World Championship 2008

2008 NHRPA National Hot Rod World Final
Boardley’s three-peat
Saturday/Sunday July 5/6 2008. Foxhall International Raceway, Ipswich

Graham Brown reports:  Carl Boardley took his third National Hot Rod world championship in a row at the annual Ipswich speed weekend, equalling the record for back-to-back titles set by Colin White. Boardley totally dominated the 75-lapper, with runner up Matt Simpson and Irish racer Mike Riordan completing a clean sweep for the Tigra drivers.

Entry & Lap Times
Everybody was in the cars they were expected to be driving, even Colin Gomm, who was fairly certain after the Thunder 500, that he would be using the Peugeot. Dick Hillard was in his new Tigra, which again was no surprise – he’d said all along that this would be his mount for the race, providing it was ready. His adoption of an orange roof meant that the car looked quite a bit different to his usual 206 however.

This was the first chance for English fans to get a look at the Ronnie McMillan Tigra, and very pretty it looked too in it’s pale blue and white livery. It was also their first opportunity to see Brendan O’Connell on these shores (unless they’d been at Press Day). Both men were world final rookies, and there were a fair number of those in the race this year, with John Sibbald, Gavin Murray, Jay Austin, Orey Stanley and Mark Heatrick as well. The two Netherlands racers, Laurens vd Velde and John vd Bosch, completed this happy throng.

O’Connell ran into a little problem in scrutineering when his exhaust failed to pass muster, but this was soon sorted out as Matt Simpson was carrying a parcel of spares.

Lap times….well, they were thrown into disarray when the accurate predictions about rainfall in the Ipswich area came horribly true. The rain had stopped by the scheduled start time, but the damage was done and with a now drying track there was no way to guarantee a level playing field for all runners.

It would seem obvious that the solution to this, is simply to postpone the laps until later, maybe run a few races and then do it. Unfortunately, logic does not and cannot enter into it. The meeting schedule, once agreed with the council, virtually forms part of the planning consent and cannot be changed. I believe races can be cancelled altogether, but that’s about it.

For everybody who says, ‘They should have a plan B’, of course, we do. And it was executed to the letter. The plan to put the top NI and ROI points scorers automatically into group one was ditched months ago*, so no, 996 and 970 should not have been added in there. Simon Bentley and Phil Spinks sorted out their group three tie during their timed laps. Thus Bentley was enabled to join in the gp.3 draw, with Spinks still automatically at the head of group four (as usual in a tie-across-groups situation). And if anyone thinks that Boardley getting pole out of the group one draw was a fix, I was right there, and I can tell you he didn’t really even draw the ticket; he drew last and it was simply the one everybody else left in the pot! 

No, of course it isn’t the best way to do it. The best way to do it (aside from going back to three hot laps for each car individually, which still gets my vote) is for the weather to play ball. Unfortunately, even DW cannot guarantee that!  

All cars ran in the lap times, as they had to do the race on the same tyres upon which they did the timed laps, the intent being to ensure everybody’s rubber had the same amount of wear. Of course, the best laid plans and all that, because when the non-English session was hit by rain, they had only done about five minutes-worth of lappery! But what they might have gained on the swings, they probably lost on the roundabouts, as some of these drivers looked to be holding back early in the session, with the intention of giving it a big push towards the end. If that was the case, it was a gamble which didn’t pay off.

Whatever, it was only these drivers times which counted for anything, and then only to determine where they would be placed in the grid draw. In any other year the times set in their session would have been pretty crucial, and were still fairly eye-opening anyway. When it was done the two places in group one were in the hands of the Southern Irish, with Des Cooney fastest – he was quick on Press Day too remember – and Riordan around a tenth of a second slower. Mark you, even Des was only sixth fastest overall.

Keith Martin and Gary Woolsey were forced to take their chances in group two, with John Christie and the impressive vd Velde back in group three.

With the draw done, the first three rows of the grid had certainly taken on an interesting cast, with defending champ Boardley on pole and Andy Holtby to his outside. The second rank comprised Simpson and Steve Thompson (something of a disappointment for Steve, as his lap time would have given him pole), leaving Cooney and Riordan saddled with row three.

41 303  921 911  115 85   95 59 491  14    67    25  66  960 761  629 923
61 170  142 994  940 278  78  962 277  996 970  31  427 944  467 961

The Race – 75 Laps
Fears about race day weather proved largely unfounded, with the grid lining up in warm sunshine alleviated by a light breeze. 

The first attempt at getting the race underway saw Holtby just the first to break at the green, Boardley and Holtby racing side by side for two laps with Thompson tucked in behind before a crash in the rear of the field brought out the reds.

This shunt involved at least five cars to some degree, including Dave Brooks, Hillard, Tom Casey, Winnie Holtmanns and Orey Stanley. The incident was to have unfortunate consequences for Dick, who’d got a punctured tyre and, much more seriously, a bent track control arm out of it all. It was all hands to the pumps as mechanics swarmed over the stricken Tigra to try and beat the time limit for getting him back in the race but, in the end, all to no avail.

Cooney too was out of it, Des having pulled up even before the stoppage with a broken rear disc. 

So, with reserve Ralph Sanders now into the race at the tail of the field, the grid formed up again at the same time as some ominous looking storm clouds formed up all around the stadium.

The front row men were at it again on the restart, but this time Boardley was the first to break. Holtby stayed right with him though, as Simpson and Thompson duelled for third and fourth ahead of Riordan and Malcolm Blackman.

Quite suddenly, Boardley managed to get clear, leaving Holtby to pay the price for his heroic effort up the outside as Simpson got through to second. With Carl pulling away fast, Simpson, Holtby, Riordan, Thompson and Blackman were left to squabble over the places. With Simpson soon established in second, Riordan too managed to demote Holtby. I have often said that Mike has yet to show us his best at Ipswich, and it was beginning to look as though this might be the day we were finally going to see it. Little did we know that those first three places, established so early on, were the way they were going to stay. 

Vd Bosch had stopped on the outside of the far bend and Boardley had just begun to stretch his legs a bit, when Sibbald’s motor let go, dumping oil right in front of the leaders. Somehow, most people stayed out of the barriers, with Boardley and Simpson doing particularly well not to crash when they both took huge slides towards the wall, but the resulting mess cued a caution period and a clear up.

When the restart came, the leader tore away this time when the green came back out. It soon became clear that Simpson couldn’t stay with him, and it became all about a race for second place. Stewart Doak took a spin along the back stretch while Simpson continued to fend off Riordan in their fight for second spot. Boardley, meantime, was now lapping back markers in what almost amounted to a casual manner.

But Simpson was going to get another shot at the leader though, because more yellow flags were in the offing after Andy Burgess and vd Velde got together between turns three and four. With Burgess stuck there, the steward threw a yellow just as Riordan went spinning down by the start/finish following a challenge from Blackman.

The steward decided to put the cars back in the positions they were in on the lap prior to yellows, giving a relieved Riordan back his third place. “We just came round on a back marker”, Mike explained afterwards. “I presume Malc had a go down the inside and it ended up….the way it ended up! I seemed to get a big shunt off, thought that the car was wrecked, came back out and tried it down the back straight. It seemed fine, I got caught back up to my position, which I have to say I was very glad about, and she ran fine from then on”.

The results of this further restart were no different however, with Boardley marching off in determined fashion, leaving a veritable freight train of placemen in his wake, with Simpson still fending off an insistent Riordan, Blackman, Thompson, Holtby, Chris Haird and Keith Martin.

As this war raged on, Boardley was left alone to work on extending his lead further and further. By the time it was up to around half a lap and with the finish looming up, it was clear nothing was going to stop Boardley making it three in a row – unless something happened to the car.

Actually, something already had. At about half distance, Carl had suddenly found that the throttle had jammed most of the way open!

“I don’t know what’s happened, but I couldn’t get any less than about 6,000 rpm. It was a matter of just blipping the throttle down the straights, then get the car through the corner on the brakes, and just try and keep it smooth”, Carl said later.

With around 25 laps to run, Doak called it a day. Simpson and Riordan were still dicing for second, with Blackman, Thompson and Haird locked in combat over the rest of the places. Thompson gave Blackman a hefty shove exiting the pit bend, but backed out of it to let the former champion recover. Steve’s patience on this occasion was rewarded, as he got by quite legitimately soon afterwards, taking Haird through in his wake.

Behind them, Keith Martin was gradually dropping off the pace, eventually heading onto the grass when his fading brakes finally gave out altogether. Soon afterwards, Blackman was on his way to join him.

As the laps wound down, vd Velde took a couple of spins – one right in front of the placemen. As if this was some sort of cue, Thompson started really trying to upset the finishing order, making serious overtures down Riordan’s outside several times. Spurred on by this, Mike very nearly made one of his inside stabs at Simpson come off along the back straight. Thompson, still sticking to the high side, managed to let Haird through, but re-passed him by punting Chris on at the pit bend a couple of laps later. It was this incident that was to get Thompson penalised in the final analysis.

By now and nearing the finish, Boardley was so far in front he even had time to slow and steer around the half spinning car of Shane Murphy. “I was watching my mirrors, I knew where everybody was, and obviously it worked my way”, commented Carl shortly after climbing from his car, following what had undoubtedly been an emphatic victory. 

Simpson withstood the onslaught from behind to claim second with Riordan recording a career best third, fourth spot falling to Haird after Thompson was penalised two places for the incident with Haird near the end of the race.

In fact, probably the closest Boardley came all day to losing his crown, was in post-race scrutineering. His car had appeared to fail the ride height check just after the race. But, with the car parked on the totally flat area where the scales are normally set up, the required amount of daylight was found to exist beneath the cars front spoiler, much to everyone’s relief.

Carl’s was not the only car arousing technical interest post race, with certain aspects of another placeman’s engine currently the subject of an NHRPA investigation.  Graham Brown

 See NHRPA page, (NEW 25/02/08* 2008 NHRPA RULE AMENDMENTS)

Result:  1 41 Carl Boardley 2 303 Matthew Simpson  3 142 Mike Riordan 4 115 Chris Haird  5 61 Andrew Holtby, 6 170 Steve Thompson (X-2), 7 278 Colin Gomm, 8 14 Phil Spinks, 9 85 Stuart Carter, 10 491 Colin Smith, 11 940 Gary Woolsey, 12 95 Gavin Murray, 13 962 John Christie, 14 67 David Brooks 74 laps, 15 944 Ronnie McMillan  74 laps, 16 734 Ralph Sanders  74 laps, 17 427 Jay Austin   74 laps, 18 25 Keith Woods  74 laps, 19 923 Orey Stanley  73 laps, 20 78 Lauren Van Der Velde   73 laps, 21 761 Brendan O’Connell   72 laps, DNF 970 Shane Murphy   73 laps, DNF 911 Malcolm Blackman   56 laps, DNF 994 Keith Martin   54 laps, DNF 960 Mark Heatrick  48 laps, DNF 996 Stewart Doak  47 laps, DNF 961 Tom Casey   40 laps, DNF 277 Andrew Burgess  24 laps, DNF G467 Winnie Holtmanns  22 laps, DNF 629 John Sibbald   9 laps, DNF H66 John Van Den Bosch  8 laps, DNF 59 Simon Bentley   0 laps, DNS 921 Des Cooney  0 laps, DNS 31 Dick Hillard  0 laps, Penalty: 170 Docked two places for contact on 115