Jack O’Neill adds Lydd to Rye Win, Confirms Champs’ Lead
Will September be remembered as the month Jack O’Neill really turned up the pressure on Greg Barnard? Probably not. But the conspiratorial amongst us, which is most of us are these days, if life in 2020 allows, might point to the deployment of Andy O’Neill from the Titan subs bench as important to take points off Jack’s main challenger. Although, just as complicating for Barnard was much the addition Lightweight sprints front runner Darren Teal, perhaps looking for a new championship for 2021. I suspect it was more just a function of Saturday-Sunday racing to make the long trip from the Midlands worthwhile for Team Teal. And Darren picked the right weekend, for perfect karting weather, sunny, dry, not too warm, not too windy (for Lydd). Happy (both) days.
As has become the new normal in Club100 – previously a habit of Sprint 60 Heavy but now also Lightweight feature is the popular hit format with the clientele, a maximum 37 taking to the track for this round, Round 6. The morning Endurance 60 had kindly scrubbed in new tyres for Sprint 60 to use, good of them, and it was Barnard setting the initial practice pace at 45.44, which while way off where pole would be found, was a positive start for him. By the time qualifying came around, Greg had moved it down several times, with additional interventions on top spot by Chris Powell and Andy O’Neill, to 43.484, with Jack O’Neill and Darren Teal making up a very likely top 5 breaking 44secs after 12 laps of practice.
Getting down to business, David Hamer broke the beam to start qualifying, but it was pretty much as you were with Barnard hitting 43.500 out of the gate, and a potential pole time right there, from Jack O’Neill, Teal, with Andy O’Neill, Chris Powell, Stephen Westwood, Fraser Brunton and Lewis Roberts in the 0.6-0.8 off range. Lap 2 saw Roberts move into P4 at 0.5, suggesting there was definite room for improvement in the front runners and then Powell moved to within 0.05 of pole position perhaps 43.5 would not be enough. Westwood moved in behind Powell at 0.2secs. Ryan Sandall crept into the top 10 and it was close everywhere with the top 20 were covered by less than 1secs. Barnard struck 43.385 on lap 5 to leave the field with just over 1 minute to move him off pole position, Jack O’Neill swapped places with Westwood on the 2nd row, Josh Adams, Ben Leslie and Toby Case moved Sandall back out of the top 10. Taking the chequered flag the field had already been set, it was Greg Barnard and Buckmore winner Chris Powell on the front row, Jack O’Neill and Westwood, Teal and Andy O’Neill on row 3, Tim Ellis and Toby Case, Nik Hoyle and Josh Adams rounding out the top 10. A top 10 covered by 0.8secs, a top 20 by 1 second, and 8th through 25th covered by less than 0.5secs. More competitive racing and equal machinery you could not hope to find anywhere.
Jack O’Neill made sure to be on Barnard’s bumper into the first chicane ‘Variante Primo’ (read the E60 report to spot the reference) and was ahead of P2 Powell diving inside, as did Teal off grid 5, he’d get on O’Neill’s bumper to beat Westwood off grid 4. Sure enough when the field had sorted itself out on the back straight and rounded the Parabolica, over start finish it was Barnard, O’Neill by 0.7secs, ahead of Teal also from the inside line of the grid leading the field, with Andy O’Neill, and the out of luck Powell and Westwood making up the top 6. With Andy O’Neill pushing him on Darren Teal drafted in to make it a 4 kart dice for the lead. Westwood passed Powell for 5th place on the next lap, while in the main pack Fraser Brunton had moved up with Nik Hoyle, at the expense of Tim Ellis and Ben Leslie to tow the main field of around 15 karts through. Teal on a tear first passed Jack O’Neill for 2nd, and then Barnard for lead on the next lap, perhaps from experience Powell let Westwood go by, as Stephen was soon edging the pair back into the slipstream before the O’Neill brothers double teamed Barnard for 2nd made it briefly a 6 way battle for the lead.
By lap 10 however the brothers had been working together, of course they were, and we’re back up on Teal’s bumper, while also dropping Barnard into Westwood and Powell. Behind Brunton in 7th still pulled Hoyle around, but 5secs off the lead, then another gap to Ben Leslie who was being chased by Sandall in 10th with the rest of the field in behind him.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the circuit or perhaps it’s more pronounced than I remember but the field split into groups of 3s and 4s, Teal and the O’Neills content to dice but also not got overboard and worked together to maintain the gap to Barnard, Westwood and Powell, who in turn were working together in the opposite direction, into an effective stale mate. If you apply 101 aerodynamics, 3 karts together only have to push 1 karts air out of the way, the gap slid out a little to 2secs by halfway but remained pretty constant. It was little different behind, Hoyle then Leslie took a turn on the front ahead Brunton, then 2.5secs behind Adams had replaced Sandall while Cameron Noble, Tim Ellis and Daryl Snelling rode in the backseats of their group. 3.5secs behind Lewis Roberts was on his own, and 4/10ths slower and sliding away in 15th, because of it. And with the exception of Adams who managed to gap his group, that was just how it worked. Josh would move into the tail of Leslie-Brunton group to replace Hoyle who’d made a mistake and Nik was left giving Lewis Roberts a tow.
With a herculean effort into the second half Barnard broke clear of Westwood and Powell as they tripped over each other and although that would secure 4th place, on his own, he could not make ground on the leaders unless they started to seriously fight, and that was unlikely until late if the O’Neills drove smart, so the gap stayed at 2secs. Into the closing stages, Darren Teal summed up, “I‘d had a kart with decent mid to top end, and I’d passed Jack and Greg in the first two laps. We had a good battle up front, Jack had passed me a few times and I had repassed him down the back straight,” coming out of the slipstream. Jack had stepped aside for a few minutes and now Andy O’Neill was having a go. Teal again, “he had a cheeky look down the inside”, but Darren was having none of it. He would take the win by 0.4secs from Jack O’Neill, did his brother lift at the finish? Barnard rolled in 2.5secs down, 4secs behind Chris Powell had also passed Westwood and had held him off for 5th place. A further 5secs behind Josh Adams came through to finish 7th after towing Leslie clear of Brunton and Noble.
Off the start Andy and Jack O’Neill, as well Barnard off grid 4 had dived through then shuffled pole man Teal down the line. Josh Adams building on his great run through race 1 moved in behind Teal from grid 7, and he’d move by into 4th place on the next tour, leaving Teal complaining that his 2nd kart was not quite the match for his race one winner. Darren was further cursing his luck when Brunton moved by. It was clear that the brothers upfront would attempt to break clear and preferably leave Barnard behind, and they were aided in this when Adams moved into 3rd place on the next lap. Not sure Greg would have been thinking about the championship or not, but the feeling the second race would be a repeat of the first must have been obvious. Soon Greg would be hanging on to the karts in front for the tow it gave him down the back straight. Two seconds behind Teal was figuring out how to work with his new performance envelope using Brunton for a draft, with Ben Leslie, Chris Powell, Stephen Westwood, Ryan Sandall and Cameron Noble, 11th, in the line with him.
By the 10min mark, the race had taken on the same complexion as race 1. A sort of rapid stalemate, Barnard was flirting with losing the tow from the top 3, the Brunton-Teal group had split behind Darren, so Ben Leslie was towing Powell, Westwood and Sandall in 10th, leaving Noble, Lewis Roberts again isolated, Daryl Snelling bringing through the main field in 13th place some 13secs off the lead. Plenty overtaking into one of the chicanes, the ‘Lesmo’ hairpin or into Variante Horseshoe, only to be reversed by a big suck on the back straight and inside into the Parabolica, most of the time. Jack O’Neill took over the lead on 10mins, and the string broke again from Barnard to the lead group. Greg would have to limit the damage again, as you were faster as a group, working with drafting partners than as a singleton.
By halfway, Ryan Sandall had hopped, skipped, and drafted his way to 7th place to take over from Ben Leslie at the head of that group, while Lewis Roberts had passed Noble and was just picking up a tow from the same group to join it in 11th place, like Sandall he’d start working his way up the line. 1.1secs ahead of Sandall Teal was losing touch with Brunton, but Fraser was 4secs behind Barnard and looked like he needed a drafting partner only slightly less than Teal to make any firther progress.
Through 20mins it was more or less the same, the only variable was traffic being lapped, Adams perhaps fearful of being dropped by the O’Neills picked up an OverTaking under Yellow penalty (OTY), a 4 position penalty, that effectively left him trying to find a way by to 2nd on the road, to gain 6th in the results. I suspect it was demotivating. That was good news for Barnard’s championship points total 2secs behind him. Roberts passed Leslie for 8th, then Sandall, Sandall who himself had slipped back from Teal after Darren had worked himself back into Brunton’s tow in 5th, to become 4th and 5th when Adams’ penalty was applied. Lewis Roberts pulled clear into a safe 7th, promoted to 6th place finish. Star drive.
Into the last 5mins, not surprisingly for Young Drivers Championship poster boy, Josh Adams had lost the tow from Jack and Andy O’Neill, perhaps because there would be no trophy at the finish now, or perhaps he was tiring. Josh on his own, allowed Barnard to chip into his advantage for a while, but Josh held Greg at 1secs, and Barnard did not need the position, he already had it. The result will show Andy played dutiful wingman to brother Jack’s title tilt. The reality was they may have been racing, racing pretty hard, but Jack took the win to give him the round win as well.
Well someone has kindly applied the dropped score filter, and as almost predicted Jack O’Neill in reality has not a 10point advantage but an 11 point one, over Greg Barnard, with a further 7points over Fraser Brunton, and further 9 over Chris Powell. This quartet will contest the run in for the title, although it’s hard to look passed Jack O’Neill and Greg Barnard. Stephen Westwood, Ryan Sandall, Cameron Noble, and perhaps even Sam Hampshire, if he doesn’t concentrate on BUKC or his studies, and comes back, are in a fight for the final championship trophy for 5th.
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson