World Championship 2009

NHRPA National Hot Rod 2009 Championship of the World
Business as usual for Boardley
July 4th/5th 2009, Foxhall Raceway, Ipswich

Graham Brown reports:  Carl Boardley went into the history books when he took an unprecedented fourth National Hot Rod world championship in a row at the annual Ipswich speed weekend. The defending champion set a blistering pace in hot laps to bag pole before recording a flag-to-flag victory that was never remotely threatened even by numerous stoppages.

Behind Boardley it was quite a different story, with some of the hard fought major places decided in the steward’s box, never the happiest outcome for any of those concerned, be they drivers or officials.

Saturday morning dawned, as they say, bright and clear, and there was no danger of this years qualifying procedure being disrupted by the rain of 2008 with the re-introduced ‘hot laps’ taking place in baking hot sunshine. In order that the fans could be kept informed throughout the session, the re-introduction of the hot laps brought with it the re-introduction of the beam timer. This enabled display of the times via the large infield clock. Technically, it is apparently impossible to link this clock to the transponder computers, which were firmly turned off during the session so that there could be no possibility of a discrepancy between the two, or “second guessing” by anyone.

The cars and entry were all exactly as programmed, although there were new paint schemes in evidence, as well as the expected all-new Tigra for Andy Holtby with extremely loud Jeff Gordon inspired paintwork. There was however, a last minute scare for Stuart Carter, who returned from the morning practice session with his car making horrible noises. This led to a frenzied gearbox swap, with assistance from Steve Thompson and members of Andy Steward’s crew. They were up against it too, with Stu having drawn ticket number 18 for his hot lap run. Provided he was ready to go out in his allocated slot, no problem, but if he missed it he was going to be at the back of his group whatever happened.

There were also more very last minute problems (something to do with a wheel or tyre, not sure what) for Stewart Doak, meaning that he too was late on track.

With the timer checked for operation by the pace car (which was roughly seven seconds a lap slower than the slowest world qualifier, and if nothing else, showed why pace cars are not actually used for rolling starts nowadays) Keith Martin blasted away to lay down the benchmark for everyone else at 14.82 on his third lap.

The warm day and track didn’t appear to be doing anybody any favours when it came to the actual times recorded and nobody was able to better that until Malcolm Blackman ran a 14.60 For a while that was looking pretty good for a pole start, so two former winners had set the pace, which was really no big surprise. But naturally, it was the current title holder and hot favourite that everyone was really waiting on, and Boardley did nothing to disappoint – or everything, depending on your point of view! After his first lap put him in the 14.5’s the writing was already on the wall. Even his slower second lap would have been good enough for pole, while a further tour in 14.47 was just rubbing it in.

The only real hiccup during the session came when John Christie lost count of the laps he’d done and went round a further time, triggering the timer just as John Holtby was due to set off. It would have given John a first lap time of just under nine seconds, but he was waved off and sent to run last when any additional heat generated would be well and truly gone from his tyres. Christie’s penalty for this (decided before anybody knew where he was on the grid) was that he would start from the back of whichever group his best lap time would have put him in. As this turned out to be last in group one anyway, the penalty became merely academic – this time.

As for the others, Phil Spinks, who many people were looking to as a man likely to make good use of the new wild card ‘fastest man goes from pole’ rule if anyone could, never got anywhere near it and was therefore stuck in group four. That Gary Woolsey and John Christie joined the group one English drivers came as no shock, but rookies Glenn Bell and David Casey topping group two was something of an eye opener. And the fact that David used his dad’s old car to outrun Tom in the new one by such a wide margin could be considered jolly cheeky actually!

John vd Bosch’s ability to go faster than numerous Irishmen (and get in group three) was also noteworthy, while Rudy Myburgh’s appearance in group four was none too shabby either. 

What would surely rate as “disappointing” were Tom Casey and Stewart Doak’s times, which placed the two Irish points champions firmly in the back four rows of the grid.

Following the lap times, Bell’s team discovered a blown head gasket on the cc, which they set to changing.

 41 115  940 261  95  61  72  994 66 734  14  127 6  996 961  174 467
<- 911  303 962  9 31 278  155 85 427  3 921  519 970  78  955 761  960

Early Sunday morning, the rain was pattering down but it soon cleared and, once the sun broke through, it looked as though a similar day to Saturday – if not quite as hot – was in prospect. 

The Race – 75 Laps
Boardley clearly got the jump when the green flag came out, while Woolsey was already rolling to a stop on the infield with a sick sounding and broken engine well before the rest of the field had poured into the scoreboard bend for the first time. Fellow countryman Christie was also suffering with a sick motor as Boardley led Blackman, Chris Haird and Matt Simpson around. 

Haird nearly got by Blackman along the back stretch on lap two, and another lap or so later both Haird and Simpson got under Blackman going through turns three/four. Then Simpson grabbed second through turn three shortly before the first caution, thrown for Sanders who’d spun and become stranded on the kerbing in the pit bend.

Those expecting some sort of desperate attack by Simpson on Boardley’s lead at the restart were to be disappointed, with Carl still able to leap away from Matt at the green. But they were soon into further yellows when Austin crashed on the home straight. Jay had actually got himself away from the barriers by the time the flags came out, but such is life.

Two caution periods then and only ten laps done.

Another restart saw another good one by the leader, but Haird was slow away this time and soon gone with a broken driveshaft, Andy Holtby spinning in the aftermath of this as the rest swerved around the stricken 115 car.

They’d still only reached lap 14 before a multi-car crash sparked off another yellow. Hillard and Spinks had touched exiting turn four, Phil spinning as vd Velde and O’Connell piled into them.

All these stoppages might have proved just a little unsettling had Boardley not seen it all before, but at the next resumption the leader simply tore away again.

It was clear that Simpson couldn’t stay with him, and it became all about a race for second place – just like last year in fact – with the order from third backwards now reading Blackman, Bell (looking good), David Casey (ditto), Murray (the same), Hardie, Martin, Carter and Jeff Simpson. The battle for third thru seventh was pretty hot too.

It was at this stage, with 20 laps done, that Matt Simpson began leaving Blackman and actually started to close on Boardley for the first and only time. Perhaps Boardley had just eased up a bit, but Simpson leaving Blackman behind suggested otherwise.

With traffic now looming up for Carl as well, maybe we were going to get a race for the lead after all? 

Lap 25 was when Murray impacted with the back of Casey, sending him spinning out of turn four but, that aside, it was beginning to look as though the various retirements had now left us with a manageable number of cars on track.

Not so. 

A further caution was in the offing, after Heatrick and Sanders tangled in turn four, leaving Ralph in the wall and Mark disqualified for causing the fracas. 

No further yellows blighted the race. Yet again Boardley leapt away at the green, with the order behind now Matt Simpson, Blackman, Bell, Murray, Hardie, Martin, Jeff Simpson, Carter and Murphy. A brief exchange of paintwork saw Murphy past Carter on the pit bend, a similar exchange taking Murray past Bell at the other end.

Way down the order, Cooney pulled out, while Tom Casey and Carter were having a fine old dice around 11th/12th spot. Casey got by down the inside of the pit bend, only to find that Colin Gomm had zapped the pair of them on the exit! 

With 25 to go, Hardie departed the fray and it was noticeable that there were a lot fewer backmarkers for Boardley to deal with now. There were still some though. He lapped Mulvey with no problem, but then came up on the minor places fight going on between Doak and Kew. It didn’t look like they were going to give the leader an easy ride, Boardley eventually being forced to go wide around them down the home straight, clipping the wall as he went.

With the leader back on open road, Doak crashed the wall on the back straight and his race was over. But now Simpson found he couldn’t overhaul Kew either (despite Jason being told, not in so many words, to stay out from underfoot over the Raceceivers), which gave Blackman and the fast closing Murray a shot at Matt’s second place.

Blackman went spinning across the start/finish during this altercation (one of several incidents that led to Murray’s disqualification) and Simpson finally made it past Kew, taking Murray through with him.

However, this was the final nail in the coffin of anyone else’s chances of challenging Boardley, who took advantage of the situation to stretch his lead out to over a quarter of a lap for the first time. 

Matt Simpson’s second spot was in real danger now, as his motor had gone ‘fluffy’ (later traced to a broken battery terminal) and a tyre blow off valve had given up into the bargain. While Murray swarmed all over him with Bell still snapping at their heels, the other Simpson – Jeff – was also in trouble. He’d gone spinning across the start line right in front of race control, an incident which was going to get the challenging Murphy black flagged.

With less than two to go, Murray finally got under Simpson through the far bend, taking Bell through with him.

But by now the finish was in sight, and the flying # 41 was just about half a lap to the good with no repeat of last year’s motor problems to prevent him going into the history books with another record.

Murphy and Murray had both made huge strides forward from lowly grid positions, eventually winding up second (Murray) and fourth (Murphy) before both got disqualified for various incidents of contact along the way.

Stock Rod world champion Bell had proved to be the revelation of the race, by coming home third (second after penalties), but by the finish the only questions on everyone’s lips were, what does it take to beat Boardley and, can he possibly make it five?

Support Races
Although the support car entry never approached the dizzy heights some had suspected it might, there was still a healthy enough number of cars on hand ready and willing for their Best in Britain qualifying heats.

A so-called ‘Incarace’ grid formation was used to line them up for the first one, where the cars come out in any order, then the pole man draws a ticket from a box, the number on the ticket determining which row will start at the front. The order is then reversed for the second race. 

Dickie Burtenshaw thus took off from pole to lead the first race with Ronnie McKenzie managing to chop ahead of fellow Scot Graeme Callender to snatch second.  But Callender and David O’Regan were quickly all over McKenzie, Graeme going by down the inside before the rapid looking O’Regan darted down the Honda’s outside.

Colin Smith was right in among this lot too though, Smiffy nipping into second before passing Burtenshaw as well. Callender had obviously just been getting into his stride, as he too nipped under Burtenshaw around the pit bend.

With the Z4 now pulling clear at the front, O’Regan was the man to watch as he took Callender on the outside down the back straight, and then Burtenshaw on the inside through the far bend.

This left the young Irishman free to chase after the leader, but Smith was a long way clear, so attention once again switched to who might be coming after them. To no-one’s surprise it turned out to be Steve Thompson, who’d wasted no time at all getting through from well down the grid. Steve was eventually able to catch and pass O’Regan. He was also closing on the leader as the finish neared but, despite Smith having been slowed by traffic somewhat, there was too much of a deficit for Thompson to make up in the available laps.

The second heat kicked off with Terry Maxwell spinning on the pit bend and Paul Crawford clouting the wall at the same spot. As Crawford appeared to be in trouble, this brought out the yellows, although the steward was none too pleased when Paul promptly jumped out, apparently in perfect health!

Neil Stimson led away something of a ragged restart, with Mark Fuller and Tony Moss disputing second as the flying Thompson tore past Billy Bonnar to attack the leaders.

Moss went by Fuller, with Thompson soon in hot pursuit, although they still looked like they might have a job on their hands to close down Stimson. That was, until Neil’s car started playing silly beggars, going sick one minute and running perfectly OK the next. It sounded like a case of intermittent fuel starvation and only the fact that Moss and Thompson were busy with each other prevented them from overwhelming the leader a lot sooner.

It all came to a head on the last lap, when the 271 car picked just the wrong moment to throw one of its fits, Fuller’s coming out in sympathy as he too spluttered to the line. Thompson had managed to get by Moss in the ensuing scramble to apparently take the win, but he was adjudged to have jumped the restart. A two place penalty thus elevated Moss to the win, with Stimson placed second.

World Final “Revenge”
With the World final itself deemed to be ‘heat one’ for the drivers who were in it, a further race with the grid reversed from the world final was going to be their second heat. This had hardly started when Murray rounded off a less than great day by spinning out in a very NASCAR-style fashion, his motor having let go and pouring smoke out of every available hole as he went round. With Tom Casey, Lee Pepper and Spinks all getting into trouble up at turns 3-4, a stoppage and complete restart was considered in order.

With the green flag out, we were presented with the unusual sight of SLK versus SLK, as Heatrick and Kew squared up to one another for the lead. They carried on this dice for quite some laps, with Winnie Holtmanns, Mulvey and John Holtby at it for the next few places. 

Kew was looking more at home in his new car now, and finally worked his way past Heatrick around the inside of the far turn shortly before it all kicked off at the other end. Mulvey went spinning, with Myburgh going around too before Matt Simpson, Christie, Blackman and Haird all piled into them, a torn off wheel from Christie’s car rolling across the track. The yellows were out long before it could cause any more trouble, mind you…

Simpson was able to limp away from the scene, but soon discovered he had a busted oil cooler and retired to the infield. Unfortunately, this was after he’d driven most of a lap, so a lengthy cement dusting and clear up ensued.

With the race back underway, Heatrick immediately re-passed Kew and shot off into the distance. Mark clearly likes tracks covered in oil and cement dust (unlike Colin Gomm, who went in on the back straight) because he was off like a long dog now. In fact, the red Merc looked a far cry from how it had been in hot laps, when it had so much under steer I did briefly wonder if maybe it was front wheel drive! 

Kew fell back a way but was still running a safe second with Jeff Simpson third until Slim was forced out with a flat in the left front. That put Martin up to third and Boardley – who’d started last, naturally – fourth. 

That left everybody itching to see how the support cars and world finalists would fare when they all met up (and probably hoping for an interesting draw that put the likes of Boardley and Thompson somewhere near the back!) but it was not to be. Steven Jackson’s unfortunate crash in the Supers delayed the meeting significantly and something was always going to have to give, with that ‘something’ turning out to be the NHR final.  Graham Brown.

Support Cars Heat One:
Support Cars Heat Two:
192,271,170(-2),68,(491),198,74,369,844,209, 997,777,333,601,100,(208),871,963,27
170 dropped two places for jumping a restart.
491 disqualified for contact with 844.
208 disqualified for contact with 7.
7 loaded up for causing an unnecessary yellow flag period.
World Final:
41,(95),9,(970),303,994,155,961,278,85,955,3,174(-2),519. NOF.
95 disqualified for contact with 261,911 and 303.
970 disqualified for contact with 3 and failure to observe the black flag.
960 disqualified for contact with 734.
174 dropped two places for baulking the leaders while being lapped.