STONE & WHELDON TOP PRAGA CUP AFTER OPENING ROUND AT SILVERSTONE
RAW Motorsports Ben Stone and Rob Wheldon came away from Silverstone as Championship leaders in the all new Praga Cup.
The weekend started well when Wheldon took over from Stone and clinched pole position in the closing laps of qualifying for race one. “A great feeling and Rob set the car up perfectly. It was slippery so wets were the right choice and we got lots of grip,” said Stone. “Ben did a sterling job and was the quickest Am. I got the pole time near the end but the track conditions didn’t change,” Wheldon added.
Team mate Rod Goodman was late out in to the session. “I had a bit of a starter motor problem, but had a clear track then. Rob told me to stick to the drying line, but I couldn’t always do it or see it,” he replied after qualifying 10th. After briefly losing the lead of the race, Wheldon was back in charge before the end of the opening lap and began to pull clear of his challengers.
But second placed Chris Wesemael began to close and tried a challenge down the inside at Luffield on lap five. Wheldon managed to hold him off until Village three laps later, but couldn’t respond and was soon losing ground in third place.
“The handling started to go and it became a real handful, which showed up our lack of dry testing,” he explained. He pitted after 16 laps from fourth place to hand to Stone, who rejoined in the same position.
As the safety car was called into action, the leaders received a stop-go penalty which put Stone up to third. But then the new leader spun and he was second and first of the Championship contenders. The race finished under the safety car, so it was maximum points for the duo on their Praga debut.
“Great result, but the car was quite a handful and we weren’t in control of our own race. The safety car got me into the traffic, but fantastic for our first race,” said Stone.
Goodman had been running just inside the top 10 but he headed for the pits after 11 laps. “The exhaust broke and it affected the clutch, split a CV and the fuel pressure went, so I just stayed in the pits,” he said.
It was an all RAW front row for the second race. “I went first and was quickest Am, then Rob was quickest Pro,” said poleman Stone. “It started wet and as I was a single driver, I stayed out and got quicker and quicker,” added a delighted Goodman lining up second.
Stone retained the advantage on the opening lap, but couldn’t hold off Charles Hall.
“He started at the back but was so much quicker, hanging out on the wet line and he just pulled away,” said Stone. Goodman also started well and was holding third. “Then the rain started and I spun at Stowe, but managed to hold onto sixth until the stops,” he replied.
Wheldon was in for Stone and although second was still was over 40 seconds off the lead. His pace was on average two seconds a lap quicker than the rest and by the flag the gap had been reduced to 9.190 secs. “The success penalty at the stop obviously didn’t help, but a dream start for us, just magnificent,” Stone concluded. Goodman came home a solid sixth and was equally pleased with his result.