Boardley adds another
Tipperary Motor Speedway, October 13/14
Graham Brown reports: Carl Boardley added the European championship to his world title at Tipperary, with Chris Haird again having to settle for second after a typically hard fought Rosegreen encounter.
Although minus a few Ulster based cars (due to Darren McKinstry’s pis…erm, stag night), there were still more than enough cars for this, the last major championship of the year.
35 of them in all, which at a quick round up, I reckon to be made up of 14 ROI drivers, 12 from England, 6 NI, and one each from Scotland, Wales and Germany. In the ‘notes for anoraks’ dept., James ‘O Shea was out in his superbly presented not-very-ex-Julian Arnold Fiesta, the one seen as # 33 at the NEC early this year, although Arnie never actually raced it.
With all due respect to James however, the entry which brought a glint to the eye of a few fans, was Colin White, now armed with an ex-Jamieson Tigra. Very smart it looked too, in traditional 718 turquoise with pink numbers, even if it did seem to be missing a little black paint. No matter: those who have been waiting to see if Colin’s less than stunning performances of late have simply been due to the lack of a decent ride were about to have their questions answered.
The car is, incidentally, the later of JJ’s two Tigra’s (and please don’t complicate matters by pointing out that there’s three of them, you know what I mean), the one James never really cared for that had the orange prismatic lettering on the rear quarters.
Colin christened his new toy by whelping the wall in practice and busting all sorts in the front end, but by then, he’d already been going fast enough to prove that the three time world champion is definitely still a force to be reckoned with.
Everyone else was driving pretty much what you’d expect, and with the draw done, the field was split into four groups, with each driver racing in two of the four heats.
Heat one had a couple of false starts, when we all discovered that the traffic lights at the rostrum weren’t working in harmony with the starter. During one of these, Barry English pulled off the track, not to be seen again until Sunday.
Eventually, the race got underway for keeps, with Mike Riordan leading a powerful local trio comprising himself, Shane Murphy and Tom Casey. After a few laps, Chris Haird became the only UK driver to threaten them when he managed to get on terms, but by this stage Riordan and Murphy were starting to stretch their legs.
As the lead pair got steadily further clear and nearing the finish, the battle for third intensified, with Stuart Carter getting in on the act too. After a bit of physical in the dying seconds, it was Carter who came through to collect third spot, only to get docked a couple of places for his manner of passing Haird and Casey, handing third and fourth back to them.
Dick Hillard and Brendan O’Connell quickly established themselves in the premier places in heat two but with Carl Boardley rapidly carving through the pack to come after them. But when Boardley went spinning on the pit bend and got collected by Jay Austin, yellow and then red flags came out.
Under normal circumstances, a yellow flag caution would have been all that was necessary for this situation. Only when it soon became apparent that there was going to be no way of determining the running order of the placemen from about 8th backwards, due to the closeness of the racing back there, was the subsequent decision made to go red. This is no reflection on the lap scorers, who, with the best will in the world, were always going to be caught ‘on the hop’ by this incident. With no transponder system yet in operation at Tipp either, there was little option but to take the restart in lap sheet order from the last recorded (note that I didn’t say completed) lap, with all cars back in their positions at that time.
Of course, everybody was always going to say that Boardley was very lucky indeed that things turned out the way they did. With computerised scoring to rely on, and whether he was deemed to be the cause of the stoppage or not (he wasn’t incidentally, Austin was), Carl would have had to restart a lap down. Naturally, Jay benefited from this situation too, but I notice nobody was talking about him restarting seventh – odd that!
I believe it was Richard Petty who once said, “If I could be lucky or good, I’d rather be lucky”. On this occasion, the world champion was both.
So Boardley was certainly fortunate that the restart enabled both he and Austin to go back to their previously held places. But he was still going to have to prove that his car hadn’t suffered any ill effects from the incident, and pass the ones still starting ahead of him.
He wasted no time overhauling O’Connell to get up with Hillard, Dick giving Carl a good run for his money, as the pair raced side by side for a couple of laps. Boardley eventually made his outside pass stick as they crossed the start line, carrying on to notch up his first win.
…as the cars took the restart, Blackman got the jump on White to snatch eighth place, with White chasing him hard immediately that happened and probably not happy about being caught napping. Colin’s car was absolutely flying and looked quicker both into and out of the corners than almost anyone. He piled the pressure on Blackman until finally a muffed inside pass saw the 911 car go spinning and White collect a black cross for it. This was eventually going to see 718 dropped two places in the final analysis.
After the finish, O’Shea protested that he had been in front of Stewart Doak up until the time of the stoppage, but that the race order for the restart was incorrect as Doak was started ahead of him. As the drivers ran to the finish in the exact same order, the steward decreed that the only reason Doak finished ahead of O’Shea, was that the line up had been incorrect, and reversed their finishing positions.
All of which added up to one of ‘those’ races, pretty messy all around and not the way I like things to run at all. Our good friend Darren Black recently remarked of an event, “everything that could [go wrong] seemed to go wrong”. Believe me, I know just what he means.
By contrast, heat three was undoubtedly the race of the night. Mike Oliver got away fast and first to set up an exciting four way dice between his aging (but still quick) Peugeot 205, Malcolm Clein’s 206cc, White’s new Tigra and Boardley’s similar car.
White got his flame spitting car up to second and then tried for the outside pass on Oliver while Boardley battled to pass Clein. Then White and Boardley swapped places a couple of times before Carl finally managed to get up the outside of Oliver and away.
White was forced back to fourth, but had still recovered to second by the finish, eloquently demonstrating the pace of his new mount, while if Boardley had enjoyed an “easy” win first time out, this one certainly made up for it!
The final qualifier was marred by an early pile up after Simon Bentley lost an oil line going into turn one, a number of cars crashing into either him or each other, including Andy Steward, who required medical attention as a result. Fortunately Andy was basically only winded, but it was all enough to keep him out of Sunday’s race. Des Cooney, who was right in the middle of this lot, also took a heckuvalot of damage.
At first, Bentley was not aware of what had happened, but he certainly was by the time he’d driven round to the pit gate. As the line had first parted company just after the start/finish, this meant there was now copious quantities of oil virtually all round the track, necessitating a lengthy cement dusting operation.
The restarted race saw Andy Holtby making all the running, hotly pursued by John Christie, once he’d impressively managed to leave Blackman behind in third.
Christie tried very hard indeed to wrest the lead away from Holtby – including one highly ambitious outside swoop through turns one and two, but in the end wasn’t quite able to make the pass.
Boardley (pole) and Haird shared the front row of the grid for the 50-lap final, and ultimately the race was going to be all about these two. But first, they had to shake off the attentions of row two starters Casey and Riordan, the four of them haring around together for a number of laps.
Others were not going so far or so fast, however. Tommy Maxwell had a spin coming up to take the green flag, Ronnie McKenzie headed for the infield almost immediately, then Shane Brereton was out before Winnie Holtmanns had a spin and then retired. Eddie Wall had an ‘off’ and Orey Stanley also pulled out.
None of which bothered the front runners of course. Eventually, the gap between the first two and third and fourth grew inexorably wider and the race settled down to Boardley versus Haird, Casey versus Riordan, with all four pursued by Doak.
Haird never gave the leader a moments peace and when they encountered the inevitable traffic (33 cars started), Chris piled the pressure on in an attempt to reverse the world final result, even looking up the outside at one point. Carl never put a foot wrong though, and they’d just got back into clear air when the yellows were waving, O’Shea having come to a halt in mid-track.
Just prior to this, Blackman had sent White spinning out of ninth place, an incident which was going to have consequences later.
Following the restart, little had changed for the front runners, with the lead pair still able to go immediately clear. But now Haird definitely looked the quicker of the two and, as the laps counted down, was pressing harder than ever. With less than four laps to go, they came upon a backmarker, and Haird so nearly unseated the leader with a dive up the inside. But Boardley just about had the situation covered, only to find the yellows waving once more for a spun and stalled car.
The sprint finish turned out to even more of a sprint than anyone had bargained for as, following the caution, there was only just about time for the green to be shown before the chequered. Obviously, the scorers had been counting the laps run under yellow – certainly not illegal, I even checked the rule book – just not quite what we were expecting.
Whether another couple of green flag laps would have made any difference, we’ll never know, but I daresay Chris Haird would like to have found out! As it was, Boardley beat Haird into second in a major championship again, but you now have that inescapable feeling that it is only a matter of time before Chris wins a biggie.
Casey always managed to keep ahead of Riordan in their fight for third, with Doak and Clein next up as they had been for most of the race.
The White-Blackman feud carried on after the race and ended with the 718 car well and truly planted in the wall by the pit end, the ramifications of this meaning that both drivers are barred from taking any part in world qualifying action for the rest of the year.
As has become traditional, the Davy Evans Memorial race saw the grid lined up in reverse order to the European, thus giving those who haven’t done so well out of the meeting up to this point, a chance to shine.
Things didn’t start ever so well, with English spinning out of turn two on lap one, a very bad time for that, with the still tightly bunched pack close behind. He was hit hard by Holtmanns and Shane Murphy, with Brereton also out of the restart.
Simon Bentley made a great start but not great enough to carry him past Richard Spavins, who assumed an immediate lead. ‘Dodgy’ stayed in front despite Bentley clamouring for a way past all the way, these two having left Joey Butler a quarter of a lap adrift.
The steward wasn’t keen on Spavins’ line however, and after numerous warnings about this over the Raceceiver, he finally allowed Bentley past up the inside three laps from home. Graham Brown
Heat one: 142,970,115,961,85(-2),994,369,348,923,59,962,57,151,198,420,187.
Heat two: 41,31,761,74,996,921,985,427,718(-2),777,992,61,3,911,467,943,87.
Heat three: 41,718,985,961,996,369,348,31,467,427,57,87.
Heat four: 61,962,911,967,115,85,992,74,142,761,930,151.
European championship: 41,115,961,142,996,985,61,962,911,970,718,85,31, 151,967,427,777,467,87.
Davy Evans Memorial: 59,3,151,142,74,923,985,962,992,31,761,777.