2017 National Championship Weekend
Hednesford Hills, 4/5/6 August
Haird dominant again at Hednesford
Graham Brown Chris Haird carried on at the Nationals right where he’d left off at the World championships, taking another dominant and masterful victory in the 75-lapper. Qualifying on the outside front row of the grid, Haird passed pole winner Adam Hylands early on in the race and was in total charge from that point on. Defending champ Hylands eventually had to settle for third after Rob McDonald also followed Haird past.
Friday’s practice sessions had in fact pointed the way the title race would eventually go. The astoundingly quick (to say nothing of great looking) new Ginetta of Shane Murray topped the times for most of the afternoon, and that despite missing the first session altogether with a problem, until Haird sorted a minor motor bother and got his car dialled in, waiting until the very last lap of the last run to set FTD – a clear warning to the rest that they’d need to be at the top of their game.
Murray wasn’t the only Ulsterman battling car bothers in practice either, with Keith Martin breaking a link bar and having to be towed off backwards very gingerly, while Shane Murphy suffered a very smoky wheel bearing failure.
BTCC interloper Rob Austin started off pretty tentatively but was soon giving it a good go, despite the car looking a bit pushy turning in and loose coming off the turns – not the best combination. Meanwhile, his car owner was having worse problems, Mikey Godfrey’s Tigra B giving aggro with a seemingly incurable misfire which the team went to great lengths to cure.
A few late cancellations had dropped our 60 car entry to an eventual 55 but I never heard anyone complain about a lack of cars!
Saturday’s opening heat kicked off with Brendan O'Connell briefly leading before Simon Kennedy darted past into turn one, taking Shane Bland through with him. Bland had his hands on the lead by the end of lap two and that really was that as far as the destination of the win was concerned here.
Kennedy and O'Connell continued to lead the rest while Bland pulled quickly clear, 'the rest' being headed up by Rob Austin, who was giving a good account of himself until somebody rooted him out of the groove and he dropped four places in a trice.
As the race moved beyond half distance, Keith Martin managed to work his way up to and through the placemen, eventually to assume second and start trying to chase down the leader. But with the laps running out, Bland clearly tapped off and used up most of his half lap cushion by just cruising home.
Philip McCloy led heat two after a first bend clash with returnee Ralph Sanders and proved able to stay there until challenged by fellow Ulsterman Derek Martin, Martin hitting the front as they exited the West Bend and McCloy getting railroaded backwards as Jaimie McCurdy, Chris Haird and John Christie rushed past. McCurdy fell back as Haird went to the front of the bunch and got after the leader. It was Martin versus Haird with four laps to run but at that point the spitting rain turned into the real thing, the suddenly slippery track clearly suiting the leader's car much better as he pulled clear again to win.
It was back to a sun-dried track for the third heat, where pole man Glenn Bell went straight into a lead he wasn't to lose. But if that sounds like a dull race it was actually anything but, eventually building into the best race of the day.
Bradley Dynes ran second initially before losing the spot to Adam Maxwell, but from that point on Dynes clung onto his position tenaciously, such that the queue to have a go at him swelled to a 13-car freight train. Shane Murray stepped out wide to try it up the outside while Murphy got spat out of the pack and went spinning at the West Bend. Murray eventually made his pass stick, with Kym Weaver the next to try the outside line. He could not get it done and fell back, allowing Derek Martin to attack Dynes’ inside instead, he too making it past.
Murray swiftly caught Maxwell and easily by-passed the former world champ along the back stretch, suggesting Maxwell might well have a compromised set up – in fact he’d chosen to go with a full set of wets. There was no doubting Murray's undoubted pace though and Bell was probably glad to see the chequers when he did. But in the end Glenn's efforts were all in vain as he was soon to be disqualified from the meeting for a tyre logging infringement.
Heat four was slightly less fraught. Rob McDonald turned pole into an immediate lead with David Casey tracking him all the way. The Scot always looked to have the upper hand until they encountered traffic, whereupon Casey came rushing in, the pair exiting turn three locked together and McDonald battling to hold onto a big sideways moment. He managed it though, Casey took a (unacted upon) black cross and the pair carried on their dice all the way to the final lap, when the race was red flagged after Billy Bonnar’s car caught fire on the infield.
The fifth race saw Christie all alone on the front row, but that wasn’t going to hand him an easy win, with Ben McKee and Murphy piling on the pressure right from the off, the 962 Fiesta getting jostled throughout much of the opening lap. And when Adam Heatrick, Haird and later Billy Wood all joined them, this became a battle royal.
Haird shot up the outside, relegated Heatrick, and was ahead of Murphy too, briefly, before Murphy struck back. Then the leaders were all forced to lift for a second or two due to an incident involving some backmarkers immediately ahead of them down the home straight, putting Wood back in the frame, as Haird moved outside of Murphy. This was one of those races where it all finished far too soon, with Christie heading them all over the line, and Murphy just and only just holding onto second in a near dead heat with Haird. Once again however, some good work was all going to be wasted, as Murphy was targeted for a spot check on fuel non-return valves. His car was found wanting, spelling the end of the meeting for him.
The last qualifying heat featured a false start when Ulstermen Gary Wilson and Heatrick tangled into turn one, causing multiple collisions and bringing them all back for another try. Another false start ensued before they got going for keeps, with pole sitter Adam Hylands blitzing away but not fast enough to ditch the ever-impressive Chris Crane. Hylands’ car was exhibiting clear signs of damage from his encounter with Wilson and he was probably lucky to make the re-start, a large lump of bonnet missing altogether and the rest waving about in the breeze whenever the car was under the hammer. Nevertheless, the rest of it appeared to be working just fine and he gradually pulled out a scant lead out over Crane, the pair taking the flag still in that order.
Saturday’s proceedings closed with a relatively uneventful ‘last chance’ race for everybody who’d failed to qualify outright, which should have put Aaron Dew and David York onto the back of Sunday’s grid. In the end Dew wasn’t fit to run and neither was the next man home – Mark Heatrick – leaving an unusually lacklustre Jason Kew to take up the remaining grid slot.
National Championship Grid
54 117 962 15 48 342 994 75 70 937 940 113 305 996 925 8 23
115 20 261 42 76 199 95 491 4 955 209 162 998 22 11 964 196
The Race – 75 Laps
Haird may have had a front row start but the quality of the cars around him suggested he was going to have plenty of work to do in order to achieve the ‘traditional double' of adding the National to his World title. And chief among the possible stumbling blocks was surely going to be the pole sitter and defending champion Hylands.
It was Hylands who got the jump - just - at the green flag, but it was all to no avail as Jeff Riordan spun at the West Bend, several cars running into either him or each other to set the yellows flying.
The single file restart saw Hylands still leading Haird, McDonald, Christie and Derek Martin. Along with David Casey, this lead bunch were very soon drawing clear, at which point it became time to sort the probable victor amongst themselves. And when Hylands somehow left a tad too much daylight down his inside at the East Bend, that and a bit of rubbing were sufficient to put Haird into the lead. The news got worse for Hylands too as McDonald, following in Haird’s wake, went second a lap later.
With Haird already beginning to stretch his legs and McDonald, Hylands, Christie, Derek Martin and Casey tied together in their almost race-long places fight, it wasn’t long before it became pretty clear that no one else was ever likely to be able to get on terms with this gang of fast movers – with one possible exception.
Martin had just managed to sneak down Christie’s inside at turn three when a further caution period for a couple of cars stranded in dangerous spots naturally closed the field right up, bringing all the lesser placemen much closer to the front runners, even allowing for some intervening backmarkers. One of the cars languishing down the order was Shane Murray, a non-finish in one heat having hurt him pretty badly in terms of grid positions, the new Ginetta having started from 17th spot. But by the time of this stoppage he was already through to ninth and now much better placed to progress further.
With the race back under the green flag they soon passed the halfway point and, while Haird got busy leaving everyone behind again, many experienced watchers’ eyes settled on the #70 car as it relegated Layton Milsom to go eighth before out-fumbling Chris Crane (driving a pretty good race himself) around a backmarker to make it seventh. It was going to take a long time for Murray to claw his way up to Casey, and he really desperately needed another yellow which was never going to come.
By the time the 5 Lap board was out Haird was over a quarter of a lap to the good. McDonald was secure in second, while Hylands had a big slide at the East Bend nearing the finish which somehow still didn’t get Martin and Christie past him and then, with the flag almost in sight, Murray finally caught and passed Casey.
After the finish, it transpired Haird had driven virtually the entire race with both left side wheels badly bent and his tracking at least slightly deranged after a brush with the wall very early on. Without that handicap, one can only speculate just how far in front he might have finished.
Four Nations Cup round 2/NHRPA Championship
With the main event done and dusted, 30 of the remaining cars lined up to do battle for the NHRPA title. The draw had placed York at the exact opposite end of the grid from where he’d started the National and he duly led them away, fending off first corner pressure from Carl Sloan, Billy Wood and Maxwell. Wood was looking pretty sharp here though, passing York shortly before a brief interruption for a caution, before proceeding to pull clear of a places scrap which soon involved Christie, Haird and Milsom, who all relegated York.
Haird worked his way into second pretty swiftly and was catching the leader too, but ultimately ran out of laps in which to mount any kind of meaningful challenge to Wood’s lead. Billy’s new red and blue colour scheme (think Richard Petty STP Plymouth circa 1972) looked absolutely superb, and even better when putting in some excellent and smoky celebratory doughnuts after the flag. GB
Heat 1: 42 994 342 54 15 940 998 844 76 925 8 937 11 977 61 113 964 955 761 777 172 22 nof. DQ 9, 136.
Heat 2: 20 115 962 199 4 491 209 117 261 95 996 343 48 75 66 152 55 734 196 nof. DQ 23, 970.
Heat 3: 70 76 20 162 209 996 199 54 42 15 115 761 4 962 940 925(X-2) 305 964(X-2) 998 66 113 172 8 55(X-2) nof. DQ 9, 970.
Heat 4: 117 261 48 95 75 955 22 491 994 23 977 196 342 937 59 82 777 152 11 nof.
Heat 5: 962 115 305 937 342 960 174 70 955 4 27 199 20 994 22 777 55 11 nof. DQ 970, 977, 734.
Heat 6: 54 15 113 48 261 117 75 76 42 55 162 940 491 23 925 964 8 172 998 343 nof. DQ 82.
Wildcard: 23 196 960 174 55 27 343 66 61 nof. DQ 172, 777.
2017 National Championship: 115 117 54 20 962 70 261 305 76 48 95 937 955 23 940 15 113 11 998 nof.
Four Nations Cup rd2/NHRPA Championship: 305 115 962 48 199 174 261(X-2) 117 196 955 937 23 15 61 55 nof. DQ 113.
Penalties: 136 disqualified from heat one and loaded up – failed to submit tyre logging sheet. 23 disqualified from heat two for spinning 196. 9 disqualified from heat three and loaded up for tyre logging irregularity. 55 dropped two places in heat three for contact with 27. 964 dropped two places in heat three for baulking. 925 and 970 dropped two places in heat three for jumping the start. 970 loaded up after incorrect or modified fuel non-return valve found on car. 261 dropped two places in NHRPA championship for contact with 196. 113 disqualified from NHRPA championship following incident with 42. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
The 2017 Pat Canavan Memorial Trophy
Tipperary, Sunday 9th July
Paddy Whelan reports: Eight National Hot Rods took to the Tipperary Raceway track for the Pat Canavan Memorial. In heat one, 955 Damien Mulvey from pole led into turn one followed by 803 Sean Kenny, 199 Jaime McCurdy, 343 Philip McCloy, 925 Jeff Riordan, 8 Christopher Kincaid, 9 Glenn Bell and 10 Podge McQuaid. Mulvey had opened a gap by lap two where McCurdy had moved into second followed by Kincaid and Riordan. Lap 5, Mulvey still led and McCurdy was getting away from the pack. Bell was starting to make his way through the traffic and had moved into third to give chase. Then as Mulvey went into turn 3 he lost all power and pulled into the infield to leave McCurdy away with a clear track followed by Bell, McCloy, Kincaid, Riordan, McQuaid and Kenny. A few laps later Kincaid and Riordan made their move for third and fourth, with Riordan moving to third few laps later. At the flag McCurdy had his win from Bell, with Riordan, Kincaid, McCloy, McQuaid and Kenny in tow.
Heat 2 saw Riordan on pole with Kincaid outside. Second row had McCloy inside McCurdy with Kenny, Bell and McQuaid at rear of the field. Riordan went into the lead followed by Kincaid, with McCloy, Bell and McCurdy fighting over third; Bell sealing it by lap 5. On lap 10 Bell made his move under Kincaid for second and went to chase down Riordan for the lead. A waving yellow closed the bunch together and on the green again Bell made his move to the outside of Riordan where he stayed for the next few laps. A little touch off Riordan into turn 3 saw Bell gain the advantage which saw them to the chequered flag. Bell however was docked two places for his contact with Riordan leaving Riordan with the win from McCurdy then Bell, Kincaid, McQuaid and Kenny.
This all gave McCurdy pole for the final with Riordan outside him, followed by Kincaid, McQuaid, Kenny, McCloy and Bell. McCurdy got away well from the start while Riordan, Kincaid and McQuaid battled for places, while Bell was on the move also. By lap 10 McCurdy had a gap with Riordan and Bell side by side for second and Kincaid sitting waiting for one of them to slip up. McQuaid and McCloy were in tow and the track appeared to be getting damp. For the next few laps Riordan and Bell went door to door for second, then Riordan went wide in turn 2 and Bell went under him for the place. There they stayed until the chequered flag dropped - it was McCurdy for the Pat Canavan Memorial win, with Bell second, Riordan third, followed by Kincaid, McCloy and Kenny. Paddy Whelan.
Heat 1: 199 9 925 8 343(x-2) 10 803
Heat 2: 925 199 9(x-2) 8 10 803
Pat Canavan Memorial Trophy: 199 9 925 8 343 803
Haird dominates to make it a third World
Graham Brown at Ipswich, July 1/2 2017
Chris Haird took his third National Hot Rod world championship after a totally dominant drive which saw him lead from flag to flag. Although he had to survive a pair of caution periods which put the field back on his tail on each occasion, Chris was always in complete control and never allowed the chasing Rob McDonald to really get within striking distance. ROI’s David Casey eventually came through with a late race charge to repeat his second place of 2016, with McDonald finally having to settle for third, which remains the best ever position achieved by a Scot.
No big shocks regarding who-drove-what but one or two new liveries were in evidence, notably Roy Anderson, the Scot having plumped for a very fetching green and white colour scheme. It was the first viewing on this side of the water for Damien Mulvey’s new colours, while Shaun Taylor had also gone for a complete change with a lurid lime green replacing much of the previous purple. Shane Bland’s car had ‘lost the dots’, but as usual, every single car was turned out with the immaculate preparation we’ve come to expect, everybody putting their utmost into looking spot on for the biggest event of the year.
Although fancied to do well by many prior to the event – and the clear favourite at Betfred - Haird’s return to the top step of the podium (he won in 2010 and 2014) began to look a lot more likely after Saturday’s ‘hot laps’. In fact, his performance there was only going to shorten his odds even further….
Following the usual un-timed morning practice session it was soon 10.20am and time for the cars to roll out and face the timing beams for the formation of the grid. And of course, as of last year, it was to be once again a simple case of ‘first past the post’ gets pole, with absolutely nothing else taken into consideration. Overall however, it was going to be one of the stranger timed lap sessions ever held.
For a start, it is usual for the third of a driver’s three laps to be their quickest, with only a couple normally recording their fastest lap on their second tour. This year no fewer than ten men did their best time on the second lap. It is also usual for the track to run faster as the session goes on, with the asphalt becoming both cleaner and grippier as more rubber is laid. But this year almost all the times which would claim places in the first three rows of the grid were laid down in the front half of the draw. Haird was actually only the fourth car out and his best of 14.68s proved to be untouchable. And even by then, the second driver to run - 2012 winner Glenn Bell - had annexed fifth on the grid with a 14.80.
Several other hot shoes in the front half of the draw did very well out of it too (David Casey, fifth out, sixth on the grid, Carl Waller-Barret, tenth out, third on the grid) without actually being able to dislodge Haird, although McDonald came closest with a best of 14.69 to claim the outside of the front row.
There were some obvious strugglers, notably Ian McReynolds, whose Saxo went very sick at the end of his first lap when he was forced to leave it at that. Steve Dudman’s car just sounded a bit ‘fluffy’ and never broke into the 14s, while Aaron Dew seemed to have a brake locking problem on the right front, the Ginetta emitting plumes of tyre smoke on the entry to almost every turn – he probably did well to record a 14.96 under the circs.
With the starting order thus determined for 37 of the 38 starters in the main event, there remained just the business of Saturday night’s races to decide who would join the back of the grid as this year’s ‘wildcard’.
Saturday ‘Wildcard’ Support Races
With the potential prize on offer of world final qualification, twenty four cars lined up to contest the support races this year, an entry which as usual featured a number of interesting drivers. Rarely seen this side of the water, ROI driver Eddie Foott was one such, Eddie being joined by the gaily painted machine of NHR ‘vet’ Les Compelli. English newcomers Matt Wells-Sar and Duane Peacock were also in the mix, as was former 2.0 Hot Rod World champion, South African Frans Joubert. Frans was wheeling a suitably re-liveried Tigra, apparently loaned by Ronnie McMillan, and very fine it looked too with all the unusual SA sponsor names prominently displayed.
But of course, the men most people were looking at to provide the extra qualifier were Adam Hylands (I think he has described himself as ‘The Wildcard Princess’ – hopefully not next year!) and his compatriot Mark Heatrick, who simply commenced his 2017 campaign too late to stand any hope of outright qualification. And with Hylands drawing the very last place on the grid for the opening race, it looked like making his efforts to progress interesting at the least.
So we were expecting some typically robust speed weekend racing to sort out the eventual winner in any case. What we weren’t expecting was a false start to the first heat, when Peacock failed to move from row three at the green flag and no amount of shouting at them via the Raceceivers could prevent a lot of others running into either him or each other. Paul Gomm rammed the 29 car very hard, but Richard Bowyer, Rich Adams, Foott, Andy McLaird and Chris Crane all managed to get involved too unfortunately. Needless to say, a clear up and complete restart was the order of the day here.
Even then, there were several early spinners too, with Ken Marriot, Dave York and Andy McLaird all going round. But the ‘other’ McLaird – Stuart – was busy leading meantime, and trying to keep a bit of a breathing space over Tommy Maxwell and Paul Frost. This became a little easier for the leader with the passing of half distance and as the trio got free of some of the backmarking traffic they’d been dealing with since soon after the start.
Frost had just slipped ahead of Maxwell when they were brought up short by waving yellow flags after York stopped in a dangerous spot by the start/finish.
There were only five to go for the restart, but the pause had done no harm to the chances of that well known firm of estate agents, Heatrick and Hylands! They were both now that much closer to the other major placemen with still a handful of laps left to see if they could use this chance to improve further. An attack on Adams’ seventh spot saw Heatrick get past only to be sent sliding wide at turn three, an incident which allowed Hylands past both of them and home in a promising fifth spot, behind McLaird, Frost, Billy Bonnar and Compelli, after Maxwell got disqualified from third for causing York’s demise.
Heat two began with Jim Cowie being pushed off the grid, the Scot’s car leaving a trail of fluid behind it.
Now of course, Hylands had a front row start. But with Heatrick right behind him, this was going to be no gift for Adam. The pair shot away at the green and were immediately dicing it out hard, although they didn’t have long to really get into it, as Frost and Maxwell got in a back straight collision, Tommy spinning backwards into the wall with a tyre off the rim, sparking a yellow flag.
The lead pair were naturally back at it again with the green flag back out but it soon became clear that Hylands just about had the upper hand and Heatrick began to fall back a wee bit, finally losing touch altogether.
Ivan Grayson ran third for a long time and was eventually elbowed out of the way by Adams, but Rich had left it too late to do anything about closing down the leaders who finished half a lap clear, Hylands still comfortably ahead and comfortably on pole for the final too.
Stuart McLaird had earned the outside front row with an eighth in the second heat, but with Heatrick lined up on row two, the final always looked to be about another Hylands-Heatrick battle. That wasn’t quite how it turned out though…
The charge through the first lap saw McLaird rooted out of the groove as Heatrick latched straight onto Hylands tail, with the two apparently set fair to power away from the rest – except that Compelli didn’t appear to have read the script and stuck right with them. What this actually looked like doing was allowing the leader to escape to a relatively easy win – but that wasn’t going to be the case either! Down Heatrick’s inside along the back straight went Compelli and, if Heatrick might have been a bit shocked by that, it likely compared pretty well to what Hylands was thinking when he saw in his mirror not a red Tigra, but a multi-coloured one instead.
It probably took an effort of concentration for Hylands to just get his head down and concentrate on eking out a bit of a lead as the laps ticked away, helped a little by Heatrick coming back at Compelli in the closing stages. It was all too late to do anything about preventing the #54 sweeping under the chequers to become starter number 38 for the morrow, but it had undoubtedly been Les’ finest ever race on English soil, a fact underlined by the gale of applause which greeted him after the finish.
World Final Grid
115* 162 9 342 70 962 39 95 - 209 925 27 48 467 3 955 36 94 977 199**
117 76 261 42 20 491 SA15 31 23 174 152 66 994 964 - 700 155 339 54 82**
* Pole ** Put to back of grid for technical infringements
The Race – 75 Laps
Despite not all forecasters predicting a dry Sunday, in fact the day dawned with clear blue skies and hot sunshine beating down.
For once there seemed to have been no overnight mechanical dramas among the finalists, but there were going to be a few last minute bothers, both on the way to the grid, and following the warm up laps.
And first of all, there was tighter than usual scrutineering to be negotiated. Various drivers had had tyre samples taken from them following Hot Laps, samples which will be sent away for analysis as to whether any contamination might be present. Next up, the six front runners on the grid were forced to drain their tanks and use fuel provided by the NHRPA.
Clearly, everyone was under the microscope here with regard to any infringements, so being found with a loose ballast weight (Jaimie McCurdy) in the team’s possession after the pre-race weight check, or tools in the car on the track (Garry Wilson) was going to get you into trouble, both men being sent to the back of the grid.
Then, following the warm up laps, three cars pulled out of position and clustered around the pit gate with last minute issues. Rob McDonald had somehow had his goggles flip off his open face helmet and land in the back of the car, which clearly wouldn’t do! Shaun Taylor had his door mirror adrift (not sure if he’d hit or been hit by something, or if the offending item had simply worked loose), which needed sorting out, while Derek Martin’s dipstick had fallen out! Not sure how he knew about that, but it was soon fixed and with little further ado, they were away.
The typically frantic opening lap saw Haird get the best launch from his pole position. As the first to break, he immediately settled into a scant lead over McDonald and Waller-Barrett, but none of them had gone very far before the first lot of waved yellows brought everybody up short when Anderson and Mulvey collided with each other and the wall at the end of the back straight. Even by this early stage, Derek Martin had had a spin and Shane Murray had been in bother somewhere, the NI points champion’s car sporting rather a lot of damage to the front end.
Back under the green flag, the leader was soon off and running again, Haird diving confidently into the first looming knots of backmarkers and already starting to drop McDonald off his tail as he did so. Dew was another to take a spin, maybe with the brake issue still unresolved, as was Dick Hillard. In Dick’s case though, years of Saloon Stock car ‘training’ were in evidence as he completed the 360 and re-joined without pause having lost maybe three places!
Further back from the leaders, Bell was forced to give over fourth spot to Casey rounding turn one, the Ulsterman battling a deflating tyre. Then John Christie moved up a spot to seventh by relegating Adam Heatrick (who was actually enjoying quite an impressive weekend nevertheless, having qualified well up the grid), at which point came another bout of yellow flags as Bradley Dynes shed a door which ended up lying on the home straight.
With the resumption of hostilities, Haird simply recommenced his pulling clear act and it began to look as though McDonald just didn’t have anything for him. In fact, Rob had been sticking to a game plan…
“I planned to just sit back a bit until I saw the 50 Lap board and then go for it. The problem was, when I did I found the car wouldn’t go any faster – I think the tyres were all used up, so it wasn’t to be”.
In fact, the leader was only inching away in reality, and it took a long time before he finally became out of reach and over a quarter of a lap up. By then Maxwell and Christie had both overhauled Bell, who gave up the unequal struggle soon afterwards and parked. Christie put Maxwell behind him as well, darting down the defending champ’s inside into turn one, while Casey had steadily worked his way up to and past CW-B, also at turn one.
There was no doubt Casey’s car was working better and better as the race wore on, and he was soon eyeing up McDonald’s second place too, finally slipping past down the inside as they exited turn three. That brief but important encounter had slowed Casey for just a further couple of seconds, meaning that Haird was now basically beyond any possible assault on his lead and it was effectively all over.
“I can’t be anything other than pleased can I”, he beamed in the winner’s circle.
“I had no problems, the stoppages only gave my little arms a rest, and I just simply pedalled as fast as I could. It’s a shame my dad wasn’t here to see it – but I do still have his lucky socks in the car!”
As for the rest, Casey got the runner-up spot just as he had last year, frustrating for sure, but it must still hold out hope of going one better one of these days. McDonald finished his last season racing in England by equalling the best ever finish by a Scot in third. Behind the podium finishers Waller-Barrett took the fourth place, with Christie the next up, bringing his venerable and enormously popular Fiesta home fifth, watched by his dad, exactly twenty years after the second of his own back-to-back titles in the same car.
Maxwell ended his honourable title defence in sixth, ahead of English points champ Kym Weaver, who’d been hamstrung by a poor lap time, and did well to get all the way up there from 20th on the grid. He was also the last car unlapped by the leader.
World Final “Revenge”
The Betfred Trophy
An impressive thirty of the potential thirty-eight runners made it back out for this, the reversed grid race from the world final line up.
This had a false start when Jason Loosemore didn’t go at the first time of asking. With him banished to the back of the grid, the rest got a second green flag and blasted away, with Hylands looking to be about to receive something of a gift from what was now a pole start for him of course.
Adam was soon clear of Mulvey and Danny Hunn with the rest of the placemen becoming strung out behind. Not so at the rear of the field however, were there was a colossal battle going on between Christie, Casey, Jeff Riordan, Shane Murray, Maxwell, Bell, Terry Hunn, McDonald and Haird! Christie was eventually able draw clear of this mob, but he still had a huge amount of work to do if he wanted to get anywhere near the front and there simply weren’t that many laps available.
So Hylands ran out the flag to flag winner, taking the chequers a touch more than a quarter of a lap clear of Mulvey, Danny H, and Steven Armit.
The Nick Thomas Memorial Trophy
Much as last year when Danny Fiske had looked quick in the other events without having actually won anything before the last race - John Christie had obviously just been warming up during the rest of the weekend! The Nick Thomas Memorial (a fitting tribute to our old friend) features a drawn grid combining world finalists and support cars for the only time of the weekend. There looked to be a few potential winners scattered throughout the front half of the grid but before they could really get going it all kicked off at the first bend, with Stuart McLaird, and several others coming together, including Chris Crane and Paul Yule.
Even the complete restart wasn’t totally free from strife, as Armit crashed at turn three, Casey and Loosemore both picked up black crosses, and Taylor was forced out with bodywork jammed on his tyres.
But once things settled down, it was pole starter Paul Frost who was established in the lead with one heck of a scuffle already going on for second thru ninth, with Danny Hunn heading Adam Maxwell, Gavin Murray, McDonald, Waller-Barrett, Christie, Haird, Casey and Shane Murray!
Some nip and tuck racing saw Maxwell and McDonald overtake Hunn, before Danny got swamped as Gavin Murray, Haird and the rest all pounced on the 339 car as well. Too-many-cars-in-too-small-a-space syndrome then took hold, with Danny becoming embroiled in a moving accident which culminated in a huge crash at turn three, with Waller-Barret spinning and Casey, Hunn, Armit, Yule, Shane Murray and Mulvey all involved. Hunn ended up perched on top of Murray and Armit, which did nobody’s cars much good, particularly the #70, which featured an impressive collection of crushed panels when they were finally all dragged apart as part of a major clear up operation.
Frost was still sitting pretty at the front for the restart but, little did we know, this was the beginning of one of those races we’ll still be talking about in ten years’ time.
Maxwell, McDonald and all the rest had of course, been brought right up on Frost’s tail by the stoppage, and both men wasted no time attacking the slower starting leader’s position. Gavin Murray also by-passed Frost the next time they rounded turns one and two with Christie having managed to sneak past Haird down the inside at turn one.
Then McDonald somehow got on the speedway track as the leaders raced into turn one, not sure quite how, but it led to him running on into Maxwell, pushing him wide. McDonald was gone from the leader board immediately while Maxwell took a few seconds to recover, allowing Gavin Murray to hit the front and Frost to regain second. Christie also tried to turn Maxwell’s slightly lesser momentum to his advantage but they bumped, Christie running out wide to let Haird through again and Maxwell copping a black cross.
But from this point on there was no doubting which was the quickest car on track and, if you said a twenty-one year-old Ford Fiesta, you’d be spot on.
Haird may have been being hampered by tyres that were long past their best (“I left most of them on the tarmac doing doughnuts!” he laughingly conceded later) but he was still very much in the hunt, so Christie must have breathed a sigh of relief when he went ahead of the #115 again down the inside of the back straight.
Next, he had Maxwell to deal with once more, Christie and Haird trying all sorts to get past before Adam eventually got blue flagged and the other pair nipped past along the back stretch.
It was only a matter of seconds before Frost’s Ginetta loomed up in Christie’s windscreen, but John wasted no time diving up the outside and by, exiting turn two.
He was straight onto the job of narrowing the gap to the leader as well but now the 5 Lap board was out…were there enough laps left?
With four to go there was hardly any daylight between them and the race was truly on passing the 3 Lap board. There was going to be no other way but another outside pass and no time to wait on anything else happening in any case. Down the outside went Christie, putting them side by side at two to go, the ancient red and black hatchback finally easing ahead midway through the final lap, by which time pretty much the entire stadium was on its feet cheering and clapping. Everybody knew they’d witnessed one of those never-to-be-forgotten drives and, when the standing ovation continues throughout the slowing down lap and simply intensifies when the driver gets out of the car, you know that driver did something special.
Add in the age of the chassis and, as we mentioned earlier, it being exactly 20 years since it carried John’s father to the last of his five World titles, plus the fact that Ormond was (unusually) there to see it, and it all coalesced into one of those perfect moments in time it was a true privilege to witness. GB
2017 NHRPA Championship of the World
Ipswich, July 1/2
Support/Wildcard Heat 1: 113 316 844 777 54 55 960 22 103 344 308 172 871 13 nof. Dq 369, 136.
Support/Wildcard Heat 2: 54 960 22 761 15 777 844 113 136 316 856 103 172 55 2 344 13 nof. Dq 369.
Support/Wildcard Final: 54 777 960 113 844 22 316 761 15 103 136 55 2 871 333 344 13 nof. Dq 856.
2017 National Hot Rod Championship of the World
115 Chris Haird, 261 Dave Casey, 117 Robert McDonald, 162 Carl Waller-Barrett, 962 John Christie, then 76 209 95 491 174 54 342 994 SA15 82 199 48 925 339 155.
World Championship Reverse Grid Race: 54 955 339 94 964 48 155 174 199 467 209 23 962 31 70 9 117 76 115 261.
Nick Thomas Memorial Trophy: 962 95 115 316 76 SA15 48 15 777 39 23 31 136 155 964 66 344 36. Dq 162.
Penalties: 369 disqualified from heat one for causing 196 to crash by crossing white line. 136 disqualified from heat one for spinning 13. 369 disqualified from heat two for drifting wide and putting 55 in the wall. 856 disqualified from Wildcard final for causing 172 to crash. 162 disqualified from Nick Thomas Memorial for causing accident. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Martin Kingston's photos in the Gallery
The 2017 Thunder 500
Ipswich, Saturday 17th June
Bell rings out world final warning
Graham Brown A year of continuous car development finally paid off for Glenn Bell, the 2012 world champion storming to pole position for the Thunder 500 before fending off a race-long assault from Chris Haird to take the honours from the traditional World Final warm-up event. Haird’s closest of runner-up spots underlined that he could yet take a third world championship in a couple of weeks but, as Chris was the only English driver in the top five, the real story of the race was that the Ulstermen will mostly still be topping the bookies starting prices.
As has become the norm, many world finalists gave preparation for the big July race priority over the T-500, but the event still attracted a useful and interesting entry of 28 cars. This included four from Northern Ireland, one from the South and singletons from both the Netherlands and Germany.
The English contingent was bolstered by the return of Dave York and Billy Wood – both men having been missing for most of 2017 – and featured Carl Waller-Barrett giving his new Duratec-powered Tigra an exploratory run out, while Chris Haird was putting his fresh Boardley-built motor to the test.
The first heat draw for grid positions certainly looked like providing an interesting contest and didn’t disappoint.
Although still relatively new to NHRs, Chris Crane’s pole start gave him a decent shot at a win with which to kick off proceedings. Those clustered around him had other ideas however, Jaimie McCurdy’s Ginetta slipping ahead after a couple of laps to begin building what was already looking like it might be an unassailable lead even at this early stage.
The race really started to come alive though once Bell had relegated Billy Wood and then dived past Crane into turn three. That put him up to second at half distance but still with a lot of work to do to catch the leader. What began to turn the tide in Bell’s favour was that McCurdy was encountering more and more traffic as the race wore on. Every knot of backmarkers brought the second man inexorably closer until, with the 4-lap board out, the two were together.
McCurdy carried on carving through the traffic but Bell looked to be just biding his time and finally swooped up the outside at precisely the right moment exiting turn two, making a superb pass stick just as they started the last lap. CW-B brought his new mount home third, around a quarter of a lap back.
The reversed grid for the second heat looked as though it could be something of a gift for pole sitter Gavin Murray, but an early yellow also seemed a distinct possibility when the Rich Adams and Aaron Dew Ginettas went ploughing into each other and the wall at turn one.
No caution resulted however, and Murray soon went clear of Jason Kew, Jack Blood and Adam Hylands, this quartet circulating ahead of a crowded 12-car battle going on in the pack. They were eventually all brought up short by waved yellows though, when Colin Hitch rotated at turn three and got collected by Steve Dudman.
With the field suitably closed up for the restart, it was Murray versus Kew and Hylands from the off, with Haird and Derek Martin hard after them once they’d overhauled Blood. That places scrap intensified until Hylands finally found a way past Kew exiting T4 and Kew went spinning at the next bend as he tried to prevent Haird following Hylands’ example. All of that simply allowed Murray to make good his escape, Martin slipping past Haird in the confusion to attack Hylands over the closing stages without ever being able to find a way past.
The aggregate results formed up a final grid where only Haird on the outside of the front row had prevented a Northern Irish clean sweep, Bell’s pole position heading up Martin and McCurdy on row two with Hylands joining Murray on the third rank.
Bell managed to beat Haird down to turn one at the off and that was pretty much the race won and lost right there – not that anyone knew that at the time of course. Martin settled into third ahead of Hylands, McCurdy and Murray. Those first six soon had a good bit of breathing space between themselves and the rest, and were also pretty well separated from each other apart from the lead pair, where Haird was sticking to Bell like a limpet.
It looked to be something of a stalemate with Haird apparently waiting on traffic looming up to provide an overtaking opportunity. But in fact his car had suffered steering damage in the earlier collision with Kew and the makeshift repairs (a broken rack mounting had apparently been replaced by some cable ties and a Jubilee clip!) seemingly weren’t working too well. So Haird probably did well to simply shadow the leader every inch of the way never mind trying for a pass, and none of the backmarkers they encountered were anything less than cooperative in any case.
The rest of the placemen ran all the way to the finish in the same order, barring Murray, who lost out to Billy Wood five laps from home.
So that’s it; with no Press Day this year, barring any testing or private practice sessions, there’s no more track time between now and the annual pilgrimage to Foxhall. It’ll be here before we know it! GB
Heat one: 9,199,162,15,23,115,42,20,316,305,54,196,22,48,174,95,92,2,3,925,113,172,467,66(-2). NOF
Heat two: 95,54,20,115,9,92,196,162,316,305,39,199,467,15,339,59,113,23,925. NOF
Final: 9,115,20,54,199,305,95,23,174,39,92,48,467,339,925,172,66,113. NOF
Penalties: 66 dropped two places in heat one for cutting across other cars, forcing them onto the infield. 491 loaded up after heat one for exiting his car with the race still in progress. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Ballymena Raceway 40th Anniversary Irish Open
19th and 20th May 2017
Colin Adair reports: On a weekend when Ballymena Raceway celebrated 40 years of oval racing at the venue it was somehow appropriate that a driver with arguably the most famous surname in the history of Ulster Hot Rodding proved to be the star of the show. The Irish Open Championship for the National Hot Rods was the feature event at the track’s anniversary weekend and it was John Christie who captured the title for a third time, with defending champion Dave Casey in second and Jaimie McCurdy in third.
The ten car entry was not what either the organisers, or indeed fans, had hoped for. There is no single reason for that, a combination of factors certainly came into play, but a date that eventually clashed with World Qualifying Rounds in three other regions was never going to prove attractive to many visitors. Top marks therefore to defending champion Dave Casey who travelled up from his Waterford base to defend his title, a splendid effort from the team. The lack of visitors was understandable, but the low turnout of Northern Ireland drivers was more disappointing. Nine locals joined Casey on the grid, Adam Hylands John Christie, Jaimie McCurdy, Conor McElmeel, Andrew Stewart, Davy McKay, Phillip McCloy, Ben McKee and Kenny McCann, and a big well done to each and every one of them for supporting the event.
Qualifying took place on Friday evening with three heats the order of the day. Weather conditions were ideal for some fast racing, but unfortunately we lost McCloy during the warm-up laps for heat one, with transmission problems the latest misfortune to strike him. This one had Hylands name stamped all over it. The British Champion started on the outside of row one and powered home for a flag to flag win. Christie, Casey and McCurdy followed the winner home, ahead of McKee, Stewart, McKay and McElmeel, with McCann a non-finisher after a spin at Fisherwick bend.
McCurdy and Casey shared the front row for heat two and it was Casey who got the drop from the outside row to slot into the lead at the start. McCurdy and McKee ran second and third in the early laps, while Hylands and Christie worked their way through from the back of the grid. Hylands was first to come upon McKee and immediately tried an outside pass which didn’t stick. That gave Christie an opportunity to dive under his rival and significantly Christie was able to pull a pass around the outside of McKee as well. Out front Casey was home and hosed for a good win ahead of McCurdy, Christie, Hylands, McKee, Stewart, McElmeel, McKay and McCann.
Stewart was an absentee from the final qualifier where McKay and McCann occupied the front row. McKay led them away, but Christie eased ahead on lap two, with Hylands already on his tail. This wasn’t just a battle for a win either, the outcome of this would decide who would secure that all important pole position for the final. Hylands looked slightly quicker as he dodged and weaved around the back of the Wilkinson Contracts Fiesta, but not quick enough to make it all the way around the outside and back in again. If Christie kept it neat and tidy the win would surely be his and so it proved. Hylands was forced to settle for second, with McCurdy, Casey, McKee, McElmeel, McKay and McCann the other finishers.
962 261 937 669 343
54 199 943 18
The final was the first race for the Nationals on Saturday where conditions were once again dry. McElmeel was an absentee, but McCloy had managed to carry out overnight repairs to the Village Blinds Peugeot and was back on the grid. The start was always going to be significant and Hylands gave it a real good run on the outside from the exit of turn four into that first bend. Christie had to be on his toes to keep him out, but managed to repel Hylands charge and crucially Casey got between the pair during this opening phase. Further back McCurdy and McKee got together on the exit of turn four, which sent the former’s Ginetta into a half spin, before the entire field was pulled up by a caution period to retrieve some bodywork from the track. The piece in question had worked its way free from McCloy’s Peugeot and unfortunately he was therefore deemed to be the cause of the caution and excluded from the restart. Christie, Casey and Hylands was the order of the top three at the resumption where Christie quickly set about building a gap over his pursuers. Hylands needed to get past Casey urgently, and had one really strong look up the inside, but could not make the move stick. Their battle played straight into Christie’s hands, who continued to extend his lead lap by lap, while McCurdy, McKee and McKay had now worked their way onto the tail of the second place battle. Christie stretched his advantage out to half a lap as a determined Casey doggedly held off his pursuers, and eventually Hylands took to the outside line in an attempt to break the stalemate. He gave it a good go too, but Casey resolutely stuck to his defensive line and eventually Hylands was shuffled backwards into the pack. Up front Christie had a commanding three quarter lap advantage by now and stroked the Fiesta home for a comprehensive victory. Casey’s dogged drive earned him a hard fought second, with the final podium slot going to McCurdy. McKee was next across the line, but earned a two place penalty for the earlier incident with McCurdy, which promoted McKay and Hylands into fourth and fifth. Stewart and McCann completed the finishers.
The final National race of the weekend was for the 40th Anniversary Trophy, with the grid formed as a reverse of the Irish Open final. By this stage the rain had arrived to leave the track slick and it was McCloy who gingerly headed up the field in the opening stages. Christie was on the move again however and swooped around the outside of everyone to take it up on lap 4. Hylands followed suit shortly afterwards and the pair were very evenly matched from there to the end. Christie never put a wheel out of place though and completed a near perfect weekend with victory in the 40th. Anniversary Trophy race, just like he had done 10 years earlier in the 30th Anniversary race - and in the same car too! Colin Adair
Heat 1: 54 962 261 199 937 669 943 64.
Heat 2: 261 199 962 54 937 669 64 943 18.
Heat 3: 962 54 199 261 937 64 943 18.
Irish Open Final: 962 261 199 943 54 937(X-2) 669 18 nof
40th Anniversary Trophy Race: 962 54 199 669 937(X-2) 343 18.
Lochgelly European Weekend
April 1/2 2017
Carl’s Euro double and McDonald does it again
Martin Kingston reports: Carl Waller-Barratt retained his European Crown at Lochgelly on Saturday night and joined an exclusive club of just five people (Barry Lee, Pete Winstone, Pete Stevens and Keith Martin being the others) who have won back to back European Championships. A very healthy 33 car entry with cars from England, Scotland, Northern and Southern Ireland, Germany and Holland drew positions for the reverse 2/3 heat format to decide the European Final grid. The entry also saw Jamie McCurdy race his new Ginetta for the first time.
Former European Champion John Christie had drawn pole for the opening heat, with Shane Bland alongside. These two circled side by side for the first couple of laps until Christie had bit of a moment and Bland seized his chance to grab the lead, with Weaver following through, Mark Heatrick being an early spinner. Christie and Jason Kew fought for third just behind Weaver while further back Adam Hylands and Derek Martin had a race long battle outside of the top ten. Bland took a comfortable win, however he was dropped two places after the finish for his move on Christie handing the win to Weaver, with Christie second .
German Winnie Holtmanns led them away for heat two but was soon overtaken by Shane Murray and Adam Hylands, soon to be joined by Martin and Rob McDonald. As the leading bunch caught up with the backmarkers, including Waller-Barratt, they all bunched up together with Murray and Hylands suddenly spinning out, Hylands getting stuck on the kerbs on the exit of turn four and the yellows were out. At the restart McDonald led them away followed by Martin, Chris Haird and Glenn Bell which is the order they finished in.
A heavy shower before heat 3 saw it wet enough for wet tyres. Waller-Barratt had pole for this one and led them away from Maxwell. A couple of spinners in front of the leaders on the back straight saw Maxwell nip through for the lead and carry on to take the flag followed by Mark Heatrick - who was rapidly catching him in the closing stages. However post-race penalties saw Maxwell issued a technical disqualification (failing to get his car checked after the race) and Heatrick was dropped two places for forceful driving handing the win to Waller-Barratt with Dave Casey second.
Casey had done enough for pole for the Championship race, with Weaver alongside, Waller-Barratt and Kew on row two, with McDonald and Bland on row 3. Casey led them away from Waller-Barratt, Weaver and McDonald but soon the yellows were out for Christie who had made heavy contact with the wall, Graeme Callender joining him. Casey led them away again and was holding his own until they hit the backmarkers. Waller-Barratt, Weaver and McDonald all closed up on the leader as they came upon Paul Yule. Casey chose the outside line, allowing Waller-Barratt to nip through on the inside followed by Weaver and McDonald. Casey dropped down the order and eventually spun into retirement. These three were more or less nose to tail up to the chequers, Waller-Barratt kept his cool though, taking victory for the second year running. Needless to say Carl was delighted and said it felt even better than his win the previous year. He was still grinning like a Cheshire cat the following morning! Martin Kingston
Saturday. The 2017 DFT European Championship
Heat 1: 209 962 42(x-2) 174 342 48 491 9 95 115 31 117 54 20 937 39 94 55 66 467 960 nof.
Heat 2: 117 20 115 9 199 261 95 23 42 76 162 342 871 70 48 467 344 36 nof. Dq 54.
Heat 3: 162 261 339 960(x-2) 66 31 174 70 209 39 23 962 308 55 491 344 199 871 nof. Dq 76
Dechmont Forklift Trucks NHRPA European Championship:
162 Carl Waller-Barrett, 209 Kym Weaver, 117 Robert McDonald, 9 20 174 70(x-2) 115 95 199 960 491 39 48 55 344 467.
Lochgelly European Weekend
April 1/2 2017
Martin Kingston reports: Sunday saw blue skies and there were enough Nationals running to warrant 2/3 reversed grid heats for the 2017 Scottish Open Championship, the Malcolm Chesher Memorial and round 1 of the Cele Services Four Nations Cup, along with three separate trophies. That must rate as one of the longest titles for a race ever!
Shane Murray had drawn pole for the opening heat however a sticking throttle in the warm up laps saw him fail to start. Gary Wilson led them away but an early spin by Roy Anderson saw the yellows out. Wilson led them away again but with Weaver right behind him. Weaver was soon into the lead but the yellows were out again, this time for the reigning world champ who had spun coming out of turn 2 and stopped facing the wrong way on the back straight. Weaver led them away again to take the win from Wilson and Casey.
McDonald headed them away for heat 2 followed by Anderson and Christie. Chaos then broke out on turns 3 and 4 as Anderson went spinning onto the infield with the rest of pack slamming on their brakes. Somehow Bland and Waller-Barratt ended up tangling with each other with Bland on his side and very nearly his roof at one point. The yellow were out and both Waller-Barratt and Bland drove away although both decided to count their blessings and retire from the rest of the meeting. At the restart McDonald carried on to take the win from Hylands and an impressive Terry Hunn.
The third and last heat saw Haird on pole with Kew alongside, Haird led them away followed by Kew, however Martin was on a mission - first getting by Gavin Murray and chasing after Kew and Haird. As the leaders caught up with the backmarkers, Martin took his chance and was first past the inside of Kew and then through on the inside of Haird to take the win.
The final saw McDonald on pole with Martin alongside, Haird on row 2, with Casey and Kew on row 3. McDonald led them away chased by Martin, while Casey was on a charge going by Haird for third with Bell following him as well. McDonald held on at the front despite Martin getting onto his back bumper several times. As Casey caught up with Martin, this allowed McDonald to edge clear again as Casey got the better of Martin, and although he chased hard McDonald was a reasonably comfortable winner. Notably this was a second Scottish title for McDonald, his first two years ago in 2015.
A great weekend’s racing, a sterling drive by CW-B in the European, and apart from the brief spot of rain the weather was fine throughout. A big “thank you” to all the track staff, and Hardie Race Promotions for their great hospitality. Martin Kingston
Sunday. The 2017 DFT Scottish Championship, Malcolm Chesher Memorial and Cele Services Four Nations Cup round 1 (final only)
Heat 1: 209 82 261 9 162 117 20 174 339 42 95 491 31 39 55 36 nof. Dq 342.
Heat 2: 117 54 39 48 115 76 82 960 23 937 199 94 339 66 nof.
Heat 3: 20 174 115 95 960 261 9 491 48(x-2) 937 55 66.
Malcolm Chesher Memorial/Scottish Championship/Four Nations Cup round 1:
117 Robert McDonald, 261 Dave Casey, 20 Derek Martin, 9 174 115 48 491 39 199 937 36 94 66 55 467.
Bland’s eventual victory at emotional Best in Britain
Wimbledon, 20th November 2016
Graham Brown It looked as though Gavin Murray had risen from fifth over the line to become the winner of a typically controversial Best in Britain event when a raft of penalties were imposed across all the other placemen. But after appeals were considered and videos watched, the first man over the line - Shane Bland - was confirmed as the winner. With Adam Maxwell’s contact penalty also rescinded, the complete shape of the podium places were altered with Bland and Maxwell placed first and second and Murray only third.
With the event being the last ever BinB likely to be held at the seemingly doomed South London venue emotions were already running high in any case. That the race came at the end of a day which had seen the death of Hot Rod legend and first ever Best in Britain winner, Mick Collard, simply piled poignancy on top of sadness.
And most appropriately, it was to be an extremely well observed and heartfelt minute’s silence which opened proceedings. It seemed to me, almost no time since we’d watched Michael driving the track in his gorgeous replica car (it was actually just less than nine months) and now he was gone, ironically taken from us all on the 19th day of November.
There were a few ‘unusual’ but very welcome entrants, with Paul Trimmer back out with the NHRs and Colin Hitch making a Plough Lane return also. But the most remarkable ‘extra’ had to be the beautifully turned out new car that ‘Team Kewy’ had assembled for Chris Kew to drive. The dark metallic blue and orange colours looked just right and it was a pleasure to see the 2001 champion back in the harness.
With the 23-car field sensibly split up for three heats, sixteen cars took to the track for the opening race. Shane Bland got away first and fastest, and seemed set to leave the rest trailing in his wake. That reckoned without Rob McDonald however, the Scot swiftly making his way past Stuart McLaird to chase down the leader. He had however, already attracted the attention of the steward for a first bend, first lap brush with Paul Gomm which had sent the 333 car into an infield marker tyre.
With the passing of half distance McDonald appeared to be poised to launch his attack on the lead but that then faded away, along with his handling, to allow Bland an eventual unopposed victory. I was looking for a slowly deflating tyre in the left rear of the 117 (which Rob said afterwards was what it felt like) but in fact the team could find nothing wrong once back in the pits. Unfortunately, McDonald got disqualified in any case for that first lap altercation with Gomm, elevating Murray to second.
Lee Pepper was first to break at the green in heat two but soon lost out to a charging Billy Wood. They hadn’t gone very far however, when Chris Kew smashed into the back straight fencing very hard, making a painful mess of the car and putting him out of the meeting. Unfortunately, I never saw exactly how he’d got in there, only the aftermath.
Wood slowly extended his lead for the rest of the way with Pepper keeping him in sight but eventually having to give best to Layton Milsom for second. Along the way, Kym Weaver and Bradley Dynes both suffered spins, with Murray and Terry Hunn both suffering at the hands of the steward for causing them.
Heat three featured a similar-to-heat-two runaway win for Steve Dudman. Once he’d shrugged off the attentions of Hitch early on, Steve was always working on just putting more and more daylight between him and the rest. ‘The rest’ were putting on a hell of an entertaining display though! Back at the start, Maxwell had also darted past Hitch but then lost out to Jaimie McCurdy when he managed to turn in tighter at the pit bend, with Jason Kew following him through.
Of course, all this did help Dudman to ‘escape’ at the front, but most eyes probably stayed on McCurdy, Kew, Maxwell and Weaver, who conducted a lively places scrap for much of the race. McCurdy got home second but picked up a contact penalty, handing the position to Kew and elevating the world champion to third.
With twenty-one cars still fit for the final a hard-fought race was always in prospect; it definitely didn’t disappoint.
With Wood having annexed pole and Kew starting on his outside they looked to be the ones who would be vying for the lead into turn one. But that reckoned without an absolutely demon start by Maxwell from row two which almost saw him squirm his way to the front entering the first turn. He didn’t make it and was forced to drop back to fifth, but this was just the start of the action.
Wood led with Kew and Bland dicing for second until Kew got away from Bland and attacked Wood’s lead with gusto, the two clashing as they exited turn three. This slowed them up and allowed Bland to come rushing up to join in too, the trio running the back straight three wide before Wood went spinning at the other end of the track. It looked as though that might have been caused by Milsom trying to get in on the act as well but whatever, there was no denying this was exciting stuff in the true tradition of Wimbledon, the noise level in the stand underlining the fact!
Bland had come out of it all to lead beyond the mid-point with Kew and Maxwell still very much in it. Kew was just about to mount another lead challenge when they were interrupted by a bout of yellow flags, thrown after Wood and Terry Hunn clashed, Hunn spinning into the home straight fencing and Wood getting black flagged for putting him there.
In fact and by this point, seven of the first eight cars had attracted black crosses so it was already looking like the result might well be decided in the stewards’ box. At the restart leader Bland simply got his head down, turned the concentration control up and pressed on, with defending champ Kew keeping Maxwell at bay all the way to the flag. But it was to be fifth placeman Murray – the only front runner un-black crossed – who eventually collected the spoils. Well, on the night at least. The sixth car home, the Ginetta of Bradley Dynes, inherited second while Bland suffered the displeasure of the steward, along with Kew, Maxwell and McDonald who were all pushed down the order. It was only a couple of days later, with the various appeals lodged and videos viewed, that Shane got his win back and the first three was revised to Bland, Maxwell and Murray. All a bit unsatisfactory really.
One thing however is certain: it was a race Mick Collard – no stranger to a bit of controversy – would have thoroughly approved of! GB
Martin Kingston's photos in the Gallery
Heat one: 42,95,305,174,113,615,199,48,362,333,155,55,172. NOF
Heat two: 305,48,155,(95),615,76,(39),964,333,31,209. NOF
Heat three: 3,174,76,199(-2),209,42,117,39,964,55,31,316,172. NOF
Final (as announced on the night): 95,964,42(-2),174(-2),76(-2),117(-2),199,48,155,113,615,31,333,55. NOF
Final (as subsequently revised): 42,76,95,174(-2),964,117(-2),199,48,155,113,615,31,333,55. NOF
Penalties: 117 disqualified from heat one for spinning 333. 95 disqualified from heat two for spinning 209. 39 disqualified from heat two for spinning 964. 199 dropped two places in heat three for contact with 174. 42 originally dropped two places in the final for a jumped start – penalty later rescinded. 76 originally dropped two places in the final for contact – penalty later rescinded. 174 dropped two places in the final for contact. 117 dropped two places in the final for contact. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
The 2016 Irish Open Weekend
Tipperary, 29th/30th October
Irish Open heat 1: 208 960 261 955 9 20 70 937 199 64 943
Irish Open heat 2: 70 261 20 9 955 960 208 937 64 943
Irish Open Final: 261 70 20 9 960 937 64
Davy Evans Memorial Cup: 199 261 925 208 960 937 955 64 943
Pat Canavan Memorial Cup: 261 20 955 937 925 64
Hylands wins British at Tullyroan
The 2016 NHRPA British Championship
and Leslie Dallas Memorial
Tullyroan Oval, 17/18th September
Ed Fahey reports: Adam Hylands continued his recent success in National Hot Rods by adding the Dilly Roofing Supplies NHRPA British Championship held at Tullyroan Oval to last month’s National championship win at Hednesford.
24 cars arrived to contest the championship, all the regions being represented, but for two of them by a single car only. Defending Champion Dave Casey being the sole representative from Southern Ireland and Rob McDonald being the only one from Scotland. England was represented by Dick Hillard, Billy Wood and making their track debuts were Stuart McLaird and Carl Waller-Barrett. This left the locals and all the regulars were out – Adam Maxwell, Glenn Bell, Derek Martin, Keith Martin, Shane Murray, John Christie, Simon Kennedy, Jaimie McCurdy et al. All of these drivers holding home ground advantage and any one of them had potential to take the win. John Christie clearly starting a trend when he rolled his venerable Fiesta out, Ian McReynolds entering his slightly newer Citroen Saxo. Christie set the fastest time in practice.
Due to lower than expected numbers entering, one of the planned qualifying races was cancelled, so the grid for the Championship final would be decided over two races and not three.
Qualifying – The pre-race draw saw McCurdy on pole for the first heat which he converted into a win with his usual unfazed style, keeping the head down and letting others do the work. This was made a little easier with no less than 3 cars pulling up before the start; Brendan McConnell, McReynolds and Wood, but all 3 would return later. The race was not long progressed when Maxwell was eliminated after being put into the wall by Philip McCloy, McCloy not being as observant as he perhaps should have been and not giving Maxwell enough space to race fairly and was excluded for his efforts. Upfront in pursuit of McCurdy it was Hillard, Rab Forsythe, McLaird, D Martin and McDonald in a close train although McLaird was soon squeezed to the outside. Stuart’s car performing well thanks to Glenn Bell who had taken it out for a run in practice and recommended some subtle but valuable suspension changes. McLaird’s drop allowed Murray and Christie to lock onto the train as Waller-Barret retired to the centre with a badly bent propshaft and broken gearbox. D Martin was making progress taking Hillard on the outside for second place at Turn 1, but in doing so the two cars briefly locked together, causing McDonald to hit the back of them and briefly got out of shape, this left Murray who was just behind the Scotsman with nowhere to go and spinning McDonald as a result. Patience clearly being in short supply here, but in the frantic pace that Tullyroan brings you can’t hang about either. As McCurdy was weaving his way through the back markers this allowed D Martin to close in, but there was not enough time to mount a challenge for the lead, McCurdy keeping it smooth to win ahead of D Martin, Murray, Christie and Casey.
For the second heat Bell had the front row to himself as McReynolds couldn’t repair his axle issues in time. With Hylands behind him on the second row Bell wouldn’t have an easy run to keep the lead and Hylands was with him from the green flag dropping and would stay like this for almost the entire race. Casey was hoping to improve on his fifth place in the first heat and was immediately into battle with Maxwell but a wide line into Turn 3 allowed Maxwell to get through on the inside, but Casey tried slamming the door on the World Champion which failed as he tangled with Maxwell and forcing both Waller-Barrett and Christie to take avoiding action which sadly eliminated them both bringing out the Red flags - Waller-Barrett coming off worse. Casey later being excluded from the results and making it no finishes for either Maxwell or Waller-Barrett. The restart saw Bell and Hylands once again in close proximity but the restart was short lived with another coming together at Turn 3, this time between Ben McKee, Murray and D Martin, Murray’s car coming off the worse, hard into the wall with heavy frontal damage and McKee’s night was also finished after skimming along the wall. A post-race video review revealed the incident was a case of 3 into 1 just won’t go and nobody was willing to give up position. Scenarios like this are usually discussed in the drivers briefings but ultimately it’s down to the drivers to race fairly and to give an inch if possible if it will make things easier for everyone. The second restart saw a quiet race with Bell leading Hylands to the finish with Gary Wilson, K Martin, D Martin and McDonald following.
After his damage received over two races Carl Waller-Barrett was all set to go home on Sunday morning, but a lack of ferry spaces and a generous offer from Derek Martin and his team saw lots of midnight oil burnt and Carl’s car was repaired locally overnight, the suspension damage from the second race damage being fixed, allowing the European champion to start the British Championship. This was greatly appreciated along with the help that Jaimie McCurdy and his team gave Carl to repair the gearbox and exhaust damage after the first race. On-track rivals and friends in the pits is always refreshing to see.
The Grid – British Championship
20 54 199 113 31 962 992 998 343* 409 977 76
9 994 82 117 70* 75 261*305 64 937*162 717 (*denotes non starter)
Sunday morning brought the rain and changed conditions. Twenty cars took the start. Murray and McKee’s cars were too badly damaged from the previous evening, while McCloy and defending champion Casey elected not to race on the Sunday.
Conditions were poor with light drizzle throughout the race. Bell was the first to make the jump at the flag, charging past D Martin into the lead at turn one. Alas his efforts were in vain as behind him not every had stayed in grid formation before the green flag calling for a restart. This proved as spectacular, pole man D Martin completing a self-inflicted 360 spin crossing the line, bringing a lot of held breaths, but miraculously avoiding contact and re-joining not too far down the field in pursuit of the leaders. This brief melee allowed Bell and Hylands to take full advantage and push ahead already opening a decent gap at this early stage, Bell holding on around the outside without giving Hylands room to get away. This went on for several laps with both cars side by side, lap after lap. The pack behind comprised of K Martin, Wilson, McCurdy, McDonald and a recovering D Martin. Maxwell and Waller-Barrett were also making progress. Just after Hylands and Bell had lapped David Kernohan, a coming together between Wood and Carl Sloan at turn one left both cars prone and waved yellows paused the action briefly. This ruined the rhythm of the race as it would have been interesting to see how the leading pair would have handled lapping traffic and if the lead would have changed or not.
The single file restart saw Hylands get away better from Bell pulling a better gap than he had before and able to use the outside line to his advantage. Behind Bell it was K Martin still but nephew D Martin was pushing hard and had better traction coming out of the bends. This allowed McDonald to move in for fourth place past D Martin with a clean inside pass. The momentum stayed though with McDonald taking third position with another clean overtake into Turn 3, but K Martin was not giving the position up easily and he soon reclaimed it, McDonald losing two positions. Behind the three-way scrap for third, Christie and Wilson were gaining on McDonald who was now in fifth place, Christie gaining position along with Wilson as it was clear by then McDonald was in trouble. Maxwell took seventh position from McDonald just before he retired to the centre. At the front Hylands had pulled ahead by almost half a lap ahead of Bell with D Martin in third then K Martin, Christie and Wilson. Hylands held on to win with an impressive victory ahead of Bell and Derek Martin. Hylands, Bell and D Martin all agreeing the outside line was better in the conditions but the race would have been better without the stoppage. Such is motorsport; unpredictability is half the excitement.
Onto the reverse grid revenge race and a slidey track surface but the rain had now stopped. Here was a chance for both Maxwell and Waller-Barrett to put the previous day’s miseries behind them, occupying the front row as rookie Kernohan elected to start at the rear. Waller-Barrett made a fine start to lead the race, slotting in behind him was McReynolds who had started from third. Both drivers holding the line that Bell and Hylands fought over in the previous race. It was not too long before Maxwell had disposed of McReynolds and was challenging Waller-Barrett for the lead. Behind them Hylands was slicing through and would be fourth before too long, but with a slowly decreasing gap ahead towards the leading trio.
The greasy track led to grip limits being severely tested and Maxwell made his move on 162 which was not the cleanest overtake Adam has ever managed which sent Waller-Barrett wide and also allowed McReynolds through, Maxwell being rewarded with a black cross and upon review of video footage a two place penalty. Hylands was moving in rapidly on Waller-Barrett as the lollipops counted down the last few laps, Hillard also struggling to make a clean pass on Christie which saw Hillard excluded from the result. After the results were amended it was McReynolds who won, followed by Waller-Barrett and Maxwell, if the race had lasted for one more lap Hylands may well have got better than fourth position.
The final race for the Nationals was the Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy to remember the former European Champion. Before the race, Clive Richardson brought out his replica #915 Dallas Racing Mk2 Escort for a few laps as Nigel King’s unmistakeable commentary from ITV’s ‘World of Sport’ blared out over the PA system, using the soundtrack from a race Dallas had won at Ballymena Raceway. The Mk2 Escort was also used a pace car for the race. Grid positions were awarded from the day’s two previous races which left Hylands on pole with Bell alongside ahead of McReynolds and Maxwell. The rain had now gone for the day and with a dry line appearing most drivers returned to slick tyres, a last moment decision which was to have later consequences.
Hylands made another of his trademark blazing starts getting well ahead of Bell with Maxwell taking a very wide outside line brushing the wall, McReynolds getting ahead of Bell in the brief confusion that followed. Everyone was struggling for grip and it soon became apparent an oily track was to blame, this being confirmed with Sloan and Forsythe sliding into the Turn 1 wall along with Hylands having a very wild moment at Turn 4. The yellow flags were soon called for and almost the entire track had cement dust thrown down to soak up the offending oil. At this point Bell retired to the centre, the opportunity for a hat trick of Dallas Trophy wins now lost. The restart saw Hylands ahead of D Martin, K Martin, McReynolds, McCurdy and Wilson. D Martin pushing Hylands hard but without a breakthrough. Conor McElmeel and McReynolds struggling still with grip levels and it was not long before McReynolds was retired again to the centre. The laps counted down with Hylands safely ahead of D Martin and K Martin and he took the flag. Unfortunately Hylands had fitted an unlogged tyre in the sudden change to slicks before the race and sadly had the win taken from him, elevating Derek Martin to the win ahead of Keith Martin and Gary Wilson. Ed Fahey
Brian Lammey's photos in the Gallery
Heat 1: 199 20 70 962 261 994 54 9 31 82 113 992 937 75 998 117 64 nof. DQ 343
Heat 2: 9 54 82 994 20 117 305 113 409 75 31 199 992 998 343 64 nof. Dq 261.
The 2016 NHRPA British Championship: 54 Adam Hylands, 2nd 9 Glenn Bell, 3rd 20 Derek Martin then 994 962 82 76 31 977 162 998 113 409 64 717 nof.
"Revenge" British Reverse Race: 977 162, 76x-2 54 9 64 82 20 409 994 113 75 199 962 998 717 nof. DQ 31
Leslie Dallas Memorial Cup: 1st 20 Derek Martin, 2nd 994 Keith Martin, 3rd 82 Gary Wilson, then 199 64 409 nof.
Heat One: 343 DQ for contact on 76 which put 76 in turn one wall.
Heat Two: 261 DQ for turning across 76 triggering an accident which eliminated 76, 962 & 162.
British Revenge: 76 docked two places for contact on 162. 31 DQ for spinning 962.
Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy: 54 winner on road but excluded for tyre logging infringement - referred to NHRPA
2016 National Championship Weekend
Hednesford Hills August 5-7
Graham Brown Although race wins may have eluded him during qualifying, Adam Hylands still managed to claim pole position for the championship final, the former European champion going on to lead every one of the seventy-five laps. Having given chase in vain throughout, Carl Waller-Barrett took second ahead of Rob McDonald.
This year we not only got the hoped for fifty car entry in the end but in fact exceeded it. Although a couple of enforced last minute cancellations reduced that field a touch, I think fifty two cars competed over the weekend. Most of them were out for the usual Friday afternoon practice too, with only four cars failing to show until Saturday. The three twenty-minute sessions gave everybody quite a bit of time to either sort a decent set-up or confirm they already had one.
Shane Murphy and Hylands looked the quickest all afternoon to my eyes and they weren’t far off by the clock either, but right at the end of the day Murphy was just pipped to FTD by a few of thousandths of a second by Chris Haird (13.881 versus 13.890). They were the only two who did a 13.8 of any sort but basically, anyone not in the 13s had to regard themselves as still searching a bit of pace, the top ten cars all recording sub-14 second laps.
Without a doubt the two most interesting entries were the polar opposites of John Christie and Gary Woolsey. Although he threatened us with it last year, this time Christie did bring his elderly (but superbly re-vamped) Fiesta along, while Woolsey of course, was debuting the brand new Carl Boardley assembled Ginetta G40R. The Fiesta – a double World Final winner back in the 1990s remember - certainly looked to be no slower than any modern car. After practice, neither car was in the 13s but neither was very far away either. Interestingly, the 15th fastest time recorded was the Ginetta at 14.061, with the 16th fastest being the Fiesta, at 14.079. So apparently, about 20 years of continuous development, and thousands of pounds worth of difference in the relative values today of those two cars, is worth about 5/1000ths of a second. OK, don’t worry, I do know it’s not quite as simple as that! But some interesting stats nonetheless.
The Ginetta certainly looked to be bobbing about a bit in the first session and I’m assuming the team stiffened things up a tad for the second outing. He was definitely going in the right direction all afternoon, having shed the best part of half a second by the close of play. What I really liked about the car though, is that it has working brake lights! I did genuinely wonder if I was seeing things when I first noticed that. A class idea for sure, rather than the dummy stickers most cars have, although whether anyone will still think so the first time it gets any hard rear end damage might be another matter.
Away from the two star cars on the entry front, there were still others of interest, not least the very welcome return (again, he was at last year’s event too) of Gavin Murray in the ex-Danny Fiske car. Glenn Bell had his all-new Edwards-built car out for its first serious outing, although Glenn had given the Ford Duratec powered machine a 20-lap run at Tullyroan in the week, where a jury-rigged by-pass of a suspect fuel regulator led to the car catching fire. With no marshals in attendance, this gave the driver an exciting minute or two, although it was experience which was to come in handy later!
Six heats were needed to sort the qualifiers and their eventual starting order.
Any ideas anyone might have been harbouring about another Haird-Murphy National championship showdown looked like being scotched very early on, when Murphy’s car was found to be laying oil as the grid lined up for heat one. He came very close to non-starting but a swift repair enabled him to re-join the grid at the very last moment. However, in view of what happened later, the incident might well have been a harbinger of sorts…
Christie didn’t exactly get the dream start to that first heat from the outside front row, the Fiesta getting railroaded backwards as he got stuck on the outside line. It was pole sitter Jason Kew who set off into a lead he was not to lose, starting a pattern which was going to prevail pretty much all weekend. But Jason had hardly had time to settle down when he was interrupted by a caution after Billy Wood and Murphy had tangled at the West bend, Murphy ending up going head on and hard into the wall. The car was badly damaged and Shane got knocked about quite a bit in the shunt (and in some rather delicate parts of his anatomy too!), the whole incident putting an end to his meeting before the completion of even one race.
The stoppage and restart made no difference to the leader, but there was a fierce scrap for second which eventually went the way of the impressive Shane Murray (from grid twelve) after a three-into-two-won’t-go moment with a backmarker going into turn one eliminated Colin Smith and delayed Kym Weaver.
Shaun Taylor got away fast to lead heat two but was quickly overwhelmed by the chasing pack, Stewart Doak taking over at the front but under pressure from McDonald, who went ahead after they touched on the East bend.
In fact, this really wasn’t the heat to be in, with the top eight places reading like a who’s who of present day hot rod racing! Doak was eventually forced backwards as Waller-Barrett and David Casey forged on towards the front but in truth this was McDonald’s all the way as he simply got further and further in front, eventually taking the flag just about half a lap clear.
Heat three provided another flag to flag win, this time for Bell. He did have to survive a caution and restart though, when the unfortunate Danny Hunn went straight on into the embankment alongside the back straight with five laps to run.
Prior to that, Christie had seen his chances of a decent grid position knocked by a back straight spin, with Shane Murray faring no better as he was forced to retire with some front end damage, apparently sustained in a coming together with fellow countryman Phillip McCloy.
Bell needed to be away very quickly to avoid any interference from an extremely sharp looking Keith Martin who was running second, and Glenn was probably not too upset by the backmarking Taylor having to start between them. Martin and Hylands still filled the top three places at the end for an all-NI top three.
We lost Aaron Dew from the fourth encounter when he was forced to non-start with a jammed throttle. This race saw Shane Bland get an incredible launch at the green flag which he was able to turn into a virtually unopposed win, despite Dave York chasing him all the way once he’d overtaken Ben McKee. McKee subsequently fell back to become embroiled in a raging places scrap which eventually saw Wood come away with third ahead of Gavin Murray and McKee, David Casey and Derek Martin managing to pounce on Woolsey during the final tour to force Gary back a couple of spots.
Hunn managed to get back out for the next one, assisted by what looked like several rolls of race tape applied to the front of the Mazda. I did idly wonder if maybe Rick might have had a hand in that, as the acknowledged expert, but apparently it was Stewart Doak who’d provided a lot of assistance in getting the 339 car back out.
Following a false start when Jeff Riordan didn’t go at the first time of asking, the unusual (for a National weekend) run of relatively easy victories continued in heat five, with Jack Blood leading every lap and even tapping off to cruise the last couple of circuits. This enabled second man Billy Bonnar to close him down a bit at the end although the Scot was subsequently hit with a penalty for his method of passing Mark Edwards which put him back to fourth. Edwards also lost out near the finish to the charging twosome of Keith Martin and Hylands who were to finally wind up second and third.
Heat six finally broke the mould of flag-to-flag winners. Shane Murray initially set the pace up front, chased hard by Adam Maxwell. Maxwell was edging closer, particularly when Murray started to encounter traffic, until McCloy spun at the East bend and got hit by Chris Lehec to bring out the yellows. Although the leader had gone past the scene of the incident it hadn’t looked as though he’d touched the stricken 343 car, but he must have just clipped it, and it was enough to put him out with a flat before the restart. That handed Maxwell the lead and subsequently the win.
Another who was in trouble here was young Jaimie McCurdy, whose motor let go as he took the flag, curtailing his weekend.
In fact, despite some (relatively) easy wins having been scored, not for the first time it had proved to be very difficult for anyone to put together three half decent results. And in the end, it only took two third places plus a seventh to give Hylands pole.
But before the end of Saturday’s racing, the new-for-2016 ‘Last Chance’ race pitted all the non-qualifiers against one another for two final places on Sunday’s grid. With only nine cars gridding for this, it wasn’t the most exciting race ever but might still be an interesting addition to the card for the future. Ken Marriott and Shaun Taylor were the drivers who took advantage of it, after second man on the road, Tommy Maxwell, collected a penalty which dropped him to fourth.
Hylands had been suffering fluctuating oil pressure during the heats and finally resolved the situation by borrowing the motor out of Bell’s old car. I’m not entirely sure what the previous #9 Tigra was doing there given that the rules still stipulate that spare cars aren’t allowed. But in any case, Bell’s crew had sensibly banished the car to being parked over by the toilets, so it couldn’t be “seen” as being used by them! And its presence certainly came in handy…
54 162 76 20 42 95 209 115 174 82 113 196 199* 23 305 48 2 964
994 117 261 92 844 9 960 955 996 75 45 962 342 937 136 871 152
So with Hylands having changed engines overnight the replacement power-plant was obviously working well as he was the first to break ranks as they came off the rolling start and made a clean getaway to head the pack.
Waller-Barrett, Keith Martin, Adam Maxwell, McDonald and David Casey disputed the places early on, with McDonald getting stuck on the outside and railroaded back to seventh as he was forced to let Casey and Derek Martin by before he could get back in.
Kym Weaver became an early retirement and then York had the hairiest of spins along the home straight, somehow didn’t hit anything and carried on.
Eventually the order settled down, with Hylands running a short distance ahead of Waller-Barrett and Maxwell. Derek Martin slipped past Casey somewhere and then David had a bit of a moment over the rumble strips at the East bend, letting McDonald by as well.
As they passed the ’50 Laps’ board, Hylands was still extending his lead slowly, when suddenly the yellows were waving for Bell, whose car had burst into flames on the infield. During the resulting hiatus, Maxwell was forced out of third place with a major oil leak, which put Derek Martin up to third with McDonald right behind him.
Other than Maxwell’s departure, it didn’t look as though the stoppage was going to change too much about the other major places with two backmarkers providing a cushion between first and second places, and three more between Waller-Barrett in second and Martin in third. In any case, McDonald quickly relegated Martin after the re-start to set off after CW-B.
Shane Bland was the next to fall by the wayside with a flat in the right front.
But despite a long hard chase through dense and sometimes uncooperative traffic (Wood turning out to be a particular stumbling block for the leader) the first three would remain unchanged the rest of the way and stayed fairly well spread out for the duration.
While it might not have been the most exciting National championship ever, we were always going to be jolly lucky to get another race like last years in any case. For 2016, we certainly got a deserving winner and with an English bloke and a Scot also on the podium, most people had something to cheer about.
Quite a lot of people got something else to cheer about in the final race of the weekend, The NHRPA Championship.
The drawn grid placed Hunn on pole and he took an immediate lead from there too. But Christie sitting in grid three, and Waller-Barrett alongside, were always likely to be in the hunt too. It took just about a lap for Christie’s venerable Fiesta (which sounded superb incidentally) to hit the front and go quickly clear but it wasn’t long before they were all brought up short by a yellow flag after Taylor’s car lost a door skin.
They’d barely got going again, with Christie again drawing clear, when another yellow flew for McLaird, who spun out in a very dodgy spot on the back straight.
The restart saw Christie still heading second man Jason Kew, who was immediately under the cosh from McDonald as soon as they got the green. With mid-distance approaching, McDonald found a way past Kew down the inside at the West bend, Waller-Barrett following him through. McDonald was clearly on a mission now though. The Scot had been one of the quickest cars all weekend and was no different in this race, gradually closing down Christie’s lead the rest of the way. He probably would have got closer but for Christie making a slightly better job of handling a clump of backmarkers they had to negotiate. McDonald resumed his chiselling away at Christie’s advantage once they were both back on open road, but it was all going to be too little, too late now.
So Christie rounded off the weekend by scoring a popular victory, many of the crowd I’m sure, having willed the 962 Fiesta on all the way to the flag. GB
Several excellent albums of superb photos by Martin Kingston and Ed Fahey in the Gallery
Heat one: 174,70,955,209,962,92,342(-2),136,31,199,940,42,66,113,871,(2),615,55,305,343,467. NOF
Heat two: 117,162,261,996,76,20,54,115,844,48,45,994,960,95,75,23,152,196,339,964,82,937,H66,9. NOF
Heat three: 9,994,54,162,960(-2),115,113,117,844,369,955,615,199,45,136,152,871,962,27,2. NOF
Heat four: 42,196,305,95,937,261,20,940,82,996,75,2,209,76,92,342(-2),174,48,964,925,66,H66. NOF
Heat five: 92,994,54,844(-2),45,9,960,209,117(-2),115,42,342,162,174,31,2,66,---,---,925(-2). NOF
Heat six: 76,23,82,75,20,95,199,113,261,962,871,55,955,996,937,48,196,964,369,136. NOF
Last Chance: 2,152,964,369(-2),55,925,27,31,339. NOF
National Championship: 54,162,117,20,261,994,115,174,960,305,962,92,996,75,82,844,23,95,48,152,136,2,871,964. NOF
NHRPA Championship: 962,117,162,174,960,305,82,20,31,54,23,261,95,75,937,196,844,996,925,55. NOF
Penalties: 342 dropped two places in heat one for failing to hold a line. 2 disqualified from heat one for contact with 467. 305 disqualified from heat one for contact with 970, penalty later rescinded after viewing of video evidence and a steward’s inquiry. 960 dropped two places in heat three for a jumped start. 342 dropped two places in heat four for contact/failing to hold a line. 305 disqualified from heat five for spinning 339. 844 dropped two places in heat five for contact with 45. 117 dropped two places in heat five for contact with 66. 925 dropped two places in heat five for contact with 9. 369 dropped two places in Last Chance race for contact. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
2016 World Final and NHR Support Races
Ipswich, 2/3 July 2016
Graham Brown. Adam Maxwell took a popular victory in the National Hot Rod world championship after a close fight with defending champion Shane Murphy. Their duel ended controversially after a clash between the pair left Murphy in the wall but the stewards had no hesitation confirming Maxwell as the winner after having viewed video with the race still in progress. Southern Irishman David Casey claimed second ahead of European and English champion Carl Waller-Barrett, while Danny Fiske’s drive through to fourth from grid position 25 was one of the highlights of the race.
Much as in 2015, for the whole week leading up to the event the weather forecasters had been hedging their bets about what the conditions were going to be like for the weekend. Friday had been pleasantly warm, sunny and dry – quite acceptable speed-weekend weather in fact. Saturday turned out to rather a different matter and we were probably fortunate the heavy showers waited until lap times were done and dusted, as those doing the support races weren’t quite so lucky! As for Sunday and the race itself, although conditions looked pretty similar to Saturday, in the end we were actually spared any precipitation.
No last minute additions to the entry this year, although we very nearly had a subtraction when Mikey Godfrey and team had their hard work rewarded by their motor giving up the ghost before they could even get as far as doing lap times. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the team were given special dispensation to employ their second car – fortunately they had one available – although it still had to be readied and got to the track, which turned out to be a bit of a drama in itself…and even then it would only be a rear of grid start for #27.
Everyone else was driving exactly what you’d expect them to be, although there was some new paint and new liveries in evidence, with every single car turned out with the immaculate preparation we’ve come to expect.
Stewart Doak was one with a completely different paint scheme on his car while another was Rob McDonald, who’d ditched the fate-tempting gold top half (OK Rob, yellow!) in favour of an almost fluorescent orange and black livery, which looked fantastic. Kym Weaver had moved to a medium blue scheme which was not only easy on the eye, but also means one less white car for me to try and pick out at the other end of the stadium! NI racer Gary Wilson was another in totally new colours, and my apologies to anyone I missed or just didn’t notice – I know everybody puts their utmost into looking spot on for the biggest event of the year, even if their cars look very little different in design to how they’ve been all season.
Following the usual un-timed morning practice session it was soon 10.20am and time for the cars to roll out and face the unforgiving timing beams for hot laps and the formation of the grid. And this year saw the biggest shake-up to this process in, well….twenty three years! Because that was the last time the grid was based entirely on who runs fastest in those crucial three laps. Despite the fact there were extremely good reasons for the introduction and maintenance of the group system, in recent times it had become increasingly obvious that its time had passed. Quite apart from anything else, it was becoming more and more unfair on the Northern Irish entrants and, if I’m honest, first-past-the-post qualifying laps would always have been my preferred method of doing things in an ideal world. But with little choice now but to once again employ that system in any case, I haven’t met anyone with any complaints, even those who would have lost out by its re-introduction.
As first out, Mark Heatrick set the initial pace with his 14.91 which it took only seconds to be improved upon with number two runner John van den Bosch doing a 14.84, a time which turned out to be good enough for a spot more than halfway up the grid.
The first real benchmark however, came at only position five in the order when the defending champ took to the track, Murphy’s draw having forced him to run on the still relatively green and un-rubbered oval. Under the circumstances, his 14.67 was almost miraculous and would not be bettered by anyone in the next eighteen runners although, to be fair, Brett Walter was only a hundredth slower just two slots later. It’s probably reasonable to say that despite his undoubted pace at the T-500, few people were expecting that – and it was going to put him on the inside of row three.
Although (rather stupidly) I hadn’t visited Betfred and backed up my pre-event gut feel that Derek Martin, Adam Maxwell, Carl Waller-Barrett and David Casey would all be major players in the race itself, they all did quite well out of hot laps and in the end, did indeed play big parts in the main event. CW-B and Casey wound up with grid positions seven and six respectively.
But, after having seemed for so long as if Murphy might have annexed pole with his lap, the three quickest times all came from the last ten drivers to run, Maxwell’s rival in the NI points championship, Derek Martin, claiming the outside front row (it looked like pole at the time) with a 14.62, while two-time winner Chris Haird got grid position three with his 14.66. And although fancied to do well by many prior to the event, Maxwell now put at least one foot on the ladder to the top step of the podium when, as the penultimate driver to run, his second lap time of 14.66s would have been enough to beat Murphy, while a third tour which broke the 14.60 barrier at 14.57 set the seal on pole.
With that done and dusted the starting order for all of the eventual thirty four runners was sorted, Godfrey having no choice but to start second last and alongside whoever emerged from Saturday night’s races with the final ‘wildcard’ place on the grid.
Saturday ‘Wildcard’ Support Races
With the potential prize on offer of world final qualification, twenty six cars lined up to contest the support races this year, an entry which as usual featured a number of interesting drivers. Rarely (if ever) seen this side of the water were Ulster racer Ben McKee and ROI driver Jeff Riordan, while Billy Bonnar was making what I think was his first appearance south of the border since returning from suspension. Similarly, Bradley Dynes was back out after his ban and in what had recently been a Bonnar car too, by the look of it.
But as in 2015, the biggest talking point was probably whether Adam Hylands could pull a last minute qualification out of the bag. And a mid-grid draw looked like making his attempts to progress interesting at the very least.
It was pole man Paul Gomm who led them away with Scots Graeme Callender and Bonnar right behind. Callender went wide at turn one and Gomm at turn three handing the lead to Bonnar and second spot to Tommy Maxwell, the recovered Callender settling into third ahead of McKee, Gomm and Adam Heatrick, with Hylands quickly up to seventh and definitely on the march. Unfortunately, just after beginning a challenge on Heatrick, Adam went spinning at turn four on his own oil. He wasn’t the only one either, Tom Keep, Steve Dudman and Sammy Shuddall’s venerable Peugeot 205 all rotating as well. With the 54 car having blown the oil pressure relief valve out of the dry sump pump and its driver unaware that anything was seriously wrong, Hylands drove some way further around the track, laying oil all over the place and eventually seizing the motor.
Following a necessarily lengthy delay for a clean-up Bonnar led them away into the inevitable clouds of dust, but it was only seconds before Maxwell darted under him exiting turn two. Bonnar came straight back at him though, trying first the inside, then outside, and then they just ran side by side! Billy certainly gave it his best shot but in the end it was Tommy Maxwell who claimed the win, with McKee getting home third ahead of Callender and Dynes after Heatrick got docked a couple of places for punting Paul Gomm wide at turn three.
The second heat was one of those races which in another time and place, with no curfew restraints to bother about, would simply never have happened. With the cars all lined up on the grid, a downpour of almost biblical proportions didn’t just soak the track, it inundated it. Needless to say, the vast majority were on slicks, although it soon became clear who had taken a bit of a tyre gamble.
It looked as though Adrian Bennett took one look at the conditions and parked, and he wasn’t a bad judge. The rest set off for something which was not totally unlike watching powerboat racing. Paul Frost and Martin Heath looked like the men with the wets, and they were soon into the premier places and pulling away fast from third man Dudman, who had gone for two-and-two. To give some idea how this went, my long established form of note taking during a race includes a system for telling me roughly how far apart the scored cars are. +¼ for instance means the first car is a quarter lap ahead of the next. +½ is quite unusual in a heat race unless we’re at a short track, while +¾ is generally only seen in longer championships, so you can guess how often I use the notation +1½ in a heat race. But that’s what happened here.
To be fair, Frost and Heath did have quite a scrap for the honours, with Martin only going in front when they came up to lap Duddy, who slid wide at just the wrong moment for Frost. Heath pressed on to win with both the leading cars starting to miss in the dying laps, this old-time form of traction control probably only making them quicker if anything. Amusingly, Frost spun at about five to go, allowing the third man to pass him, but only to un-lap himself for a bit! For the record, my notebook showed this at the finish: 66 +¾, 316 +1, 3. I hadn’t a clue who was fourth and I couldn’t tell you the last time I scored a race as badly as that either. I can tell you that a huge effort to change the engine did get Hylands out for this but to no avail.
With that rain just a bad dream by final time, the grid lined up to decide the wildcard destination. Heath had pole with Lee Pepper alongside, McKee and Frost occupying row two ahead of Bonnar and Dynes.
When they blitzed away into turn one, it looked as though Pepper might have tried to cut down to the inside a touch early as they came to the exit from turn two. If that was the case, Heath certainly didn’t let him, the pair clashing wheels and sparking off an incident which swiftly involved pretty much the whole field and brought out the yellows.
With the order completely scattered by the crash, the restart left David York in the lead from Dynes, Adam Heatrick and Ivan Grayson. Dynes (with Heatrick and Grayson in tow) went by York almost as soon as the restart commenced, although York re-passed Grayson just as fast but at the expense of a black cross.
Then Heatrick got under Dynes going around backmarkers, York and Grayson following through – as well as Hylands! Hylands had started from grid 19 so he definitely wasn’t mucking about here. He hassled his way past a blue flagged Grayson, then swooped on the leaders, passed York, and looked to be on his way to a famous victory…until his left rear tyre blew off the rim, sending him spinning into retirement at turn three. Under the circumstances, setting the fastest lap wasn’t really much of a consolation, although Adam took it all philosophically enough, merely shrugging later and remarking, “It just wasn’t my day”.
Heatrick pressed on to take the flag despite York mounting a challenge right at the death. The fact that his attack was unsuccessful made no odds however, as Heatrick had done insufficient meetings to meet the rules regarding wildcards, thus handing the last world final grid slot to York.
Despite Saturday’s heavy showers and not all forecasters predicting a dry Sunday, in fact the day dawned with clear blue skies and hot sunshine beating on the track. That did not prevent a big cloud lurking right by the stadium as start-time neared however.
For once there seemed to have been few overnight mechanical dramas among the finalists, but Mikey Godfrey had been united with his Tigra A, despite his dad having broken down on the way!
The track looked a bit dusty during the warm up laps, although this soon cleared as the cars circulated, giving us time to consider the situation. This looked like being a battle of relative youth versus experience. Would young NI chargers Maxwell and Martin be desperate to emulate so many of their compatriots down the years and go for it like demons right from the off? Would previous winners Murphy and Haird, with nothing to prove, take it a bit easier until a few laps in, saving their tyres and cars for a late run? And if they did, how far away might one of the front row men have got by then? It was going to be interesting!
World Final Grid
76 115 217 162 23 117 199 82 174 940 994 960 304 615 152 339 700 196
20 970 261 42 92 955 H66 45 996 209 305 491 467 31 75 36 27
Following some last minute bothers with the Raceceivers of Derek Martin and Ian Donaldson, they were off.
The Race – 75 Laps
The typically frantic opening gambits saw Martin get the best launch from his outside berth, which has undoubtedly been the side of the track to be on at Ipswich for a while now. He managed to stay alongside Maxwell all through turn one, all along the back straight and, with his car almost but not quite completely ahead of Maxwell’s, he tried to cut down to the inside line entering turn three. Not surprisingly Maxwell was having none of that and the pair collided going into the bend, Martin somehow saving the resulting huge slide and possible spin, and managing to stay in second. Both his and Maxwell’s car seemed to have survived the impact OK, but the other aces were queueing up to pounce on Martin, Murphy edging ahead at turn one and Haird following suit just before the yellow flags were waving on lap four for a multi-car fracas all over turns one and two. Here, Doak had gone spinning, as had Jaimie McCurdy, Shaun Taylor and Walter by the looks of things. Taylor and Walter weren’t fit to restart and Mark Edwards got disqualified for causing the incident in some way, shape or form.
By the time hostilities resumed, Martin was down to fifth, having lost another spot to Casey. And the British champ was clearly on the move too, as he darted under Haird coming off turn two. To be fair, Haird did not appear to resist the pass very strenuously and when he stepped aside for Derek Martin as well a lap later, it was obvious the double champ was in trouble. In fact, a gradually seizing motor would eventually lead to his retirement on lap 43.
But with the lead duo now lapping knots of backmarkers and Casey already quite a long way adrift, it was already becoming clear that this was probably just going to come down to Maxwell versus Murphy; young pretender versus reigning monarch.
For many laps the pair circulated together, with Murphy just sitting back and waiting his chance, no doubt giving his rad some air and himself an easier time of it too….biding his time in other words. And when Maxwell finally started encountering the really sticky traffic, Murphy suddenly closed up those couple of yards and began nibbling at the leader’s bumper.
As Jack Blood took a spin and Keith Martin called it a day almost unnoticed (to be followed out by nephew Derek not long after, another with an expired motor) Murphy piled on the pressure. Maxwell continued to negotiate the backmarkers neatly and safely, but a moment’s delay when trying to go by York on the outside was all it took for Murphy to dive for the opening inside line. He was alongside down the back straight and ahead as they closed fast again with York. As Murphy tried to cut back to the outside to pass the #196, he found Maxwell already started on the boxing in manoeuvre, the resulting impact turning the gold roofed Tigra straight into the wall.
Maxwell’s take on the incident later, was calm and considered.
“It wasn’t a nice way (for him) to go out. Maybe if he’d stayed a bit closer to the backmarker we could have both got through, but it was just one of those things. You’re going for a world final and you might not ever get that chance again, so you have to keep your foot on it in those situations. When I turned into the next corner I realised all the wheels were still on her so it was just a matter of bringing her home”.
And indeed, that was game over right there. From that point on, Maxwell just had to keep up a reasonably steady pace while counting down the laps and praying that the car kept going…which it did. Casey was now too far back to mount any kind of challenge (and also fast running out of laps in which to do so anyway) with Carl Waller-Barrett a further quarter of a lap down.
However! Those who’d been able to tear their eyes from the leaders had been treated to a superb climb up the field by Danny Fiske, the son of the ’75 champion. His diabolical hot laps performance had left him languishing down on grid position twenty-five. But a car that was obviously miles away from where it needed to be for a three lap sprint, looked like it was just right for a seventy-five lap grind! Danny had always been going in the right direction since the start, and had already made up eight places at the time of that early caution.
Nearing the finish he finally caught the dice for fifth thru eighth involving Rob McDonald, the impressive Damien Mulvey, Shane Bland and Gary Wilson, and battled his way to the front of that too to eventually claim a thoroughly deserved fourth place. It had been a great drive, certainly, but one of those which was always going to leave that what-might-have-been feeling.
By the time the lap boards began to appear on the rostrum, there were only eight cars left on the lead lap as Maxwell headed for home, the popular Ulsterman taking the flag before performing the customary doughnuts and then turning for the winner’s circle, where the right rear tyre went down before the champagne was even uncorked. When the motorsport gods are smiling on you, everything goes right…
World Final “Revenge” – The Betfred Trophy
Just twenty-two of the potential thirty-four runners made it back out for this, the reversed grid race from the world final line up.
Scot Roy Anderson had pole with Danny Hunn to his outside and it was Danny who fairly predictably made the best getaway to lead them all into lap one. Anderson quickly lost second to Dick Hillard while the focus of attention here always looked likely to be Fiske, who made several places very rapidly at the start and then had a brief struggle with Chris Lehec before going by as they exited turn two.
Leaving Lehec to try and deal with Mark Heatrick, Fiske chased down Hillard just as Dick also caught up with Hunn, the three of them coming together as they got the five lap board. The Wildman obviously thought a win was still on the cards here and took to the outside to pass Hillard down the back straight before setting about the leader with only one to go. It was the battle of the Dannys now as Fiske went down the outside again to go ahead on the back straight, only to have Hunn fight back all through the last bend to just - and only just - get to the flag first.
Meeting Final – The Nick Thomas Memorial Trophy
And if we thought Fiskey was quick in the other races, he was obviously just warming up at that stage! The Nick Thomas Memorial – a fitting tribute to our old friend – with its drawn grid combining world finalists and support cars, coincidentally gave Anderson another shot at a pole start. But with Weaver right next to him, that did look like it might be a bit of a gift for the Sussex man.
Anderson got brushed aside by the other front runners (but mostly by Adam Heatrick, which got him black crossed) as soon as they got a sniff of the green, with Weaver immediately going to the front as expected. And with Heatrick soon involved in a places scuffle with vd Bosch, Fiske, Lehec and Doak, the leader was quickly able to capitalise and make good his escape, Kym pulling clear fast in the early going. But Fiske was obviously on a mission once more, taking to the outside of the also black crossed vd Bosch and zipping past before doing the same to Heatrick exiting turn two.
Then began a long chase down, with Weaver apparently able to stabilise the gap initially, until the traffic became denser around both drivers and Fiske started to close fast. They’d just got together when the yellows came out for Mulvey, who’d found himself backed into the wall in a dodgy spot at turn four, Billy Wood and Andy Lee having already come to grief there earlier.
I doubt Fiske had wanted a caution at that stage as the restart now put Weaver back onto open road, and I shouldn’t think having the backmarking (but still clearly quick) Wood filling his mirrors helped either! But in the end, it was only a couple of laps before Weaver showed Fiske far too much daylight on his inside between turns three-four. Needless to say Danny was in there in a trice, ahead within a lap, and on his way to a highly popular and acclaimed win directly afterwards.
It all just helped underline what a shame it is that the 304 car won’t be seen on our tracks anymore for a while, but it was certainly a heck of a way to sign off. GB
100's more brilliant Martin Kingston and Clive Marchant photos in the Gallery
‘Wild Card’ Heat One: 369,844,937,871,964,155,342(-2),333,66,196,55,316,925,136,289,308,3,278,197,113. NOF
‘Wild Card’ Heat Two: 66,316,3,113,344,155,44,136,308,937,196,289,871,964,844,925,46. NOF
‘Wild Card’ Final: 342,196,44,925,55,136,937(-2),844,964,871,289,113,308,333. NOF
World Final “Revenge” – The Betfred Trophy: 339,304,31,209,174,117,955,76,82,996,615,42,162,261,23,491,H66,467,36. NOF
Nick Thomas Memorial: 304,209,261,162,174,117,76,937,31,964,339,23,136,113,36,305,278,925,344,333,308. NOF
Penalties: 342 dropped two places for contact with 333 in Wild Card heat one. 937 dropped two places for contact with 136 in Wild Card final. 996 disqualified from World Final for spinning 467. 45 disqualified from World Final for spinning 217. 217 subsequently loaded up and banned following a World Final post-race incident. 209 technical disqualification from World Final, upgraded to a black flag disqualification when he didn’t stop for the red & white flag. 339 technical disqualification from World Final for having bonnet detached. 996 disqualified from Nick Thomas Memorial for causing 955 to crash. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Ipswich, 18th June
Graham Brown Shane Murray produced something of a shock win in the traditional World Final warm-up event, the Ulsterman taking a heat and final double in order to take the title for the first time. He was opposed by Billy Wood all the way to his victory, Wood fighting hard with the eventual winner throughout the 40 lap race, even going ahead briefly at one point. English and European champion Carl Waller-Barrett eventually claimed third spot after Brett Walter collected a penalty for an incident with Murray at the start.
The meeting attracted the usual cosmopolitan entry we’ve come to associate with this event. Comprising cars from all over the UK regions and the continent too, they included a number of drivers who haven’t qualified for the upcoming World Final in any case, former 2.0 Hot Rod world champion Murray being perhaps the most notable.
Also of interest among the twenty-four car turn-out was Keith Martin, having a run out in the ex-John Christie Tigra, Keith having become interested in perhaps running the car in the World after finding the former #962 to be a tenth quicker than his own usual mount in testing.
The car formerly raced by Bradley Dynes was also making a re-appearance in the hands of Stu McLaird, something of a last minute arrangement if the hastily applied gaffer tape numbers on the doors were any guide! When Carl Boardley’s truck rolled into the pits, lots of eyes swivelled to see what might be contained within it, but I don’t think many of us were expecting it to be that!
Mikey Godfrey was another about whom there had been speculation that he may not be in his usual car, but in the end the recently acquired ex-McGuigan Tigra A stayed at home in favour of Mikey’s familiar pink car.
With the rain that marred Friday’s press/test day fortunately gone, the field took up their drawn grid positions on a bone dry track for the opening heat. But they’d barely come under starters orders before a misunderstanding about whose bit of track was whose saw Kym Weaver slam into the barriers during the installation laps. This was doubly unfortunate as Weaver must have been fancying his chances from the inside second row. Worse still, something must have got overlooked during the frenetic repair session back in the pits, as his second heat wasn’t to last long either, putting Kym right at the back of the final.
Instead it was pole man Stewart Doak who grabbed the heat one lead with Jason Kew darting past Jaimie McCurdy to go second, Wood following him through as McCurdy was forced backwards. Meanwhile, double world winner Chris Haird saw his chances disappear in a turn three altercation with Gary Woolsey. The incident led to the retirement of both men and was to get Woolsey disqualified.
The battle for the lead continued apace with Doak under serious pressure from Kew, Wood, Dick Hillard and McCurdy. This lead bunch grew to eight cars with the arrival of Brett Walter – looking particularly sharp with repeated swoops up the outside line – Shane Bland and Martin.
Walter’s unprecedented show of pace had carried him all the way up to third when Kew must have spotted him in the mirror and finally made his own move up Doak’s outside. That put the first four cars side by side in two pairs as they passed the five lap board, with Kew claiming the lead as they exited turn two and Doak getting relegated to fourth as Walter and Wood got through in the ensuing scramble as well.
Walter was clearly still happy to challenge for Kew’s lead as well but they’d run out laps by this point. And, although Walter had raised a few eyebrows, many had also noticed Murray’s speedy climb through the pack from the back of the grid to seventh place.
Heat two was slightly less entertaining, with the reversed grid putting Murray near the front and therefore looking the likely winner. He was actually beaten away by Aaron Dew but Murray was on him in a flash, forging through on Dew’s inside at turn three when the leader let him see an inch or so too much daylight.
After that Murray just got further and further in front, despite Colin Smith having relieved Dew of second before too long. In fact, the only interruption to the leader’s demonstration run was a caution period thrown after first John vd Bosch and then Danny Hunn, had spun to a stop in a dangerous spot on turn three. In between those two spins, there’d been a further incident on the exit from the corner, when Godfrey, Dick Hillard and Tom Keep all had a coming together, Mikey careering off across the infield further down the track and attacking a giant marker tyre. This did the front of the #27 no good at all nor indeed, certain parts of the driver’s anatomy!
Rob McDonald and Waller-Barrett both managed to get the jump on Smith at the green but Murray was long gone by then.
Walter’s fifth spot in that second heat had enabled him to best Murray’s overall performance to lift pole for the final. But with the Ulsterman right alongside and row two occupied by Waller-Barrett and Wood, there weren’t going to be any easy wins on offer here.
Walter clearly knew just how much of a threat Murray represented – particularly from the outside front row, which has been giving better starts at Ipswich for a while now – and edged his rival so wide at the green flag that he almost allowed Waller-Barrett past the pair of them into the first turn. The manoeuvre forced Murray back to fourth as Waller-Barrett and Wood both went by him but would have consequences for Walter, who would later get penalised out of a podium spot at the finish.
In the meantime though, Walter had the lead, albeit with Wood and Murray hard on his heels, Waller-Barrett having been briefly passed by Smith before the Smith car cried enough, putting him out.
Wood’s persistence in looking for a way down the leader’s inside was eventually rewarded leaving turn two, Murray eagerly following Wood through and wasting no time going for a pass of his own on the outside. When that didn’t work, he tried a cut-back leaving turn four instead that nearly did, the dice allowing Walter and Waller-Barret back into contention too. There followed a bout of tight side by side racing with Murray inching ahead of Wood on the straights only to have him fight back again in the turns.
Even when what looked like the inevitable came to pass and Murray finally got ahead, it still wasn’t over, with Wood sticking to him like glue and thorny groups of backmarkers continuously looming up, providing every chance for a last minute upset.
The leader did finally manage to gain an advantage of a few feet going into the last couple of laps to take a well-earned victory over Wood and Walter, although Walter’s two place penalty would elevate Waller-Barrett to third and Shane Bland to fourth. GB
Heat one: 174,217,305,996,31,199,70,162,994,42,316,115,27,23,491,152,C66,113,43,46. NOF
Heat two: 70,162,491,117(-2),217,23,305,(174),42,994,199,940,316, 152,113,996,43,339. NOF
Final: 70,305,162,42,217(-2),117,199,31,940,23,316,152,43,339,C66. NOF
Penalties: 940 disqualified from heat one for causing incident with 115. 117 dropped two places in heat two for spinning C66. 174 disqualified from heat two for causing incident which caused 339 to spin. 217 dropped two places in final for taking 70 out to the wall at the start. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Martin Kingston's superb photos from both Press Day and the Thunder 500, plus new album by Steve Weston in the Gallery
HRP Lochgelly, 9th April 2016
Martin Kingston reports: Carl Waller-Barratt took his first major championship win at Lochgelly, holding off a fast charging Chris Haird over the closing laps. A cosmopolitan entry of cars from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Germany and Holland were split in three groups, each car contesting two reverse grid heats to qualify for the final.
Jaimie McCurdy was quickly away from pole at the start of the first heat however a spinner on turn 3 on the opening lap meant a complete restart. Second time around McCurdy was not so quick allowing Alistair Lowe to lead them off from Haird and McCurdy. Haird was soon through on the inside of Lowe to take up the running, McCurdy and McDonald clashed leaving McDonald with a puncture and retiring while Haird cruised to victory.
The second heat saw Layton Milsom lead them away but he was quickly challenged by Billy Bonnar to take up the running with Terry Hunn in his Mazda dropping into third. They stayed like this to the flag despite a yellow flag period for a stranded Roy Anderson.
Glen Bell led them away for the final heat but he quickly had David Casey and Derek Martin chasing after him, these three soon opened up a gap over the rest of the field, staying nose to tail for most of the race with Casey just unable to find a way around Bell.
A second and a fifth in the heats had done enough for Waller-Barrett to secure pole position for the European Championship final, however with Haird alongside and Kym Weaver and Bell on row 2 it was never going to be easy. The first start ended in tears after Waller-Barratt, Haird and Bell all tangled going into the first bend together, and with the pack following behind a massive pile up ensued. Luckily only three cars failed to make the restart which saw Waller Barratt head them away from Bell, Haird and Weaver. Weaver found his way past Haird to take up third while Waller-Barrett opened a gap at the front. Weaver suddenly ended his race when something broke on the car leaving him stranded and bringing out the yellows. At the restart Waller- Barrett again opened up a gap from Bell who was now being hounded by Haird. Bell let Haird through to chase after Waller-Barrett and with 15 laps to go Haird caught the leader as they were going through backmarkers. However it was not till the last couple of laps that Haird was close enough to try a look around the outside, but with chequered flag out Waller-Barrett had driven a faultless race to take the title. Martin Kingston
Heat 1: 115 162 209 199 55 174 66 82 20 23x 39 36 316 308 nof.
Heat 2: 844 48 39 117 82 305 115 9 261 937 55 344 nod
Heat 3: 9 261 20 305 162 209 871 66 308 199 344 316.
2016 European Championship:
1st 162 Carl Waller-Barrett, 2nd 115 Chris Haird, 3rd 9 Glenn Bell. Then 305 20 844 199 871 55 66
Martin's, and Ed Fahey's excellent photos in the Gallery
Graham Brown Jason Kew became the first ever second generation winner of the Best in Britain when he emulated his father Chris’s victory of fourteen years earlier. A win and a seventh from the heats enabled him to annex pole for the final which had its moments of controversy along the way, with both the second and third men home getting dropped places.
Despite initial fears surrounding the potential entry (even with the £10,000 prize fund on offer) in the end a respectable 20 cars raced, which proved to be just enough around the tricky Plough lane oval. It would have been 21 in fact, but Kevin Randell never made it out on track for reasons unknown.
Among those 20, we had the welcome return of double BinB winner Colin Gomm at the wheel of his Merc, suitably re-prepared for oval racing but still bearing the number 78. I’m not sure if this is to be a permanent number change on Colin’s part but it was seriously good to see him back out again.
Paul Trimmer was also making a return to the formula, as indeed was Sammy Shudall in a venerable Peugeot 205. Not just any 205 apparently, but reputedly the famous ex-Blackman example. Terry Hunn was there with the new Mazda, brother Danny having driven it at Hednesford of course.
The “locals” were also joined by some long distance travellers, John Sibbald making the long trek down from Scotland, with John Christie, Adam Hylands and Jaimie McCurdy making the even longer trek from Northern Ireland.
A pre-meeting walk round the iconic oval (strangely, the first time I’d ever walked the whole track in nearly half a century of visiting the place!) revealed that the surface isn’t that great around any of the circumference these days, and could definitely do with work at the old scoreboard bend. The old lady still had that indefinable ‘feel’ of being on historic ground though and at least it wasn’t raining!
The first heat of the night placed the man whose whole idea it had originally been to stage the ‘Best’ back at Wimbledon, Dick Hillard, on pole. But he wasn’t as quick away as he might have been and it was Sibbald who grabbed the initial lead. Hillard was instead involved in some three wide racing almost immediately, with Billy Wood and Terry Hunn, the latter unfortunately sliding his suddenly brakeless Mazda into the unforgiving fencing. Fortunately, the crash looked rather worse than it actually was, but the necessary repairs were still going to take long enough to keep Terry out of the second heat.
Hillard escaped this early clinch to try and take the initiative back from Sibbald, only to have Shane Bland appear on their outside, the midlands man darting into the lead as they exited turn four. Hillard was also able to relegate Sibbald soon afterwards but, as they passed half distance, that was the final major place change, despite Wood having a good but ultimately unsuccessful crack at passing Sibbald towards the finish.
Shudall grabbed the lead at the start of heat two, the elderly 205 still looking pretty quick nonetheless. He managed to stay out front for a number of laps too, until caught and passed by Kew and Adam Hylands, this pair then conducting a fierce scrap over the lead the rest of the way.
Further back, Dave Garrett did a sterling job of holding down fourth spot for quite a time but, following a bit of a ‘moment’ at the far turn, got swamped by the chasing pack, McCurdy, Chris Haird and Lee Pepper the first to take advantage of the situation, before Christie and Billy Wood came rushing up to join in the scrap as well.
The odd backmarker loomed up for Kewy nearing the finish, providing a couple of half chances for the eager Hylands, but Kew knew exactly how much danger he was in from the European champ and made sure to keep things well under control. His neat positioning of a backmarker between them for the final lap set the seal on the win and pole for the final.
Anyone able to tear their eyes away from that battle for the lead could have enjoyed Christie’s continued progress towards the front, the #962 pressuring Haird into letting him past down the inside as they exited the pit bend shortly before mid-distance. John went on to relegate Shudall as well but was by then, too far back to have any chance of troubling the leaders. He still hadn’t done too badly out of things in terms of grid position for the final however.
174 962 3605 115 199 615 362 44 78 43
54 42 31 629 3 155 444 152 333 39
The opening lap of the final was heart-stopping stuff, with the first six on the grid all immediately locked in close combat, Hylands skirting the home straight fence by only millimetres as he tried to wrest Kew’s lead away. But Hylands was soon under pressure himself as Bland raced down his outside for a whole lap, trying to make the pass. Sadly, Hylands was soon to be out with mechanical bothers in any case, while Bland had already collected a black cross for some contact somewhere along the way, and I believe it was this which was to eventually lose him a podium placing.
The race came under caution soon after Hylands’ departure for a three car fracas at the far turn, where Chris Lehec had gone spinning, Shudall and Lee Pepper having ended up in the fence somehow as part of the same incident.
The restart provided the most controversial incident of the night, when the pace car was a touch too slow getting out of the way, leading Bland to try a dive under Kew into turn one, the two locking together before Bland clipped a marker tyre, allowing Wood to nip past. Having now had the luxury of seeing this from Shane’s in-car camera I have to say it all still looked like just a racing incident to me. I always have trouble condemning any driver for doing exactly what I’d have done in their shoes, and both Kew and Bland did what I’d have done! I might have tried to stay out of the way a bit more if I’d been wheeling the pace car but that’s easily said, and he probably had orders not to pull off at the back straight (which might have been the best plan) in any case.
Bland did manage to come straight back at Wood (although Kew was already making good his escape) but his attempt at the outside pass only served to let the keen looking Christie through. Christie then collided with Wood at the far turn, earning him a black cross, although the incident may have been caused by Wood slowing with some problem, as he pulled out soon afterwards. Although maybe he pulled off with damage as a result of the contact – I’m still unsure.
As the race reached mid-distance, Kew had a good quarter of a lap lead over Christie, the leader finally deciding to save some wear and tear on the equipment by slotting it into third gear to cruise home. This enabled Christie to close up fast nearing the finish but it was all in vain in any case, the former world champion collecting a two place penalty for the incident with Wood, Bland likewise going down two, presumably for his black cross, elevating Haird to second and Hillard to third.
I will add my voice to the big vote of thanks owed to Dick Hiilard and Deane Wood for taking a chance and putting this on. All in all, it was a highly entertaining night (and I literally lost count of how many old friends and heroes I saw, spoke to, and/or shook hands with) which would surely bear repeating at least annually while the stadium still stands. World Series round in 2016 anyone? GB
Heat one: 42,31,629,305,962,54,174,3,115,362,152,155,199,615,78,333,44,43. NOF
Heat two: 174,54,962,115,305,444,199,42,615,31,629,3,155,44,333,43,362. NOF
Final: 174,115,31,962(-2),42(-2),199,629,362,615,152,39,333,43. NOF
Penalties: 962 dropped two places in the final for contact with 305. 42 dropped two places in the final for contact. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Martin Kingston's excellent photos in the GALLERY
Aghadowey Oval, Saturday September 5th
Darren Black reports: David Casey took a polished victory in a bruising National Hot Rods British Championship encounter at Aghadowey Oval at the weekend, emulating the win of his father Tom in the same event back in 2012 at Ballymena. David also landed a heat win on his way to pole position for the British final, with Adam Maxwell the other winner during qualifying.
For a number of reasons the entry was well down on numbers from a year previous, but what it lacked in quantity was certainly made up for in quality with all the major champions in action. World Champion Shane Murphy made the trek almost the length of the island of Ireland to Aghadowey to take part, and was joined on the trip north by regular visitors Casey, Les Compelli and Garry Kelly, with Damien Mulvey joining in this time around too.
Crossing the Irish Sea was rapid Scot Robert McDonald, with English stars Jason Kew and Billy Wood also in attendance. Amongst the local entry which brought the total up to 22 cars was a welcome return for John Christie in his Tigra, whilst Andy Stewart had reverted to his RCE 206cc as opposed to the older Tigra which he had used in recent World Series NI rounds.
Casey set the early pace in the opening heat from his drawn position of pole, defending hard from reigning British title holder Glenn Bell once he had worked his way past Gary Wilson and the other front row starter, National Champion Gary Woolsey. There was an early caution period when Derek Martin came to a halt in a precarious position on turn two, with Casey leading from Bell, Wilson, Woolsey, Jaimie McCurdy and McDonald at the restart.
As Bell piled the pressure on the leader, Casey dropped the pace and began to defend his inside line. That saw a queue begin to develop until the inevitable happened. It all kicked off on the Brown Trout Bend with Wood nearly spinning after a hard hit from behind, whilst World Champion Shane Murphy did get spun as the whole pack concertina’d up. Unfortunately for Shane his stationary car was then collected by fellow Tipperary racer Kelly, with meeting sponsor Thomas Dilly and Nigel McCauley also dealing the #970 machine glancing blows. The yellows were required once again to clear up this sorry mess.
Having had the whole field breathing down his neck prior to the stoppage, Casey was able to break free at the restart with just Bell for company this time. Glenn was all over him like the proverbial cheap suit, but just not able to find enough to get past. John Christie received a technical disqualification for a flapping bonnet no doubt caused in the earlier incident involving Murphy, but that was the least of John's worries as a broken valve spring would mean that was the last we'd see of the former World Champion for the weekend.
Bell drew alongside Casey on the run to the chequered flag as they got embroiled with backmarkers Dilly & Kew (who had spun earlier), with Wilson very good value in third. Woolsey ended up in a fourth place he would later lose, whilst an impressive McCurdy, McDonald and Wood were next home.
Thomas Dilly headed heat two in his Mercedes SLK, despite pressure from Adam Maxwell right from the off. Maxwell was constantly looking for the pass on the notoriously difficult outside line, but Dilly was thwarting his every move. In the pack Jason Kew got punted into a spin, which would ultimately earn Mark Heatrick a disqualification, as the battle intensified at the front. Maxwell finally got the better of Dilly after their enthralling dice to take up the running, before a huge home straight accident involving Derek Martin, Bell and McCurdy brought about another caution. Dilly had got out of shape ever so slightly going onto the back straight, with McCauley and Derek Martin immediately darting to his outside. McCauley made it three abreast only to try to drop behind Dilly again around the Brown Trout Bend when Keith Martin was already in that gap. The resultant contact saw Nigel go left into Derek M, who smacked the barrier and then with broken steering came back across the onrushing pack. How only Bell and McCurdy got involved is anyone's guess, but Derek was left with a very badly damaged car indeed.
Maxwell made off at the restart and took the win despite another caution when Murphy was left stranded hard in the wall on the exit of turn two. Martin finally broke down Dilly's defences, and Thomas' resolute rearguard action of what was now third came to nothing when a half shaft problem saw him retire in the closing stages. Keith M took the runner up position ahead of McCauley, Wood and Stewart Doak.
Casey and Billy Wood shared the front row for the British final, ahead of Maxwell and former champion Keith Martin on row two. Casey immediately stepped into the lead with Maxwell settling into second, and quickly piling the pressure on the lead car. An untidy clash between McDonald and Woolsey put paid to their chances, and would later lead to Wolsey being loaded up pending further disciplinary action from the NHRPA. Many eyes were on defending champ Bell who got himself past Wood and Doak to now run third - all this from ninth on the grid and very early on too! All the while the battle between Casey and Maxwell was raging at the front, but Bell had now pulled himself right into contention too and we were only at half distance...
Bell quickly mounted a challenge on Maxwell for second, at the same time buying Casey breathing space out front. As Maxwell rebuffed him time and again, they pulled right back to the leader’s
tail. European Champion Hylands then joined the intense lead scrap having dispensed with Wood, as Bell tried the difficult outside yet again but only got railroaded after his sterling efforts.
Nothing could deter Casey from bringing it home to the chequered flag though, having never put a foot wrong despite the efforts of the others. It was a fantastic first major win for the Waterford
man, and he was congratulated by his delighted father Tom as he received the British trophy and new Hoosier tyre courtesy of meeting sponsors Dilly Roofing Supplies. Maxwell was a gallant runner up
ahead of Hylands, Wood and Bell.
Heat One: 261, 9, 82, (940), 199, 117, 305, 960, 996, 54.
Heat Two: 76, 994, 4, 305, 996, 54, 117, 261, (940), 669.
2015 British Championship: 261, 76, 54, 305, 9, 996, 994, 82, 199, (940), 4.
Tullyroan Oval, Sunday September 6th
Darren Black reports: It was little surprise to see quite a few not make it through to Sunday after the punishing events of the British, with just eleven ready for action. They were joined by a returning Ben McKee in his 206cc, back for a first outing since that mega shunt at Ballymena at Easter. Some exploratory laps during practice at Aghadowey on Friday had pleased Ben, and when he suspected the entry for Sunday might not be too large it provided the perfect meeting to make his return! Ben and the team deserve plenty of credit as the car was far from ready, and only a lot of midnight oil being burnt got them to the grid.
Les Compelli and Kew shared the front row for heat one, but both lost out as Maxwell surged ahead chased by McDonald. Compelli then got all crossed up into turn three and clouted the wall hard. As Maxwell pulled clear, Kew clipped the kerb into turn one which threw him off line enough for Bell and Casey to slip ahead, that after Glenn had managed what no-one could do the previous evening - find a way past the #261 Tigra! Adam Hylands, having put a cracking outside move on Gary Wilson, was next to try Kew, and despite a number of laps on the wide line he did make it stick. Maxwell was well clear though and took the first win of the day, ahead of McDonald, Bell, Casey and Hylands.
Billy Wood and Andy Stewart shared the front row for the reverse grid heat two, but as Stewart fell down the order Wood took the initiative ahead of Hylands and Bell. This trio pulled well clear, before Wood began to back things up ever so slightly when shown the blue flag. The rest began to close in on the lead trio, led by Wilson, Maxwell and Casey, before Hylands bumped leader Wood into a spin on turn three. It perhaps wasn't intentional, but the subsequent black flag was the only option really. Bell thus accepted the lead and the win, ahead of Casey, Maxwell, Kew, Wilson and McKee.
Bell and Maxwell had tied on points for pole position for the coveted Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy Final, with Glenn getting the advantage of the draw to take pole position. Casey and Wilson shared row two, with Bell the first to show at the head of the field. Many would have expected that to be that once Bell stretched clear, but Casey was more than equal to the task and set about closing him down. He kept him honest all the way to the flag, but the Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy was Bell's for the second year in succession. Wood just about held on to third despite a race long assault from every angle by Maxwell.
Bell received the beautiful Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy from the Dallas family, and also received a new tyre courtesy of meeting sponsors Dilly Roofing Supplies. Darren
Heat One: 76, 117, 9, 261, 54, 305, 82, 996, 937, 669.
Heat Two: 9, 261, 76, 174, 82, 937, 305, 669.
The Leslie Dallas Memorial Trophy 2015: 9, 261, 305, 76, 82, 117, 174, 54, 937, 669.
Northern Ireland Speedweekend photos by Brian Lammey and Ed Fahey in the GALLERY
The Rock Raceway in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently hosted the 2015 WOMZA South African Open Championship for National Hot Rods. With a spot reserved for the reigning World Champion, Shane Murphy, the interest was huge and over the weekend 21 cars took to the Oval at various stages.
For the first time in history practice on the Friday was keenly contested with at least 18 drivers using this opportunity to set up their cars. Shane Murphy arrived and set to work as he prepared his challenger for the weekend, a South African built Tata Indica powered by a 13B Mazda Rotary engine out of the Loosemore racing stable. Neville Loosemore had himself given the car a shakedown on Thursday evening and proceeded to destroy an engine and despite this setback the car was ready a few hours later with its replacement unit.
Rudy Myburgh, in his Spedeworth Fabrications Tigra powered by a Honda engine set the early pace and finished the day with second best time of 13.78 secs. Shane Murphy had however given everyone a reminder that he was here to win this title and posted the fastest time of 13.74 secs. It was clear that he was serious about this event and was most certainly not in holiday mode. Nico Vorster, in a Spedeworth Fabrications Tigra powered by a 13B Mazda Rotary engine suffered a gearbox failure and after a hasty repair proceeded to set the third fastest time. Neville Loosemore, Seef Fourie and Deon Beukman all went below the 14 second mark as the stage was set for a closely contested event.
Lady luck smiled on Rudy Myburgh as he drew pole position for the first heat with Charl Taylor alongside and Shane Murphy directly behind him. Nico Vorster, Neville Loosemore and Seef Fourie were confined to 11th, 13th and 17th positions. Rudy led from the start; however a lap two incident saw a bunch of cars collide with Okkert Brits suffering too much damage to continue. Once again Rudy got away to an early lead and despite the close attention of Shane Murphy it was a lights to flag victory. Shane came 2nd with Deon Beukman in 3rd position. Seef Fourie suffered from a overheating engine which could not be resolved for the rest of the event whilst Neville Loosemore was left circulating with total brake failure which would later see him retire for good in heat 2. It later transpired that he had broken a stub axle from the lap 2 incident.
Result 1st Rudy Myburgh, 2nd Shane Murphy, 3rd Deon Beukman, 4th Nico Vorster, 5th Frans Joubert, 6th Andries Du Preez
Frans Joubert found himself in pole position for heat 2 with Pieter Goosen in 2nd and Neville Loosemore 3rd. Frans took the lead closely followed by Neville Loosemore however an incident on lap 1 saw Andries Du Preez, Rudy Myburgh and Shane Murphy collide at turn 2. Shane Murphy had to retire at this point as he had severed the wheel studs on his rear wheel. At the restart Frans Joubert lead from a clearly ailing Neville Loosemore who was swiftly passed by Nico Vorster before retiring his car for good. Nico Vorster managed to pass Frans Joubert and lead right through to the flag with Joubert finishing in 2nd position. Rudy Myburgh came through the field to finish 3rd despite a trailing plume of gearbox smoke. Unfortunately this prevented him from taking part in the final as his gearbox had succumbed to the power of his strong Honda engine.
Result 1st Nico Vorster, 2nd Frans Joubert, 3rd Rudy Myburgh, 4th Deon Beukman, 5th Matty Maartens, 6th Pieter Van Staden
Nico Vorster had pole position for the final and he took an early lead with Deon Beukman and Frans Joubert in hot pursuit. Shane Murphy had started in 7th place and he soon started making his way through the pack. In quick succession he dealt with Pieter Van Staden and Frans Joubert and closed down the gap to Deon Beukman, pressurized him for a few laps and squeezed through on the inside into turn one. The World Champion was on an impressive charge and he could sense a possible win. Nico Vorster was up to the challenge as he saw Murphy closing and pulled out a couple of tenths to take a well deserved victory with the very impressive Murphy in 2nd place. On the line Frans Joubert was able to pass Deon Beukman to snatch 3rd whilst Pieter Van Staden took a fine 5th in his new car.
Overall Result 1st Nico Vorster, 2nd Shane Murphy, 3rd Frans Joubert, 4TH Deon Beukman, 5th Pieter Van Staden, 6th Chris Landsburg
Graham Brown. After what may have been the most exciting race in the long history of the oldest title in Hot Rod racing Gary Woolsey became the first ever second generation winner, following his father Norman – victor in ’86 and ’91 – into the record books. In a race which became something of a war of attrition, the destiny of the title looked to be settled several times before it actually went Woolsey’s way, Gary only taking the lead three laps from the finish.
We didn’t actually get the hoped for fifty car entry in the end but I counted a jolly respectable forty-five competing over the weekend and I certainly didn’t hear anyone complain about lack of numbers. Most of them were out for what has become the now traditional Friday afternoon practice too, the three twenty-minute sessions giving everyone quite a bit of time to sort a decent set-up or confirm they already had one. Glenn Bell looked the quickest pretty much all afternoon, both by eye and by the clock, but right at the end of the day he was just pipped to FTD by a couple of thousandths of a second by Woolsey (13.867 versus 13.869).
They were the only two with an actual 13.8-anything but basically, anyone not in the 13s had to regard themselves as still searching a bit of pace. Pleasingly, Carl Boardley (at the wheel of Bradley Dynes’ car) wasn’t one of them but at ‘only’ eighth quickest, Carl himself wasn’t exactly overjoyed and spent most of the afternoon trying to sort the brakes to his satisfaction.
Carl’s problems were mere bagatelle compared to Dave York’s however, as a rod through the block unfortunately put a sudden and permanent end to his weekend. Six heats were needed to sort the qualifiers and their eventual starting order.
It looked a highly competitive front two rows for the opening race, with John Christie (who hadn’t made Friday and hadn’t brought the threatened Fiesta either) drawn on pole and Shane Murphy alongside, with Rob McDonald and Bell right behind. But if the aficionados were licking their lips in anticipation of this one, the weather gods were just laughing and teasing, as drops of rain were definitely in the wind right as the cars were about to take the green flag!
It managed to stay dry however, and all the first four were definitely on a ‘launch party’ as the quartet absolutely blitzed away at the off. Christie took the lead with McDonald second, but Murphy got under the #117 at the East bend to attack Christie’s lead. It was a battle that lasted maybe half a lap as, when Murphy challenged for the lead, the pair tangled, bringing on a caution for an incident which was going to get Christie a rare disqualification. Somehow, Colin Smith had contrived to clobber Christie’s car on the way past (having already safely negotiated the obstruction once) putting himself out with a load of damage, and it was in fact this further crunch which got the yellows an airing.
Bell took over the lead for the restart and ran out an easy winner over David Casey and Woolsey, the pair having finally got the best of a places scrap with McDonald. Boardley surely can’t have been too unhappy with fifth in this but the weekend certainly hadn’t started out the best way for either Christie or Murphy. The latter had got going again following the incident and had superficially appeared to be battling for a place, although he was in fact just trying to get his lost lap back.
So with ‘nil points’ for 962 and 970 the race had actually proved to be a good indicator of how the meeting was going to go, just not quite by way of the form guide we might have hoped. What it told us (although it would take a little longer to become totally clear) was that it was going to be very difficult for anyone to put together three half decent results.
Heat two developed into a tight three-cornered fight for the lead between Jack Blood, Nigel McCauley and Adam Hylands. Prior to that however we saw spins from Jason Cooper (unaided) and then synchronised pirouettes by Adam Heatrick and Stewart Doak exiting the East bend. I’m not at all sure that Jason Kew started that incident, but he certainly finished them off and got the ‘reward’ you might expect from the stewards.
With the coming of half distance, McCauley and Hylands closed up with each other and the leader. Hylands got past fellow Ulsterman McCauley and then somehow squirmed between Blood and the backmarking Cooper to take the lead two laps from home in a passing move that was so cute and unexpected it almost amounted to sleight of hand. An intense study of the video in Race Control only proved he hadn’t actually touched anyone, let alone forced his way through. McCauley managed to hang onto his shirt tail to slip through to second as well and I got the distinct impression Jack Blood wasn’t that impressed with any of it…. Similarly unimpressed was Carl Waller-Barret, who was forced out when his prop shaft broke, smashing his gearbox and bell housing to bits.
Heat three was Adam Maxwell’s turn to record a no-score, when he non-started after his car suddenly quit with totally dead electrics on the way out to line-up. It was in fact, as he put it, something of a lucky break, as the panhard rod had broken, allowing the axle to move across the car which in turn had caused the prop to cut through the main earth lead. Adam said he wouldn’t have been keen on arriving in the first bend to find out he had an unlocated rear axle!
This was probably the least interesting heat, Shane Bland got away very fast indeed and was never seriously challenged at any point, although second man Colin Smith did manage to close up a little in the closing stages. However, there was an intriguing scrap over third spot involving at various times Carl Sloan, another welcome returnee, Gavin Murray (in Mikey Godfrey’s car), Hylands, Murphy (now needing a result badly), Bell and Jaimie McCurdy. I got the feeling Murray might have defended his spot more aggressively if he’d been in his own car but with McCurdy driving ‘old 95’ instead, Gavin was finally forced back to eighth with the other places resolved in the order Hylands (third), Murphy, Bell, Sloan and McCurdy.
Heat four had rain peppering the track just before the start and at various other times. Billy Wood (with his windscreen in again) made the early running with Derek Martin and Kym Weaver keeping him honest until the leader was forced to pull up with a broken drive shaft.
The uncertain track conditions were making things lively here from time to time, with John vd Bosch spinning at the start/finish, and then Aaron Dew taking a rotation at the West Bend and getting clouted by Blood.
Martin and Weaver carried on their lead dice until a confusing combination of factors curtailed proceedings.
First, McCauley went out at the East bend with what appeared to be an engine blow up but was actually just an electrical failure. Although he hadn’t scattered his motor, someone was definitely laying oil and the track was really dicey now as Wood’s derelict car got hit by Alistair Lowe and possibly by McDonald too, all at the same time as Chris Haird ran into Tommy Maxwell at the other end of the oval. The yellow flag which appeared as a result of all this was so late in the race that the result was finally called and taken from lap twenty two.
A heavy shower soaked the track and delayed heat five for ten minutes to enable tyre changes. Cooper set the early pace - hassled by Doak – after he’d passed the very ‘slidey’ Derek Whelan on the opening lap. However, it was the fast moving Bland who was the man to watch here, Shane saddled with a grid position even further back than halfway but also running on four wets and clearly loving it! He passed anything that loomed up ahead seemingly at will (including Boardley, who was not happy on two and two and had a spin to prove it), finally catching up to the leading pair. His presence spurred Doak into passing Cooper, only for Bland to duck under the pair of them seconds later to claim win number two and with it, very likely pole position.
The final heat (for which the rain had eased almost to a stop although the track was still fully wet) would be the clincher as to whether Bland got pole or not, with mid-grid starter Derek Martin needing to win in order to put it in any doubt. It seemed an unlikely scenario with Waller-Barrett, Haird, Danny Fiske and Kew all starting ahead of him, but Martin did manage to get through to finish second on the road. He was undoubtedly helped in this endeavour by a caution brought on by a clinch between Wood, Weaver and Smith which led to Smiffy being sent into the back straight barriers and getting hit head on and very hard by Andy Stewart.
It was Adam Maxwell who was doing the leading meanwhile and Martin’s march towards that second spot was certainly not straightforward, as he had to tackle the places fight between Waller-Barrett, Haird and Fiske along the way. A three wide moment involving the trio saw Waller-Barrett smite the wall at the West bend, then Haird got baulked by a backmarker letting Fiske and, temporarily, Martin past.
With five to go Murphy added to his joyous day by going a lap down. Then Haird managed to repass Fiske but this was all getting a bit desperate for this group on the now (at long last) drying track, and when Martin suddenly came round in second spot and Haird came round not at all, I figured there had been some sort of contretemps between them that I had missed. There had and, unfortunately, Martin was adjudged to have spun Haird off and thus got disqualified instead of collecting the points for second, an unhindered Maxwell taking the laurels from this one.
42 54 261 994 304 629 20 76 41 970 962 4 174 82 115 966
9 940 209 117 199 996 72 369 217 162 75 95 92 23 482 152
Sunday brought a day of warm sunshine and not the rain Shane Bland had probably been fervently hoping for. He may have had pole but with Bell alongside and Hylands and Woolsey occupying row two, it was always going to be a huge challenge to lead the entire 75 lap distance. The pole sitter made a fair fist of it though and survived at the front despite spirited opening assaults by Bell (who actually broke first at the green, just not quite fast enough) and Hylands, who sneaked under Bell when Glenn stayed outside for too long – all the invitation the European champ needed!
There were early East bend spins for John Christie and Brett Walter, Casey managed to nip past Woolsey, and then the yellows flew for Walter, who was stopped in a dodgy spot.
Bland made another good start, as did Hylands and Bell, the first three going quickly clear but with nothing at all between them for pace at this stage. Bell tried for an outside pass on Hylands which didn’t come off and then they were all brought up short again under yellows after Murray, Tommy Maxwell, Haird and Cooper all got involved in some sort of fracas on the East bend exit.
A lengthy hiatus ensued, with oil needing to be cleaned up and dusted down at the West bend, making it very dusty indeed for the opening couple of laps. Bland positively leapt away again, making that two virtual restarts he’d survived now, with Bell very nearly managing to jump Hylands at the end of the back straight.
The running order of the top ten, with Bland slowly eking out some sort of lead, was Hylands, Bell, Casey, Woolsey, Weaver, McDonald, Doak, Maxwell and Fiske. Then Maxwell forced Doak wide into the West bend to get by, taking Fiske through in his wake.
Hylands sat back from Bland for bit but then Bell was suddenly out with a blown engine. With no immediate danger coming from behind anymore, this prompted Hylands to seize his chance to pile the pressure on Bland. Adam so nearly got by on the inside leaving the West bend, then immediately switched to the outside for another go, a move which took him very wide into the East bend at one point. It was a moment from which he soon recovered, but may well have had consequences later, as this was the spot where Bell’s motor had let go….
Hylands continued to press Bland without being able to pass, although it was a close run thing on the back stretch at one point, the two running into the West bend bumper to bumper before Hylands tried another desperate lunge up the outside. He knew full well he needed to get by soon, before Casey and the rest took advantage of their dice slowing the leaders up. And sure enough that was exactly what was happening as Casey closed in and very nearly managed to catch Hylands napping and still on Bland’s outside when he got there.
Once Woolsey, Weaver and Maxwell rushed up to join in as well, the first six were all in very close company indeed as they reached half distance. In fact, if the race had actually finished at this point, we’d still have had our moneys worth. But there was plenty more to come….
Right on that mid-distance point, Casey saw some daylight inside Hylands at the West bend and sneaked into second. Casey almost immediately attacked Bland’s position at the same place he’d passed Hylands and very nearly got by too, while for his part, Hylands clearly thought an outside pass on both of them was a possibility! Some savage in-fighting followed which eventually saw Casey run into Bland, the momentary loss of speed putting Hylands back into second and so very nearly let Woolsey through too.
With the fifty lap mark being signalled by the starter, the first seven cars were pretty much tied together, with McDonald having now joined the party. He was able to take over sixth spot when Weaver abdicated the place with mechanical difficulties. Probably against the odds, Bland was still leading, but still under serious pressure as he had been every step of the way. One had the feeling something had to give sooner or later….
It finally happened as they exited the West bend and Hylands found the space inside Bland to snatch the lead. Casey tried to follow on only to have Bland shut the door firmly before Casey got him anyway down the inside at the East bend. Naturally, that little altercation had given Hylands just the chance to escape that he needed, his cause being further aided by Woolsey having a huge wide moment and Maxwell running hard into Bland at the West bend and garnering himself a black cross.
With Hylands busy making a run for it, the order behind him was now Casey, Bland, Maxwell, McDonald, Woolsey, Doak and McCurdy. Indeed, at this point Hylands looked to have it won but suddenly slowed with puncture. Quite possibly the left front tyre had been damaged by debris from Bell’s engine when Adam had taken that very wide line on the East bend earlier. Now the placemen pounced en mass, everybody naturally seeing this as their moment to grab the glory. A rapid series of collisions followed, wiping out Hylands and Casey (both hit either the wall or each other), Bland – who went spinning – and the closely following McDonald.
All this brought a complete sea change to the race as well as a caution period to sort out the mess. Maxwell was now leading from Woolsey and Doak and, with only ten laps left and just twelve cars still running, it looked as though it was Maxwell’s for the taking, despite his left side door flapping gently in the breeze as they took the green flag for what was to be the final restart. The twelve became eleven when Fiske pulled up, his diff having let go at the green.
Woolsey undoubtedly saw his chance now and straight away launched a challenge on the leader. But Maxwell was not only equal to holding it off, he actually began to pull away. And soon the lap boards were out at the rostrum too…five to go…four…. surely Woolsey had something in reserve to throw at Maxwell….it seemed not.
But this extraordinary race still had one final twist as the leader suddenly slowed, his arm out of the window, Adam’s gearbox having blown up just three laps from the end. Even now, it wasn’t just handed to Woolsey on a plate, as Doak zoomed in for an attempt at an even more last minute upset! But Gary wasn’t having any of that and calmly hung on to the lead to clinch his biggest ever title, despite Doak’s valiant last gasp attack.
Only ten cars made it across the line and it is a fair indicator of ‘the state of the nation’ that eight of them were from Northern Ireland, including young Jaimie McCurdy, who completed an all-Ulster top three.
The list of retirements filled far more of the results sheet than the result. Among the more interesting ones were Boardley (out after 43 laps with no brakes and a collision with the wall as a result) and Murphy, another who’d succumbed to a flat (left rear) probably caused by Bell’s engine wreckage. “I don’t really do very well for punctures round here”, Shane observed ruefully, recalling the National he lost after a valve blew out.
Then there was Haird, who’d dislocated his thumb in his incident. It was sticking out at a bizarre angle when Gavin Murray (whose previous career in the forces gives him not only a pragmatic view of such things but also the knowledge to fix them) saw it and said, ‘Would you like me to sort that out?’ Chris apparently said, nervously, ‘If you know what you’re doing…’ It seems Gavin most certainly did know what he was doing, although I think Chris might still have preferred a large vodka prior to the necessary manipulation!
Naturally, Shane Bland wasn’t overjoyed with the outcome of the race. I wondered if he’d gone into the race expecting to win it.
“I don’t think you can ever “expect” to win any Hot Rod race,” he told me, adding, “Since the World Final, which was a total embarrassment in my view, everything that was in my head I decided to put on the car, rather than just taking baby steps. I went for one big step. And it worked at round one at Ipswich, it was fast, and then I did a bit more, came here, and actually wasn’t happy after Friday. But yesterday I had a storming day to be quickest in the dry in two races and then obviously having that wet race, I know I can drive in the wet….so today, I was fairly confident. I knew I’d have to be defensive, and I was. I felt like I did everything I could and at the end of the day, it just didn’t work out.”
I also caught up with Adam Maxwell who, to be fair, didn’t seem too downhearted by his last minute reversal. In fact, I did wonder if maybe he was considering an alternate career as a blues singer!
“Well, I woke up this morning thinking it was going to be a hard day. But we came through from fifteenth (on the grid)….”
I gently pointed out that he had got a couple of black crosses along the way….
“Yes I know, but coming from fifteenth, you’re going to have to be quite aggressive; you’re not going to get through being Mr Nice Guy. It was just a wee bit gutting (to go out like that). I’m happy that the car’s good. But we blew second gear out of it on the restart. She was like a bag of bolts then and I thought maybe she would keep going but it wasn’t gonna happen and with a couple laps to go it just blew the whole gearbox out of her. It’s just one of those things; that’s racing.”
Perhaps the last word should go to Gary Woolsey. Had he gone into it thinking he was going to win?
“I went into it thinking I had a chance. But I knew, the way it started, I knew I had to dodge away from things happening at the front. I just wanted to get into the inside of the track, which I eventually did, and then sit tight for a while. And it fell into my lap really.”
I offered the opinion that he’d sat back when he should have sat back – for once!
“I don’t do that too often; it’s took me a long time to learn to do that! My father is so happy….I think that’s the first father and son to win that. When I lost that race here, three years ago, that has been a nightmare of mine for a long time, you know? This has finally put that to bed so I’m pleased about that!”
The last race on the agenda was the recently revived NHRPA Championship title. To be fair, whatever followed that National was going to suffer by comparison and, with only eighteen cars fit to come to the grid, and the new National champ having drawn the outside front row grid position, the outcome always looked fairly certain.
Pole sitter and initial leader John vd Bosch did his best to make life difficult for Woolsey over the opening couple of laps, but Gary was nevertheless already in front when the field was depleted still further after an East Bend incident brought out the yellows and robbed us of Christie, Shaun Taylor, Waller-Barrett and Jason Kew.
John Sibbald was swiftly under vd Bosch and onto Woolsey’s tail following the restart, but the leader had asserted his authority once more by the time the yellows were out again, this time for Ivan Grayson’s car stopped in a dangerous spot.
By the time they got going again there was no doubt it had become a rather “bitty” race, but there was equally no doubt that Woolsey was on his way to adding another title to his tally, which he duly did. It was good to see Sibbald collect a bit of silverware for second though, with Doak once again on the podium with a good value third. GB
Heat one: 9,261,940,117,41,629,217,76,304,72,82,369,31,66,152,970,467,888,136,55. NOF
Heat two: 54,4,92,199,115,994,20,42,966(-2),75,23,305,996,H66,209,95,960,482. NOF
Heat three: 42,491,54,970,9,75,199,95,629,82,217,996,994,304,482,152,966,467,669. NOF
Heat four: 20,209,369,72,962,31,261,162,940,174,115,41,117,342,136,66,H66,23,888,871,55. NOF
Heat five: 42,996,994,940,117,962,261,54(-2),482,95,41,960,199,72,369,55,75,966,888. NOF
Heat six: 76,(20),304,162,174,9,209,305,629,23,217,970,4,92,82,152,H66. NOF
National Championship Final: 940,996,199,174,962,75,82,4,966,23. NOF
NHRPA Championship: 940,629,996,41,95,966,4,82,H66,55. NOF
Penalties: 962 disqualified from heat one for causing crash involving himself and 970. 82 dropped two places in heat one for ignoring Raceceiver warnings and not holding a proper racing line. 966 dropped two places in heat two for ignoring Raceceiver warnings and not holding a proper racing line. 174 disqualified from heat two for spinning 342 and 996. 54 dropped two places in heat five for contact with 960. 20 disqualified from heat six after incident with 115 which caused 115’s retirement. 76 disqualified from NHRPA Championship for passing under yellow flag. All results & penalties subject to official confirmation.
Martin Kingston, Ed Fahey, Phillip Cornish & Steve Weston's great weekend photos in the GALLERY.
At last - it’s Murphy’s Law!
Graham Brown After being runner-up in the World Final on a frustrating three occasions, Shane Murphy could have been forgiven for thinking that Hot Rod racing’s biggest prize was simply never going to come his way and that he was fated forever to be a ‘nearly man’. But he put all that behind him in the most emphatic way possible with a superb drive which finally saw him ascend to the top step of the podium, at the same time entering the history books as the first ever winner from the Republic of Ireland.
In fact, the result was complete Irish ‘lock out’, Northern Irish drivers filling the remainder of the first four places, with Jason Kew the first English driver home in fifth spot.
For the entire week leading up to the event the weather forecasters had been havering about what the conditions were going to be like for the weekend. Friday had been a gloriously warm, sunny and dry day – proper speed-weekend weather in fact, despite the date being a week earlier than usual. Luckily Saturday was the same, although hotter if anything, while we turned out to be extremely fortunate on Sunday as the lightest of drizzles commenced just prior to the big race, returned briefly during it, and then turned into real rain only once the chequered flag had fallen.
The entry had a couple of last minute revisions, with young Ulsterman Jaimie McCurdy sadly having to pull out of the event for family reasons. With none of the first four reserves from NI available to replace him, it was Simon Kennedy who got the unexpected call-up to represent the region instead. Another late withdrawal was German driver Winnie Holtmanns. It did look as though Stuart McLaird might have got the call to bring the field back up to strength but, despite appearing in the programmed entry list (mainly my fault I’m afraid) in the end Stu wasn’t destined to take part.
Davy Philp chose not to bring his lovely looking Corsa, and arrived with the borrowed and suitably re-liveried Willie Hardie Tigra instead. Other items of note included Rob McDonald having changed his colour scheme completely from mainly white to a very fetching mainly black….and gold! And on the roof too!! Obviously Rob has never heard the superstition about what happens to cars in World Finals wearing gold paint to which they are not entitled…. they don’t win, basically.
Mikey Godfrey on the other hand, had gone for an even more fetching shade, of pink! Mixed in with his usual colours, it certainly looked different.
This year’s again revised grid system no longer automatically placed all the points champions in Group One, as it had in 2013 and 14, but only the Northern Irish winner (Bell). He would still be joined by an additional second NI driver, whoever set the fastest lap time out of the rest of his countrymen. Given the somewhat less populated and competitive nature of the ROI and Scottish series, just the outright fastest of their entrants would appear in Group One this year. As ever, their respective lap times determined which order they would actually start in, with the top group comprising eight cars. This is not to overlook the fact that anyone who could out-run all the guys in that group would snatch pole away from the lot of them to make it a nine car group – which was exactly what Chris Haird did last year of course.
Following the usual un-timed morning practice session it was soon 10.30am and time for the cars to roll out and face the unforgiving timing beams.
There weren’t too many surprises this year, although I’m sure there were one or two disappointed drivers. There were quite a high number of cars though (eleven) that managed to go faster on their second lap than their third.
As if getting dumped into a World Final you weren’t really expecting wasn’t enough, Simon Kennedy then had the misfortune to get drawn first for his lap times. He wasn’t quite the slowest car in the field but his 15.27s fastest lap wasn’t really a benchmark either. Billy Wood was the first driver into the 14s, but the first man to look as if he was really making a bid for pole was Andrew Murray, who did a very tidy looking 14.71 on his final lap. You may remember that Murray would have been starting on the outside front row last year had his car not failed an inside weight check and been relegated to the rear of the grid. Although nobody knew it at this stage of course, he was destined to be headed for that outside front row slot again.
As the minutes ticked by and number of cars on the infield waiting to take their turn diminished, it really was starting to look good for Murray. No one had got any closer to him than Glenn Bell (14.76), although several potential ‘danger men’ had all drawn high numbers, with the notoriously-good-at-lap-times Haird, Kym Weaver and McDonald all still waiting to go. We didn’t have to wait for them to see Murray’s time eclipsed though. Murphy’s first run of 14.77 was already quicker than many people’s, his second lap of 14.88 would have been good enough both to beat Murray and take pole but, just in case anyone was in any doubt who was the fastest here, his last word on the subject was 14.65.
Naturally, all eyes turned to Haird after that – particularly given his performance last July – but his best of 14.81 wasn’t going to cut it. In fact, it was McDonald who got closest to the quickest boys with a highly commendable 14.70; it was just unfortunate that Rob hadn’t qualified in Group One this time round.
So all of a sudden, Murphy’s dream result had begun to look a lot more likely to come about. But even so, there was never any possibility of the pole sitter having things too easy, with Murray due to be starting right alongside him, and a second row consisting of 2012 winner Bell and defending champ Haird.
With lap times done and dusted the starting order for thirty-three of the eventual thirty four runners was sorted. That just left Betfred to chalk up their starting prices and Saturday night’s support car races to determine the final ‘wildcard’ place on the grid.
Saturday ‘Wildcard’ Support Races
Despite the potential prize of World Final participation we still only had twenty two entries although with lots of interesting cars and rarely seen or totally new drivers to NHRs among them.
The biggest talking point was probably whether reigning European champion Adam Hylands could pull a last minute World Final qualification out of the bag. But a close second in the talking point stakes was probably the appearance of Allan Ross in his venerable Toyota Starlet. It may have only started one race and not appeared again, but a lot of fans definitely enjoyed seeing in action, an example of the marque which first revolutionised NHRs over thirty years ago.
Another that almost falls into the historic category, and definitely into the category of crowd pleaser, was Dalton Scarlett’s VW Corrado. Decked out in a simple but superbly effective black and white flame job, I reckon that one used up a lot of pixels over the weekend. I’m pleased to say there’ll be more chances to see and photograph it for anyone who wasn’t at Foxhall by the way, as Dalton is on board for the whole of the 2015-16 season.
Other notes of interest included the return to NHRs of Tim Mabey with a Tigra A, the re-appearance of Jason Cooper, the equally welcome re-appearance of Colin Gomm after his short-lived return at the T500, Adam Heatrick having a run in the family’s SLK, and Colin Smith with his Bee-Em, the only World finalist to be doing double duty. We also welcomed total newcomers Tom Burgess (Peugeot 206), Richard Grey in his 206cc – the car some of you may have seen in the pits at Aldershot at the final qualifying round – and Richard Adams with the ex-Gary Woolsey Tigra.
Just ten of them would be eligible for the Wildcard slots, the others not having done the requisite four World Series rounds.
With Graeme Callender unfortunately non-starting the first heat, it was Cooper who set off at the head of the field, with every possibility of him staying that way on past performance. The race hadn’t gone very far however, when Tommy Maxwell, Les Compelli and Brett Walter all got together at the exit from turn four to bring out the yellows.
By that point Smith was up to second, so a challenge to Cooper’s lead now looked a distinct possibility. But in fact Jason was able to draw clear again leaving Smiffy to be tracked by the dicing duo of Hylands and Mark Heatrick. Hylands had already taken a blue flag when contact between the pair saw him go spinning, Heatrick pressing on to catch Smith and begin bumping him through the turns! Heatrick quickly pressured his way into a space down Smith’s inside along the home straight but still with a fair way to go in order to catch Cooper.
Heatrick had quite a long time available to do it though, as all this action had taken place prior to half distance, and he definitely was catching the leader too.
Behind them, Gomm, John Sibbald and Adam Heatrick were having an entertaining battle over the places with Sibbald nearly past Gomm down the inside of the back straight as they neared the finish, and Heatrick trying for an ambitious outside pass on both the others. With four to go, Jim Cowie and Dave Garrett both went spinning at turns three/four in an incident that looked quite likely to bring out the yellows. The caution didn’t happen though and now, with the flag almost in sight, Heatrick finally caught up with Cooper. It was too late for the Ulsterman to do anything about effecting a pass however and it was still Cooper’s race at the line. It was only after the finish that both he and Smith failed the rear weight check (at least they won’t have to worry about that anymore) handing the win to Mark Heatrick over the unchanged trio of Gomm, Sibbald and Adam Heatrick.
Adam Heatrick had pole for the second heat but was very slow away at the start and pulled the car up on the infield as soon as he could.
It was Sibbald who took the lead in this one with Aaron Dew swiftly past Cowie to grab second while Mark Heatrick was on the march again, by-passing Alistair Lowe to go fourth with apparently every chance of improving further on that. But before he could deal with Cowie, who should appear on his bumper but Hylands, the pair seemingly fated to be battling each other throughout the evening. Both of the NI drivers got past Cowie but, before they could make any further headway, Peter Elliott and Lowe both went spinning at turns three/four, accompanied by Scarlett, at which point it became clear there was oil down at that part of the track and a halt was called.
A lengthy clean-up operation ensued, with Lowe and Scarlett being apparently removed from the race. The VW was definitely leaking oil badly, but I’m not sure whether Lowe’s car was too.
It looked as though the Heatrick-Hylands scrap would be interesting when the race resumed and, with Sibbald still heading Dew, Heatrick and Hylands, the first four went quickly clear once the green came back out. But the duel between the NI lads was definitely slowing them up as Sibbald and Dew got further and further ahead, with Heatrick defending hard and Hylands all over him, trying the inside, outside, anywhere for a pass. He finally made it by coming off turn two but the leaders were long gone by then, Dew having managed to close up on Sibbald quite a bit in the dying laps.
So it was Sibbald (pole) and Mark Heatrick who ended up sharing the front row for the final, with Dew and Gomm on row two. Hylands had to settle for inside third row courtesy of his poor first heat but, in all honesty, this still looked likely to be a Heatrick/Hylands fight for the Wildcard. Sibbald probably had a different opinion, mind you!
It was Heatrick who broke first at the green flag but Hylands was by no means idling, and shot through to third on the opening lap before nipping under Sibbald at turn three to take second. Heatrick was already working on making good his escape but the chase was really on now for sure, and it wasn’t long before the two came together, just as they caught the back marking Elliott car. Heatrick went outside, Hylands tried to go inside and in the midst of it all, Elliott got sent spinning.
Hylands then went straight for an outside pass on Heatrick’s flame spitting car, and again, and again (blocked by a back marker) and yet again…Finally Hylands hauled himself ahead going down the home straight but Heatrick fought back on the next corner. This pattern was repeated over and over, and a Raceceiver warning to Heatrick about running Hylands on in the bends or a blue flag might have been useful. Hylands was also at one point incredibly lucky - or simply skillful enough - to miss the Cooper car, which was in the wall at the exit from turn two, by millimeters at most. That situation was definitely grounds for a yellow, and it was soon out too.
Little time was wasted getting back to hostilities however, with the Heatrick-Hylands dice still centre stage. They went at it side by side again until Hylands dropped back a touch and tried the “cut back” manoeuvre leaving turn four, got the door slammed on him and ran into Heatrick hard as they crossed the start/finish. That did finally enable him to muscle past, with Sibbald also able to take advantage of the situation, the three crossing the line in the order Hylands, Sibbald, Heatrick. But Hylands was docked, both for the contact with Elliott and the later one on Heatrick, while Sibbald was adjudged to have taken Heatrick wide exiting turn four on the last lap, so he didn’t get the win either, which meant that Heatrick somehow took the Wildcard and a place in the World Final.
World Final Grid
*Relegated to rear of grid for failing to attend Saturday’s mandatory ‘meet ‘n’ greet’ session.
The Race – 75 Laps
With Saturday having stayed warm and dry throughout, would the weather confound the forecasters’ predictions and stay completely dry for Sunday? It certainly didn’t look like it, with the day dawning heavily overcast and no two weather forecasters seemingly able to agree on when, or even if, the rain was going to arrive. But the cloudy conditions stayed that way throughout the morning and throughout the field lining up too, as the minutes ticked down towards midday and zero hour.
In fact the first tentative rain drops began to fall precisely as the cars moved off to commence the first of their installation laps. Right on cue so to speak, and wouldn’t you just know it! It had stopped again by the time they were getting ready for the actual pace laps but it looked almost certain that there was more to come.
With the commencement of the rolling laps, there were a number of questions about to be resolved. Would Ireland finally crown its first World champion? Was Andy Murray about to put last year’s reversal behind him in the most emphatic way? Could Haird do it again from the second row? Could Jason Kew make the top step of the podium at last?
And then the green flag was out and it was finally game on. Murphy was clearly the first to break but this fairly untidy first start was going nowhere in any case, as Billy Wood spun to a stop in mid-track on the home straight to bring out the red flags for a complete re-start.
A much more disciplined second attempt still saw Murphy assume the lead, with Bell, Murray and Kew slotting in behind. But Haird’s title defence was very quickly over, ending in ignominious fashion as the gold roof holder was launched into a hairy airborne moment over the turn one kerbing as a result of a first bend melee, a moment which then sent him spinning and into retirement soon after.
He wasn’t the only one either, with English champion Kym Weaver another to see his chances all but evaporate in an early spin, and then, just as the race was settling down, the yellow flags came out after Danny Fiske crashed on the back straight following an incident with Wood which was going to earn Billy a disqualification later.
The order at the front was still Murphy heading Bell, Murray, Kew and Adam Maxwell with the lap down Weaver car the next in line and barring the way forward – at least temporarily – for the next group of placemen comprising David Casey, Carl Waller-Barrett and Ian Donaldson.
Bell had a quick ‘look’ inside the leader as green flag racing recommenced for another few laps with no change of order among the front runners. Then, with Murphy heading for his first really serious bout of traffic, John vd Bosch spun between turns one and two, becoming stranded on the kerb. The leader had to skirt around him and now rain had started spotting the track again to add to his problems, just as the yellows got another airing when vd Bosch’s car caught fire.
The blaze was fortunately soon extinguished and it didn’t look as though too much damage had been done. Other people’s races were starting to come unzipped as well though, with John Christie having to retire at this point with a broken axle which looked as though it had left some oil down at turn four too. While this was being sorted out and Christie changed career to Periscope cameraman, Dan Holden’s car signalled its displeasure at the delay by overheating and spraying water and anti-freeze onto the track at the turn four exit. And all the while those odd rain drops were continuing to moisten the track.
The race restarted and with that the rain started falling in slightly more earnest. And now it became clear pretty quickly that the slipperier surface favoured Bell rather than Murphy, Glenn taking to the outside almost immediately and making a confident sweep that took him easily to the front. To add to Murphy’s woes, Murray was all over him as well.
The lead pair did manage to drop Murray again though, and Murphy stayed right in Bell’s wheel tracks but with the passing of half distance, there was no sign of Bell making any unforced errors. Was it going to be yet another runner up trophy for Murphy?
There was still some racing going on further back too though, with Casey, Waller-Barrett and Derek Martin all enjoying a lively dispute over sixth thru eighth. Casey nearly lost his loose looking car altogether exiting turn four and going down the back straight, but Waller-Barrett wisely stayed away from him rather than trying to pass at that moment. That briefest slackening of the pace did tempt Martin into trying an outside move on Carl though. Then there was a collision at turn four between Dick Hillard and Godfrey, Hillard spinning.
But as the spotty rain ceased once more, it looked as though the pendulum had swung back in Murphy’s favour. He was able to close onto Bell’s bumper and apply some pressure, the fact that there were backmarkers and possibly some passing opportunities looming ahead probably not having escaped Shane’s notice.
Donaldson began trailing smoke from the left rear (probably a wheel bearing) and attracted a technical disqualification.
The lead pair continued cutting through the traffic with no problems but suddenly Murphy was able to take advantage of a little pit bend slide by Bell to sneak underneath him along the back stretch and regain the lead. And from that point on, the destination of the title was never really in any more doubt, Murphy at first inching away from Bell, then pulling away fast, and then positively charging ahead to open up a sizable gap for the first time.
Behind Bell, there was a fair gap back to Murray now too, who had an even bigger advantage over Maxwell, who had a bigger gap still between himself and Kew. It wasn’t quite all over yet but, with Murphy not slackening the pace even once he could afford to and only eleven cars left on the lead lap, the end game was definitely approaching.
It turned out to be an interesting last portion of the race though.
Casey and Waller-Barrett were still at it for sixth and seventh spots, with the latter having already attracted a couple of black crosses and the pair side by side for much of the time. Colin Smith looked to be another victim of wheel bearing trouble and departed the fray. Ten laps from home, it became apparent that Murray was now closing slowly in on Bell. And a few laps later, when Glenn was momentarily delayed by a couple of duelling back markers, that was all it took for Murray to come rushing up. A minor bump between the pair put Murray alongside and ahead half a lap later.
Almost needless to say, that little altercation ensured that the leader had escaped for good, with Murphy left a quarter of a lap ahead, less than five to go, and only eight cars still on the lead lap. And pretty soon the chequered flags were out and down for the first ever Republic of Ireland victor. He had certainly waited long enough, paid any dues that might have been necessary and driven a fine race to clinch his gold roof.
Oddly enough, in my very first conversation with Betfred this year, I told them I couldn’t see this year’s World champion speaking with anything other than an Irish accent and it would seem my statement was completely justified, with Murray, Bell and Maxwell completing the top four ahead of the first English racer – Jason Kew – in fifth.
When a jubilant Murphy clambered from his car he was clearly elated with his win and when I asked him how it felt, responded, “A lot better than second anyway!”
Had he had any problems along the way?
“Oh yeah, the restart and the rain kind of caught me out. I didn’t want to be over-excited and I know the line is better out wide, but I said to myself, ‘why hand it to him?’ But then Glenn got the run on the outside and I was like….aw…we’re finished. And he was pulling away. But I just kept my head and got it back. Then he got a bit wide down the bottom and I was there to get up the inside of him. Easy in one sense…but it wasn’t easy!”
As for those occasional odd flurries of rain drops, the cars had barely stopped when it finally started to rain properly and pretty much set in for the next couple of hours. It was not soon enough or torrential enough to cool some heads though, apparently….
Sunday Support Races
World Final “Revenge” – the Betfred Trophy
By the time the World finalists came back out for their next race, it had been raining solidly for some time and the track was definitely wet, unlike last year’s race which was neither one thing nor the other.
Twenty two cars made it back out although Lee Pepper was a last minute non-starter. The rest stormed away into the clouds of spray with Paul Frost leading and Nigel McCauley having a lurid slide that he did well to gather up, pressing on at undiminished speed to take up the lead with one lap done.
McCauley, who I have a sneaky feeling might just be more of a World contender next year, soon settled into his task and simply pulled further and further clear, leaving Frost to dispute second with vd Bosch, Fiske and Stewart Doak. Frost was doing a fair job of holding them off too until he suddenly pulled the car up. Fiske then burst through to second but nearly a quarter of a lap back now, as vd Bosch and Shane Bland got together at the end of the back straight, the Dutchman ending up in the wall.
McDonald, Doak and Adam Maxwell wound up in a rare old scrap for third, the trio taking turns three and four, three wide at one point! Maxwell got past Doak in that clinch and then took McDonald coming off turn two, only to have the Scot take him back at the other end of the track. Some side by side running followed before they were joined by Bland and things heated up still further. But eventually, McDonald was able to shake off all this attention and claw his way up to Fiske, pressing him hard until rewarded with an inside pass going through turn one.
McDonald was beginning to make inroads into McCauley’s lead in the last five laps too, but it was way too late to alter the outcome, the Ulsterman accepting the flag still a long way clear of any pursuit. McDonald, Fiske, Doak, Maxwell and Bland followed him home, all of them having kept this an entertaining race from green to chequers.
Nick Thomas Memorial
It was a drawn grid for this, the first and only race of the weekend to mix World qualifiers and support racers, and when that draw placed Weaver on pole and Adam Maxwell alongside, it seemed a reasonable wager that one or other of them was likely to take a win. When Weaver’s car snapped sideways at the green allowing Maxwell to surge ahead that did indeed seem like that might be the end of it as far as the victory was concerned.
But it still wasn’t going to be a dull race.
Weaver may have instantly gathered up his ‘moment’ but he had another problem too, in the shape of Hylands, who was pressing hard for a way past and getting ‘rather insistent’ about it too, as he could see Maxwell clearing off into the distance. Christie posted another retirement and then Bland took a spin which brought out the yellows. They were soon off again, though minus McDonald who made a very slow restart and then stopped.
We soon returned to “as you were”, with Maxwell swiftly regaining his lead and Weaver and Hylands back to dicing hard over second. Kew lost fourth spot to the new world champ and then the Weaver-Hylands battle came up on Elliott, Hylands and Murphy both managing to relegate Weaver in the resulting schmozzle.
Now it was Hylands versus Murphy for second, an interesting scrap for sure, but one which
made certain nobody was ever going to close down Maxwell’s by now considerable lead, Adam taking the flag to round things off for the weekend. GB
‘Wild Card’ Heat One: (482),960,(491),278,629,342,55,23,54,214,344,44,308. NOF
‘Wild Card’ Heat Two: 629,23,54,960,482,871,308,278,44,22,214,344,43,153. NOF
‘Wild Card’ Final: 960,23,54(-2),629(-2),217,777,871,308,278,22,344. NOF
World Final: 970,997,9,76,174,162,261,20,117,92,996,4,42,955,155,152,27,615,998. NOF
World Final “Revenge”: 4,117,304,996,76,42,962,174,209,20,9,115,970,161. NOF
Nick Thomas Memorial: 76,54,970,209,304,9,20,955,996,23,115,155,152,308,44,43. NOF
Penalties: 482 and 491 both disqualified from Wild Card heat one after failing the rear
weight check. Both less than 0.5% over. 54 dropped two places for contact with 43 and 960 in Wild
Card final. 629 dropped two places for taking 960 wide in Wild Card final.
305 disqualified from World Final for contact with 304. 964 loaded up due to incident following World Final. 92 initially dropped two places in World Final for jumping a re-start, penalty later rescinded after it was discovered the car ahead of him was in trouble and had slowed, waving
him past. Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.
Martin Kingston and Ed Fahey's superb photo albums from the weekend are in the nationalhotrod.com Gallery