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In Case You Were Thinking He Was Coasting. Another Jack O’Neill Double.

by Chris Simpson | November 21, 2021 | SP60 Championships

In sharp contrast to the Heavyweight category Lightweights had been all settled at Lydd. The top 4 were locked in with Jack O’Neill, Mike Philippou, Anthony Amato and Fraser Brunton. A look at the table coming into the Bayford Meadows showed O’Neill had had only a single race win in the preceding 3 rounds, where he’d already scored 8 wins and 3 2nd places in the first 7 rounds, so it might have looked like Jack had taken his foot off the gas, and it was a similar story closing out the sprints title. You could be forgiven for thinking he was coasting, but the final round proved that to be wrong. He led practice, qualified on pole position and led from lights to flag in both races, with winning margins of 8.5 and nearly 12secs.

All of which makes this report considerably more difficult to write than the SP60 Heavy report, of what shall we talk? Martin O’Neill, “The day’s racing, just like the Titan endurance pace was dominated by Jack. His lap times were down to 54 dead, and pretty much where he was all weekend. He rounded off a brilliant SP60 season, winning 11 of the 20 rounds entered, and never off the podium. Along with the other championships, it’s been an remarkable achievement this year for Jack, and if this sounds like I’m a member of the Jack O’Neill appreciation society then I am.”

One proud father.

“My thoughts for next year. Will Andy [O’Neill] be the last Titan to campaign the full season and stop Jack from another title, unlike his teammates Owen (remember the close run 2019) or Mike ? Will Anthony Amato continue his fine progress, and what about Fraser Brunton, who at times has been outstanding this year, or maybe some other hot shot coming through ? Whatever, it will be another exciting season. And one last thought, how about Andy move up to the Heavyweight Class, he’s only 3 kilos off.” And then we change the name of Club100’s Saturday programme to the ‘Challenge Titan Motorsport Day’.

Qualifying
Mike Philippou set the mark with 54.327secs ahead of Jack O’Neill, Murray Knott, Stephen Westwood, Anthony Amato, Joshua Sangster and Andy O’Neill. Jack O’Neill then moved into pole position first with 54.1, Amato moved onto P3 and Graziano Malivindi moved into P5 ahead Westwood. Jack O’Neill would be back to move pole position further away with 54.075 then 53.98. Amato’s last attempt came up short of Philippou, and Andy O’Neill came up short of Malivindi with his last lap, Murray Knott starting from P6. Stephen Westwood, Fraser Brunton, Joshua Sangster and Christopher Powell rounded out the top 10 in a field of 35, where Udi Menon 11th to Christian Schulz in 34th were covered by less than a second in a crowded midfield.

Race 1
A perfect start for Jack O’Neill allowed him to end lap 1 already out of slipstream range, after Amato had used grid 3, as you do at Bayford to demote Philippou from 2nd place, Andy O’Neill had made a strong start with Fraser Brunton at the expense of Murray Knott and Malivindi. But Philippou would be back in 2nd place the next time by, and by then O’Neill was out to a 1.3secs lead and he was gone.

Brunton’s battle with Knott over 5th meant he would lose touch with the trio ahead, and the longer it went on the more chance he offered to Christopher Powell to get on the back on the pair as he moved passed Malivindi and Sangster. By the 10min mark, Philippou, Amato and Andy O’Neill had pulled over 6secs on the quartet forming around Brunton. Also moving into the top 10 was Jamie Blanchard starting off grid 12 and was closing in on Malivindi for 9th place.

By halfway Andy O’Neill had slipped by Amato leaving the youngster hanging on by the Titan slipstream ahead, as a Titan 1-2-3 was in place. Brunton’s battle with Knott had gone Murray’s way, 8secs behind the battle for 2nd place, and Brunton had fallen back through the Powell group, where Blanchard had chopped through to 7th place and on to the the bumper of the group leader, ahead of Sangster, Brunton, and Jasper Chamberlain, newly crowned as Intermediate Endurance Champion with this team mates moved into the tail of the group in 10th place.

Amato could not live with Philippou’s and the other O’Neill’s pace, in the same way no one could live with Jack O’Neill’s pace, out to over 5secs at the 20min mark. In the closing stages Andy O’Neill moved by before giving Philippou the position back, while lapping traffic, Martin O’Neill again, “Mike chose the wrong side to overtake on the long sweeping right hander and Andy nipped by, coming onto the start straight Andy had a comfortable 10 kart length gap, but then slowed, pointing Mike by. I asked him after the race what he was doing and he said “I didn’t want to get by that way.” While they were playing gentlemen Amato had no compunction through the traffic and had got back on to the pair, and while Philippou held off Andy O’Neill to the finish, and Amato, although the latter also carried a penalty, +2 Positions, Rule 15 t – Track Limits. So they could have waved him by.

At the finish Murray was promoted to 4th place 12secs behind the battle for 2nd place, and only 3secs ahead of a superb performance from Jamie Blanchard, the demoted Amato was 6th. Christopher Powell was 7th 2secs ahead of Sangster, 7secs clear of Chamberlain and Graziano Malivindi making up the top 10.

Race 2
Rinse and repeat. At least for Jack O’Neill, Martin O’Neill again, “Race 2 could have been a exciting scrap for the win, but for a unexplained kart issue. Andy, coming into turn 3 left hand hairpin suddenly slowed with no power” and after a similar loss of power in the morning endurance race, and then suddenly he had drive again. Andy commenting, “I was going to come into the pits to retire, but thought I might as well stay out, all the time it’s going” he was down to 9th place. In ‘the rest race’, as Jack came through with 1.7secs, Philippou held off Amato, Knott, a fast starting Chamberlain, Powell, Blanchard, Sangster, O’Neill and Malivindi.

Knott got shuffled down the line of the 4th place battle as Chamberlain took up the chase 2.5secs down on Amato, ahead of Powell, the now rapid again Andy O’Neill working his way up the line, after passing Knott going the other way and Sangster. O’Neill wasted no time moving to the front of the group although by the 5min mark he was 4.5secs behind the battle for 2nd, Chamberlain could not hang on to him.

Anthony Amato moved into 2nd place, Philippou riding the tow behind, before losing it, over his shoulder Andy O’Neill was moving forward rapidly and by the halfway mark O’Neill was back in Philippou’s tow, Martin O’Neill watching on, “Mike politely waved Andy through. Then the standout battle was with Anthony, Andy catching up, but then Anthony defending brilliantly.” It would take Andy O’Neill 7mins to get by, and “I’m thinking that’s done and dusted, however Anthony had other ideas. Picking up a tow on the start straight and carrying the extra speed down into turn 2 Anthony dives up the inside to retake 2nd. In the slower machine, I think it was one of the best moves of the season, and definitely the race. The remaining laps were a joy to watch, with fair defending and side by side action, this was going to be a close run thing, and at the line, just a tenth of a second, but with Andy in front.” Which is what a proud father likes.

Jack O’Neill had long gone into pit lane after the finish, Mike Philippou had had a watching brief, the dicing ahead letting him come in 1.5secs behind. A further 6secs behind Christopher Powell held off Josh Sangster, gap to Fraser Brunton, gap to Murray Knott, then another 6secs back to Jasper Chamberlain and Graziano Malivindi rounding out the top 10. Of course race is never finished until the penalties are applied and Philippou picked up a +1 Position, Rule 15 e – Knocking over a cone, promoting Powell to 4th place. And that was enough to move Powell to 5th overall ahead of Knott. And the podium? Another Titan Motorsport social. Perhaps we should have a 4th step for 2022, or a team podium step so Martin O’Neill as manager can be regularly in photographs.

2021 will go down as a superb season, possibly a unique one, where Jack O’Neill and Mike Philippou and supported off and on by Andy O’Neill and Owen Jenman won most of everything on a Saturday with Titan Motorsport.

It might be different in 2022.

Words: Chris Simpson
Photographs: John Patterson

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