Bradley Gravett enjoyed the best weekend of his racing career to date with a breakthrough podium finish as the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE headed to Brands Hatch for the second round of the campaign.
Bradley headed to his home circuit keen to build on the pace he had displayed in the opening meeting of the campaign at Donington Park two weeks earlier, where he had looked well-placed for a top-three finish before an unfortunate technical failure robbed him of potential silverware.
Eager to make up ground in the standings, Bradley's weekend started in positive fashion as he ran comfortably inside the top six in both of Friday's official test sessions, leaving confidence high going into the race weekend itself.
Despite tricky wet conditions in qualifying that left Bradley and his rivals struggling for grip around much of the lap, he was able to set a number of impressively quick laps at the wheel of his EXCELR8 Motorsport-run car to secure a place on the second row of the grid for the opening race of the weekend.
P4 on the timesheets marked not only a new personal best in the headline JCW class, but also equalled the best result of Bradley's career to date - going back to his time in the MINI CHALLENGE Cooper class three years ago.
Conditions had worsened by the time race one came around later in the day, with Bradley making a lightning start when the lights went out as he immediately set his sights on pushing for the podium places.
Running fourth on the road, Bradley soon found himself holding third place when one of the cars ahead was handed a time penalty, and a fine move on Will Orton at Paddock Hill Bend then allowed him to grab second spot.
Orton would reclaim the position four laps later before Bradley found himself at the centre of one of the moments of the race as he went wheel-to-wheel with team-mate Oliver Meadows for almost an entire lap - Meadows only finding a way through when Bradley ran wide on standing water at Surtees.
Whilst a red flag prevented him from making a move to reclaim the place, P4 still marked Bradley's best JCW result to date - although it wouldn't take long to better it…
Making the most of a poor start for Meadows, Bradley jumped up into third place immediately and then worked hard to keep Jamie Osborne at bay during the early stages before starting to ease away from the fight for fourth.
Taking the chequered flag in a fine third place, Bradley then received an unexpected bonus when he returned to parc ferme to discover that a late puncture for Dan Zelos had seen him pit from second spot - promoting Bradley an additional place in the result.
The second-place finish marked the first podium result of Bradley's racing career, and he was well positioned to add to it in race three when an unfortunate mechanical issue saw him forced into retirement whilst running in second.
Ahead of the next round of the championship in two weeks time at Snetterton, Bradley has now moved into the top ten in the points once dropped scores are factored into play.
"What a weekend!" Bradley admitted. "Even though the results from Donington Park hadn't been as good as I had hoped, I knew heading to Brands Hatch that we had the potential to fight at the front of the field.
"After a productive Friday, we were able to take everything we had learned and convert it into a strong performance in qualifying, and I was delighted to score my best result to date as I knew it would set us up a good run in race one.
"Although I missed out on the podium, it was a really enjoyable race in difficult conditions, and the fact it was a new personal best result was a big boost in confidence ahead of Sunday.
"Race two is an experience I will never, ever forget and the whole reason why I wanted to get into a race car. It's taken so much hard work to get into this position, and it's hard to find the words to describe the emotions I was feeling as the clock ticked down and then the chequered flag came out.
"I was in tears of joy on the slowing-down lap, so when I came back in and got told I was actually second, it just made it all the more memorable - and it was even more special to score my first-ever podium at my home circuit with my friends and family watching on.
"Okay, so it was a massive shame that I had to retire from race three, and it's far from ideal to have used up both of my dropped scores so early in the season, but there is nothing that will take away from that podium finish.
"Now I've done it once, my focus is firmly on trying to repeat the feat as much as possible over the remainder of the season."
Bradley Gravett is supported by GERKO, ThinkingitBetter, Ultimate Car Control, My Custom Workwear, Scalextric, Elite Vehicle Chargers, Flying TV, PolyChrome Studios, DriverAssist.ME, Bradbury Racing, Alexander James Interiors, Tesouro Timepiece and Crypto Saving Expert.