Clubman Sprint Championship 2014, Rd.8

Introduction & Heats

With the business end of the 2014 season now beginning to play out, it was time for an eagerly anticipated return to Forest Edge as the Barton Stacey track hosted Round 8 of the Club100 Sprint Championships 2014. The inaugural trip to this fast and flowing track back in 2012 proved a big hit with drivers, so grids were predictably strong as the Club100 faithful returned to battle within the confines of the MOD-owned land.

The heats were well-contested, with a great battle ensuing in Heat 1 between two of this year’s main protagonists, Anwar Beroual-Smith and Lee Hackett. Both men got off to superb starts and quickly fought their way through the pack, rising from 7th and 10th on the grid respectively. The pair soon picked off pole-man Chris Lewis Evans before fighting it out for the win. Beroual-Smith came out on top, eventually taking maximum points by under 0.3secs from Hackett. Lewis Evans was 3secs down the road in 3rd, leading Myles Sharman and Stephen Jennings to complete the top 5. An impressive drive from Danny Hurlock saw him come through from 13th on the grid to seal a very handy 6th, whilst Steve Brown was another in good form as he claimed 8th after starting way back in 19th. New man Jamie Wheatley was taught a harsh lesson as he struggled to make any impact on the grid. He found himself well off the pace and would need to pick things up in Heat 2 after finishing 23rd.

Heat 2 saw Freddie Gallagher take a deserved win with relative ease. Starting 2nd, he quickly found a way past pole-man Wheatley, before pulling a comfortable lead and cruising to the chequered flag. Wheatley had another torrid race and fell off the track, dropping to the back of the pack as a result. Steven Crutchley took 2nd after coming through very well from 8th, with the impressive Steve Brown taking 3rd. Lee Hackett was outstanding in snatching 4th after having started back in 14th, with Paul Jennings another to have come through well from the back to take 7th ahead of his brother Stephen. A failed move by Peter Cowan saw him running wide at turn 2 and losing control of his kart, dropping him to last from 3rd on the grid. Penalties in this race were dished out to Hurlock, Chris Brown and Stuart Kirk, as well as a black flag for Justin Buck.

Final 1

After two great drives in the heats, Lee Hackett had done more than enough to secure Pole for Final 1. Championship rival Steve Crutchley lined up alongside in 2nd. Steve Brown and Stephen Jennings formed row 2, with Sharman and Beroual-Smith in 5th and 6th respectively. As the race got underway, Hackett immediately found himself under pressure from Crutchley who was able to get across to hold 2nd through the long right-hander, Haynes Loop. Great drive out of Ansons saw Crutchley get the run on the race leader and he snatched 1st into the Bus Stop chicane. Hackett now faced pressure from Steve Brown and the latter lunged in at Tollys, the final corner, promoting himself up to 2nd in the process. Further back, the usual tussles were taking place and Chris Brown had done well to sneak ahead of Beroual-Smith for 6th, whilst Ross Wheelaghan was able to get the better of Mark Burrell to snatch 14th. The rest of the order remained fairly unchanged as the first lap came and went. Lap 2 saw little action as the order remained unchanged. Steve Brown was looking pacey and was quickly advancing onto the rear bumper of Crutchley, with Hackett remaining in close proximity. Lap 3 saw drama unfold as the fight for 6th intensified. A move came at Midgets, with Beroual-Smith diving to the inside of Chris Brown at the top of the hill. Brown was left no room and was shoved out wide and over the grass, causing him to lose several positions before rejoining in 12th. Chris Lewis Evans profited as he rose to 7th, ahead of Endean and Gallagher. One lap later, eyes were on the leaders once again as Steve Brown made a daring move around the outside of Climate Corner for the lead. He held it well and forced himself to the inside for the final corner, taking the lead and giving Crutchley no room and forcing him wide. Hackett took advantage and stole 2nd, steaming past the helpless Crutchley. Lee Hackett was determined to get himself back in the lead and reclaimed it with a smart move into Climate Corner on the next lap, whilst Stephen Jennings added to Crutchley’s woes by ousting him from 3rd into Tollys. Behind them, Beroual-Smith now found himself up to 5th after finding a way past the combative Myles Sharman. A good fight was beginning to develop between Lewis Evans and Endean and the pair came over start/finish side by side to start lap 6. Endean had the inside line and made it stick into Haynes Loop, with Gallagher nearly finding a way through but unable to take 8th.

As the race progressed, things were beginning to get spicy in the fight for the lead. A mistake from Hackett at the Bus Stop saw him clatter into the tire barrier on the exit and nearly throw away the lead. Brown was unable to take advantage, but he wasn’t to be denied one lap later. He dived to the inside at the Bus Stop, however Hackett refused to yield. The pair nearly took each other out but somehow made it through the tight chicane unscathed. However Brown launched himself through and into the lead on the entry to Midgets, forcing Hackett wide and allowing Jennings to follow through into 2nd. Hackett then found himself under attack from Crutchley going into Climate Corner. The move never came though and Crutchley instead found himself losing out to Beroual-Smith at Tollys as lap 7 came to an end. It was all going mental as the pair had lost momentum, allowing Endean to come at them. He momentarily clawed himself up to 4th, but quickly fell back again after running wide out of Ansons. Beroual-Smith reclaimed 4th ahead of Lewis Evans, who came charging through and took both Endean and Crutchley. The following lap saw the dust settle slightly, with the only changes to the order being further down the list as Jose Soler took 10th from Jamie Bird and Paul Jennings ousted Hurlock from 13th. Soler was making slow progress and gained another position on the very next lap, taking Gallagher for 9th. With the mid-pack getting bunched up, lap 11 saw Soler getting squashed out after trying to find a way past Sharman. Gallagher was able to get back ahead of the Columbian, with Soler’s endurance team mate Chris Brown suffering yet more frustration as he was shoved out of 12th and pushed back to 15th. With the final lap board now out, things were looking good for race leader Steve Brown. Despite not having pulled away, he was maintaining a small gap to the chasing Stephen Jennings, who just wasn’t quite able to get close enough to have a go. Hackett and Beroual-Smith were right behind him and looking for a way through. It was kicking off behind them, however, as Endean looked for a way past Crutchley. The pair came out of Haynes Loop side by side, but Crutchley closed the door and pushed Endean wide on the subsequent left kink. Endean lost out and fell to 10th as a result. Further back, Ross Wheelaghan made a good move on Paul Jennings to snatch 13th at Haynes Loop. Hurlock lost out on 16th to Mike Bodnar, whilst Stuart Kirk stole 19th from Burrell late on. There were to be no dramas at the front, however, as Steve Brown came through to secure a hard fought win. Penalties for Stephen Jennings and Hackett saw them demoted from 2nd and 4th respectively, meaning it was Beroual-Smith taking 2nd ahead of Lewis Evans. Hackett was 4th, with Crutchley and Stephen Jennings completing the top 6.

Final 2

After having secured the fastest lap of the day in the heats, Steven Crutchley lined up on Pole for the last race of the day. Directly behind him in 2nd and 3rd were Championship rivals Lee Hackett and Anwar Beroual-Smith, whilst Paul Jennings took 4th. Russell Endean took 5th, alongside Chris Brown. Final 1 winner Steve Brown would be one to watch from 7th. As the race got underway, Crutchley held firm to preserve his lead despite what looked like a possible jump start from Lee Hackett as they crossed the start line. Beroual-Smith made the most of the inside line to snatch 2nd as Hackett was shown to the outside of Haynes Loop. Endean had a torrid start and fell back early on, dropping down to 12th and promoting Chris and Steve Brown into 5th and 6th respectively. As the drivers came up towards the Bus Stop, a good run out of the previous corner had enabled Peter Cowan to get up the inside of Danny Hurlock and take 7th. Justin Buck got caught up in a tangle on the exit of the Bus Stop and found himself shoved wide, causing him to fall back through the pack. As the order sorted itself out, more action was unfolding at the front on lap 2. A good exit out of Haynes Loop for Steve Brown enabled him to worm his way past Chris Brown, with Peter Cowan then making the most of the latter being out of line into Ansons and subsequently out-dragging him on the back straight. By the time they’d reached the Bus Stop, Cowan was through and Chris Brown had slipped back to 7th. Further back, some opportunistic driving saw Gerard Moore make up two positions by getting ahead of Chris Lewis Evans and Russell Endean. Just ahead of them, Jose Soler was under pressure for 10th from Freddie Gallagher and succumbed on lap 3 as the latter got a better exit out of Ansons to steam through on the approach to the Bus Stop. Endean was able to get himself back ahead of Moore for 12th, whilst Ross Wheelaghan was another making a move as he battled past Stuart Kirk to move into 18th. Out in front, things were settled as Crutchley maintained his lead, albeit unable to shake off Beroual-Smith. The pair had now opened a small gap to Hackett, who couldn’t match their pace and was being hounded by Paul Jennings. Steve Brown was giving it his all to reel them in from 5th, taking Cowan with him as the top 6 detached themselves from the rest of the field. Further back, Lewis Evans was going backwards as a move by Myles Sharman saw him hung out to dry at Tollys. Bodnar and Buck barged their way through to drop Lewis Evans to 17th. Lap 5 then saw Buck lose out to Wheelaghan at Haynes Loop, whilst a change to the order at the front occurred when Steve Brown was finally able to put a move on Paul Jennings, stealing 4th and taking Cowan through with him at Climate Corner.

As the race moved into the second phase, things were getting very close at the front as Beroual-Smith moved to within striking distance of Crutchley. Behind them, things were getting spicy and Hackett found himself dropping back a couple of places when Steve Brown lunged up the inside into Tollys. Hackett tried to reclaim 3rd on the switchback but succeeded only in compromising himself and allowing Cowan to snatch 4th into Haynes Loop. Further back, things got heated as the mid-pack squabbled for track position. Stephen Jennings and Jose Soler came off worse, as pushing and shoving between them and the likes of Bodnar, Endean and Sharman saw Jennings and Soler fall down the order, losing several places. Soler subsequently pulled in and ended his day prematurely. All eyes soon returned back to the front and lap 10 saw a new leader installed after an excellent move by Beroual-Smith saw him finally get ahead of Crutchley. With the chequered flag looming, could Crutchley fight back? The pair were over 3secs clear of Steve Brown in 3rd and were left to fight it out on their own. Crutchley fought hard to find a way back into the lead but Beroual-Smith defended well. As the pair came out of Ansons on the following lap, it looked as though Crutchley might have the run and almost drew up alongside his rival. Beroual-Smith was having none of it though and chopped in ahead at the Bust Stop to hold the lead. Unfortunatley there were to be no late dramas. Despite Crutchley’s best efforts, he was unable to usurp Beroual-Smith, who held firm to take the chequered flag and a well deserved victory. Behind them, Steve Brown was living a charmed life and a good exit out of Tollys for Cowan almost saw him sneak through into 3rd. Brown had the inside line for Haynes Loop, however, and was able to keep Cowan at bay. With the fans in the stands willing Cowan on, it proved in vain as a failed switch back out of Haynes Loop proved the last real opportunity. Cowan then slipped back and had Hackett to worry about. The trio followed each other over the line, with Brown clinching 3rd and Hackett almost snatching 4th at the line, just 0.008secs between him and Cowan. Paul Jennings came round to finish 6th on track, however a 1-place penalty saw him demoted to 7th, thus giving Chris Brown 6th. Penalties for Stephen Jennings and Myles Sharman also saw them demoted from their on-track finishing positions. A late move by Freddie Gallagher saw him steal 8th from Danny Hurlock at the death, with Ross Wheelaghan snatching 14th in the midst of a last lap squabble in the lower order. Chris Lewis Evans lost positions to both Jamie Bird and Justin Buck in that particular battle, ending his day down in 18th.

So another enthralling day of racing saw Anwar Beroual-Smith triumph as the overall round winner with a win and a 2nd. His terrific form sees him further strengthen his position at the top of the standings, with title favourite Lee Clackett having missed this round. Things are certainly getting very tight at the top and with very little to choose between them on dropped scores, the four “no scores” thus far may prove costly for Lee Clackett’s chances. A great day for Steve Brown saw him finish 2nd overall with a win and a 3rd, maintaining his excellent form from the previous round. He is still well within the fight for the Championship, but remains an outside bet, with yet another typically strong showing from Crutchley adding more valuable points to his tally for 2014. He maintains 2nd in the standings, with Hackett still 3rd. Russell Endean and Steve Brown complete the current top 5. With only three more rounds to go, it’s still anyone’s guess as to which way the 2014 Clubmans crown will go. It’s certainly poised for an exciting conclusion, as Whilton Mill prepares to host Round 9 of 11 in just a couple of weeks.

Driver of the Day

A tough one to call this round with so many strong performances on show. Both Crutchley and Steve Brown were at the forefront once more, but it is Anwar Beroual-Smith who shone brightest, putting on a great show to secure 257 from a possible 260 points. If he keeps this level of performance up, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to stop him from winning the title. He’s our driver of the day for Round 8. Big thumbs up also go out to Chris Lewis Evans, after an excellent showing in Final 1 seeing him earn his first ever Clubman top 3 finish, whilst Freddie Gallagher caught the eye with two solid drives that see him finish 5th overall for the round. One to watch for next year!