Clubman Sprint Championship, 2014 – Rd.2

Barely a month after an exciting and compelling start to the 2014 season, it was time for another quick trip to Kent as Bayford Meadows took centre stage for Round 2.

The 1100m-long circuit is one that is loved and loathed in equal measure by drivers. With a series of fast-flowing corners and slower, mid-speed infield sections, the Sittingbourne track offers one of the most technical challenges to drivers and is a regular fixture on the calendar. Amazingly, more clear and sunny skies enveloped the Kent landscape as another dry and near-perfect day for racing presented itself. Having a completely dry start to any Club100 Championship is a rarity, so two back-to-back rounds in Kent with not so much as a spot of rain in the air must be something of a first!

The grid sizes were looking in very healthy shape yet again with all the main players from Round 1 back to do battle for the honours. Coming into Round 2 level on points at the top of the standings, Steve Brown and Lee Clackett would be looking to get the edge over one another and pull out an advantage to enhance their Championship prospects. Steven Crutchley showed plenty of pace and promise at Buckmore Park and would be hoping for another strong showing here, whilst Anwar Beroual-Smith would fancy his chances at a track where he normally runs very well. With the entire entry list from Round 1 back for another crack, the grid saw an increase of no fewer than four fresh faces for this round. James Childe, Chris Lewis Evans, James Pargeter and Gerard Moore all join the mix and add yet more competitiveness to an already strong lineup. Could any of these new faces come to prominence and ruffle a few feathers amongst the early Championship pace-setters? You certainly couldn’t rule it out.

Heats

Heat 1 saw one of the above mentioned new faces take the spoils as Gerard Moore did well to convert his Pole position into a race win. He held it steady and kept the competition at arm’s distance to cross the line half a second ahead of 2nd-placed Justin Buck. Jose Soler earned a hard-fought 3rd to get his day off to a solid start, whilst Stephen Jennings did well to come through from 8th on the grid to seal 4th across the finish line. Some great performances saw a handful of drivers make storming progress in this first race. Most notable was Beroual-Smith, who carved his way through the field brilliantly from 21st on the grid to claim 8th, just behind Championship rival Lee Clackett, who himself had come through strongly from 15th. Chris Brown was another driver making an impression, taking 11th after having made up eight places from 19th overall. Paul Jennings was the only man penalised in this race, being handed a 1-place penalty for cone abuse. Heat 2 saw Championship leader Steve Brown back on top as he fought past Lee Hackett and Pole-man James Pargeter to snatch victory from 3rd on the grid. He was pushed all the way by Beroual-Smith, however, as the 2013 Heavyweight Champion produced another storming drive from 8th on the grid to take 2nd with barely 0.2secs separating them. Lee Hackett was further down the road as he crossed the line in 3rd, with Pargeter and Sharman completing the top 5. Clackett again made up a few positions but was further down the order in 9th. It was proving to be a bit of a frustrating start to James Reveler’s day. Two uninspiring heats for the 2013 Lightweight Champion were dampened further when he was given 1 and 4-place demotions in heat 2 for multiple indiscretions. Danny Hurlock and Chris Brown were also on the receiving end of the race steward’s wrath, being handed 2-place and 4-place penalties respectively.

Final 1

After excelling in the two heats, Pole position was the reward for Anwar Beroual-Smith as he prepared to lead out the rest of the pack in the first of the main events. Alongside him would be Lee Clackett, whilst Lee Hackett and Paul Jennings would start from row 3. Stephen Jennings and Jose Soler took 5th and 6th. Crutchley and Chris Brown would be looking to make up some early ground from row 4, whilst Championship leader Steve Brown would have his work cut out from 15th. The start was the typical frenetic affair and as Beroual-Smith held the lead, the chaos ensued behind him. Hackett made great use of the inside line to immediately oust Paul Jennings from 3rd, whilst Crutchley made a great start to carve his way through into 4th. It wasn’t such a nice start for Chris Brown, however. As the pack came flooding through turn 2, Brown found himself muscled out and straight into the tire wall on the exit. He was able to keep it going, but the huge loss of speed meant that he was powerless to prevent the following drivers from breezing past him on the run down to Hairpin 1. The incident cost him dearly and by the end of the lap he found himself way down in 22nd. Carl Watt and Stuart Kirk also went dancing over the grass at Hairpin 1 as the remainder of the field attempted to navigate their way through the corners whilst still jostling for track position. As the drivers came round to begin lap 2, there was little to separate the front four as Clackett, Hackett and Crutchley looked to put the pressure on the race leader. Behind them, plenty of scraps were still taking place and the Jennings brothers were in the thick of it. Paul attempted to launch one up the inside of Stephen at Hairpin 2, but the move was unsuccessful and allowed Gerard Moore in. The latter never takes any prisoners and he made his presence felt, muscling Paul Jennings out wide through the left kink. Both lost momentum and James reveller took full advantage to jump the pair of them. Reveler then quickly turned his attentions to Jose Soler ahead of him. It didn’t take him long to steal 6th from the Columbian, making a great move at turn 1 stick. Stephen Jennings was next and a rapid-looking Reveler soon had his man, diving to the inside at Hairpin 1 to climb into 5th. Soler was just behind and also attacked Jennings going into Turn 5 to demote the latter to 7th.

As the race progressed, the front four were well and truly clear of the squabbling pack behind. Beroual-Smith was still having to ward off Clackett, who in turn was being kept busy by Hackett and Crutchley. The gap to 5th-placed Reveler was out to 3secs by the start of lap 4, however with clear air he could now set about trying to reel in the leaders. Behind him, the Jennings brothers were still tussling over family bragging rights as the battle over 6th intensified. Stephen Jennings made a move on Soler but a sloppy exit out of Turn 2 gave Paul Jennings a great opportunity to out-drag his brother down to Hairpin 1. The position was his, and just a few corners later he’d also snatched 6th as he dived up the inside of Soler into the long left-hander at Turn 6. The following lap saw things getting worse for Stephen Jennings as James Childe came rushing through with a clean move at Hairpin 1 for 8th, placing the former well and truly in the firing line of both Danny Hurlock and Justin buck. Further back, Russell Endean was busy making progress through the field as he forced his way past Gallagher at Turn 1 before disposing of Moore with ease for 14th. Behind them, Chris Brown was busy trying to chase down Myles Sharman for 17th, whilst Carl Watt was locked in a scrap with James Pargeter and Luke Cousins. The three men fought hard through the hairpins but Watt held firm to cling on to 19th. Mark Burrell found himself losing out to Nigel Proctor as the two men fought it out over 24th. Attentions soon returned to Stephen Jennings who was clearly lacking pace in his kart. He fell victim to yet more overtaking manoeuvres as both Hurlock and Buck came past, the latter diving through at Hairpin 1. Before long, Endean was also through and Jennings found himself down to 12th. Jennings continued to drop down the order like the proverbial stone and was also usurped by Steve Brown and Mitchison just 1 lap later through Turn 1. It proved an even more sour affair for Martin Gurnett as his race was cut premature thanks to a mechanical problem, forcing him to retire at the end of lap 6. Further back, the order was still constantly shuffling and it was now Chris Brown making moves as he found a way through on a scrappy Moore at Turn 5, before following that up with a dive up the inside of Gallagher at Turn 6 to take 16th. Behind them Carl Watt had succumbed to heavy pressure, allowing Pargeter, Cousins and Bodnar to oust him from 19th.

As the race neared it’s conclusion, things were still looking delicately poised at the front. Beroual-Smith was keeping things tidy as he continued to lead from Clackett, with the gap creeping out to 0.5secs. Hackett was now applying heavy pressure to Clackett, with Crutchley menacingly poised behind them. Reveler appeared unable to close that gap and remained almost 3secs adrift of the leading quartet, whilst opening a healthy gap to Paul Jennings in 6th. Finally a move came at the front, with Lee Hackett launching himself to the inside of Clackett at Turn 1. He couldn’t hold the line though and Clackett was smart enough to cut back underneath him and reclaim 2nd on the run down to Turn 2. Hackett tried to dive in again but couldn’t pull it off and now allowed Crutchley to latch on to the back of his kart. Before long, Crutchley was through and held the move to climb into the podium positions. As the drivers came through to begin the penultimate lap, it promised to be an exciting end to the race. Behind them, Hurlock pulled off a smart move to take 8th from Childe at Turn 2. Steve Brown was also moving forwards as he executed a well-timed move at Hairpin 2 on Justin Buck to climb into 11th. Stephen Jennings then proceeded to lose yet more positions, this time conceding 14th to Myles Sharman and then 15th to Chris Brown. At the back of the pack, Chris Lewis Evans got one over Nigel Proctor when he held a move to take possession of 26th. As the final lap board came out, all eyes were firmly on the leading quartet as they remained in close proximity. The exchanges on the preceding laps had afforded Beroual-Smith some breathing space and he was now looking odds-on for the win, barring any uncharacteristic mistakes. There was next to nothing between the other three though. As they came through the corners for the final time, no one seemed to be able to create any openings to really attack. It all ended rather unspectacularly and with no dramas. Beroual-Smith took the chequered flag to secure a deserved win, whilst Clackett held off Crutchley as the pair followed in 2nd and 3rd. Hackett missed out on a top-3 place but completed an excellent drive to take 4th, well clear of Reveler who finished off a lonely race in 5th. Paul Jennings, Jose Soler and Danny Hurlock soon came through to complete the top 8. There were one or two late moves further down the order though. Luke Cousins made a last-ditch move on Moore at Hairpin 1 to snatch 18th, whilst Stuart Kirk found himself losing out on 25th to Chris Lewis Evans just a few corners before the finish line. Oh and of course there was just enough time for Stephen Jennings to give away another position as Gallagher fought past him to clinch 16th. An exclusion for Myles Sharman saw him dispossessed of 14th, with the rest of the order promoted as a result. Chris Brown was the only other recipient of a penalty, taking a 2-place deduction to further dampen an already disappointing Final.

Final 2

With fastest laps determining the order for Final 2, it was Beroual-Smith taking charge from Pole again as the opportunity for a double win presented itself. Alongside him, James Reveler would be looking to take the fight to him whilst the duo of Hackett and Clackett lined up on row 2 in that order. Paul Jennings would go from 5th, whilst Steven Crutchley would be hoping for another great start, albeit this time from the outside in 6th. As the race leader dropped the hammer, Reveler wasted little time in darting to the inside in an attempt to dive through for the lead at Turn 1. Beroual-Smith was wise to it though and held off the 2013 Lightweight Champion to retain his lead. Clackett was able to get the better of Hackett to spring into 3rd, whilst behind them Crutchley was again making hay early on and battled past Paul Jennings to move into 5th, with Hurlock following him through from 8th on the grid. Mark Burrell and Jamie Bird were the victims of the usual lap 1 mayhem as both men collided and went spinning off at Hairpin 1. Towards the back of the pack, Mike Bodnar found himself on the back foot and losing positions after being shoved out wide through the long-right hander at Turn 7. The start of the next lap saw yet more action as both James Childe and Jose Soler barged past Steve Brown at Turn 1. With his exit compromised, Brown was helpless to prevent Justin Buck tearing past on the run down to Turn 2. It didn’t end there though as Soler went in too hot and clipped the back of Childe’s kart at that corner. The Columbian lost revs and Buck nipped past, stealing 11th in the process. Further down the order, Carl Watt was moving forwards and got the better of both Gurnett and Sharman to climb into 18th. Bodnar was also fighting back and forced his way past Moore to retake 22nd. Attentions quickly returned to the leaders though for the start of lap 3. Beroual-Smith had opened up a slight gap to the chasing pack, but it was Reveler coming under the most pressure. Clackett was all over the back of him and a better exit from the Bus Stop gave him the perfect opportunity to strike. As they came over start/finish, Clackett launched himself through to the inside at Turn 1 and held the move to take 2nd. Reveler slotted back in behind, wary of Hackett who was now sniffing all over the rear bumper in search of a way through. Things then remained delicately poised as the pack maintained their charge. At the back of the pack, Alex Mitchison and Stuart Kirk were doing battle over 24th, and, despite the latter’s best efforts through the hairpins, Mitchison held the spot.

As the race settled down, attentions remained firmly on the front of the pack. Beroual-Smith was still leading, however Clackett looked like a man on a mission and had closed the gap down to start applying the pressure. Beroual-Smith knew he’d now have a race on his hands but looked composed and was driving faultlessly to make the task a tough one for the former Premier driver. Behind them, Reveler was coming under all sorts of pressure from Hackett and he finally succumbed when he ran wide on the exit of Turn 1, gifting Hackett the chance to out-drag him down to Turn 2 and snatch 3rd in the process. Crutchley was now lurking in behind and looking to carve out an opportunity, with Hurlock also within touching distance. Justin Buck and Steve Brown were slugging it out over 12th and the latter almost took it through Hairpin 1. Buck kept his foot in though and held on through Hairpin 2 to remain ahead. Further back, Stephen Jennings was again slipping backwards as Luke Cousins came through to snatch 15th, whilst Mitchison and Kirk were now working in unison to force their way through on Gerard Moore for 23rd and 24th. The following lap saw the order stay the same, with no one able to gain any ground. By the end of lap 5, Clackett was all over the back of Beroual-Smith and pushing hard to force a mistake. A good run out of the Bus Stop almost gave him an opportunity going into Turn 1, but Clackett thought better of it and continued to follow. Ensuring a good drive out of Turn 1, Clackett tucked in behind and then dived out on the entry to Turn 2, lunging to the inside and stealing the lead with a great move. Beroual-Smith had no answer to that and was forced to slot in behind. Could he fight back and re-claim the lead? Hackett was right on their tails and looking to join the party as things were beginning to develop nicely for the closing stages. Further back, things were spilling over as Pargeter muscled his way past Carl Watt at Turn 6. Running wide through the long left-hander, Watt was unwilling to surrender any further positions and it all turned sour when Sharman, Gallagher and Gurnett tried to come through. Contact on the following right-hander resulted in both Sharman and Gurnett falling off track and out of contention, with Sharman eventually forced to retire his kart at the end of the lap. More drama was unfolding at the front as Beroual-Smith went on the offensive and pulled a great move to take control of the race once more. With the front pair fighting, the rest of the pack had been allowed to close back up and a long train of eight karts had formed, with Russell Endean at the back of it, just 1.5secs behind the leader. Jose Soler found himself losing out to Buck after a clean move from the latter earned him 11th.

As the race entered the final stages, Beroual-Smith continued to hold off the challenge from behind. Hackett was now taking the fight to Clackett and he got his reward after diving to the inside at Turn 6 to claim 2nd. Further back, intense fighting between Steve Brown and Luke Cousins saw the Championship leader forced out and onto the dirty stuff at the exit of Turn 5, costing him places. Cousins was also compromised and the pair suffered as a result, with several drivers tearing past. Unable to regain their rhythm through the following corners, Brown and Cousins continued fighting and tumbled down the order, with Jose Soler also falling off track at the Bus Stop after they’d attempted to go through the preceding corners three-abreast. Things were really kicking off throughout the grid and attentions returned to the front as Crutchley found himself mugged by Hurlock and under severe pressure from Paul Jennings. He held it together though to hang on to 6th behind Hurlock. As the penultimate lap came, Clackett was back on the offensive and soon found a way back ahead of Hackett to re-take 2nd. Despite all the mayhem behind him, Beroual-Smith was unable to pull clear and remained very much within the firing line of the men directly behind him. With numerous position changes and scraps developing throughout the order, it was impossible to make heads or tails of most of it. Stephen Jennings had managed to make a couple of positions up and ousted Lewis Evans to climb into 12th. Carl Watt also made a move on Gallagher to demote the latter to 16th in a ferocious battle in the mid-order. As the last lap board came out, Beroual-Smith stayed under heavy pressure but he remained cool as a cucumber and held Clackett at arm’s distance. He led them through as he crossed the line to make it 2 wins out of 2 and maximum points for the day. Clackett remained 2nd, whilst Hackett followed him home in 3rd. Reveler was just behind them as he steered his kart over the line for 4th. Hurlock and Crutchley followed to complete the top 6. More pandemonium ensued in the mid-pack as Fred Gallagher scrapped with Bodnar and Watt. Gallagher was forced off onto the grass on the exit of Hairpin 2 and lost positions as a result, dropping back to an eventual 18th. Carl Watt sneaked in a late move on Pargeter to snatch 14th at the death. Unsurprisingly, all the carnage during this race meant several penalties were dished out. Jose Soler, Steve Brown and Mark Burrell were all excluded for their parts in the chaos, whilst Paul Jennings was handed a 4-place penalty for a misdemeanour of his own.

So back to back wins and maximum points ensures a memorable day for Beroual-Smith, in which he drove flawlessly throughout and held off some stiff competition. The undisputed overall winner of the weekend now climbs up to 2nd in the Championship standings, just 2 points shy of new Championship leader Lee Clackett. The veteran driver took two 2nd-place finishes that on another day could quite easily have been wins. He continues to show why he is everyone’s favourite for the title, although he certainly has some stiff competition on his hands. 3rd in the standings after another impressive and solid points haul is Steven Crutchley, with James Reveler and Lee Hackett rounding out the current top 5 after 2 rounds. Steve Brown had a day to forget and has dropped down the standings due to the disqualification in Final 1. He now has his work cut out if he is to get back up amongst the leaders and it’ll be interesting to see if he has what it takes to recover from this early set back. Next up is Whilton Mill after the mini-break. The Northamptonshire track always offers great racing and entertainment and is a favourite amongst drivers. No doubt the Clubman Class will give us plenty to talk about when the Season resumes for Round 3, with loads more twists and turns still to come.

Driver of the Day

There can only be one undisputed winner for the accolade this weekend. Anwar Beroual-Smith drove exceptionally and was too good for the rest as he completed a double here at Byaford Meadows. Even when it looked like he might get beaten in Final 2, he showed that he had plenty left in reserve and remained composed to see out the job. If he can continue producing performances like this, people may soon have to start re-evaluating their favourite for the title. Impressive stuff from the 2013 HW Champion, although it really shouldn’t come as any great surprise. Big thumbs up to both Clackett and Hackett also after putting on a great show and earning themselves big scores to add to their Championship efforts. If this carries on, we’re sure to have one hell of a Championship battle on our hands!