James Browning Wins A Thriller, Helped In No Small Part By Jon Gooch
After an overcast but dry morning the clouds finally lifted and the circuit was bathed in glorious sunshine but with a stiff, and sometimes chilly, breeze blowing in from the not too distant sea. No chance of rain though to spoil the fun. Qualifying Group 1 Tim Hill was quickest straight out of the box and stayed at the top of the timing screen right through the session. And just to prove his dominance he then bettered his own time on his final lap finishing with a 52.563 over three tenths up on second fastest Martin Gurnett. Jon Gooch and Lennie Wood were the only other two drivers to break the fifty three second barrier. Nick Trafford was fastest Super-Heavyweights (SHW). Group 2 All the leading runners set their best times early in the session and it was Steven Downes quickest with a 52.555. Very impressive this from a driver having his first outing of the season. Only two other drivers broke the fifty three second barrier, Andrew Dawson and Mike Bodnar, whilst fastest SHW was George Bagley. Pre B Final Four places to race for and qualify for the Pre A Final. Andrew Cherry was on pole from Ben Bennyworth followed by Alexander Lammin and Robert Stapleton on row two. George Bagley and Adam Wright on three followed by Chris James and David Stirling with Howard Mitchell and Pete Gillett completing the top ten. As the field raced down into the Hook for the first time it was Cherry to the fore. The entire field exited the Hook relatively unscathed. Gillett had a grassy moment but was still running. Cherry continued to lead but by the end of lap two Lammin was at the front having dived down the inside of the leader at Chandlers. Bennyworth was third and having to defend hard from a very determined Wright. Stapleton’s chances had already evaporated as he spun out of fourth place on the second lap. Lammin continued to lead from Bennyworth and Wright whilst Cherry dropped to fourth. Round the hairpin for the fifth time Bennyworth had a look at Lammin for the lead and the two ran wide. Wright took full advantage and passed them both. Thereafter he drove away to take the win by over two seconds. Bennyworth finally found a way by Lammin and gave vain chase to the leader whilst Cherry contented himself with fourth. Chris James gave chase but the top four were well clear by the flag. James Johnston was the first of a gaggle of Superheavies in sixth but was some ten seconds adrift of James in fifth. Pre A final Downes on pole from Hill followed by Dawson and Gurnett with Jon Gooch and Lennie Wood on row three. Mike Bodnar and Anthony Harrington sharing the fourth row with Mark Ridout and James Browning on five. The best that can be said about the start was that it was a bit scruffy. Downes looked from my vantage point to be a little slow away and Hill edged ahead whilst Gurnett got a flyer and was alongside Hill to his left. Downes though moved to his left. In fairness he had too as that’s the way the track goes. Hill gave him room but caught Gurnett. Momentarily Hill’s front wheels were off the ground but as they sorted themselves out it was Downes who exited the Hook first from Hill, Harrington and Gurnett. It was very untidy but they all made it. Down the order Andy Cowell was a spinner. The only one on a very fraught first lap. Behind the leading four Gooch dropped from fifth to ninth with Wood slotting into fifth. Browning and Ridout were having a great battle over seventh. At the front the order remained static at the end of each lap but all round the lap the front four were jockeying for position. With six laps run though we had a change at the front. Dawson taking over at the front with Hill second from Gurnett and Downes down to fourth. Hill though was intent on being at the front and grabbed the lead out of the Hook. Dawson fought back and dived inside at Surtees only for Hill to fight back into Macwhirters. Down into Chandlers Hill looked to have the edge but a cloud of dust out of the corner told a different story. Dawson emerged in the lead from Downes whilst Gurnett spun to halt having been tagged by Hill who himself lost out badly dropping to eighth. He would retire the following lap. All this drama promoted Browning into third. He’d been making steady progress from the start. Harrington and Gooch were running fourth and fifth with Wood sixth having kept himself out of trouble. Dawson still led from Downes but Browning was rapidly closing them down setting fastest lap on the tenth tour. With two to run he was up to second and then on the final tour he managed to get himself to the front for a well judged win. Harrington followed him through to take second with Downes third on the road but classified sixth after a three place penalty. Gooch took third with Dawson fourth from Wood. Ridout placed seventh with Ballinger, Bodnar and Nitch-Smith completing the top ten. It was certainly entertaining to watch but there was far too much contact throughout the race and before the Final the whole field was warned about driving standards. And rightly so. B Final Just the top two finishers to qualify for the A final. Robert Stapleton was on pole from Chris James and these two made no mistake romping away from the rest of the field. By the flag Stapleton was over seventeen seconds ahead of third placed Howard Mitchell with James second over two seconds back. Mitchell was first of the Super heavies and he himself was well clear of George Bagley and Aaron Stevens who provided most of the entertainment in a very spread out field. A Final One trophy winner was already decided before a wheel had turned as Nick Trafford was the only SHW to qualify for the A final. He’d been dominant in the class all event long so it was well deserved. Browning sat on pole with Gooch alongside from Ballinger and Ridout on row two. Bodnar and Harrington on three from Downes and Wood on four with Dawson and Cowell on the fifth row. Browning and Gooch led the field into the Hook and it was clear that heed had been taken of the warning regarding over aggressive driving. All good clean fun. Browning and Gooch were running nose to tail with Ballinger tucked in just few lengths back in third ahead of Ridout who was coming under pressure from Harrington whilst Bodnar dropped to fifth. Behind these Downes and Dawson were battling hard over seventh. Hard drivers both but it was fair each giving the other racing room when needed. At the front Browning continued to lead but Gooch was looking up the inside into the final hairpin and sizing up his chances of a clean move whilst Ballinger kept a watching brief in third ahead of Harrington and Dawson. Half distance and Gooch moved into the lead at the Hairpin only to lose the place a lap later whilst Harrington found a way past Ballinger only to have the latter fight back a lap later. Good racing. A lap later Harrington was back ahead of Ballinger who probably tried to defend a bit too hard and lost a little momentum allowing Dawson to also overtake. And that was how they finished. A well judged win for Browning from Gooch with Harrington and Dawson several lengths back in third and fourth. Dawson I thought was unlucky to make the podium, a yellow flag at the Hook on the last lap saw him pull out of an overtaking move and he couldn’t get back on terms with Harrington. Good drives from them both though. Ballinger held off the challenge from Downes at the end. Good drives from both of them with Wood only half a second adrift in seventh. A strong performance from him too. Bodnar, Ridout and Nitch-Smith completed the top ten whilst Andrew Wright set the fastest lap. Reflections Llandow is a great circuit so I found it a little disappointing the entries were a little bit down. The Club strives hard to provide a good variation of circuits. I know drivers have budgetary concerns but missing out on venues such as this is a great pity. I saw much on social media last week about drivers wanting to visit PF in the future. But would you want to risk the high costs involved if members won’t travel north because they think it’s too far? There was also some pretty poor driving at Llandow. I don’t know whether its the circuit configuration that contributes to this or if it’s just plain stupidity particularly into the first corner complex. Perhaps missing this out on the first lap might be a consideration. Then again maybe it is just drivers not using their brains. After all, the Elites managed perfectly well so why not everyone else? See you at Ellough!