Danny Hurlock – “I do like Red Lodge” Oh yes…

Clubman Podium scaled

It would take to a post final interview to discover it was a local track for Danny and experience like practice is an advantage in any sport, Hurlock remarking “I do like this track, I’ve been here a few times, it’s local to where I live. (But) I’ve been doing all right this year, so I maybe able to get some more (wins).” Second places for Oliver Knights in the main and Justin Buck in Pre A finals keep both drivers well up in the championship hunt. Knights is looking like a championship contender, perhaps the only one I’m certain of, a belief backed up by Knights himself commenting on his main final “It was mine for the taking. In my haste to get away once I’d got to the front I missed a braking point threw it away!” Consistent and solid performances across both finals from Daniel Truman, James Small, Paul Crawford, the latter, who we should be mentioned in that same breath, until he pulled off in the main A, Tyler Mays and Andy Cowell, means we’re no clearer to the identity of our future champion. We’re just clearer on who the main suspects are likely to be joining Knights in the frame. What we can be sure of is the math will be complicated into the second half of the season as Endean joins Harry Landy, David Longman and Adam Nakar with dropped scores from missing a round in the opening 3 rounds yet could be very much in that front rank in the closing stages of the season.

C100_RedLodge-9544 I think there’s a nasty algorithm at the heart of the grid programme as typically it threw Nicholas Reynolds, in his first appearance in Clubman Class, on pole position for Heat 1 and it was possibly one of the rare occasions all day that grid 2, in the form of Stuart Osborne, was able to tip in over the top through fast entrance to turn 1, to exit the turn 2-3 complex with the lead such is the corkscrew of this first complex (think turn 1 Sepang, not quite Shanghai International) 5 or 6 karts got through before the filter, that it is, got clogged, 2-3-4 wide into the next left right complex, so that ‘the have’s’ and the ‘have nots’ (had a clean start) were or were not running away cleanly down the back straight. Osborne led from Danny Hurlock off grid 3, Reynolds on the defensive trying to hold Myles Sharman and Sam Browning, of course after 4 one line, long or short corners into tight opposite turns had been negotiated the field was single file. Hurlock knew something Osborne didn’t about the nuances (in driver parlance the track is “technical”) of Red Lodge, and he was immediately looking for a way by. Sharman got boxed in behind Reynolds, Browning and Longman were in for the 2nd complex, this let Landy and Knights join to them two wide, three deep heading to the crucial turn 6, a left hander, slightly down and slightly up on to the back straight – it’s entrance, line through and momentum crucial by all accounts to a fast time, to hold or take a place.

The leading duo were free and 2secs clear to decide who won heat 1, that’s generous, Danny looked to have more than Stuart, pretty much everywhere. Longman emerged clear in 3rd. The experience of Sharman, Landy and Knights, was giving Browning, a little, and Reynolds a bit more, schooling in the Clubman way. Osborne ran wide out of the 2-3 complex Hurlock was through, and gone, 0.6secs back at the line and heading for his first win of the day. Sharman was left preoccupied with Landy which probably did Longman a favour. Knights and Browning exchanged 6th and 7th allowing Paul Crawford to join them, before the three rejoined Sharman and Landy in a five dice for 4th place, briefly at least. Sharman dropped everyone but Knights and on lap 6 he dove inside into the first complex, and Sharman was down to 5th ahead of Crawford. Coming to the final lap, Andy Cowell jumped Reynolds for 11th place on the run back to the pits, Longman had caught up with Osborne, but everyone was, more or less, figuring out half decent lines, they were similarly matched and Stuart got out of turn 3 cleanly, so as long as he could get cleanly out of turn 6 on to the back straight it would take a mistake to get P2 and he didn’t. Hurlock won by 6secs. Knights was a comfortable 4th but carrying a 4 or 2×2 place penalty for contact, probably from the brief 2 wide 3 deep group, Sharman inherited it ahead of Crawford, Landy held off Tyler Mays and Sam Browning. Andy Cowell was one of the big movers, but Justin Buck fought his way to the front of the pack and there was some rough tumble on the way from 25th to 13th, overtaking Steve Bosley on the last lap and into in striking distance of pole man Reynolds if there’d been a tenth lap.

Reverse grid for Heat 2 and make no mistake Justin Buck was turning pole into the lead into turn 1. He was going for it, foot to the stop, straight out of the last corner, red light, green light, no matter he was going. This screwed Andrew Ferguson on the outside of the front row, he would have his work cut out, but thats the game, and Sam Browning from grid 3 was side by side at the apex of turn 2 making it his own. But in doing so it opened a lane for Daniel Truman off grid 5 and with superior momentum he was 2nd into the complex opposite the pits. Justin already had 8-10 kart lengths on the back straight and with no distractions he’d be tough to run down. Cowell off grid 6 slotted Ed Barrs for 5th inside of the long left hander (shades of a shrunken Big Bend at Langbaurgh – only without the banking and going the other way, there’s a lot of going the other way being anti clockwise, the wrong ribs and neck muscles taking a pounding) before the left hairpin, Barrs fighting James Small and Rhianna Purcocks on the run back to the pits. It was lap 4 before Ferguson forced a move not unlike the one Browning pulled on Andrew off the start into turn 2 again to get 3rd. Side by side through the infield meant Truman was released to fight Buck over the win. Justin initially held his early advantage but Daniel picked up the imaginary string and was edging on to his bumper approaching half distance. Daniel dived for the apex in the hairpin opposite the pits and Justin was having none of that, Daniel pinched between Justin and the inside tyres saw his revs die and his momentum lost, Justin was out to 6 kart lengths and Daniel would have to start all over again. In 3rd Ferguson was still under pressure from James Small trying to make up points from the heat 1 debacle with Sam Browning in his wheel tracks to make it complicated, then a gap before a loose crocodile of Cowell, Purcocks, Barrs, Haslehurst, Knights, Adam Nakar and Keith Mizen came through. Ferguson succumbed to Small and James set off after Truman. And coming on to the final lap it was game on again not only had Truman reached Buck’s bumper, but so had James reached Daniel’s. Ferguson was comfortably finishing 4th. Cowell went up the inside into the hairpin at turn 8 and Sam Browning tried to dive straight back through to the apex of turn 9 and he was pinched by Cowell against the tyres. Sam hooked in, spun, collecting the innocent party of Purcocks. Ed Barrs crawled passed the incident but lost out to Knights on 6th, Oliver with more warning running inside and by passed pit in. On to the final lap Small dived inside Truman at turn 6, a bit of a surprise, which Daniel struggled to respond to, not helped by Sam Browning still waiting sat in the middle of the road under yellow flags in the last complex. That assured Justin of the win and had James looking over his shoulder. The big mover was Hurlock starting 22nd, finishing 15th but his progress had been hampered by Harry Landy, who he’d been dicing with him off and on for 7 laps.

C100_RedLodge-9530With a Pre-Final grid decided by points and progress in the heats, it will come as no surprise to here Justin Buck lined up in pole position with Danny Hurlock on the front row, head to head for the first time, and in truth much of Danny’s work had gone unnoticed by me, so I fancied Justin for the win. Andy Cowell and Daniel Truman on row 2, Oliver Knights and Paul Crawford, Tyler Mays, Harry Landy, David Longman and Miguel Hall looked about right based on heat performance. Start 1 Justin did his usual gun it from the last corner and it had been expected, it was single file with Cowell in 2nd into turn 1, Andy anticipating the trick, Hurlock 3rd. Was it that that saw the start waved off or the mess that saw Tyler Mays first slapped about then nose into the tyres. I don’t know. Second start was much better, Hurlock was still losing out to Cowell, there was no way Andy was getting off Justin’s bumper for anyone, but it was front row side by side at the first apex and they all made it through turn 2-3, more or less. Truman dived inside at the hairpin in front of the pits for 3rd, leaving Hurlock arguing with Mays over a good line through turn 6. Buck and Cowell had a 2 second lead at the end of the back straight although Andy was initially looking for a way by, he didn’t have it and was looking for a mistake from Justin. Hurlock held off Mays long enough to get Knights and Landy into a fight with Tyler. Good for Danny he was off after Truman, bad for Mays. After a lap of back forth with Landy, even Harry was holding out his hand as if to say look lets just stop as the gap they had to Crawford bringing through Knights and the rest of the field had evaporated and save only for the pack tripping over themselves, they were in danger of screwing each other’s race, totally.

The leading quartet had 4secs lead gifted over the chasing pack, Buck had edged clear, Cowell settling into the gap while Hurlock perhaps sensing he had the pace was waiting for his moment on Truman’s bumper. No need to rush Daniel was closing on Cowell across start finish line on to lap 5 Daniel slid inside of turn 1 and with Hurlock not moving off his bumper for anyone he was 3rd at the apex of turn 2 and around the outside of Daniel through turn 3 right hander to go 2nd ahead of Andy, pulling 2, 3, 4 kart lengths immediately.

Justin’s lead was 2secs. Behind Mays in 4th had pulled clear of the pack with only David Longman in striking distance, gap to Landy, Knights inside of Miguel Hall at the line, James Small in 10th, Crawford, Barrs, Adam Nakar and Sharman rounding the top 14 at half distance. The field was strung out, and Hurlock took a couple of laps before chipping his way to Justin’s bumper, and battle was joined with 3 laps to go, with a three way dice over 3rd place with Cowell in charge, ahead of Truman and Mays. 2 laps to go and Justin might still have of hung on, stretching the string out a little but mediocre exit on to the back straight once again put Danny on his bumper. On to the final lap, Hurlock pulled out from behind Buck’s bumper and straight lined to the turn 1 apex, side by side Justin going for the same apex forcing Danny to put 2 wheels inside of the kerb and belly slide across the kerb and into the lead into turn 2 as Justin had to lift or be run out wide. Danny had a kart length going into turn 6 and thats all he needed. Justin was left with a huge lunge into pit bend he’d be foolish to attempt. Cowell was 3rd, not too much pressure from Truman, due mainly I expect to Mays looking for a way by. Longman on his own, Landy, Small, Hall and Knights loosely made up the top ten.

C100_RedLodge-9573Lap times set the grid for the main trophy Final, Daniel Truman given the unfancied grid 2 with James Small on pole position, Danny Hurlock probably optimistic on grid 3 with Tyler Mays outside, Oliver Knights and Justin Buck on row 3. Small got in too close to the pace kart and had to check up prior to the lights going green, it didn’t hurt Hurlock so much as it gave the outside line a chance, Hurlock got 2nd as the track wound in, Knights got 3rd, Mays, Truman and Buck got through, but 2-3-4 wide stacked up trying to get into single line between the apexes saw a bit of a mess and Steve Townsend left behind. Re-grid. Small gave Jonny Goddard a bit more of lead out and it was two wide 5 or 6 deep into turn 1, with pretty much the same result grid 1, 3, 5, Small, Hurlock, Knights went through out of turn 3, ahead of Mays, Truman, Mike Bodnar, shuffled forward to grid 8 after Buck on grid 6 kart changed and could not take up his original slot, from the other side of the grid. David Longman losing to out Landy in a three hander with Miguel Hall, although David was going to give him a love tap or two. Knights must realised the danger ahead of him and was sat nose on to Hurlocks rear bumper, Small went deep and wide exiting turn 6 and Danny had just enough to ease inside at the end of the back straight and as turn 7 tightened into the hairpin of turn 8 Oliver was coming through. There was nothing James losing momentum off the corner he was in danger of losing 3rd to Tyley Mays, and it was a six kart train with Truman, then Bodnar in the caboose. Mays argued with Small over the apex of turn 1, well that was only going one way – Tyler to 3rd but he’d lost touch with the leaders, he was racing for 3rd, Small lost out at turn 1 again this time to Truman after presumably struggling with the last corner complex. And thats how it stayed, more or less,  up to half distance of the 11 laps until Knights sensing his opportunity drove it hard into turn 7 to get to the apex only to mess up his braking into the last corner, Hurlock going back through, and perhaps it had been a wake up call or Oliver had shown his hand but he was never able to put a move in again. In the first instance because Mays moved into drafting range. It would take until they were running up the final lap board for Knights to get within a kart length of race leader Hurlock but Danny nailed the last corner and with another kart length or so in his pocket, Oliver was not going to be close enough for the end of the back straight and was back to being wary of Mays in 3rd, and thats how it finished. Oliver also picking up the Baby Clubman trophy. Behind James Small held off Truman, Bodnar couldn’t live with the pace, he’s a big bloke and was struggling out of the slow corners I think but he was well clear of Landy, who in turn was probably glad to be free of Longman, and probably quite pleased that David had lost out to Andrew Ferguson and was having to cope with the attentions of Paul Crawford up to 10th but Paul was soon to park it. Adam Nakar came in to round out the top ten.

So it’s all to play for and indeed all will be playing at Whilton Mill as every class is sold out even just a few days after Red Lodge in what has the makings of classic season. It also heralds 2 rounds in 3 weeks, with Clay Pigeon, up to the summer break which means it’s neither too few rounds to make anyone’s season, nor if I’m honest, break anyone’s season. But the break up to Buckmore Park on 9 August is long enough to let anyone underperforming think long and hard. So let it fester…

 

Pictures: Alex Roache Photography