Jack O’Neill Completes Unique Triple Crown. Joins Peter Knight and Samuel Essery as Sprint Class Champions

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With Rye dropped from the calendar it was off to Lydd for the second time this season and with the clocks altering an early start was necessary for the penultimate round. A full day event too. Personally I love the full day events as it brings all the lights and heavies together making for a more social event. Championships would be decided too. But what a start to the day with heavy rain and a strong wind blowing off the Channel.

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Heats 1-4

And still the rain continued to hammer down as the Lights began their round of heats. Heat One went to Mike Coppin. Starting from grid ten he was up to second by the end of the first lap behind Ramunas Cerkauskas. Second time around and he was into first. He then drove away to take the win over six seconds clear of Cerkauskas with pole sitter Stephen Westwood third from Christopher Powell and Alisdair Irvine.

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Championship leader Jack O’Neill claimed the second heat. Starting from grid eight he moved to the front of the pack with three laps run with pole sitter and third in the standings Dan Healey second. Reigning Champion Ed Barrs chances of making it three Championships in a row were slowly slipping away as he finished third. Again there was a gulf in class as the three front runners finished some fifteen seconds clear of the pack. Tom Dix took fourth with Dan Seager fifth.

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Heat Three went to David Longman. A rare appearance for him but putting in a drive of pure class to head home the field by some five seconds. Ashley White took second. A strong drive too after starting alongside Longman on the second row. The veteran Keith Segal ran third for much of the race before being taken on the last lap by Rhianna Purcocks who put in a sterling performance driving through the field with great maturity after starting from grid ten. Thomas Barrett was fifth.

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Daz Teal opened his account for the day with a hard fought win in Heat Four. Teal started from pole and held a comfortable lead over the opening laps from Garrett Berry. Josh Adams was up to third after starting from grid seven and moved into second with three laps run. He quickly reeled in Teal and began to pile on the pressure. Penultimate lap and they crossed the line side by side with Adams ahead by just 0.011. But he couldn’t hold on and Teal was quickly back in front. Berry crossed the line third but was hit with a four place deduction after an early race incident with Rob Langthorp. Samuel Essery was thus promoted to third. A great effort for the C3 Champion elect after working his way up from grid thirteen. Peter Knight was fourth from Dante Dhillon.

Heats 5-8

Jack O’Neill made no mistake in the fifth heat leading away from the front row and never being headed. The gap at the flag from second placed Dan Healey was over five seconds but Healey was involved in a great battle with Mike Coppin over second place which slowed them both. Healey finally made a move stick at the final turn as he got inside Coppin. Coppin ran wide out of the corner and just missed out by 0.011. Ashley White was fourth but over fifteen seconds back from Coppin. But it was another valuable point’s haul for him. Dan Seager took fifth.

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Heat Six resulted in a lights to flag win for Tom Dix with Daz Teal claiming more valuable points in second. These two motored away from the rest of the pack with Reece Pope third but some eight seconds adrift of Teal. Jed Toole and David Longman were fourth and fifth. And still the rain continued to fall.

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Heat Seven produced a great fight for the win. James Wattis was first to show from Rhianna Purcocks and Josh Adams with Ed Barrs fighting his way up from grid nine to fourth. Two laps in and Wattis was almost two seconds clear of second placed Purcocks but down into the final turn he got badly out of shape and fell to fourth behind Purcocks, Adams and Barrs. His error cost him dear as he lost two more places to Langthorp and Irvine. Adams put a move on Purcocks at the Horseshoe and was briefly ahead. But Purcocks came back at him down the back Straight. Adams tried to hold on but ran wide. Purcocks was back in the lead and Barrs too got the better of Adams over the line to run ahead into the first chicane. Adams tried to get back on the run into the Horseshoe but went in too deep and found himself relegated to fifth behind Langthorp and Irvine. Penultimate lap and Adams went by Irvine into the Horseshoe for fourth whilst at the front Barrs went by Purcocks for the lead round the final turn. Final lap and Adams went by Langthorp for third whilst Purcocks went back into the lead taking Barrs into the Horseshoe. And she held on to take the win from Barrs with Adams third from Langthorp and Irvine. A great race. Great driving from them all in the appalling weather.

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Steve Hicks took the win in Heat Eight after a great battle with Peter Knight. Christopher Powell led the opening lap from Hicks and Knight with Samuel Essery up to fourth after starting from grid twelve. But the C3 Champion elect lost it on the final turn and found himself beached in the bark and unable to restart. Angus Waddell took third with Powell fourth from Callum Brewell.

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Heats 9-12

Jack O’Neill made it three wins from three with a comfortable win in Heat Nine. Starting from grid five he was quickly into the lead and then drove away from the pack to win by over ten seconds and secure pole for the A Final. Alisdair Irvine and Reece Pope had a great scrap for second with Irvine just holding the advantage right through the race to hold onto second. George Lawlor was fourth from Ned Douglas. A great drive from Lawlor working his way up from the back of the grid. He and Douglas swapped places several times over the final three laps but it was Lawlor who came out on top.

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Heat Ten was almost a repeat of the first heat with Mike Coppin taking the win and Ramunas Cerkauskas taking second. Ramunas did however cut the gap finishing three seconds adrift this time with Dante Dhillon third from Rob Langthorp and Greg Smith.

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The penultimate heat fell to Ed Barrs. By this time the rain had at last stopped and the sun was beginning to break through. Barrs took the lead on the first lap and was never headed despite Dan Healey putting him under pressure over the final laps. Bryn Alban was third from Samuel Essery and Steve Hicks. Good drives from Alban and Essery heading home their respective classes.

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The final heat should have gone to Garrett Berry. He started alongside Peter Knight on the front row but lost out to Knight at the start and fell in line behind the leader. Tom Dix ran third a few lengths back with Josh Adams fourth. Penultimate lap and Adams went by Dix for third down the bottom of the circuit. As the leaders rounded the final turn Knight ran a touch wide, Berry kept a tighter line crossing the line the line just inches ahead. And there he stayed only to lose the win to Knight after a cone penalty. Adams was third from Dix with Teal fifth after working his way up from grid ten. For much of the race he was involved in a duel with Rhianna Purcocks which only went Teal’s way a lap from home.

The Finals
Finally the rain had stopped and the sun was out. But the track was still wet in places and standing water would continue to be a hazard throughout the remaining races.

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B Final

(All drivers in C3 unless otherwise noted)

C3 Samuel Essery on pole from Greg Smith with Callum Brewell and James Wattis on row two. Angus Waddell and Thomas Barrett shared row three with Mathew Cockerham and Andrew Rabbage on row four. Jed Toole and Rogerio Mendes occupied row five with Tony Philbin and C3 Russell Cooper on row six followed by two C3’s, Justin Draper and James Dunnett on row seven. Two more C3’s were on row eight, Rizwan Mangat and Andy Berry. C1 Jason Bradbury was not having the best of days qualifying on row ten with C3 Jagjeet Singh. At least Jason was assured of a class win of sorts. The next three rows were all occupied by C3’s. James Browning and Aaron Stilwell on eleven, Ami Breacher and Ross O’Brien on twelve and Dean Everest with Jo Ratcliffe on thirteen. Sam Morris shared row fourteen with C2 Cameron Williams followed on the penultimate by C3’s Thomas Krauter and Gracian Kalwinski with C2 Keith Segal all on his own at the back. Two to qualify for the A Final and a trophy for the winner.

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Essery and Smith brought the field up to the line at a steady pace on the still damp track. Essery judged his getaway perfectly whilst Smith moved to the right to cut off any attack from the second row. It worked too. Wattis got the better of Brewell to slot into third. Down the order Dunnett and Desai were early spinners. Over the line at the end of the lap and Essery was over a second clear of Smith, Wattis and Brewell. Barrett was next but already falling away from the leaders. Second time around and Brewell made an error, losing four seconds and dropping behind Barrett and Waddell.

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Third time around and Essery was pulling clear at the front whilst second placed Smith was edging away from Wattis. Waddell remained fourth but was over five seconds back. Half distance and Essery was over four seconds clear of Smith. Wattis remained third and was maintaining the gap to Smith but not cutting it. Brewell had fought his way back up to fourth but was over eight seconds adrift of Wattis. Waddell was fifth, over two seconds clear of sixth placed Barrett who had Bradbury hunting him down. Cockerham, Toole and Cooper completed the top ten. And so it remained save for Bradbury picking up places and running in the top five. Essery was circulating steadily and keeping a safe gap back to Smith who was now having to look over his shoulder at Wattis who began to close in over the final stages. But second was not to be. Essery crossed the line almost four seconds clear to clinch the 2021 C3 title in fine style. In truth he has been the class of the C3 field all season and will clearly do well in C2 next year.

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Smith kept Wattis at bay to claim the second qualifying spot. Brewell was a lonely fourth, ten seconds back from Wattis but four seconds clear of Bradbury who then lost ten places to penalties. Not one of his better days. Waddell moved up to fifth from Barrett, Cockerham, Toole and Cooper the latter also taking third in C3. Mendes completed the top ten. Fastest lap went to Essery who was the only driver to lap under fifty eight seconds. Smith was the fastest of the C2 runners.

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B Final Winner – Samuel Essery

A Final

(All drivers in C1 unless otherwise noted)

Jack O’Neill on pole from Mike Coppin with Ed Barrs and Dan Healey on row two. C2 Championship leader Peter Knight shared row three with Daz Teal. Row four had Josh Adams alongside Tom Dix with Rhianna Purcocks and David Longman on row five. Row six was shared by two C2 drivers Ramunas Cerkauskas and Alisdair Irvine followed by Steve Hicks and Ashley White on row six. Rob Langthorp and C2 Reece pope occupied row eight followed by C2 Dante Dhillon and Christopher Powell on row nine and C2’s Garrett Berry and Dan Seager on row ten. Row eleven had C2 Bryn Alban and C2 Stephen Westwood with C3 George Lawlor and C2 Ned Douglas on the penultimate row. A great effort from Lawlor guaranteeing him a trophy on the day in C3. As the drivers completed their warm up laps Teal had a moment after the chequered flag which could have proved costly. But he didn’t come to a halt. If he had he would have been sent to the back of the grid. A chastening moment showing that even on the drying surface getting off line could still prove costly.

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O’Neill brought the field up to the line but it was noticeable that the pole side of the grid was still damp with the anti pole side dry as it was on the racing line into the first chicane. Sure enough he lost out to Coppin through the first chicane. O’Neill lost out badly and by the time the field exited the second chicane he was down to fourth. Down the back straight and Coppin led whilst Teal sliced down the inside of Healey to take second. O’Neill was fourth but with Adams and Barrs almost alongside. Over the line second time around and Coppin was over a second clear of Teal from Healey. Adams was next but astonishingly over three seconds back with O’Neill down to fifth. Purcocks was sixth crossing the line just 0.001 ahead of Barrs with Hicks next.

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Third time around and O’Neill was back up to fourth. Barrs appeared to have a problem coming down the back straight and fell to ninth but he was quickly back on the pace. At the front Coppin was being rapidly overhauled by Teal. Quarter distance and the gap was down to a tenth with Healey half a second back in third but nearly five seconds clear of O’Neill. Barrs was back up to speed but still ninth. Down the back straight for the sixth time and Teal made a move on Coppin. But Coppin defended well and Teal had to back out of the move almost losing out over the line to Healey just 0.020 back. O’Neill was still fourth but well adrift. Next lap and Teal went down the inside again of Coppin into the final turn. This time he was better placed and emerged in the lead. Healey wasn’t quite close enough to take advantage and Coppin remained second.

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Half distance and Teal had pulled a gap at the front as Coppin defended from Healey. O’Neill remained fourth and had cut the gap but only by a few tenths. Adams was keeping the pressure on in fifth with Purcocks next from Barrs who pumped in the fastest lap of the race eighth time around. The reigning Champion wasn’t giving up without a fight. Down the order Irvine was ahead of Knight in C2 with the pair running ninth and tenth respectively. Teal continued to lead but Coppin had settled down and gradually reeled in the leader. Healey was still in with a shout just a few lengths back. Twelfth time around and Coppin got a little out of shape down the bottom of the circuit and Healey almost got by but Coppin recovered. Valuable time to the leader though had been lost. And Teal made the most of his advantage stretching the gap out to 1.2 seconds as Healey hounded Coppin. Two to go and Coppin upped his pace taking Healey with him. O’Neill was fourth but coming under repeated attacks from Adams. Barrs was up to sixth but some three seconds back from Adams. His reign was all but over. Penultimate lap and the front three remained in order but Adams was up to fourth. Final lap and Coppin was still too far back.

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Teal crossed the line for a second A Final win in a row and a valuable points haul for his fight for fourth in the Championship. Coppin remained second from Healey. Brilliant drives from all three. Adams was next. Another great drive but sadly a cone penalty dropped him to fifth and promoted O’Neill to fourth. But with Barrs finishing sixth it was enough for O’Neill to clinch the Championship with a round to go. Hicks came home seventh with Peter Knight eighth and first in C2. A result that confirmed his C2 Championship for 2021. Purcocks was ninth with Irvine tenth and second in C2. Third in C2 went to Pope in fifteenth with Essery collecting another trophy with a C3 win from Lawlor. Dan Healey set the fastest lap of the race on the final tour with Knight the fastest C2 driver and Lawlor fastest in C3.

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Class 1 Winner (again) – Darren Teal

Round up

In the Lights, Jack O’Neill’s early season dominance has been challenged over the last few rounds but he’s always been in the mix and with Ed Barrs finishing behind him at Lydd Jack is the new LW Champion for 2021. Ed Barrs should claim second with Dan Healey third from Daz Teal and Mike Coppin.

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Another Class 2 Win for the C2 Champion – Peter Knight

Peter Knight has romped home in C2 with Alisdair Irvine second from Reece Pope whilst in C3 Samuel Essery has taken the Championship in fine style with Ami Breacher a worthy runner up.

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Class 3 Podium – Winner Samuel Essery flanked by George Lawlor and Russell Cooper


What a day? The worst conditions for a round all season and probably for several seasons in the morning. But how well everyone coped. Hats off to all the drivers with some good clean racing and a noticeable reduction in the amount of penalties dished out. Our thanks too to the unsung heroes the marshals and the observers who had to endure the wind and rain but did so with their usual calm efficiency.

On to Bayford then for the final round.

See you there!

Words: Steve Gray
Photography: John Patterson