25 years on and still producing great racing
In the beginning was the word, and the word was Club100. Back in 1993 the series consisted of a six round championship at Buckmore Park. Roll forward 25 years and there are multiple sprint, endurance and hybrid series, as well as a number of satellite championships, all over the country and abroad. Its competitiveness, friendliness and capacity to accommodate all levels of experience and ability have made it one of the most popular karting championships in the country. The 25 year anniversary race took drivers right back to how things were in the early days of the club when there were just two weight classes – heavyweight and lightweight. The days when just qualifying for an A final was an achievement. Of course back before the days when people were told that big is beautiful, the minimum weight for the lights was just 72kg and the heavies was 80kg. The 78kg and 90kg respectively, and inclusion of a super heavyweight class for this race is just a sign of the times I guess. It was great to see some faces from the old days making an appearance; the likes of Simon and Paul Lloyd, Paul Williams, Trevor Randall, Marc Craddock, Kevin Coombes, Dave Pethers, Steve Townsend, Andy Cowell and some ugly lanky bloke whose name escapes me now. It was good to hear Jel Dart’s “drivers, I need pushers at the back here. Come on drivers I need two pushers behind each kart” loudly over the tannoy again. A cameo from Steve Dart, Russ Pittingale and Big Mick would have made it perfect. Anyway, before I get too nostalgic and misty eyed, let’s talk about the races. Certainly from where I was sitting the heats were relatively clean. I’m sure some drivers would disagree with that but there seemed to be fewer collisions and general banditry in the heats than I remember. Perhaps this was because there was no Vince or Martin Bond to wipe everyone out, and no Dave Lewis to swivel his head 360 degrees and laser the other drivers with his infamous death stare. With 22 drivers failing to qualify for the Heavyweight B final, there was a lot of pressure as only the top 4 would be promoted. It was a surprise to see Kevin Coombes and Simon Lloyd in this heat but they monopolised the front row of the grid. Coombes led for the first couple of laps before being passed by Lloyd. From there, Lloyd proceeded to pull out a gap. Coombes was starting to come under increasing pressure from Declan Stansfield, the latter making a move stick on lap 4. Super heavyweight driver Fabian Jones was holding his own in fourth place and behind him, the field split into several groups, all groups running closely nose to tail. Back at the front and it was an easy win for Simon Lloyd. The final margin over Stansfield was nearly six seconds. Coombes was less than a second behind in third and Fabian Jones took the final spot on the A final grid in fourth. Steve Brown was on pole for the Heavyweight A final. Looking at him, it’s hard to believe he’s a heavyweight but as a top elite sprint driver he was going to be hard to beat. A great set of heats saw Jamie French claim second spot on the grid, with Jack Harding looking menacing in third and Steven Downes in fourth. The 26 kart grid filed round the first corner in good order. Harding nailed French on the opening lap. Miguel Hall and Paul Railston also had a good opening lap and made up places. The big movers Wayne Dunham, Simon Lloyd and Declan Stansfield who all moved up an epic eight places on the opening lap. Back at the front and the top two were nose to tail with Steve Brown fending off the constant presence of Harding. They pulled a comfortable gap over the rest of the field; Jamie French succumbing to the pressure of Miguel Hall and Steven Downes, and dropping to fifth. James Taylor was an early retirement, complaining of top-end gremlins. Dave Pethers would also call it a day on lap 6 after a coming together with Wayne Dunham saw him fall to the back of the pack and receive an 8 place penalty for his efforts. Things were beginning to heat up at the front; Steve Brown and Jack Harding battling wheel to wheel and passing each other multiple times. Miguel Hall had fallen away from the leading pack by this stage and Downes had broken away from Jamie French and Matt Isherwood, who were battling hard. Simon Lloyd continued his epic drive from the back of the grid and was in the top 10 by lap ten. Jack Harding had retaken the lead with three laps to go and managed to hold on, beating Steve Brown by just over two tenths of a second, setting fastest lap in the process. A well deserved third place went to Steven Downes. The super fatty win went to Harry King. He finished twelfth overall and two places ahead of Stuart Germon, who took second ahead of paul Williams. The Lightweight B final saw Billy Robson claim pole position. Jonah Barker was second with old boy Glenrooooy Beard third. Andy Cowell was back in sixth but would certainly be one to watch. Billy Robson held the lead around the opening lap and Beard nipped into second. Jonah Barker was the big loser at the start and dropped three places as he struggled being on the outside line into turn 1. Despite losing places at the start, Mutley was soon on a charge and was in the top four qualifying zone by lap five. Jonah Barker was also on a recovery drive after his slow start and these two soon started carving their way through the leading karts. With only a couple of laps to go, Mutley took the lead and Barker followed him home in second. Billy Robson held on for third but it was an amazing drive from grid 29 that saw Michael Houghton claim the final spot in the A final. If the increased weight limits wasn’t enough of a sign of the times, an all female front row for the Lightweight A final certainly was. Rhianna Purcocks taking pole from BUKC stalwart Jessica Alexander. Pete O’Connor was third with the most successful Club100 driver in history, Marc Craddock, fourth and clearly suffering with fatigue after so long out of it. Other names to look out for were Daz Teal in sixth, Jay Elliott in eighth and Rich Higham in ninth. Penalties saw both Shaun Hollingsworth and Eddie Hall out of position in thirteenth and fifteenth respectively. A great start saw Pete O’Connor snatch the lead on the opening lap. Robert Newman also made a great start from grid five to slot into second. A chaotic first lap saw Daz Teal off. Jay Elliott was also on the move and gained four places to slot into fourth position. Jessica Alexander lost out and dropped to seventh, receiving an eight place penalty for the incident with Teal. The mid field was the usual bumping and barging with Shaun Hollingsworth and Eddie Hall both suffering at the hands of bandits and losing several places. Andy Cowell parked it early; the effort of having raced from the B final having probably killed him. Back at the front and O’Connor was gradually increasing the gap to Robert Newman. Jay Elliott was once again on the move and took third from Purcocks. After dropping several places at the start, Jessica Alexander was slowly working back towards the sharp end but was too far off the leading three. Craddock was doing well to hang on in sixth. While the midfield were continuing to rub the plastic off each others’ bumpers, the race settled down at the front and it was Pete O’Connor who crossed the line to take a fine win. Newman came home nearly two seconds behind in second and Jay Elliot took the final spot on the podium. Although Alexander was classified fourth, the earlier penalty dropped her to eleventh. This promoted Purcocks to fourth and Craddock completed the top five. So congratulations to all the winners and commiserations to those who had less than successful days. Regardless of the result, it was a fun day and a great way to celebrate a quarter of a century of the best karting in the world.