With the 2017 season wrapped up, the silverware handed out and the MINI CHALLENGE JCW cars now off for some much-needed winter R&R, Charlie Butler-Henderson looks back on the ups and downs of his race campaign.

MINI UK Brand Ambassador CB-H had quite an adventure this year in the JCW championship. The former champion scored two race wins, four further podium finishes and set two fastest laps. Not a shabby haul in such a tight and competitive class like the MINI CHALLENGE.

Charlie finished the year fourth in the championship, missing out in a tight battle over second place overall in a dramatic Donington Park finale. Had it not been for more than a few instances of bad luck and mechanical maladies, Charlie could have found himself much higher.

“It’s been a difficult and sometimes testing season, but it’s always a privilege to be able to race in such a competitive championship and work for a brand as brilliant as MINI,” says Charlie. “Now I’ll head into the winter break to get some rest and come back next season fired up and determined to fight for the title in 2018.”

Highlight of the Year

“This has to be the first race win of the season at Oulton Park on the longer International Circuit. I’ve always loved Oulton – it’s a track that demands so much skill and bravery and really separates the men from the boys.

“I’d qualified fifth after a tough session but fought to third in the first race. That set me up for a charge in race two. I got a great start from second on the grid to get past Max Bladon and had him in my mirrors all race. I soaked up the pressure and defended all the way to get the win, and the championship lead with it. It felt amazing on the podium.”

Lowlight of the Year

“Snetterton, race three – the race I never got – without a doubt. That weekend was pretty much a disaster from start to finish. I started near last after qualifying was stopped due to bad weather after I only got one lap in, then I finished P10 in races one and two as I was struggling with the car.

“But race three was the worst. The team had taken the gearbox apart to check everything was OK, and then a bolt in the gear linkage sheared on the warm-up lap and I had to park the car. Sitting behind the barriers watching the race start was when I knew my championship chances had gone.”

Biggest Rival

“Reece Barr. Perhaps I should say Brett Smith, who won the championship. But in truth he was up the road from everybody as he was probably the only driver at the top not to have any issues.

“Reece was new to the championship and came with good budget and strong backing, so I knew I had a fight on my hands with him. He’s a talented kid and we had a few good battles on track. At Donington we were nose-to-tail for second in the points for most of the weekend. It’ll be a good fight with him again if he comes back next year.”

Best Race

“Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit is a great place to overtake as it’s wide, fast and flowing and race two there this year was probably one of my best opening laps ever. I’d lost the chance to fight for the win in race one when a throttle sensor failed and forced me to pit.

“I started 25th for race two and got a mega start and went around the outside of a few cars at Copse, then did the same at Becketts. I had no clue what position I was in so I just kept pusing. I was inside the top 13 by the end of the first lap. To pass 12 cars in one lap is something you’ve got to be pretty proud of!”

A New Arrival
Charlie would like to say how proud he is of his wife Stephanie (AKA SRB-H) for all her support and help throughout 2017, and giving birth to our first child – Rafferty Butler-Henderson – who was born on October 7 in Cambridge weighing 6lb 1oz.