James Taylor Wins Clubman Opener At Buckmore Park, Is This Just The Beginning?
Heat 1 Defending Champion Harry Neale was absent from the entry list so it was going to very interesting to see who would step into his boots. Five drivers stood out on the twenty two strong entry as they had moved classes. 2017 Heavyweight runner up Mark Ridout and fellow Heavyweight front runner Mathew Forkes had both moved classes as had lightweights Sammy Venables, Chris Bell and Jon Watkins. 2017 Lightweight runner up Liam Cochrane will also be in Clubmans when he races. James Martin led away from pole whilst Andrew Hall and Stuart Osborn both threw away any chance of a good result from their second and fourth grid spots by spinning out, allowing a fast starting Matthew Forkes up into second. And there he stayed with Stephen Jennings tucked in behind ahead of Martin Theodorou and Mike Townley. Further down the order Sammy Venables was making good progress up from Grid eleven. Forkes continued to press the leader but Theodourou was now up to second ahead of Stephen Jennings and Stefan Scully who had Venables hard on his bumper. Whilst Martin still led any of the top six were still in with a chance of the win. With three to go Forkes made his move and was ahead. Unfortunately for him he’d made contact on his way by and whilst he led over the line at the flag it was adjudged unfair and he was demoted down to fifth. In the same incident Venables took Stephen Jennings. A good clean move this though giving him an excellent third behind Martin and Theodorou and setting the fastest lap. Scully took sixth just holding off Christopher Powell with Mark Ridout next from William Topp and Mike Townley. Heat 2 James Taylor led the field away from pole but fellow front row starter William Topp spun away his chances at the first hairpin allowing Mark Ridout to take full advantage and slot into second ahead of 2009 Lightweight Champion Lee Kemp and David Whitehouse. Paul Jennings was briefly up to fifth ahead of Simon Lloyd but both were quickly overtaken by a charging Andrew Dawson and Chris Bell. Taylor continued to lead but the battle for second was beginning to heat up with the next six, still headed by Ridout running line astern. Then, in the space of three laps Ridout dropped to fifth behind Kemp, Whitehouse and Dawson. Lloyd was now right on Ridouts bumper having got ahead of Bell. With two to go Whitehouse swept by Kemp for second but couldn’t pull away. With one to run Taylor had the race won barring any misfortune but could Whitehouse hold on to second? Dawson was into third and piling on the pressure with Kemp, Ridout, Lloyd and Bell line astern behind. Up the hill for the final time and Dawson got better traction and was inching alongside Whitehouse as they headed towards the line. Whitehouse moved to the right ever so gently to discourage Dawson and just kept ahead as they crossed the line 0.058 apart. One more corner and Dawson would have had the place. A great result though for Whitehouse showing that when he gets his head down and concentrates on driving he really can be on the pace. Kemp, Ridout, Lloyd and Bell finished line astern with Andrew Hall some three seconds back in eighth from Paul Jennings who then found himself relegated to tenth behind Frankie Hedges as a result of cone abuse. Heat 3 Sammy Venables on pole but could he make the most of it? One lap gone and he was still out front but with third place starter Stefan Scully on his bumper and front row starter Jon Watkins dropping to third ahead of Dawson and a fast starting Mike Townley with Darrell Lowe next. Matt Forkes was up from thirteenth to seventh whilst Stephen Jennings had driven an even more astonishing first lap climbing from seventeenth to seventh. Andrew Hall, William Topp and James Martin had also climbed from the rear of the grid and into the top ten. At the front Scully was really pressing Venables and was ahead by the end of lap two. A lap later and Dawson too slipped by Venables. Within a couple of laps the latter was down to fifth behind Lowe and Watkins. The order at the front remained static over the second half of the race only being enlivened by Venables and Forkes squabbling over fifth. Behind these, Hall, Chris Powell and Taylor were fighting over seventh, a battle which would eventually finish in favour of Taylor who also benefited at the end from a cone penalty for Forkes to be classified sixth. But it was Scully who took the win exactly half a second up from Dawson with Lowe third just a couple of tenths adrift and setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour. Watkins was next well clear of Venables in fifth with Forkes next over the line but dropping to seventh after his penalty. Powell, Ridout and Martin completed the top ten. Hall would have been inside the top ten but he’d been overly aggressive and took a four place penalty. Final Pole for Taylor with Venables alongside. Dawson and Ridout on row two with Scully and Forkes on three from Martin and Watkins. Hall and Theodorou completed the top ten. Taylor made no mistake to lead the field from pole and remained at the front at the end of the first lap. Venables and Dawson both lost out as Scully moved up from fifth to second. Ridout got away badly falling from fourth to tenth over the first two laps. Watkins, starting eighth and Lowe, twelfth were early spinners. Gone from the fray was Lloyd who took a hit at the start of the third lap and retired. It would be late afternoon before he found the culprit, Chris Bell who, top man that he is apologised and admitted that he’d been lucky to escape a penalty. For his part Mr. Lloyd accepted the apology with some amusement. A good example to all. At the front Taylor was coming under serious pressure from Scully who duly moved ahead in the hairpins on lap five. Venables and Dawson remained third and fourth and well in with a shot at the win. Scully’s lead lasted but a lap and a half before Taylor was back in front. Within a couple of laps Scully was down to fourth ahead of Hall and Martin. Venables was closing in on the leader in the latter stages of the race as Dawson defended from Scully and Hall allowing the front two to break clear. But Dawson was in trouble having made contact with Scully as he moved into third. With two to run he was down to sixth as Scully, Hall and Martin made their way by. At the front Venables continued to press the leader. Into the final lap the leader was defending hard but fairly. As they went up the hill for the final time Taylor was just ahead and held on to take the win by just 0.093. Brilliant drives from them both. Hall took the final podium spot having taken Scully on the penultimate lap. Martin was fifth with Dawson crossing the line sixth but demoted to tenth promoting Ridout to sixth with the fortunate Bell in seventh and setting the fastest lap of the race. Whitehouse was next over the line but he too was carrying a penalty and dropped to ninth behind Forkes. Still, he can be well satisfied with his days work. Podium A very good win for James Taylor and he certainly enjoyed the moment smiling hugely and hugging everyone in sight. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Sammy Venables second place was a great effort. He appears to have lost a little bit of the impetuosity that cost him, and one or two others, dearly last season. And Andrew Hall can be well satisfied with his mornings work finishing third and well on the pace. A great days racing. Our thanks in particular to all the marshalls and officials who had to stand out in the bitter cold. And a cracking job they did too. As did Chris Simpson and his team producing the live feed. This was brilliant. The two commentators, Andrew Mather and Howard Mitchell were very, very professional. If you haven’t seen it, take a look and remember to like and share it. And finally a word of thanks to our sponsors, EssexFlatPack.co.uk, G3Pro and Dartford Karting. Roll on Whilton Mill.