Jack O’Neill… 5 for 5.

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Rocking Rye is looking might look a bit jaded nowadays but it’s still a great layout although it does divide opinion. It’s tight and twisty but there are overtaking spots and from a spectator point of view you can see the whole circuit. We are getting into the meat of the Championships next as the season approaches the half way point. Could anyone halt Jack O’Neill’s run of victories in the lights and Joe Holmes similar domination in the heavies? The weather forecast was a fine day and so it turned out.

First up for the morning session the Lightweights.

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The Road to the Finals

Christopher Powell took a comfortable win in the opening heat of the day leading the pack home by over five seconds with Hussein Rashid second from Adrian Mertens, Greg Smith and Samuel Essery. C3 entrant Essery was arguably the star of the heat working his way up the order from grid eighteen. Impressive.

Heat Two was a hard fought affair with poleman Daniel Cohen holding off fellow front row sitter Chris Woodger until two laps from home. Josh Adams shadowed the leaders before slipping by Cohen for second a lap from home. Championship leader Jack O’Neill also went past Cohen on the final lap only to lose the place after clipping a cone. Reece Pope took fifth.

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Mike Coppin opened his account for the day winning the third heat from pole. Initially Coppin looked to be heading for a comfortable win but Daz Teal put him under serious pressure for a few laps before settling for second. Pietro Pagano was next across the line some five seconds adrift of the leaders but he lost two places for two cone penalties. Ashley White was next over the line but he was penalised four placers after an incident with Bailey Morgan which promoted Callum Brewell to third and Stef Theodorou to fourth.

Dan Healey took a comfortable win in the fourth heat leading from pole to flag. Stephen Westwood crossed the line in second three seconds adrift of Healey but he dropped a spot after a cone penalty promoting reigning Champion Ed Barrs to third after working his way up from grid nine. Matt Collier and Andrew Ward completed the top five.

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The fifth heat resulted in another lights to flag win this time for Alisdair Irvine. Jason Bradbury started from the second row and was up to second by the end of the first lap but he couldn’t match Irvine’s pace. To make matters worse he was penalised a spot for cone abuse promoting Greg Smith to second. Stef Theodorou and Rhianna Purcocks claimed fourth and fifth.

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Ed Barrs took his first win of the day in Heat Six. Starting from the second row he took the lead on the opening lap and was never headed leading home second placed Andrew Ward who was almost three seconds adrift but comfortably clear of third placed Dan Cohen. James Martin was next across the line but he was penalised four places for an incident with Aymen Salih and dropped to eighth promoting Sam Slater to fourth and Chris Woodger to fifth.

Mike Coppin claimed his second win of the day in the seventh heat. Starting from the fourth row he drove a stunning opening lap to run second by the end of the lap. A lap later he was at the front and never threatened again. Peter Knight came home second and did close up on Coppin towards the end but was never a serious threat. Oscar Lancaster was third from Ned Douglas and Reece Pope.     

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Heat Eight fell to Championship leader Jack O’Neill. He was made to work for it though. Dan Seager led away from pole with O’Neill slotting into second. Most thought O’Neill would soon get by but Seager held him at bay for several laps before O’Neill slipped by to take the lead. Seager then fell behind Pietro Pagano a lap later but remained third till the flag with Dan Healey fourth from Charlie Monk.

Heat Nine was a much more exciting race with four drivers in a battle for the win. Rob Langthorp started from pole with Bailey Morgan alongside but Morgan who got the better start to lead. Andrew Rabbage held third but not for long as Jason Bradbury nipped by. Morgan held the lead for a few laps with Langthorp, Bradbury and Rabbage keeping him under pressure. Langthorp nipped by at half distance and held on to take the win from Bailey, Bradbury and Rabbage. Just 0.991 covered the top four with Andrew Ward fifth.   

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Dante Dhillon crossed the line first at the end of Heat Ten only to find he’d been penalised four places after bumping Hussein Rashid as he took the lead from the latter. Dhillon’s penalty handed the win to Rashid with Daz Teal second after working his way up from grid eight. Stef Theodorou was third from James Martin with the penalised Dhillon fifth.

Ed Barrs was a comfortable winner in the penultimate heat. Starting from the second row one place above Jack O’Neill he took the lead after a couple of laps and was never threatened. O’Neill took almost half the race to work his way up to second but by then Barrs was long gone and he had to settle for second with Chris Lewis-Evans third from Rhianna Purcocks and Peter Knight.

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Josh Adams took a superb win in the final heat. He led from pole to flag but had to contend with a very spirited challenge from Ned Douglas for much of the race. Dan Healey took valuable points in third after a last lap pass on Ashley White. Greg Smith was fifth.

The Finals

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C Final 

(All drivers in C3 unless otherwise noted)

Pole for C2 Keith Segal with Andrew Bushell alongside. Aaron Stillwell and Jagjeet Singh shared row two with Peter Sharpe and C2 Aymen Salih on row three. Row four saw Finn Pharoah alongside Matt Hugo with Dean Everest and Luke Dunnett on row five. Sean Glennon and Mathew Cockerham were on row six followed by Simon Sharpe and James Dunnett on row seven and Sam Morris with Bartek Barakonski on row eight. Alex Brandham and Peter Elliott shared row nine with Liam Rogers and Tim Clark on row ten. Jo Ratcliffe, James Browning and C2 Tony Philbin were the final three qualifiers. Top four to qualify for the B Final and a trophy for the winner.

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Segal led the pack away but Bushell lost out through the first turns and dropped back. By the end of the lap he was running fourth behind Segal, Stillwell and Singh. Salih was up to fifth and looking very racy. A lap later and he was into third. As the leaders rounded Stadium we had drama as the flags came out to warn of a slippery service after someone had dragged moisture on to the track. It soon dried but the pace slowed. Salih though was really getting into his stride and as they came down the main straight he moved to the right and slipped by Segal into Stadium. Once at the front he immediately began to pull clear. Segal looked to be the cork in the bottle as the field queued behind him. With seven run Salih had the lead out to over three seconds whilst Segal doggedly defended second. Stillwell was half a second back in third with Singh in the final qualifying spot. Peter Sharpe was next from Luke Dunnett.  Stillwell got a run on Segal into Stadium but Segal was having none of it keeping Stillwell to the right as they headed for Hairpin one. Singh took a look down the inside but backed off and the chasing pack bunched up. Next time around a Stillwell dived to the inside into Hairpin one. Segal defended and contact was made. Segal spun. Stillwell went the long way round and resumed seventh but his qualification chances were over as were Segal’s barring a stunning drive back up the order. He would eventually finish fifteenth with Stillwell twelfth after the inevitable penalty.

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Half distance and Salih was well clear at the front from Singh, Peter Sharpe, Luke Dunnett, Bushell, Cockerham and the penalised Stillwell. For several laps the order remained the same. With three to go Cockerham slipped by Bushell for fifth. Final lap and Salih was well clear despite Singh closing in over the final stages of the heat. But who would take the final two places. Down into Hairpin one Cockerham tried an audacious move down the inside of both Sharpe and Bushell. Contact was made with Sharpe and Cockerham immediately gave the place back but he was ahead of Bushell and into the final qualifying spot. Salih took the win with Singh a strong second. Sharpe claimed third with Cockerham next over the line. But his contact with Sharpe was his third of the race and he was penalised down to sixth. Bushell was next over the line and promoted into the final spot with Pharoah fifth. Luke Dunnett was seventh from James Dunnett with Barakonski and Everest completing the top ten. Singh set the fastest lap of the race.

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C Final Winner – Aymen Salih

B Final

(All drivers C2 unless otherwise noted)

Charlie Monk on pole from Jed Toole with Callum Brewell and Adrian Mertens on the second row. Sam Slater and Oscar Lancaster shared the third row with Dan Seager and Andrew Rabbage on row four. Row five saw Alisdair Irvine alongside Dante Dhillon followed by Stephen Westwood and Chris Lewis-Evans. Thomas Barrett and C1 Ashley White shared row seven whilst Joshua Sangster and Ramunas Cerkauskas occupied row eight. The next three rows were all occupied by C3’s.  Ami Breacher from Aidan Rudge followed by Robin Kassam, Justin Draper, Bryn Alban and Russell Cooper and then the four qualifiers from the C Final, Salih, Singh, Sharpe and Bushell. Top two to qualify for the A Final and a trophy for the winner.  

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Monk led the field away with Toole tucking in behind ahead of Brewell. Mertens dropped a spot behind Slater whilst Lancaster’s hopes evaporated as he spun. For several laps the order remained the same at the front with Monk controlling the pace. Irvine was closing in having dispensed with Mertens. Mertens fought back and took both Slater and Irvine in the space of a lap. But he couldn’t hold the place and a lap later Irvine was back in front. Half distance and Monk was still ahead but only by a tenth from Toole. Toole had made a couple of attempts to pass but had wisely settled into a rhythm. Second would be good enough. Brewell was half a second down in third and fending off Irvine who in turn had Mertens breathing down his neck desperate to make up places. Dhillon too was not out of the running. Monk was driving beautifully at the front and easing out a gap to the chasing Toole. Irvine slipped by Brewell for third but wasn’t getting closer to Toole. Brewell was keeping in touch and looked like he might just grab third back from Irvine as they crossed the line side by side at the end of the eleventh tour. And grab it he did. But his joy was short lived as Irvine grabbed the spot back a lap later.

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Penultimate lap and Monk was almost a second clear whilst Toole was having to defend from a resurgent Irvine. Brewell was half a second back and barring any incidents at the front he was out of the hunt. Irvine dived down the inside at Hairpin one and Toole had to give way. It all got very messy behind. Irvine made it through as did Mertens whilst Dhillon slipped by Brewell. All of which allowed Monk to pull further clear at the front. Irvine came back at him over the final lap but Monk had enough in hand to take his first CLUB100 Final win and promote himself onto the back of the A Final. Irvine held on to second from Mertens and the unlucky Toole. Dhillon was next over the line but lost the place to Brewell after a cone penalty. Slater was seventh from Westwood, C1 White and Sangster completing the top ten. Rudge was the first across the line in C3 but lost six places after spinning out Breacher leaving Draper to take the honours from Singh and ironically Breacher. But the three of them did not make up the C3 podium. Irvine set the fastest lap of the race with White the fastest C1 runner although not as quick as C2 Irvine. Breacher set the fastest lap in C3.

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B Final Winner – Charlie Monk

A Final 

(All drivers in C1 unless otherwise noted)

Defending Champion Ed Barrs on pole from Championship leader Jack O’Neill. Would this be the race that O’Neill’s run of wins would come to an end? Mike Coppin and Dan Healey shared row two with Josh Adams alongside C2 Hussain Rashid. Daz Teal was on row four alongside C2 Greg Smith who was having a great day. C2 Stef Theodorou and Andrew Ward were on row five from Pietro Pagano and C2 Bailey Morgan on row six. Christopher Powell and C2 Dan Cohen were on row seven followed by Jason Bradbury and Chris Woodger on row eight. C2 Peter Knight shared row nine with Rhianna Purcocks followed by C2 Reece Pope and Rob Langthorp on row ten. James Martin shared row eleven with C2 Matt Collier whilst the penultimate row saw Ned Douglas alongside C3 Samuel Essery. A fantastic achievement from Samuel which, without turning a wheel gave him the C3 honours on the day. The two qualifiers from the B Final, Monk and Irvine were on the back row.

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Barrs led the field away whilst Coppin took full advantage of the inside line round Stadium to slot into second. He did well to keep O’Neill at bay as they streamed down to Hairpin one. Over the line at the end of the lap and Barrs had pulled almost half a second on Coppin with O’Neill a couple of lengths adrift.. Teal was next after a great first lap with Adams next from Healey. Three laps run and Barrs was still out front but not getting away whilst Coppin was coming under increasing pressure from O’Neill. Over the line at the end of the lap Coppin and O’Neill were almost side by side. Coppin held the edge round and out of Stadium. But as they ran down the hairpin O’Neill darted to the inside. I thought they touched. Others didn’t. There were no histrionics from Coppin who carried on fighting.  All of which allowed Barrs to increase his lead by a couple of tenths. Teal remained fourth whilst Healey had taken Adams for fifth and was now putting serious pressure on Teal for fourth. A lap later and he was through. Barrs continued to lead and was keeping the gap fairly static back to O’Neill at around half a second. Coppin couldn’t run at the pace of the leaders and was gradually falling back. Healey had hauled himself up into contention for third whilst Teal was dropping away from the fight. Adams was next from Theodorou, Smith, Pagano and Knight. O’Neill continued to cut the gap to the leader whilst third placed Healey was edging closer to the leaders setting the fastest lap eleventh time around. Coppin was falling back but was still comfortably clear of Teal.

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Over the line at the end of the eleventh tour and O’Neill was alongside Barrs down the straight but on the outside as they rounded Stadium. Barrs defended and O’Neill had to back out of the move into Hairpin one giving Barrs a breather and allowing Healey to close onto his rear bumper. Over the line to start the fourteenth tour Barrs had increased his lead by a fraction but O’Neill wasn’t done. Down into Hairpin one he launched another attack. Barrs moved left. O’Neill was almost alongside but left with very little room. They touched. Half a dozen of one and six of the other? I guess that depends on your point of view. But neither driver complained. Just a bit of rubbing. Both ran wide and a following Healey almost made it through but O’Neill had enough momentum to hold the lead whilst Barrs dropped to third and almost fell to fourth behind Coppin. But he held on. Healey now had the bit between his teeth and drew alongside O’Neill at the start of the penultimate lap. But O’Neill held on as Healey attacked into the hairpin and ran wide allowing Barrs back up to second. And that was how it remained. Barrs came back at O’Neill as they rounded the final turn missing out on the win by just 0.072.

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Another fantastically close win for O’Neill. Healey took the final podium spot. Coppin would have been next but lost fourth to a cone penalty promoting Teal into the spot. Knight was sixth and headed the C2 runners after a fine drive through the field from grid seventeen which also netted him fastest lap and established a lap record. Adams took seventh with Theodorou eighth and second in C2. Ninth, and third in C2, went to Smith netting him his first CLUB100 podium with Purcocks completing the top ten. And down in fourteenth was the winner of C3 Samuel Essery. Undoubtedly one of the star performances of the day.

Round up

Jack O’Neill leads the way still after making it five wins from five A finals. And again by a narrow margin. But he’s not getting too far away that he can’t be challenged. Ed Barrs ran him close and lies second in the standings with Mike Coppin third from Daz Teal and Dan Healey. 

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Premier Class podium – Winner O’Neill, Barrs and Healey

Peter Knight is fifth in the standings and leads the C2 class from Alisdair Irvine and Stef Theodorou.

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Class 2 Podium – Winner Knight, Theodorou and Smith

Samuel Essery leads C3. He was superb at Rye, qualifying for the A Final and finishing a highly creditable fourteenth overall. One to watch. Mathew Cockerham lies second with Ami Breacher third.

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Class 3 – Winner Sam Essery, Justin Draper and Jagjeet Singh

Reflections

I’ve seen much of what has been said on social media. There were way too many penalties on Sunday. Blaming the track configuration doesn’t cut it with me. Drivers have two feet and two pedals. The one on the left makes the kart stop. If you don’t use it you will hit the kart in front and get penalised. It’s not rocket science. And it’s no good whingeing to the race control. Race control is out of bounds to drivers. Twice on Sunday drivers came in during the heats wanting to appeal. There are no appeals during the heats but neither driver wanted to take no for an answer until they’d had their say. The officials were trying very hard to concentrate under difficult circumstances with the heat and the noise but being distracted by whining drivers just makes matters worse. And neither driver had a case. Enough said.

Onwards and upwards to the seaside! Well almost. Ellough isn’t far from the crystal blue waters of the North Sea.

See you there!!

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: John Patterson