Jack O’Neill. Four Wins in a Row. The Class of the Field

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It was good to be back at Buckmore after the circuit’s trials and tribulations over the last few months. A great circuit, the Spa of the Karting world. A pity the weather had decided not to play ball for the Heavyweights. After the brilliant sunshine of Lydd it was a shame to roll up at Buckmore to a wet track and horrible drizzle. But by the time the Lights came out for their heats the weather was still cloudy but the track was dry and the threat of any further rain had abated.

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The Road to the Finals

Ed Barrs took the opening heat but Chris Alcock made him fight for it. Barrs started from grid eight with Alcock on nine. Dan Seager led the opening laps from pole before Barrs and Alcock overhauled him. Their cause was helped by early spins for Owen Jenman, Chris Lewis-Evans and Andrew Ward. Alcock was first to show his hand taking both Barrs and Seager in the space of a lap. He held the lead until the penultimate lap before Barrs got by to take the win. Seager remained third with Kris Sales fourth from Fraser Brunton.

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Heat 2 went to Daz Teal. Stef Theodorou led away from the line. Teal followed him through the first turns and kept front row sitter Rhianna Purcocks to the outside. Teal went into the lead into the hairpins with Purcocks cutting back and moving into second. Thereafter Teal controlled the pace to take the win from Purcocks with Theodorou third from James Martin. Hussain Rashid was next over the line but he lost six places after spinning out Pietro Pagano on the second lap. Pagano did well to recover to eighth from the back of the field whilst Jason Bradbury took Rashid’s spot in fifth.

Heat 3 saw a chaotic opening lap with Cameron Williams spinning out of third place and both Andrew Rabbage and Matt Collier losing places after incidents. Ashley White started from the front row and led the opening laps ahead of polesitter Josh Adams. Peter Knight was third with Rob Langthorp running fourth. Mike Coppin and Jack O’Neil were making rapid progress up the order from grids ten and twelve respectively. Adams took White for the lead but a lap later Coppin hit the front. And there he stayed holding off a late attack from O’Neill with Knight third. Healey was fourth over the line but lost a spot for cone abuse promoting White to fourth.

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James Wattis led from pole to the flag in the fourth heat chased all the way by Charlie Monk who had started from the second row. Alisdair Irvine was third. He’d started from grid twelve and whilst he was up to third by the end of the third lap he couldn’t catch Wattis and Monk. Jed Toole took fourth with Reece Pope fifth.

Mike Coppin took his second win of the day in Heat 5 despite a late race challenge from Ed Barrs. Coppin led away from the front row and was never headed. Barrs had to work his way up from grid nine but despite closing in on Coppin over the final laps the latter had  enough in hand to take the win. Jonah Barker claimed third ahead of James Martin and Andrew Ward.

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Pietro Pagano made up for his early heat disappointment taking a smart win in the sixth heat. Rob Langthorp led for much of the heat having taken full advantage of Jason Bradbury and Oscar Lancaster running wide in the first hairpin. Chris Alcock ran second after starting from the second row followed by Alisdair Irvine, Rhianna Purcocks, Dan Healey, up from grid eleven and Pagano, up from grid nine. With two run Langthorp had a healthy lead from Alcock, Purcocks, Pagano and Healey with Irvine slipping back. But as the field rounded Cafe corner for the third time Healey was shooting across the track backwards into the tyres after being hit by Alcock. Healey lost a lap before he got going, his chances ruined whilst Alcock fell back to ninth. He would lose two more places over the course of the heat and then a six place deduction would see him finish second from last. Langthorp was over two seconds clear at the front by this time but Pagano upped his pace setting the fastest lap with two laps to go and getting right on Langthorp’s bumper. Penultimate lap and he was into the lead for a great win. Langthorp remained second with Purcocks third from Peter Knight and Stef Theodorou, the latter dropping from fourth to fifth after a cone penalty.

Jack O’Neill took a comfortable win in the seventh heat leading all the way from pole to flag and heading Daz Teal by over three seconds. Teal however had started from grid eight and took half the race to work his way into second having run behind Roger Davis for a few laps. O’Neill was long gone so Teal had to settle for second with Davis third and driving very well to hold off a late challenge from Bailey Morgan who was just 0.070 adrift at the flag. Stephen Westwood claimed fifth, a tenth back from Morgan.

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Heat 8 resulted in a win for Steve Hicks. He hunted down early leader David Longman and went to the front on the third tour. Longman held second for just a lap before Owen Jenman slipped by. Longman didn’t give up though and re-took Jenman on the final lap. James Wattis was next over the line but was penalised four places after a bump and pass on Matt Collier. Fraser Brunton was promoted to fourth with Kris Sales fifth.

Peter Knight took the Heat 9 win leading from pole to flag and finishing comfortably clear of Jack O’Neill who started from grid six. He was up to third by the end of the first lap but Reece Pope in second held him off for a couple of laps before O’Neill got by. But he couldn’t catch Knight. Pope didn’t give up on second and harassed O’Neill all the way to the flag. But he had to settle for third almost six seconds clear of fourth placed Jonah Barker with Stef Theodorou fifth.

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The tenth heat saw Garrett Berry being another driver to take a pole to flag win. Chris Alcock was second. He’d run fourth for much of the race before taking Stephen Westwood and Joshua Sangster in consecutive laps. But Berry held off his challenge. Rhianna Purcocks was fifth.

Dan Healey took a much needed win in the penultimate heat. Starting from grid four he was down to sixth by the end of the first lap with Ed Barrs leading after starting from row two ahead of Mike Coppin, up from grid seven, polesitter Andrew Ward, Steve Hicks and a very fast starting Ashley White, up from grid eleven. Barrs and Coppin were having a great fight at the front whilst Healey quickly made progress to run third by the end of the third tour. Coppin got by Barrs but couldn’t get clear. Barrs made a move on Coppin into the hairpins. Both ran wide and Healey took full advantage to slip by them both. Thereafter he pulled steadily away as Coppin held off Barrs to take second. Hicks was a lonely fourth with Fraser Brunton fifth.

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The final heat saw a second win of the day for a very on form Pietro Pagano. Starting from the second row he avoided the first hairpin dramas which saw poleman  Ramunas Cerkauskas drop to fifth ahead of Martin Theodorou. A lap later and both these were at the back of field. Ned Douglas led from Alisdair Irvine but once Pagano found his rhythm he slipped by them both in consecutive laps to take the win. Irvine claimed second with Kris Sales third from Ned Douglas and Dan Seager.

The Finals

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C Final

(All drivers in C3 unless otherwise noted)

Two C2 drivers on the front row with Andrew Rabbage on pole from Ramunas Cerkauskas. Row two had Justin Draper alongside C1 runner Martin Theodorou. Jagjeet Singh and David Hamer occupied row three with C2 Chris Lewis-Evans and Sam Morris on row four. Aidan Rudge and Simon Sharpe shared row five with Russell Cooper and George Lawlor on row six. C2 Matt Collier was on row seven with James Dunnett. Dean Everest shared row eight with C2 Cameron Williams. Row nine saw Kym Eley alongside Peter Sharpe with Andrew Bushell and Ryan Horton on row ten. Jordan Cranstoun and Luke Dunnett were on row eleven followed by Ross O’Brien, Matt Hugo and James Browning. Four to qualify for the B Final and a trophy for the winner.

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Drama at the start as front row sitter Cerkauskas went missing and failed to make the grid. When he did come to take his place the field were already on their second lap. Poleman Rabbage also threw away his chances by spinning out at Cafe corner on the formation lap. He would start at the back of the grid. Both drivers would be excluded from the results after twice receiving penalties for advantage by contact. With the front row out Draper and Theodorou led the pack away  but by the end of the first tour it was Lewis-Evans who led the field chased by Singh, Draper and Theodorou. Rudge was up to fifth ahead of Hamer whilst Everest, Eley and Bushell had all made strong starts. Two laps in and the field began to settle down. Lewis-Evans  remained at the front with Theodorou now into second from Draper and Singh. 

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Quarter distance and Lewis-Evans still led but Theodorou was beginning to close the gap. Singh remained third a few lengths clear of Draper who was holding off the challenge from Hamer. Everest was next but would not be a factor as he had received a first lap penalty after a bump and pass on the unlucky Collier. To make matters worse he’d also clipped the barriers at the top of the hill resulting in a further penalty. Eley was next from Bushell and Rudge. Half distance and Lewis-Evans still led but Theodorou was right with him crossing the line just 0.079 adrift. Draper was back in front of Singh who now had a cushion back to Hamer as Everest was running in a penalised fifth. Theodorou duly took Lewis-Evans in the hairpins for the lead. And that was how it remained all the way to flag.

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C final Winner – Martin Theodoru

Theodorou winning by a few tenths and taking home the trophy with Lewis-Evans second. Draper was well back in third with Singh fourth. Everest crossed the line next but was penalised down to tenth. Hamer was promoted to fifth from Bushell, Eley and Horton.

B Final 

(All drivers in C2 unless otherwise noted)

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Dan Seager on pole from Greg Smith followed by Roger Davis and Dom Cliffe on row two. C1 Dan Healey was next after his disastrous heats alongside Charlie Monk. Joshua Halloran and Joshua Sangster shared row  four with Lloyd Mcgeoch-Williams and James Wattis on row five. C1 Josh Adams occupied row six with C3 Samuel Essery followed by Garrett Berry and Oscar Lancaster. Hussain Rashid was on row eight with Jed Toole ahead of C3 Mathew Cockerham and Bailey Morgan. Twp C3’s next, Bryn Alban followed by Stefan Child and then the four qualifiers from the C Final, Theodorou, Lewis-Evans, Draper and Singh. Top two to progress to the A Final and a trophy for the winner. 

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Seager led the field away and was in the best possible place as the field piled into the first hairpin with no one willing to give an inch. Monk, Halloran, Sangster and Mcgeoch-Williams fell to the back of the order whilst Morgan leapt up to sixth from grid eighteen. Slater too made up places quickly. Seager led over the line at the end of the lap followed by Davis from Smith. Healey was next from Morgan and Adams. The field settled itself for a lap before Smith took Davis. Healey followed him through into third and a lap later he was into second. Morgan too got ahead of Davis. Seager was over a second clear at the front but would Healey begin to cut the gap? Half distance and Healey had cut the gap but not by much. Seager was still a second to the good. Morgan was up to third but trailing Healey by almost two seconds. Smith remained fourth a couple of Kart lengths back from Morgan with Essery up to an impressive fifth from Adams and Davis. Cockerham was next from Cliffe with Rashid completing the top ten. 

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B Finaal Winner – Dan Seagar

Three quarter distance and it was as you were at the front. Seager remained a second clear of Healey but both were running clear of third placed Morgan. And so it remained to the flag. Seager took the win with Healey half a second back in second almost four seconds clear of Morgan with Smith fourth. 

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Class 3 Winner Samuel Essery

Adams took fifth with Essery sixth and taking the C3 honours. Cockerham took seventh and second in C3 with Rashid, Cliffe and Wattis the next drivers over the line. However both Rashid and Cliffe had penalties. Rashid lost four places after a bump and pass on Wattis. Cliffe lost a place for cone abuse. All of which gave Wattis eighth with Cliffe ninth from Berry. Wattis also set the fastest lap of the race whilst Draper took third in C3 after finishing fifteenth.

A Final

(All drivers in C1 unless otherwise noted) 

Mike Coppin on pole from Championship leader Jack O’Neill with reigning Champion Ed Barrs on row two alonside C2 Peter Knight. Pietro Pagano and Rhianna Purcocks shared row three with Daz Teal and Alisdair Irvine on row four. Steve Hicks occupied row five with C2 Kris Sales. Two C2 drivers were on the sixth row, Jonah Barker and Stef Theodorou. Fraser Brunton and James Martin shared row seven followed by C2 Stephen Westwood and Ashley White. Owen Jenman and Andrew Ward were on row nine with C2 Ned Douglas alongside Chris Alcock on row ten. Rob Langthorp was with C2 Reece Pope with the penultimate row occupied by Jason Bradbury and David Longman followed by the two B Final qualifiers, Seager and Healey.

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Coppin led the field away with O’Neill tucking in behind. Knight got the better of Barrs to slot into third whilst Purcocks and Teal both got ahead of Pagano. Over the line at the end of the first tour and Coppin was still ahead. Just. O’Neill was alongside just 0.097 behind. He went ahead into the first hairpin. But Coppin stayed with him, not giving the leader any respite. But behind him Knight was beginning to close in. Quarter distance and O’Neill was half a second clear but Coppin was now having to defend from Knight who crossed the line just 0.092 behind at the start of the fifth tour. Barrs remained fourth and well in touch whilst Teal was several lengths back in fifth. Pagano had got by Purcocks for sixth and was pulling a gap as the latter held off Hicks, Brunton and Irvine. Coppin held off the challenge from Knight for several laps positioning his Kart brilliantly through the hairpins and losing very little ground to the leader. 

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Half distance and O’Neill remained in the lead but Knight had gathered himself up for another attack into the first turn crossing the line 0.082 adrift. Coppin defended hard and both went wide in the hairpins. Barrs was through to second in a flash whilst Coppin dropped to fifth. All of which allowed O’Neill to get further away at the front as the field closed up. Round the hairpins for the tenth time and a rattled Coppin got shuffled further down the order as Knight slipped back ahead of Barrs. Pagano and Teal both slipped by Coppin who only just managed to hold off Hicks as they crossed the line at the end of the lap. Hicks put Coppin under severe pressure but Coppin had gathered himself together and continued to repel Hicks attacks. But it didn’t last. Hicks slipped by on the penultimate lap. And that was how it remained. 

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O’Neill crossed the line almost two seconds clear of Knight but his win could be measured in inches. To explain. Mid race and O’Neill made a little error coming out of Cafe corner and exceeded track limits coming onto the straight.  Coming to the line for the start of the penultimate lap he made the same error. Two warnings. One more and it was a penalty. Heading to the line for the start of the last lap and he again went to the limit but by inches he remained OK.  Up to the line for the final time he made no mistake barely touching the white line and taking another win.

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Class 2 podium – Winner Peter Knight, Alisdair Irvine and Stef Theodorou

Knight was second and claimed the C2 honours with Barrs third and second in C1. Pagano was fourth and took the final spot on the C1 podium. A brilliant result and well deserved. He also set the fastest lap in C1. Teal was fifth from Hicks with Coppin next across the line but to compound his misery he suffered a cone penalty dropping to eighth. A final which had promised so much and delivered so little. Irvine was ninth and second in C2 with Purcocks completing the top ten. Theodorou was eleventh and third in C3 with Pope setting the fastest lap in C2 and the race beating Pagano’s C1 time by 0.050.

Championship Round-Up

Four wins in a row for Jack O’Neill gives him a healthy lead over reigning Champion Ed Barrs. Like Joe Holmes in the Heavyweights Jack is the class of the field at the moment but the title race is far from over. Mike Coppin is third. He has the ability to take a win he just needs to unlock it. Steve Hicks is fourth with Daz Teal fifth.

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Class 1 podium – Winner Jack O’Neill, Ed Barrs and Pietro Pagano

Peter Knight put in another strong performance at Buckmore and leads C2 from Alisdair Irvine and Stef Theodorou whilst in C3 Samuel Essery heads the standings after another class win. Mathew Cockerham lies second and took second in class at Buckmore with Ami Breacher up to third.

Onwards to Rye House for Round five in three weeks!

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: John Patterson