Changes? Yet Titan Motorsport Still Come Through.

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If the spell was broken at Buckmore Park, you might think it slightly odd to suggest that Titan’s win may have been flukey, and not just a return to form. Well it was by no means certain, it wasn’t their usually strategy either, and as we reach mid season, more or less, preseason hopes and aspirations have now met with reality. Jack O’Neill’s Titan Motorsport knocked into a spin with 40mins to go, much to the consternation of their pit wall, Martin O’Neill, “this was an incredibly unusual situation, as I can’t remember the last time Jack crashed on circuit.” And at this point a surprisingly rapid Tom Szwed and Max Kenney as cLunge Racing were on for, based on results to date, an unexpected Premier Class win, while Buckmore Park winners Team Applewood were on the lead lap, just, but not close enough to challenge, Alex Pritchard, “We’d had a great and smooth run ourselves, perhaps not the fastest out there, I think we could have made some more time strategically but ultimately it wouldn’t have changed the result. We have identified time we can gain in our strategy that can keep us in the title run. Realistically it would be nigh on impossible not to finish 2nd now with how the championship is structured, especially in our current form.” Indeed Titan’s championship lead is only 25points, but in truth that is a lot of points, in a slightly shrunken top class. It was not to be cLunge’s day, at least not if it was win or bust, O’Neill again, “with 20 minutes to go, Jacks unrelenting pace, plus a remaining pit stop, a slick stop would have been enough to set up a grandstand finish, however cLunge’s last stop had them emerge a few seconds behind, and barring any other unwanted incidents the race was ours.”

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The word, or rather the name, around Clubman Class is Speedscreen, finishing 4th on the road overall and first in class 15secs clear of JK Rolling, who are always near or top, and DDMM Barnstormers, winner Tim Hill reporting, “I actually did play my part today!  I started, held 1st in Clubman for a while, also made some gains on the Prems. Andy Ward in Barnstormers got passed me and so JK Rolling, and after 50 mins I’d kept 3rd and then changed to Dickie [Allen]. On the back of some lightning pit fuel stops and we jumped DDMM, passed JK on circuit”. Something of Rye House specialists, it was an uptick in DDMM Barnstormers form, Andy Mather, “Keys to our race was traffic and pit stops. And our pit stops weren’t great. A really enjoyable race, and great to be mixing it up at the front of the class.” In terms of the championship Speedscreen have moved to within 15 points of JK Rolling, with an absent Auditing Armageddon, and a chance of a title for Hill if he can stay fit, “I did heat one [of Sunday Sprints] and had to retire, I’m in bloody agony thanks to a big pot hole at Pylon, it’s done my back in again. Same place!” As father of membership, and sole gold card member, he just doesn’t know when to stop. In Clubman Championship terms, Conman Racing are 3rd, Ben Chapman, “One to forget for us today”, they head All Torque, and DDMM Barnstormers in what looks like a three cornered scrap over 4th and 5th place championship trophies.

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Into Intermediate Class, a surprise win, in a nice way, given that they have been there or thereabouts with top 5s for Team JAWS, which moves them into 3rd place overall 120points (they missed a round) off championship leaders James Johnstone’s The Three Swans, but only 25points behind Brillio (also with a nil points score to drop), which led to James pumping me for information about championship dropped scores post race, “we had the spark plug die on us [mid race, or else] we would have won I reckon… Brillio fell off the boil and we were in front of the JAWS who won.” There’s no secret to drop scores come round 9, 8 best results from 11, Brillio will drop their exclusion to be either ahead or behind The Three Swans.

Qualifying

Formula None set the first lap time at 44.27, 10metres behind James Johnstone put Three Swans on top with 44.18 but behind him both Two and Half Men and J2D2 also went quicker, and even Chris Alcock for Applewood next across the line with 43.125 was only a brief stay before Jack O’Neill moved Titan to provisional pole with 43.07, to make the order Titan, Applewood, Ramunas Cerkauskas, Scuderia Bandito, CKS Throatpunchers, cLunge Racing, Team JAWS, Wait This Isn’t a Simrig?, All Torque and Lucid Initiatives as the top ten. 

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Lap 2 saw little movement Ministry of Speed moved into P7 and Dickie Allen moved Speedscreen into P10, pushing out All Torque. Then with 4 laps in the books, O’Neil have moved pole position to under 43secs, and Darren Teal’s Ministry had moved on to the front row, JAWS pushed Applewood further back to P4, cLunge, Cerkauskas and Throatpunchers were ahead of Joe Holmes in G3 Pro, All Torque and Matt Wileman for the Bandito. At half way Teal briefly knocked O’Neill off the top spot as Jack continued to knock a tenth off each lap, so then returned to top of the page with 42.7, with Applewood moving back into P3. Wileman hit a good one to join Alcock on row 2, to give the timing a familiar red hue of Premier Class, before being replaced on row 2 by Tom Szwed for cLunge, picking up his pace, Holmes was 5th, and Allen in Speedscreen was leading Clubman in P6, and Team JAWS leading Inter in P7. Then Wileman moved into P5 soon to be P6 when Joe Holmes slid in ahead of Applewood for P3, then Wileman returned to put Bandito ahead of Szwed in cLunge, and on to P5. 

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Into the last 2mins, Holmes’ methodical and relentless inching a tenth here and there saw him move Teal off the front row to be less than a tenth off O’Neill on pole. Could Joe take pole position for G3 Pro? In short no, I’m not even sure if he hadn’t gone to pit lane. O’Neill responded anyway to squeeze a couple of hundredths off his time to a 42.665 where there was no more time to be had. With time running out Szwed put cLunge on grid 3, raising a few eyebrows, that they’d lucked into a really good kart, Ministry of Speed would have to settle for 4th on the grid, ahead of Alcock for Applewood and Wileman for Bandito on row 3. Andy Ward had nailed his last lap to take the Clubman pole position away from Speedscreen on row 4, Palatinate Racing and Ramunas Cerkauskas, the latter soloing in Clubmans made up the top 10. Team JAWS took the Intermediate Class pole ahead of Wait This Isn’t A Simrig? on row 6. The Top 26 of the 33 team field were covered by less than 1secs, P3 through P17 by half a second, and P8 to P18 by only 3/10ths. It’s really competitive but you know that by now.

Race

In a major change to Titan Motorsport protocol, Mike Philippou would lead the line and also the line of karts, holding off Joe Holmes in G3 Pro, captain Alex Pritchard started Applewood moving into 3rd place, and Jordan Holmes for Ministry of Speed, ahead Tom Szwed staying in cLunge for the start, as was Matt Wileman for Scuderia Bandito, Andy Ward for DDMM Barnstormers, while Tim Hill came into Speedscreen, and as the came through in a long line Team JAWS made up the top ten, with Philippou and Holmes just edging clear. Wileman moved up and on to Hill in Ministry, if we were BTCC, I could colourfully metaphor about a lap of panel bashing between the two, to be fair I hear it reported as a one side affair culminating with a lunge up the inside of the last corner for gap that wasn’t there and Ministry taking their front bumper on the Bandito kart before heading to pit lane for repair and the end of Ministry of Speed. Barnstormers and Speedscreen moved up 2 places as Szwed went for the early pitstop.

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Although it wasn’t planned to get out of the carnage ahead, well it did, Max Kenney, “We’d decided to pit early doors in the race (great tactics from me), as I knew Tom had a bit more pace but couldn’t use it in the battles that were slowing him down, it got him into clean air and he just got his head down, to try to chase down Titan.” Titan were also playing a long game, “we were expecting a very tough race from any of the top 6. Mike was leading the field, but was content to let Joe  through into the lead on lap 4. We figured we could deal with G3 Pro later.” Holmes quickly broke the tow and moved clear. Ward pitted Barnstormers early, returned 7secs behind Szwed in cLunge as the leading early stopper, but that honour would not last long as Holmes brought G3 Pro to pit lane and returned in P15, 7secs ahead of Szwed. Philippou kept his lead at 2secs but rather than to Pritchard, it was to Wileman who’d moved Bandito to 2nd.

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On 15mins Philippou pitted and returned 5th, Scuderia Bandito responded on the next lap, Bandito pit work continues to be one of work in progress, Matt Wileman, “as I jumped back into the kart I dropped the fuel cap and it fell through the chassis of the kart so we spent a few seconds trying to find the bloody thing.” It cost them a proportion of the 10secs they were down then on Titan because Titan do very good first stops as well, and always. Philippou still had his 2secs lead, running in 4th, but now over Palatinate Racing, G3 Pro and cLunge Racing, and they were 9secs up the road from Wileman. Pritchard ran long into the window, not to great effect, and returned 6secs down and on to the nose Wileman pushing to make up time on track, which is always hard to do, when so much has been lost in the pit lane, but it set the pair up to battle for the remainder of the first hour.

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As the next fuel window opened, Titan’s lead was yo-yoing around 3-3.5secs with cLunge, G3 Pro had slipped away 6secs, and were soon to pit again, with a rapid Palatinate on their bumper and Wileman shaking off Pritchard in 6th. The Clubman Class started at P7 on the road, Ward leading at this point for Barnstormers, but from championship leaders JK Rolling, then Speedscreen, gap to  Cerkauskas, All Torque and Race Craft, 12th on the road. Brillio had fallen back, probably only having one driver making pit stops something of a crap shoot on trying to get a clear bowser, so The Three Swans’ Jasper Chamberlain, was leading Intermediates then in 15th place from Team JAWS.

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Szwed pitted again and returned 12th well clear of G3 Pro, a few laps later Titan covered them off with another stop and returned with a 3rd Philippou stint, his lead increasing from 1.4secs to 2.6secs, at least to begin with as Szwed was flying. This put Palatinate, Bandito and Applewood running in close company on the front, they peeled off and a took a turn on the front each as did DDMM Barnstormers in a rare nose bleeding, mark the date, lead on the road, for Ward. When Barnstormers pitted and returned behind Clubman leaders JK Rolling, it was not Titan on the front of the field but cLunge Racing’s Max Kenney, “we did, we’d caught them and Tom had passed Mike in traffic.” 12secs behind Mike Coppin was now onboard Applewood, with Wileman in behind, Palatinate just off. 

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Up front it was all about traffic management again with gaps rolling in and out by up to a second per lap, approaching mid race, Titan pitted from 2nd place, Martin O’Neill, “Great pace from Mike, and the usual no mistakes, no drama, we changed to Jack for the remaining hour, and the chase was on”, restarting in 5th, as this latest fuel window picked up with most pitting over the hour mark. Although Szwed left it late, Max Kenney coming in as the window closed. Their lead remained, 4.5secs over Jack O’Neill, 13secs ahead of Coppin, 9secs ahead Anwar Beroual Smith, annoyed after watching Wileman being held up by a very lapped Ministry of Speed, yet still 7secs ahead of Palatinate. JK Rolling were leading Clubmans in 6th, but only just, Dickie Allen onboard, and closing in in Speedscreen with DDMM Barnstormers not far behind but/and looking like 3rd step podium material, with Ramunas Cerkauskas 15secs behind and sure to fade in his ironman. Intermediates, once again Brillio were back in front 40secs clear of JAWS, as The Three Swans spark plug had by now let go on Tom Hollamby.

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Fuel window 4 opened, at which time Allen dispatched JK Rolling from the Clubman lead to go 6th in Speedscreen, a lead that would not be in doubt thereafter, Tim Hill “Richard was posting times at times quicker than all of those ahead, he’d pass Bandito and Palatinate before the finish for 4th overall.” When window 4 closed, Titan had beaten cLunge on pit road, but only just, and only to be passed by Kenney the next lap. Behind the pair finishing positions were beginning to firm up, with Bandito 9secs behind in 3rd, the time lost with the fuel cap at stop one, or maybe messed about by Ministry, the damage was done they were 10secs ahead of Chris Alcock running Applewood to the finish, but that would change, Palatinate were a further 13secs behind in 5th, beyond which the Clubman dice was following Hill’s narrative, driven on by Allen, maintaining the gap clear to fellow Clubmans JK Rolling, with Howard Mitchell running in solid fashion to the podium, but made to work for it, by a flagging, but trying not to show it Ramunas Cerkauskas, Andy Mather again, “Rasmunas ordered 4 bottles of water post race.”

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So the expected entertainment was left to the Kenney, O’Neill dice for the win, this took an unexpected turn, Martin Neill, “On the radio he was perplexed, not sure what had happened as he didn’t see or expect anything. Mike’s view was that as Jack took the racing approach to the 2nd apex, a kart behind took a tighter line and just went into the back corner of the Titan kart.” The gap was then over 6.5secs, and O’Neill had his work cut out, 10mins later the gap was down to 3.6secs, Max Kenney, “We knew it would be close to Titan, I expected to be defending on the last couple of laps [of the race] but saw them come out in front of us after the pit stops. Tom had decided to pit me early as soon as the window opened, trying to manage the traffic vs clear air, however I think we dropped 5 seconds, and no offence to the staff, they are always great, but we think we might have caught the refuellers off guard as the window had just opened.” They slotted in 3rd 22secs behind Titan, and Kenney pedalled for all he was worth, 7mins later O’Neill merged from pit lane with a 6secs lead, coming out of the final corner Max could see him heading up to turn 1, Martin O’Neill again, “A fantastic and impressive performance from cLunge today” but with another slick stop and Jack O’Neill and “the race was ours.” Alcock led for a few minutes pitted with 12mins to go and the rest you know.

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Clubman Class podium, latter day highwaymen, Winners Speedscreen, JK Rolling and DDMM Barnstormers

Titan, cLunge and Applewood on the Premier Class podium, Speedscreen 15secs ahead of championship leaders JK Rolling, to become their main competition perhaps for Clubman title? Maybe and a return to trophies for DDMM Barnstormers. Brillio were down to just one driver and lost by 5secs to Team JAWS, and Wait This Isn’t A Simrig? Yousuf drafting in Matt Horgan and Steve Lindley for extra speed. It worked. Your Intermediate Class podium.

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Intermediate Class Winner – Representing Team JAWS!

Words: Chris Simpson

Photography: John Patterson