Christie makes history
John Christie went into the history books at the 2013 Spedeweekend when he became the first ever second generation winner of the National Hot Rod world championship. Christie took over at the front after long-time leader and pre-race odds-on favourite Chris Haird was forced into heart-breaking retirement after tangling with a spun car less than ten laps from home. Jason Kew came over the line in a well-deserved second place, with defending champion and pole sitter Glenn Bell third after being in the hunt all the way. The second generation theme continued with the fourth place finisher Danny Fiske making his dad Derek – the winner in ’75 – a very proud man indeed.
The entry was almost precisely what we were expecting to see in terms of who was there and what cars they were in. I suppose it might still have come as something of a surprise to those who hadn’t been paying close attention in the run up to the race, to find that Russ Wilcox had bailed on an event he’d spent all year trying to qualify for, due to work commitments apparently. That should have put the first English reserve, Danny Hunn, into the field. But he wasn’t ready to go either, and so it fell to that veteran of so many World Finals, Colin Gomm, to take his place in the ranks for yet another try.
When I said “almost precisely” about the runners and riders, Carl Waller-Barrett had turned up with the ex-Wayne Woolsey Tigra, which I would deem to be probably a more competitive car than his venerable 206cc. It certainly looked very smart indeed in its new silver and orange colour scheme, and went very quickly in ‘untimed’ Saturday morning practice too, although Haird was – as expected – still the fastest in that session.
There seemed absolutely no danger of this year’s qualifying procedure or indeed the race itself being disrupted by the rain of 2012, with the forecasted hot sunshine baking Foxhall Heath all weekend. It was certainly already well into its stride when the aptly termed ‘hot laps’ got underway at precisely 10.30am on the Saturday and the cars rolled out to face the impassive timing beams.
With this year’s revised grid system automatically placing all the points champions in Group One, pretty much all they had to do was determine which order they would actually start in by fighting it out with the others who made up the group, expanded this year to 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. That possibility has existed since 2009 incidentally but, so far, nobody who wasn’t already destined to start up front anyway has ever been able to take advantage of it.
Looking at the times overall, we had the usual mixture of some pleasant surprises, some disappointments and some who managed to go faster on their second lap than their third – eight of them this year.
Some odd notes from my pad tell me that Gommy looked like he had a bit of a push (the track was still rather green then mind you, as he went out second) while Keith Martin’s motor seemed to be puffing smoke on the overrun. Winnie Holtmanns sounded like he was hitting the rev limiter, which may well account for why he was the only driver to record his best time on his first lap; maybe he was forced to back off a touch for the others. He still recorded a creditable 14.58 on that first lap which would ultimately plant him on the seventh row.
This year, the car that set each successive fastest lap was sent to stand on the ‘chequerboard’ on the infield, with Mark Heatrick (as first to run) obviously the first man there, he being replaced by Danny Fiske, Dan then sitting there for quite a while (on a 14.60) until displaced by Gavin Murray with a pair of 14.49s. But Gavin didn’t have long to enjoy his spot before Glenn Bell put in a very sharp looking 14.27, the defending champ obviously prepared to give up his gold roof – if he had to – only after a fierce fight.
Naturally this put all eyes on Chris Haird, who was expected to be the benchmark, with everybody from Betfred on down having seemingly made him the favourite to repeat his victory of 2010. A first lap of only 14.59 (Bell’s had been 14.42) didn’t look awfully promising, but it was still a bit of a shock that when 115’s three laps were done, Bell had been able to out-run Haird by such a wide margin – nearly two tenths of a second in fact. In the final analysis that would still leave the two men occupying the front row, but we didn’t know that at this stage of course.
Chris was in no doubt that he hadn’t given of his best. “The car felt awful, right from the off”, he said later.
“There was a bit of a vibration and I wasn’t sure what was wrong but had to just keep going and do my best, obviously. When we got back to the pits we found that the gearbox was seizing up. I think it had a bearing gone, and since it (the gearbox) hasn’t been touched in ages, we fitted another ‘box. Then we came back to the car to find it standing in a puddle of brake fluid! The seals on the front callipers were shot, so we had to replace those. But that means they couldn’t have been retracting the pads properly, so the brakes were binding too.”
So did he think that accounted for the missing couple of tenths?
“I should think we’ve just found half a second with that lot! I’m still pretty confident about the race.”
But that was all for later. Just now there was around half the field still to run.
Christie was next onto the tarmac after Haird, setting a respectable but far from scintillating 14.55s. This was no doubt why John was happy to tell anyone who asked that he had no chance of winning and was merely looking forward to making up the numbers. Right…
Not surprisingly there was plenty of anticipation greeting Shane Murphy’s trio of laps but, having failed to win the ROI points, he was going to need an exceptional lap to leapfrog to pole. He was always just a shade behind Bell on every tour and wound up with a highly respectable 14.33, but even that wasn’t going to get him into the first four rows. In fact, it wasn’t even going to make him ‘best of the rest’ as Colin Smith came oh, so close to upsetting the apple cart when he equalled Bell’s 14.27, only four hundredths of second on their second fastest laps preventing the Z4 driver from topping the lot! Colin’s much slower first lap was directly attributable to a huge brake lock up going into turn three, which only served to prove how hard he was trying. There seemed to be quite a bit of representation from the team that it isn’t written down anywhere that second fastest laps are used to separate equal first fastest laps, but that is always the way it’s been done and I was never in any doubt that three hundredths slower on the second fastest lap was only ever going to be a case of ‘close but no cigar’, however much we might all have enjoyed seeing Smiffy take the pole.
There was another tale of woe (although not quite as much woe as if there had been no group system) concerning Shane Brereton, who’s car remained resolutely on the infield with some kind of dire engine fault. It subsequently turned out that the engine appeared to have ingested some metallic object (like a stray washer) which had passed through the inlet manifold, pausing only to administer a case of bent valves no doubt, on its way to becoming welded to the top of a piston. That was what the team found when the head was removed – some unidentifiable metal bits stuck to a piston crown. Apparently Carl Boardley took the head back home and made the necessary repairs, and later in the day I found him and Phil Spinks assisting with the engine’s reassembly.
With lap times done and dusted the starting order for thirty-three of the eventual thirty five runners was sorted, leaving Betfred to set their close-to-starting prices and Saturday night’s support car racers to determine the final two places on the grid, the so-called ‘wildcard’ entries.
Saturday Support Races
Despite the added lure of a chance at getting into the World, we only had about the same number of takers (one less actually) for the supports as last year, although this was still going to be quite enough for some entertainment. Twenty-one cars were originally ready to rock ‘n’ roll, although we were down to only twenty before they’d even turned a wheel in the first heat when Greg Moore’s Puma gave up the ghost on the grid.
This was a race best described as ‘scrappy’ in my book, although Paul Gerrard was less polite over the Raceceivers and clearly less inclined to tolerance when they gridded for their second heat!
Matters kicked off with Paul Frost out front but immediately under pressure from Andy Murray, who took the lead at the expense of a black cross. Then Frost and returnee Dave Garrett had a bit of a dice for second before Frost ran wide at turn one, handing his place over to Adam Maxwell.
Maxwell was undoubtedly the one most people felt ought to be taking advantage of the wildcard system and, when he got fourth row inside for the first race, I certainly thought he was going to win at least this one. He quickly took to the outside to pass Garrett but then lost his left side door going down the home straight. With other cars smashing it to bits very quickly and debris spreading down the track, a yellow flag for a clear up was no surprise. Had it been the driver’s door, no doubt Adam would have copped a disqualification, but seeing as it wasn’t he was still right there in second for the restart, and let leader Murray know it too with a bang on the bumper at the green flag!
As you might imagine, the two Ulstermen fought hard for the lead from that point, with Maxwell eventually making it past and Murray attracting another black cross. Once Adam was ahead, he was soon pulling away just to underline his undoubted speed, crossing the line a fair way in front of Murray, who was in turn a whopping half a lap up on third man Chris Lehec, Lee Pepper, and Thomas Dilly. Gavin Taber was sixth, another who’d copped a black cross close to the finish and then got together with Ian McReynolds as they rushed the flag, the incident sending the latter careering across the infield. No penalties were applied there, although there were droppings in store for Dilly (down two) and another returnee, Andy Lane, who got put back four spots for two separate incidents.
So, not the best of starts then.
The second heat suffered a false start when Rod Brewer failed to move at the first time of asking. Damien Mulvey – a driver we haven’t seen for a wee while – took the lead for the restart, chased initially by Shane Bland and Graeme Callender. Callender made it past Bland and then set about trying to relieve Mulvey of the lead, Damien eventually responding to the pressure with a half spin between turns one and two before losing it altogether and having the real thing along the back stretch.
After that, the Scot began to leave the rest behind, particularly once Bland’s car started to look a little loose. This subsequently led to Dave York and Adam Maxwell catching him up, Adam having come all the way from the ninth row this time, just to prove he wasn’t messing about. York gave Bland some stick which got him black crossed, but Maxwell wasn’t put off by any of that and went straight up the outside, sticking his nose in front at the start/finish and the whole car along the back straight.
While Murray collected a further black cross, Maxwell was all over Bland now and very nearly managed to sneak past down the inside before Shane closed the door. That only got him a blue flag however and, with three to go, Maxwell was back on the outside trip once more, drawing ahead along the back straight to ensure second spot, roughly a quarter of a lap down to Callender.
With all the points added up, we had a front row of Maxwell on pole with Andy Murray (despite all his crosses, he’d seemingly led a charmed life with Race Control) alongside, followed by Bland and Taber, with Lehec and Stuart McLaird occupying the third row,
The field was bunched together for a rolling start where Maxwell stayed out very wide, making sure to block any attack from that quarter, and thus assumed the lead with Bland second ahead of Murray and Taber. Murray immediately piled the pressure on Bland, bumping him as they raced into turn three before sending him into a half spin at turn four. With Taber collecting Bland and Murray ending up in the wall too at the same spot, this was immediate grounds for a yellow. The flags soon turned red however and a complete restart was called for, this time without Lane (who’d non-started the first time anyway), Bland and Murray.
But even the restart wasn’t going to go smoothly, with Callender’s car going very sick as they came to the green causing those behind to collide with each other as they tried to avoid him, Tom Casey and McReynolds coming off worst.
They weren’t able to go for the next restart (Casey was actually, but got eliminated for being the actual cause of the stoppage) and amazingly, Callender tried to go again! Fortunately, he soon realised the wisdom of just parking his reluctant steed
Back under the green flag, Maxwell was swiftly building a decent sized lead, leaving Taber and Lehec disputing second. Lehec was clearly the faster of the two and game to try the outside but, despite blue flags for Taber, he couldn’t make it past and only succeeded in letting McLaird through for a go instead. Eventually, and with Pepper now involved in the dice too, McLaird and Lehec tripped over one another at turns 1-2, both men spinning out.
That left Pepper (with a black cross, presumably for his part in the McLaird/Lehec incident) a free hand to chase down Taber and, once he had, he was all over him like the proverbial cheap suit. With Maxwell half a lap to the good and obviously uncatchable barring any car trouble, desperation for the final World place was certainly setting in. Taber was obviously blocking (and got blue flagged for it) as Pepper tried the inside and nearly got past before having the door slammed on him, Lee then going outside and staying alongside for ages without being able to get the pass made.
That the dice was slowing them down became more and more obvious as Maxwell stretched his advantage to three quarters of a lap, and he didn’t look like he was trying that hard either. Pepper was forced to drop back in behind Taber but gamely hauled himself alongside again only to find there was suddenly not quite the room he needed coming off the fourth turn, Lee smacking the barriers before slowing into retirement. All of which left Maxwell to a relatively easy passage through to the big race, Taber escaping penalty to join him with Dilly and Frost following, meaning that we now knew the complete line-up for Sunday’s main event.
The Race – 75 Laps
Come Sunday morning there was absolutely no doubt that this was going to be a hot one, with all the usual issues surrounding overheating of engines, brakes and drivers. Following an emotional build up which gave everyone time to consider all the absent friends we’ve so recently lost, the serious business got underway. Maxwell was the only one with a problem after the five warm up laps, which was a flat in the right rear. With that soon sorted, they rounded the pace laps and then it was green, green, green!
Haird clearly got the jump when the magic flag came out and almost managed to take the lead although Bell was just able to stay ahead for the single lap they managed before several spun or crashed cars littering turn one caused a stoppage and complete restart. Holtmanns had gone around while Gary Woolsey had suffered badly in the melee, his rear axle having taken a big hit which put him out on the spot.
But for others involved there was a second chance as the rarest flag signal in oval racing (crossed blue and red at the start line) signalled it was OK for outside assistance and crews poured back onto the track to sort out various problems. Gomm had plenty of steering damage by the look of it, as did Ian McGuigan, although there seemed to be little hurry on anybody’s part to get the 77 car sorted and it was no surprise to me when he ran out of time.
Waller Barrett had hit ‘something red’ with the left front corner and he too needed at least a tracking check. With the infield clock ticking away the strict ten minutes allowed for repairs, Colin Gomm (with some assistance from Dave Longhurst, who also tried to get the #77 going) left with roughly one and a half minutes still available. The jaunty ‘Countdown’ music signalled the expiry of the final thirty seconds and then it was time to try again, with 940, 77 and 467 all now gone from the grid.
Of course, that first attempt meant that Haird had showed his hand to Bell regarding strategy, so Glenn was ready for another instant passing attempt on the second go. He accelerated a bit sooner coming to the green and was thus able to keep Chris in check as they got going again. The 2010 champion was forced to slot in behind as they quickly settled down with Bell heading Haird, Jason Kew, Christie and David Casey.
Brereton was soon to join the other retirements on the infield when it looked like further engine bothers came to light.
With all the opening gambits played, the order was Bell from Haird, Kew, Christie, Casey and Rob McDonald, who was scrapping with Fiske and Smith, but aside from those three, the front runners were all giving each other plenty of breathing space. However, there was a further brief caution period coming up when Mikey Godfrey and John Sibbald got even friendlier than they usually are up at turns three-four, this problem also accounting for Dickie Burtenshaw with a flat.
The short hiatus changed nothing for the leaders. Bell took off like a rocket at the green this time and the top twelve were all soon settled back down into a line astern formation with nice sensible gaps. Tony Moss and Waller-Barrett had some kind of incident at turn four, Moss copped a black cross and now, with a few more tours done since the restart and traffic looming up ahead, all four lead cars closed up, Haird obviously sensing his first real chance to make a move on Bell. The leader lapped Taber with Haird following closely, but Kew lost a bit of ground achieving the same thing.
Suddenly, Smiffy was gone, the Z4 ending up slumped against the barriers at turn three. I never saw what happened there, only that he had been dicing with Gavin Murray and Shane Murphy just beforehand.
Haird dropped back from Bell again for a time before closing in once more when another lot of traffic was about to be encountered. It all looked suspiciously like Chris was merely biding his time and had his game plan well in hand. Sure enough, despite Kew and Christie having closed right up as well (meaning if there was an outside move coming, he’d better get it right), Haird had obviously judged the wide line to be as clean as it needed to be and put a perfect pass on Bell who seemingly had no answer at all. And if there’s ever been a more confident pass for the lead of a World Final, I never saw it.
As half distance came and went, Haird began to stretch his legs and left Bell behind, while Kew had quite a bit of a cushion now over Christie. McDonald was running a solid fifth with a sizable gap back to Casey, who was under immense pressure from what I judged to be a tired-of-being-patient Fiske.
Although Kewy might have thought Christie drove a good tactical race (check out Jason’s excellent blog) in fact tactics had nothing to do with it, and John had fallen back from the others with overheating issues.
“When I caught up with Jason Kew, I noticed my temperature soaring, so I decided to sit back for about ten laps. I knew the car had lost a lot of water because quite a bit of it had gone over me! That happened at about lap 30 and at the end, it only had about two pints left in it. But (at that point) I was just hoping the temperature might drop, and knew I’d have to let Chris go, though I thought I could pass Kew and Bell if it would just cool down after I’d cruised in third gear for a bit. When it didn’t, I decided it would just have to be sh*t or bust!”
Meanwhile, Bell had gone way too deep into turn three, allowing Kew an easy passage past. Glenn was obviously starting to struggle…
“Yeah, it was the tyres, the rears had gone right off”, he said, adding, “Plus, I think maybe we might have had an oil leak going onto them as well”.
Fiske had finally managed to overhaul Casey to set off after McDonald, the ROI points champ going down a further spot to Murray soon afterwards and retiring not long after that. And, at about the same time, Kym Weaver pulled up by the wall followed by a light trail of smoke that looked like a blown engine. Fortunately, he didn’t appear to have left anything slippery behind.
With twenty-five laps to go Christie had closed back up on Bell and slipped by going through turns three-four as Glenn couldn’t keep his sliding car low on the track anymore. Having by-passed the ailing Bell, Christie caught and then took Kew to go second as they traversed the back straight. Jason, to his eternal credit, hadn’t really needed the solitary blue flag he got and was in no way awkward about letting the quicker car through.
But with Haird still a quarter of a lap ahead and totally in charge, it has to be said that it did look to be all over. The laps were dwindling away now and, while the fat lady might not have been singing, she could clearly be heard warming up in the wings. It turned out she was a little premature…
Right up at the front wasn’t the sole place on the leader board seeing any action, with Fiske now challenging McDonald hard for fifth spot. They touched at turn four, Danny backing off to let Rob recover and then all of a sudden, there were only ten laps to run.
It was at that point that Taber and Jack Blood (ironically in two Haird cars, one of them the 2010 winner) got together along the home straight when the former cut down on the latter and sent Blood spinning out of control across the shale. Quite why Taber (who wasn’t racing Blood for a place but merely being lapped) was so insistent about holding track position was unclear, but he too careered off course as Blood’s car finished spinning to a halt off the end of the speedway track…and right into the leader’s path. Haird just clipped it on his way past but it was enough to break his steering, the #115 car abruptly turning onto the shale, almost unbelievably out of the race. The steering wheel hurled from the cockpit told you all you needed to know about the driver’s frustration (it reminded me of Barry Lee’s bonnet chuck in similar circumstances, the two events separated by just a few yards and over 40 years) and one could hardly blame him. Chris had done everything right throughout the race and yet still not been able to take the win.
Back on the track there was now everything to play for. Kew had managed to re-pass Christie too in the aftermath of the incident, so John was faced with having to redress that situation and the laps were still counting inexorably down.
“I’d already thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to catch Chris’”, said Christie later. “And then when it (Haird’s crash) happened, Jason got by me again! But I still thought we were just racing for second, and then I realised Chris was parked! And that’s when I thought, ‘this is more interesting’….”
There was no doubting Christie knew what he had to do, and he simply took to the outside line and powered into the lead down the outside of the back straight with five laps to go, the Ulster fans celebrating long before he reached chequered flag.
It was a real fairy tale climax to the season for John, who’d struggled to come back from injury at the start of Ulster’s World Series and had looked like he was going to be a non-qualifier for most of the year. It was also one of the more popular wins of the modern era, not just because everybody – even English supporters – seems to be a JAC fan, but also because John has always taken the various reversals in fortune this sport inevitably entails, in such good spirit. No-one can have forgotten the ‘bag of sugar’ incident for example, and how the team took the micky out of themselves afterwards.
When I asked John how it felt to take that chequered flag at long last he was typically self-effacing and said merely, “I was just glad to see the finishing line!” He also told me something interesting when he added to our little interview, and almost as an afterthought, “ I’d like to say thanks to all the boys that have helped me – there’s so many of them – but also to my dad (Ormond) who has been helping me for the first time (in a long time) these past few weeks. The car definitely wouldn’t have had that pace in the last part of the race without his help”.
Jason Kew had to at least be a little disappointed to have been ‘only’ second but nobody could fault his driving or on-track demeanour when it came to how he raced Christie for the lead on either occasion. “I just thought, ‘keep it tight, and give him some room’”, he said later. “And as it happened, I had cramp in both feet by that point anyway!”
Third man Bell was hardly disgraced in his title defence, having had a great year that also featured that National championship win of course, plus the NI points championship backed up by starting this one from pole. And there was a further little sweetener to come later in the day too…
Danny Fiske, failing to quite live up to his ‘Wildman’ moniker, made it to the finish against a few people’s expectations, maybe even including his own! “Well, I kept it going so that wasn’t bad for a first attempt. The car was good and getting a good result was all great experience for the future”.
Murray and Murphy rounded out the top six, hardly poor results but equally I suspect, results which both men probably regarded as below their own expectations. The fact that they ended up in that first six meant that they’d relegated McDonald by the end, but even so, seventh wasn’t a bad effort from him and, like Fiske, he certainly has something to build on with pride. Similarly, getting home eighth can’t have done Terry Hunn’s confidence any harm either. A fair lap time still meant he had to go off the eleventh row so he surely must have been quite pleased with the eventual outcome.
A bit like Glenn’s win last year, this one for John seems to have been a long time coming and again, like Bell last year, one always knew he was going to win it one day – just probably not this day! And so at last we have our first second generation winner. But it was a podium which really did ring in the generational changes, with Kewy also the son of a former NHR racer, and Fiske the son of another previous winner of course.
Speaking of Kewy, who ever thought that cheeky kid Neil had to keep giving ‘the hammer’ to in the chat room more than a decade ago would one day be vying for the World title itself, and even leading the race? But he drove it well in all respects and, if he is maybe kicking himself a bit for turning over the lead ‘too easily’, who knows – maybe one day the boot will be on the other foot for Jase.
Haird was predictably unimpressed with the manner of his exit from the race and I somehow doubt that Taber’s load up for causing the incident provided much consolation. Mind you, as a load up means you lose all places gained at a meeting, and the two days of speed weekend are counted as one meeting, that means Gavin shouldn’t have qualified for the World Final in the first place and therefore couldn’t have been out there to do anything to get loaded up. Erm….
Later in the day, I was party to an interesting conversation between Haird and Carl Boardley. The two men were amiably discussing the irony of Chris having won in 2010 after Carl had lost what would have been win number five when he hit a spun car, and now Chris had lost another ‘certain’ win in very similar circumstances. The heartening thing about it was that both of them said if they weren’t going to win, the guy they would have most liked to win instead, did.
Of course, this was the first ever World Final – indeed, I think I’m reasonably safe in saying the first ever race on a Spedeworth track – where betting was officially allowed. Do we approve of this? Well, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to say otherwise, as I first suggested it to various members of the Eaton family over twenty years ago and again a couple of times since. I was just thinking of it as a way to bring the sport to the attention of more people who wouldn’t normally give it a second glance, or indeed, probably even have heard of it. I was always told it was impractical or unworkable, but it now seems that this no longer the case, and fair play to Mark Butler, DW and Betfred for giving it a go. Whether it will have the effects I was originally hoping for remains to be seen. It certainly had the effect of costing me a fiver each way on Kym Weaver, who I couldn’t resist at 40/1, but I reckon it raised the interest level for all concerned, and certainly for one of the Christie clan who apparently took rather a lot of money back to Ulster on a well-planned accumulator!
Finally, although I realise I’m only echoing what so many others (including our illustrious webmaster) have already said, I thought the stadium was looking great and you can see it will look even greater before too much longer. There can be no clearer evidence of Deane’s commitment to the sport than the amount of money, time and effort he’s pouring into Foxhall and it shows. On top of that (and despite insiders telling me about a few glitches I wouldn’t otherwise have known about) I thought the whole weekend was even more superbly organised than usual, with ‘Christer’s Army’ working flat out from start to finish. I’m sure Nick would have been proud of you all.
Sunday Support Races
World Final “Revenge” race
Considerably fewer cars were ready to take this on than had started the World but no doubt many of them hadn’t recovered from problems encountered in the main event. I heard, for example, that Danny Fiske had depressed his clutch pedal and had it stick down at the floor, which wouldn’t have been exactly conducive.
Adam Maxwell (pole) and John vd Bosch shared the front row and it was the Dutchman who got a fabulous launch at the green and set off in the lead. This wasn’t going all that far though, as Mark Heatrick, Hunn and Moss all went spinning between turns three and four, one of them having dumped some oil by the look of it. Maxwell was able to relieve vd Bosch of the lead while that was going on but the yellows were soon deemed necessary for a bit of a clear up.
Maxwell carried on right where he’d left off at the resumption but vd Bosch ran wide, allowing Burtenshaw and Gomm through.
But most of the action in this was further back, where Sibbald was battling to hold onto sixth spot and quite successfully too, although he was being blue flagged and there was a queue of cars building up behind the Scot. Stewart Doak, Gavin Murray, Christie and Murphy were the ones who eventually moved up to break this log jam, with Murphy looking like he had a point to make as he took to the outside and zipped past the new World champion along the back straight!
The guys up front were too far ahead to be bothered by any of this, Maxwell collecting another win ahead of Burtenshaw, Gomm and Martin.
Best in Britain
A drawn grid for this, the only race of the weekend to mix World qualifiers and support racers, and when said draw placed Bell on the second row, that did look like something of a foregone conclusion as regards the winner.
But outside front row man McReynolds tried very hard indeed to take the lead from pole sitter Lehec at the off, without success. In fact his big effort only served to let Bell get past him on the inside, the now-former World champ wasting no time going by Lehec as well down the inside of the back straight. That obviously left the order as Bell, Lehec and McReynolds, and once they’d settled down that was probably exactly the order they’d have stayed in for the duration but for a late race yellow.
Before that though, there was still plenty to watch. Fiske was making good progress until he retired. Gomm caught up with McReynolds and got him under a bit of pressure, while behind them Doak and Gavin Murray had a good dice, eventually resolved in Murray’s favour. That allowed Gavin to try and pass Neil Stimson, and left Doak to face up to Christie instead.
That late yellow came about when Murphy and Garrett got together crossing the start/finish, the impact sending the Irishman spinning down the barriers and making an alarming series of bangs as he went. Race control was obviously hoping Shane might be able to move from where he ended up just beyond the pit gate but, when he didn’t, out came the yellows.
Despite there being three backmarkers between the leaders and his placemen, this was clearly a chance for a radical shake up to the order for the rest, and Gomm shot past the slowing McReynolds at the green, taking Lehec as well in a superb start. McReynolds was soon to retire while Bell rapidly extended his lead to a quarter of lap, making his win look pretty much assured. Second place was quite another matter, where Gomm’s great start hadn’t managed to keep him much in front of the pack, Lehec, Murray and Christie swarming all over him as a heck of a tussle developed with five to go.
Murray hauled himself up the outside, he and Colin racing side by side for the best part of three laps before Gavin finally made second his. Stimson retired from sixth, giving Doak a chance to get involved in the closing seconds with Gomm and Christie. They took the last lap board with Gomm still hanging onto third, only for Doak and Christie to tangle along the back straight, putting the pair of them out almost in sight of the flag. That confirmed Gomm’s third spot and handed fourth back to Lehec as a small reward for a well driven race in some very quick company.
Support Cars Heat One:
Support Cars Heat Two:
Support Cars Final (“Wildcard” race):
World Final “Revenge” (reversed grid)
Best in Britain Final
966 dropped two places for contact in heat one.
130 dropped four places for two separate incidents of contact in heat one.
555 disqualified from World Final and loaded up for contact with 92.Note that all results & penalties are subject to official confirmation.