National Championship 2016

Hylands dominates to claim

first National title

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…

The Grid
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.