Heavyweight Sprint Championship, 2014, Rd. 8
Fine weather yet again for the Club’s second ever visit to the Forest Edge circuit in Hampshire. Whilst the facilities are a shade basic the track meets almost universal praise for its fast and flowing nature. But what kerbs! I stood on one and had to be helped down.. Heavyweight Qualifying 1 Fran Volpe was back having missed GYG and looking to lay down an early marker if he was to mount any sort of challenge to championship leader Sam Fisher. He and Oliver Knights traded fastest times before Volpe finally took the points by just.0129. Darrell Lowe kept them both honest but just couldn’t quite better them . These three were the only drivers to break the fifty second barrier. Chris Dean was languishing in mid grid but backed off on his penultimate tour to cool his tyres and then went for it on his final lap to record fourth fastest. A surprisingly intelligent performance. Dan French was a disappointed sixth but in worse shape were Eric Mignon, Roger Davis and Glen Beard, all well down the order and destined for the B final. Graham Link was the fastest of the super Heavies. Heavyweight Qualifying 2 If anyone thought Sam Fisher had gone off the boil at GYG he quickly disabused them of the notion as he set fastest time and just pipped Volpe’s first session time by 0.080. Returnee Stephen Billet was second fastest, the only other driver to break the fifty second barrier in the session but his joy was short lived as he was deducted a place for clipping a cone. A small error but one which would have far reaching consequences for the overall result. Good to see Stephen back after debilitating illness. Clearly the weight loss has done him good though. With Billet’s demotion Stephen Bartlett took the second spot from Adam Nakar in fourth. Lennie Wood was the quickest of the super heavies. Heavyweight B final 1 With four places up for grabs for the first A final and some very quick heavies stuck in mid grid this race had all the potential for carnage. Gary Miller shared the front row with Shane O’Neill alongside. Next up, Eric Mignon from Josh Walsh, Darren Townsley, Paul Crawford, Graham Link, Peter Kay, Roger Davis and in tenth spot Sam Brice. Miller led the pack away but behind him, predictably it was all happening. O’Neill and Mignon both lost ground as Walsh sprinted by into second. Townsley was a big loser, being forced wide at the pit exit turn allowing Kay and Brice to make rapid progress. Roger Mullen dropped it and would fall to the back of the field. At the end of the first lap it was Miller still out front but not for long as Walsh swept by into the lead followed by Kay and Brice with Davis in close attendance. Down the order Paul Williams was making steady progress but was briefly held up in a battle with James English. Once clear he put in a strong drive which would eventually net him sixth spot. Walsh continued to lead from Kay with Crawford also joining the fun. Miller stabilised himself in fourth with Brice just behind. Davis had briefly held the position but was forced wide at the top of the circuit and found himself behind Endurance team mate Mignon. At the midpoint Crawford took Walsh for second with Brice now up to fourth from Miller, Mignon and Davis who in turn was coming under pressure from a charging Lennie Wood. At the start of lap ten Crawford took over at the front from Kay with Walsh a little way behind in third. Brice looked settled in fourth from Miller and Mignon. Woods charge had ruined his tyres and he found himself with severe understeer, allowing Davis, Beard and Williams to get ahead. As the leading four settled down Mignon made a tactical decision and slowed to give himself clear air. His thinking was that he would then bang in a few fast laps in the hope of securing a high grid spot for the second B final. Although he set his fastest lap of the race on the final lap he had already done enough to secure fourth spot in the second B. At the flag, Crawford took the win from Kay, Walsh and Brice. Davis took fifth who in turn was well clear of Paul Williams who had put in a great drive from Grid 17. Beard was next followed by the luckless Miller. Heavyweight Sprint A final 1 Fisher on pole then from a fired up Volpe, followed by Knights and Bartlett, Billet and Lowe rounding out the top six. Fisher led away with Volpe alongside but it was a difficult start, both drivers complaining after the race that they had been massively loaded in the second turn. Fisher got away with it, despite being forced high onto the kerb but Volpe wasn’t so fortunate and ran very wide, dropping to thirteenth. (Loading seemed to an issue all weekend. I suffered from it in the lightweight final on Saturday. Patrick Nicholls, your card is marked! ) Dave Price and Dan French were also first lap losers whilst Tim Hill, Martin Gurnett and Keith Mizen made good progress. At the end of the first lap Fisher had already pulled a gap from Knights, Bartlett and the hugely impressive Billet. Lowe was fifth from Nakar with Dean in eighth. Dean however was about to get shuffled down the pack, falling to thirteenth, the victim of what he felt was a down on power Kart. (They all say that!). Fisher continued to pull away at the front but Bartlett took Knights for second and then Billets also deposed Knights for third. Darrell Lowe and Adam Nakar were circulating fifth and sixth respectively. Behind these there were all sorts of duelling going off. Sadly it got a bit too robust. Penalties would be numerous. Billets finally found a way by Bartlett and set off in pursuit of the imperious Fisher. Although the gap came down Fisher always looked in control and crossed the line for yet another win. Bartlett crossed the line in third well clear of Lowe in fourth. Lowe however suffered a two place deduction for excessive kerbing. There were those who felt he was a little lucky not to have had a four place deduction after a lunge on Knights in the last turn. Knights then was promoted to fourth with Tim Hill a hugely impressive fifth. Volpe was classified tenth despite finishing eighth on the road. Another to suffer a two place deduction for excessive use of the kerbs. He cut a despondent figure after the race having felt that he had the equipment to win the race but after his early off he had got into a battle with Martin Gurnett and had been unable to make significant progress as Gurnett defended for all he was worth. Billet set the fastest lap. Josh Walsh and Peter Kay were both excluded. Heavyweight Sprint B Final 2 Two places then up for grabs for the second A final and a closely matched grid with Roger Davis on pole from Glen Beard, James English, Shane O’Neil, Lennie Wood and a frustrated Eric Mignon. Davis led the field away but English was quickly by Beard for second with O’Neill and Wood holding station. On lap two Paul Williams put in a great move to depose both O’Neill and Wood but within a lap O’Neill snatched the place back. Davis continued to lead but was under pressure from English who clearly wanted the win despite only needing second to earn himself another race. O’Neill was putting pressure on Beard for third and would eventually find his way ahead at the chicane. At the front English was trying all he knew to get by Davis who was stoutly defending his position. And all the while O’Neill was hunting them down. With three to go English took the lead but it was short lived as he ran out wide allowing both Davis and O’Neill through. It was O’Neill though who had the momentum and he took a great win from Davis with English third from Beard. Lennie Wood came home a distant fifth but comfortably ahead of the pack. After the race I caught up with James English in the paddock and asked him why he hadn’t settled for second. ‘I’ve never won a Club 100 heat before and I could see first place and wanted to break the duck.’ Fair enough. But sometimes winning isn’t everything. Heavyweight Sprint A Final 2 Billet on the pole from championship leader Fisher with Volpe third and Jonathan Wort, who had not really figured throughout the day, in fourth. Elliott next alongside Knights followed by Crawford and Bartlett with Hill and French rounding out the top ten. And what a race it turned out to be. Billet got cleanly away from pole but behind him it was all happening. Elliott jumped ahead of both Fisher and Volpe with Wort hanging on to third. Crawford deposed Knights whilst Hill was off to a flyer. Dan French meanwhile was knocked down the order. Think he must have run over a black cat this year. As the field settled Billets led from Elliott, Wort, Volpe and Fisher in fifth followed closely by Hill Crawford and Bartlett. Lap 4 though and it was all change as Elliott slipped by Billet for the leads with Volpe and Fisher both slipping ahead of Wort. Elliott was keeping a Kart lengths gap to Billet whilst Fisher grabbed third from Volpe. Clearly there was going to be no coast and collect from him as he defended mightily from the feisty Volpe. Wort remained fifth just ahead of Hill but it wasn’t anyone’ guess as to who would eventually take third. Elliot continued at the front but Billets was keeping him honest whilst Volpe found a way past Fisher again for third. A lap later it became second as he took a tiring Billet and began to chase down Elliott setting the fastest lap of the race on lap thirteen. Wort took Fisher briefly for third but then both of them lost places to Hill who was really putting in a shift. Bartlett also got ahead of Wort but couldn’t hang on. As Elliott crossed the line to take the win Volpe was closing rapidly but his chase had been in vain. Valuable points though after a disappointing first final Billet took third with Hill an excellent fourth from Fisher followed by Wort, who grabbed the place from Bartlett on the final tour. Then it was a big gap back to Darrell Lowe in eighth who had enjoyed a spirited battle with Oliver Knights before Knights fell away to finish a lowly thirteenth. Crawford was next up followed by Adam Nakar. An eventful race with plenty of passes and no penalties!