Jack O’Neill Dominates around Clay Pigeon, 2021 is Go!

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Bright sunshine and a stiff breeze greeted the competitors for the first Sprint Round of the season. It was cold too but the day promised to get warmer. A late start to the season and a different venue for the opening round. Normally it’s Buckmore in the cold and damp of February. Enough has been said about the Buckmore situation. Personally I hope it gets sorted and the track returns to the calendar. But in the meantime it’s time to go racing! CLUB100 is Go! Go! GO! Thank you Murray. You were a diamond.

First up for the day, the Lightweights    

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The Road to the Finals.

Reigning Champion Ed Barrs began his title defence by taking the win in the first heat of the day. Starting from grid eleven he had to work his way up the order before taking early leader Jason Bradbury at half distance and then moving clear. Bradbury came home a comfortable second from Josh Adams, Chris Lewis-Evans and Peter Knight.

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Bailey Morgan took a stylish win in Heat two leading from lights to flag and holding off a late race charge from Jack O’Neill who had worked his way up from grid thirteen. Tom Dix took third from James Wattis and Chris Alcock.

Daz Teal’s day got off to a bad start when Dad Keith had a fall at the hotel and broke his collarbone. Despite being in great pain he stayed to support his boy and was rewarded by Daz taking the win in Heat Three. We wish him a speedy recovery. (It’s his round for the coffees). Jonah Barker crossed the line second but was hit with a penalty which promoted Reece Pope up to second from Andrew Ward, Dan Healey and Alisdair Irvine.

Heat Four went to Steve Hicks. Starting from grid seven he was up to the front by half distance and never challenged thereafter. Roger Davis took second after taking James Martin on the penultimate lap. Martin lost out badly over the final two laps after he was clipped by Adam Wheeldon and dropped to seventh. Wheeldon was penalised down to eighth promoting Lloyd McGeoch-Williams to third, Mike Coppin to fourth and Christopher Powell to fifth.

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Ed Barrs took another dominant win in the fifth heat leading from lights to flag and heading home Darri Simms who had started from the second row. Dan Healey claimed third after driving up from grid ten followed by Stef Theodorou and Rhianna Purcocks.

Jack O’Neill took the win in sixth heat heading home Chris Alcock with Steve Hicks third. Ashley White and Reece Pope completed the top five.

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Heat Seven resulted in a brilliant win for Mike Coppin. Starting from grid eight he was into the lead by half distance and then held off a spirited challenge from early leader Alisdair Irvine who had to be content with second. Daz  Teal recorded another strong points haul with third after a strong drive up from grid thirteen. Ned Douglas and Christopher Powell completed the top five.

Heat Eight fell to James Wattis. Starting from grid five he moved ahead of early leader Matt Collier and then stretched his advantage all the way to the flag. Collier took a comfortable second ahead of Hussain Rashid with Josh Adams next. Dan Seager came home fifth after working his way up from grid thirteen.

Dan Healey had to work for his win in the ninth heat. Starting from pole he was  never headed but had to keep a wary eye out for Chris Alcock who chased him all the way to the flag. Ed Barrs claimed valuable points with third from Rhianna Purcocks and Darri Simms.

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Jack O’Neill took his second win of the day in Heat 10. After starting from grid five he was at the front by the end of the first lap and then drove away to take the win by over seven seconds. Peter Knight was second from Josh Adams, Ashley White and Stef Theodorou.   

Tom Dix took a comfortable win in the penultimate heat in what was something of a procession after the first three laps. Garrett Berry was second with Mike Coppin third well clear of Joshua Halloran and James Martin in fourth and fifth.

The final heat went to Steve Hicks after a great battle with Daz Teal. Teal led for several laps before Hicks got the better of him with three to go. Teal kept up the pressure but Hicks had enough in hand to hold him off by just a couple of Kart lengths. Ramunas Cerkauskas took third ahead of Jason Bradbury and Alisdair Irvine. 

The Finals

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C Final

All the drivers in the first final of the day were C3 entrants unless otherwise note. Pole for experienced C2 entrant Jed Toole with Jagjeet Singh alongside.  Dean Everest lined up on row two alongside C2 driver Rogerio Mendes. Row three saw C2 entrant alongside George Lawlor with C2 driver Dan Seager alongside Justin Draper on row four. Bryn Alban and Matt Cockerham shared row five with Alex Brandham and the penultimate C2 entrant, the evergreen Keith Segal, on row six. David Hamer and Ami Breacher were on row seven followed by Finn Pharoah and Ross O’Brien on eight. Andrew Bushell and James Dunnett shared row nine with Luke Dunnett and Peter Sharpe on row ten. Gareth Pritchard and Sam Morris occupied row eleven with Simon Sharpe and Matt Hugo on twelve, James Browning and Bartech Barakonski on thirteen with Liam Rogers and the final C2 driver Charlie Monk on the back row.

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Given the lack of CLUB100 experience on the full grid it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a few mistakes made in the first final of the year and so it proved. It’s a very steep learning curve and I’m sure everyone will make big improvements in pace and race etiquette as the season goes on. Fortunately there were no serious incidents just a lot of cases of ambition outweighing talent. Top four to qualify for the B Final.

Toole and Singh led the field away but Tagkoulis made a sharp start from three and was looking to make early gains. Unfortunately he was little too enthusiastic and hit Toole spinning the unfortunate pole sitter to the rear of the back. Coming into the chicane Tagkoulis then tagged Singh. Ten penalty drops in two corners. Not a great start to his season but thereafter he drove a sensible race to cross the line fifth but penalised down to fifteenth. All of which left Seager in the lead as the pack crossed the line at the end of the lap followed by Everest, Mendes, Tagkoulis, Cockerham and Lawlor.   Once at the front Seager immediately began to pull clear aided by the battle for second now headed by Cockerham from Mendes and the penalised Tagkkoulis.  Four laps in and Seager was almost four seconds clear but second to fourteenth was covered by just over five seconds.   

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Half distance and Seager was still holding a comfortable advantage from Cockerham with Mendes still a few tenths back in third. Draper was up to fourth but was some two seconds adrift of the top three but a clear of fifth placed Everest who was himself carrying a penalty and thus no threat. Two thirds distance and Mendes decided he wanted second and slipped by Cockerham. But that would prove to be the final decisive move amongst the front runners as the field began to spread. Seager completed the win with Mendes second from Cockerham and Draper completing the top four. Tagkoulis was next but penalised out of the top ten. A fate which also befell Everest which promoted Hamer and Singh to fifth and sixth. Alban was seventh with Luke Dunnett eighth from Bushell. O’Brien would have completed the top ten but a contact penalty dropped him down the order and promoted Monk to tenth. Seager set the fastest lap of the race with Cockerham the fastest C3 lap just 0.009 slower than Seagers best. Clearly the pace is there.

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C Final Winner – Dan Seagar

B Final

Two C2 Runners on the front row with Stephen Westwood on pole from Matt Collier. Next up, two C1 entrants, James Martin and Rhianna Purcocks. Row three saw two more C2 drivers, Roger Davis and Ned Douglas with C1 runner Chris Woodger alongside C2 runner Chris Lewis-Evans on row four. Row four saw newcomer and C3 driver Samuel Essery alongside C1 driver Rob Langthorp. A good performance from Samuel as the highest C3 qualifier at Clay. Four C2 drivers completed the next four spots, Eric Mignon, Lloyd McGeoch-Williams, Hussain Rashid and Aymen Salih. Row eight saw C2 driver Ramunas Cerkauskas alongside C3 driver Russell Cooper followed by two C2 entrants Joshua Halloran and Simon Bryant. C2 driver and Club100 returnee Adam Wheeldon was next alongside C2 Andrew Rabbage from C2 Jonah Barker and C1 driver Martin Theodorou and then the four qualifiers from the C Final. Top two to move up to the back of the A Final grid.    

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Westwood and Collier brought the field up to the line but it was Martin and Purcocks who used all their experience to move quickly into the top two spots with Westwood down to third from Davis as they crossed the line at the end of the lap. Douglas was next with Woodger  up to sixth. A lap later and he would be up to fifth. Two laps run and Martin still led but Purcocks was almost alongside as they crossed the line to start the third tour. Martin defended but Purcocks went by through the first turns. By the end of the lap she was half a second clear and thereafter she began to increase the gap. 

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By half distance she was over three seconds clear/ Westwood kept pushing but had no answer to the leaders pace. But he too was comfortable in second some three seconds clear of third placed Westwood. Down the order Theodorou was enjoying his day moving steadily up the order but he was never going to able to challenge the front two. As the race wound down the order began to settle save for Woodger making a move on Westwood for third. Sadly he clipped Westwood on the way by so despite finishing third he would slip to seventh in the results. Purcocks reeled off the remaining laps to take the win almost nine seconds clear of second placed Martin who came under a little pressure towards the end. But he held on to take the second qualifying spot with Woodger next over the line but penalised allowing Westwood back to third and the highest C2 driver. Salih was next from Davis with Theodorou sixth after a storming drive from the back row. Langthorp was eighth with the impressive Essery ninth and first C3 which also gave him the class honours. He also set the fastest lap in the class. Barker completed the top ten. 

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B Final Winner – Rhianna Purcocks

Purcocks set the fastest lap of the race with Rashid the quickest in C2. Mathew Cockerham and Justin Draper were second and third respectively in the C3 class.

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Class 3 Winner – Samuel Essery

A Final

Jack O’Neill took pole by just one point from reigning Champion Ed Barrs with Steve Hicks and Daz Teal on row two. Mike Coppin and Dan Healey shared row three with Chris Alcock and Josh Adams on row four. CLUB100 returnee Tom Dix shared row five with the first of the C2 runners Alisdair Irvine with the second C2 runner Peter Knight alongside Jason Bradbury. Ashley White and Christopher Powell occupied row seven with two C2 drivers James Wattis and C2 driver Reece Pope. Next up C2 Entrant Darri Simms alongside Andrew Ward followed by the remaining C2 runners, Garrett Barry and Callum Brewell on row ten, Cameron Moss and Adrian Martens on row eleven, Bailey Morgan and Stef Theodorou on row twelve with the two qualifiers from the B final, Purcocks and Martin on the back row.

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O’Neill led the field away but both Barrs and Hicks lost out badly round the first turns as Teal moved up to second. Hicks suffered worst and would be down to fifth by the end of the lap. First time around and O’Neill was almost half a second up with Teal second from Barrs, Coppin, Hicks, Healey, Alcock, Adams, Dix and Knight. O’Neill continued to pull clear at the front aided by Teal having to defend from Barrs. Coppin remained fourth but Hicks had fallen to seventh behind Healey and Alcock. 

With three run O’Neill was stretching his advantage. Barrs was up to second but Teal was fighting back hard whilst Coppin remained fourth ready to take advantage of any mistakes although he had problems enough of his own holding off Healey. Alcock was just holding off Hicks whilst Adams was just a few lengths back holding off Dix, Knight and Powell. Teal slipped by Barrs for second but was now over two seconds back from the leader. Coppin was snapping at Barrs rear bumper and with nine run he was up to third. Just under four seconds covered second to eleventh. O’Neill continued to stretch the gap at the front whilst Teal was keeping himself clear of Coppin who had both Barrs and Healey in his wheeltracks. And neither Alcock or Hicks were not out of the running but  not cutting the gap to the front five. 

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With five to go Healey made it by Barrs for fourth. A lap later and he by Coppin for third. But the fight had cost him timer to Teal who was now over a second up the road. With two to go O’Neill was well clear. Teal looked comfortable enough in second despite Healey being quicker and chipping tenths out of the gap. Coppin remained fourth with Barrs a few tenths back but clear of Alcock who had Hicks and the impressive Adams close behind. Final lap and O’Neill almost seven seconds clear with Teal half a second up on Healey but he was feeling the pressure and looking back. Down the straight and into the hairpins Healey was right on his bumper but Teal kept his composure and crossed the line a tenth up. Coppin took fourth just holding off Barrs on the line by 0.041 with Alcock a tenth back in sixth from disappointed Hicks who had Adams right with him at the flag. Dix came home ninth pipping Knight by .022 at the flag. 

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Class 2 Winner – Peter Knight

Knight also took the C2 but missed out on fastest lap to Brewell. Alisdair Irvine took second in the C2 class from Darri Simms. The race however belonged to O’Neill. Pole, lights to flag and fastest lap. It doesn’t get better than that.

Reflections

Another great days racing to kick off the season and it was great to see some new faces and some old faces returning. Personally I can’t wait until this virus is gone and I can get back to roaming the paddock with a tape recorder. 

I probably shouldn’t be but it was surprising to hear some of the complaints on Sunday. Clearly some drivers don’t read the rules. There are no appeals during the heats. End of. Don’t waste your breath or time. Jumped starts. Trying to argue that the poleman was asleep when the lights went green is no defence. The polesitter controls the pace and the timing computer doesn’t lie. You might just get away with it if you give the place back immediately but otherwise forget it. It’s a slam dunk. 

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See you all at Whilton!  

Words: Steve Gray

Pictures: John Patterson