley overtook Reece Lycett and Alex Solley on lap two to move inside the top-10. It was an action-packed start to race three at Pembrey and positions were exchanging with each passing lap. Gregory enjoyed a fantastic battle with Rhys Hurd which saw her move both ahead and behind her rival.

On lap six, Ashley fell to 14th after Steven Chander and Matt Hammond moved ahead, before re-passing Chandler a lap later. Misfortune then struck on lap eight as Gregory was forced to retire into the pits with damage following an incident which involved both Chandler and Hammond. Although it was a disappointing end to the weekend, Ashley had enjoyed some thrilling battles across the three races in Wales.

Ashley was able to secure a sizeable haul of championship points at Pembrey while consistently challenging for a top-10 position. Her start in race one was a particular highlight, superbly dealing with the challenging conditions.

Gregory will be aiming for further top-10 results as the season progresses, with Vertu Mini Challenge Trophy drivers making their first appearance of the season on the TOCA package at Thruxton on the weekend of 8th/9th June.



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