Great Racing in a Race Decided as it Started?!
There was no doubt about the weather for Round 3 of the 2020 Endurance 60 Championship the forecast was clear and reality had matched it for the preceding couple of days. It was going to be hot! What has not always been clear is who is mounting a championship campaign, as E60 looks for it’s natural constituency, and drivers who are in it for the E60 itself. No Max O’Shaughnessy, the round 1 winner, no O’Neills Andy, the round 2 winner, nor brother Jack. No Tim Hill due to a broken collarbone, a non-karting injury. So at the moment Class A, it’s core front runners are Tarik Almou, Matt Wileman and Murray Knott. It would be Murray striking first to set pole position at Buckmore Park with 46.385, while the air temperature was relatively pleasant, the sun slowly rising in the hazy high cloud and throughout the early morning, despite a breeze it was only going to get warmer and warmer.
Almou would finish 2nd in qualification, Matt Wileman was joined by newcomer Steve Moody on row 2, Barry Luetchford from the G3 Pro Racing clan and Double Dash Motorsport Media’s Andrew Mather, the Class B pole, started on row 3 and both were set to drive 250miles north to participate in the British 24hr at race end. Jason Kirk, newcomer Nathan Maximin on row 4, Charles Purr, Kyle Young made up the top 10. Notable misses Darri Simms was only P12, that James Winslow was only P13, in the field of 27. These are strange days indeed.
At the first attempt Almou jumped the start from grid 2, called a false start, but only for a repeat, Tarik crossing the start line ahead Knott again, but this time the race was going regardless, and Almou had had his chance, he picked up a 2 place penalty before, or rather as, the race had started, a 60minute at that, it begged the question why? Did he know? Did everyone else know? We’ll come back to that later. Behind Almou, it was Knott, Wileman, Mather making a great start to go 4th, Luetchford, with Moody down to 6, Maximin, Kirk, and Simms making rapid progress to P9, Darri reporting “As far as the start…. the left side got a better start by far.” Too good as far as the clerk of the course was concerned.
As the race settled in Almou’s known pace saw him edging clear of Wileman, the queue starting at Knott, as Moody back ahead of Mather, Maximin, Simms, Luetchford also looked for a way by. By lap 5 it was clearly not going to be Knott’s day, as first Moody and Simms burst passed in the scrum left by Mather’s attempted pass on Knott, that saw Mather down to 9th. It was a chance for championship contender Almou to put time into his rivals (forgetting the penalty) and for Wileman to take control of the race, they were 2.5secs ahead of Moody, who in turn was starting to drop Simms into a comfortable 4th for him ahead of Knott with Luetchford, Maximin, Young, then Mather, Elliot Wilson, Matt Horgan both from Class B lining up behind, Horgan reported, “I managed to make a good start and with a couple tangled up ahead of me, I was able to break away from the chasing group.”
By the 8min mark, Wileman was into his stride and chipping back into Almou a few tenths per lap, behind the battle raged on for 5th Maximin moving by Knott, Winslow coming through and tracking Horgan, as the new B class leader, through the leading pack. Horgan slipped by Knott for P6, to take control of Class B, then Young and Winslow were by on the next lap.
What Knott had managed to do was filter the top ten and break up the field as they slipped by him, up ahead a battle was joined on the 15 minute mark by Almou and Wileman that would continue for the rest of the race. Knott’s filter meant, 4secs behind was Moody, a further 2.7s to Simms, then 4.3s to Maximin, 1.2s to Horgan, 2.3s to Young, Winslow, Purr, Knott, Luetchford, Edwards, Jason Kirk, Wilson, James Johnstone, Bailey Morgan, Mather and Stuart Kirk in 15th, as the pit stop window for chain lubrication opened for it’s 30minute window, and the strategy, to under cut or not to undercut, or go long, was the question .
A peculiar quirk of the Buckmore Park layout, is in missing out hairpin 1 and 2 to enter the pit lane, meant a stop for a few seconds was only 5secs lost on an average lap time, indeed if there were no stopping in pit lane a drive through is marginally a faster lap, and yes that trick has been outlawed after being used in the distant Club100 memory. Kyle Young was the first to pit as the window opened, peeling off from 7th to return 13th, followed by Lutechford, Knott, Mather, Andy’s qualifying promise beginning to fail coming back 6secs behind Young on the road, but crucially 11 places behind, deep in the field that might have many going long into the race ahead of him before a stop, he was 23rd.
After a full 8mins of looking for a way by and getting it to stick Wileman took the lead but could not shake Almou surfing his wake. Horgan was closing on Maximin in P5, while the top ten otherwise looking settled, with Horgan looking a a racing certainty up ahead for the Class B win, and Mathers bright start had been all he had, Andy reporting, “My neck went, full dead… Gone. After 20mins of practice, and 35mins on track. [Putting it down to being] out of shape!” He was in Lockdown Shape. It’s a new condition (I’ve just invented – but you can all use it). And it means, you’ve gone, you’re out of shape. It means you’re not karting fit! He’d spend the last half hour trying to get back on the B Class podium and while trying to sit upright, and there isn’t room for his full Nigel Mansell explanation, while Andy was fighting over P14 with Alex Edwards, Eliiott Wilson, and class A Kyle Plumridge, taking to track limits with so many penalties that brought it might bring Ian Wilson and Mungo Knott into play for a trophy,
Moody pitted from 5secs behind the leaders from 3rd on 25mins and returned 4th, Winslow pitted from 8th and returned behind Luetchford now up to 12th as ahead of him Knott returned to the top 10 but was out of the trophy hunt on the road, being 12secs behind Moody. Murray kept digging and demoted Morgan for 8th, Moody then repassed Simms for 3rd, Darri again “I’d watched the rear bumper of Steve’s kart for pretty much the whole race. And I thought I’d nailed the pit stop”, it was indeed one of the fastest of the day. But Simms would restart still 1.4secs down on Moody. And remembering Almou’s jump start penalty Darri needed to jump Moody in the pit stop as only way to be on the podium (even with Almou’s penalty), if he couldn’t catch and pass Steve.
Through half distance Wileman continued with his Almou shadow, 13secs behind Moody was held by Simms at 1secs, then Maximin, Horgan, Purr spread out behind. Wileman pitted, returned 2nd 10secs clear of Moody, and Matt was on for the win no matter what Tarik did. It was, looking in from the outside, in the bag, so to speak, barring a gaffe or tripping over a back marker. Almou had a 2 place penalty to be added at the end of the race, didn’t he? Yes he did, We knew that, Tarik needed a quick stop to win on the road and finish 3rd in the results. On 37mins Almou pitted, not quite as fast as Wileman, to put Matt back into the lead, and within a couple quick laps Tarik was back on Matt’s bumper. The smart play here was for Matt to open up the door and let Tarik through and cruise home behind him, right? Matt Wileman, “I didn’t know he had a jump start penalty unfortunately. And, Yeah my attitude towards the race would of been much different for sure, [if I had].”
By 40mins, Simms had been holding at a second off Moody for P3 on the road and a possible 2nd place depending where Almou finished, and Tarik had moved back in front, Wileman again, “I’d really enjoyed the race up until that point, Tarik had a pretty strong kart on the straights and I struggled to find the speed out of hairpin 2, but I was able to hang on and gain the time back through the bottom section.” Behind Moody and Simms, Nathan Maximin was on his own heading for a excellent 5th place finish, while Horgan was going to win Class B in 6th or 7th if Purr got by, or perhaps 8th as Knott was closing on the pair. Luetchford and Young were also moving forward again rounding out the top 10, but in train with James Johnstone, James Winslow, and Jason Kirk.
The final quarter of the race, as ever, would be about traffic management in dealing with lapping the tail of the field, and with 10mins to go the leading pair, still battling unnecessarily, were closing down a Plumridge, Mather, Morphett, Morgan, Stuart Kirk battle for 16th. Elliott Wilson and Alex Edwards had dropped Mather in the fight for the distant podium steps for Class B with Horgan certain to run out the class winner in 8th 15secs up the road. Almou towed Wileman into traffic, Wileman again “I made a mistake and made contact with Tarik, and I’d admitted my mistake and let him back through straight away, he didn’t loose any places and I didn’t gain anything, so getting a 6 place penalty I thought was ridiculously harsh!” Factoring in Almou’s own penalty, that promoted Moody to the win even though Steve had slipped out to 10secs behind, and put Simms into 2nd, even though he was a further 3secs down. Simms again, “It was a hot race and hard work, and to be honest I was shocked with 2nd.” With Almou leading he would be placed 3rd in the results, Maximin running 5th would take 4th, Knott would be promoted to 5th, Purr to 6th, Horgan to 7th then Wileman would be placed 8th. A harsh penalty. Yet an unnecessary one given Almou’s own meant there was no reason to race Tarik for the win, for 45minutes, if only Wileman had known.
The run to flag was rapid but uneventful. At the finish Almou won on the road by from Wileman by just 0.3secs, 8secs behind Moody took the winners trophy. Wileman’s penalty, promoted Maximin, a great start to E60 for Nathan, Murray Knott was back to a still unsatisfactory 5th, then Charles Purr, Barry Luetchford, who had passed Class B winner Matt Horgan in the closing stages, Matt reporting that he was wilting in the heat, “the last 20 minutes of the race where I was slowly getting caught by everyone”, Barry would see an 8th become 7th with Wileman slotted in between them, the illustrious James Winslow continues to find the standard in Club100 perhaps harder than in his championship winning days rounding out the top 10. Or maybe it’s clutches he’s still getting used to, or Rotax power. So much has changed, as much has stayed the same, down the years. Penalties, we’ve always had those, and the contrived to jumble up the midfield Elliott Wilson took 2nd in class B with 12th in the results, Alex Edwards 3rd in Class B to Stuart Kirk, after Alex’s track limit penalty was applied.
For all the gnashing of teeth over penalties, Almou’s lead is just 10points over Simms, who has failed to qualify well in any of the first 3 rounds, while Knott qualified pole and needed to be helped by Wileman to finish top 5, leaving Wileman 16points off the lead. So in spite of the penalties, with so many mistakes, indeed right now Jason Kirk in 5th in Class A, is only 23points off Almou, and is in the hunt, and the championship is wide open for someone to drive quickly and not get a penalty. And none of the other challengers are showing consistent race pace like Wileman, “I’m [going to] keep fighting, just some luck on my side would be nice.” So it’s all still very much to play for.
In Class B, another strong showing from Matt Horgan from only 2 starts, out of the 3 so far, so for now Alex Edwards continues to lead by 2 points from Clive Morphett, Ian Wilson by a further 6, and although Stuart Kirk, Elliott Wilson are in the hunt, but Horgan is only 24 points off the championship lead, and by the time the first dropped score is applied, there’s strong but not certain chance, Matt Horgan will take over the championship lead, and Matt is coming for Class B, “I wasn’t planning on doing the E60 for the whole season, it was supposed to be practice for the afternoon, but I’m enjoying the E60 so much, you can get into a really nice flow and there’s strategy element of the pit stop too, that I’ve decided to drop SP60”. E60 is winning people over.
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson