Knocking Off the Rust (from Drivers, Not Karts). Endurance Racing Returns!
TITAN WIN AGAIN! Picking up where they left off after winning the last round in 2019 to take the Premier Class Endurance title at Buckmore Park (yes I’m ignoring the false start in 2020, and Team Applewood’s first win last February). Nearly 18months later Owen Jenman, joined this time by Jack O’Neill, took Titan’s first win of the season (because there will be more on this evidence) by just 1.753secs over Team Applewood, when really it shouldn’t have been so close. Slick pit work put O’Neill into the lead after the first stop, building a race winning lead over the first half of the race, only for Jenman to nearly throw it back to Team Applewood with a black flag 15mins from the finish. Applewood’s Chris Alcock running the anchor leg, got his team mate Mike Coppin, all excited, “Owen exited the pits right on to our front bumper, making for a grandstand finish navigating the traffic, Chris had one nibble with about 5mins to go but couldn’t get by.”
Early pace setter Joe Holmes for G3 Pro returned to run down new team Scuderia Bandito, for 3rd place, anchor man Anwar Beroual Smith, “We were really happy with P4 on our first outing as a team, our pace is good, we just need to tighten up the pit stops, [that’s] where we lost time”, and it did allow the Holmes Beroual Smith, Sunday feature, to start a Saturday prologue, G3 Pro getting on to the podium in the very last corner, team captain Matt Hale quipping, “I don’t know how Joe does it sometimes… But I think he likes the challenge of pushing me and Barry to be the best we can be even at 43 years of age.” Others might jealous but G3 Pro have a watertight contract.
In Intermediates it would ultimately be dominated by The Three Swans, even though 2 Stroke 2 Furious and Ragazzi Racing made the early running up to the first pit stops, and Brillio were in the running, but an early pit stop by The Three Swans proved a masterstroke, and it was all swans from there, finishing 2 laps clear of Ragazzi and Jaws at the finish and ahead of the Clubman Class winner, which is why they feature ahead of Clubmans in this summary.
Clubman Class is however as competitive as ever, and likely to be the most competitive class all year, with JK Rolling coming through to the win, after battling passed Conman Racing coming into the last 5mins, the top 8 in the class were covered by just a lap after 2 hours, Runtime Exception Racing’s pursuit of third place was invain as Auditing Armageddon need not have worried, as post race inspection found an exception to Runtime’s last driver’s weight. First day back, after so long, it happens, rusty strategy, rusty pit stops, rusty driving. The machine will be well oiled again by Whilton Mill.
You won’t be surprised to learn G3 Pro were rapid out of the gate, with a 40.62 when practice turned to qualifying. Joe Holmes’ time standing right through the 10min session. On the front row to begin with was Will Van Ess for Palatinate Racing (the name? Might be something do with a historical region of Germany – yes I had to look it up, just so you don’t have to) with 41.051, before Chris Alcock slid Applewood into P2 the next lap.
By mid session 2 Stroke 2 Furious from Inters were 4th, with Clubmans Slickspeed and Conman Racing 4th and 5th, Scuderia Bandito, Ragazzi Racing, cLunge Racing and Auditing Armageddon making for a very healthy split of classes in the top ten. Sharpening the pencil by tiny fractions 3rd through 11th were covered by just 2/10ths to begin with, Ministry of Speed first moved into P9, Scuderia Bandito edged on to the outside of the 3rd row, then demoted Palatinate off grid 3, cLunge moved back up to P8. Strangely absent at this important juncture were the Titan teams with Jack O’Neill posting a representative time with just 2mins to go, but only for P11, demoting Ministry of Speed to P12. Applewood and Bandito were within a tenth off Holmes’ time but would it remain at the top of timing screen to the finish. The last two minutes saw no position changes, perhaps the track had lost 2-3 tenths for most, but in saying that Alcock did manage to improve his time to a 40.92 but Team Applewood were still starting grid 2, just 0.058 off pole, but still off. Scuderia Bandito, Palatinate Racing on row 2, 2 Stroke 2 Furious as leading Inter, and Slickspeed, as leading Clubman, on row 3. Followed by Conman, with new promotees to Premier Class cLunge Racing, JK Rolling from Clubman and Ragazzi Racing from Inters making up the top 10. Useless but interesting stats (and your host likes these stats), 32 of the 36 team field were within 1sec of pole position, P8 to P26 covered by less than 0.4. Equal machinery, as equally prepared as they could possibly be.
Thirty-six karts on a 40sec lap, with new or rusty teams, with strategy dusted off or untried, and teamwork all fingers and thumbs, and the driving? Was going to make traffic, both on track and in pit lane, with 5 mandatory fuel stop windows and avoiding penalties crucial to the result. Not losing time the aim, making progress and failing in both, is a recurring theme.
Of the start, Holmes would get G3 Pro into turn 1 and lead down the back straight, and he was stretching the tow to Alex Pritchard taking the start for Applewood, Matt Wileman for Bandito lost out to van Es for Palatinate on lap 2. That quartet had already edged clear of cLunge who’d got around Slickspeed, the pair leaving 2 Stroke 2 Furious to tow the main field around in their wake, before they broke clear with Ragazzi, as Darren Teal moved Ministry into 9th place to lead the pack, joined by Jack O’Neill in Titan to make up the top 10.
cLunge and Mitan Totersport played the early pit stop card, 2mins in, it was bold, but the logic (reasoned above) for the first window of the season, was sound. JK Rolling pitted the next lap from just outside the top 10, van Es moved passed Pritchard to be 0.5secs off the leader, while O’Neill moved passed Teal in Ministry. Only 6mins in Holmes and van Es caught the first traffic, and Holmes would soon edge away through it, Matt Hale “Joe was on fire as per normal”, but would soon be pulled into pit lane to be saved to run the anchor leg, by now Pritchard and Wileman had slipped off the leading pair into a private battle of their own, Matt moving Bandito into 3rd. By the 9min mark Titan had moved into P5 demoting cLunge and closing down on both first Applewood then Bandito. Teal had taken Ministry to pitlane and emerged as the leading early stopper, in P20, 30secs off the lead, 8secs clear of Andy O’Neill in Mitan, until Barry Luetchford merged G3 Pro back into traffic from pit lane in P15, 3secs ahead of Ministry.
Deep into the first window O’Neill pitted Titan from 3rd place, O’Neill going again, and ouch! Emerging in 9th, 7secs clear of Luetchford in G3 Pro, the champions were not rusty at all, G3’s Matt Hale again, “We were beyond poor in all of our pit stops compared to Titan. We lost so much time. It’s something we’ll need to put right at round 2.” Applewood were also 10secs slower in their stop, team mate Mike Coppin, “We lost time with a longer stop having used more fuel in practice & qualifying than Titan who’d saved theirs.” (Maybe 5 laps less, I suppose it depends if/when they may have refuelled in practice), Pritchard returned also behind Ministry and Mitan. Closing in on his late pit stop leader van Es picked up a black flag and penalty for Advantage By Contact (ABC) Bump & Pass that would take Palatinate out of contention. Bandito and Clubman Slickspeed pitted from 2nd and 3rd, and as the window began to close cLunge enjoyed a 3secs lead, briefly, over Inters 2 Stroke 2 Furious, before coming from 15secs down the road Titan Motorsport took over the lead of the race, a lead, save for the fuel window rotation that would not look threatened for the next 90mins, until Jenman’s black flag.
Behind Titan, 11secs behind, Ministry’s Teal headed G3 Pro, Andy O’Neill in Mitan, Wileman again in Bandito, cLunge and Applewood, all Premier teams, covered by 6secs, tagged on to this group were Slickspeed from Clubman, gap to a chasing pack of Auditing Armageddon, new prems G3 Pro Farecla, JK Rolling and Conman Racing. Leading Intermediate team was The Three Swans in 17th, 10secs ahead of Ragazzi Racing and, just behind and just off the lead lap, Brillio.
G3 Pro kicked off the 2nd round of pitstops, Hale was right, they’d lose another 10secs to Titan in this stop, and when it was all done, it’s clear that O’Neill has gained only a couple of seconds on track in his previous stint and between 3 (Ministry) and 14secs (Mitan) in the pit stops. Titan had a 17secs lead over Teal again, Wileman had been swapped out for Will Dendy in Bandito, a further 7secs behind, Andy O’Neill going again for Mitan not far off with G3 Pro, cLunge, G3 Farecla and Coppin, for Applewood, ranged out behind, 3rd through 10th covered by 10secs. In Clubman JK Rolling were racing Conman and Slickspeed to make up the top 10, after Auditing Armageddon’s black flag, while slipping off the lead The Three Swans had Intermediates well under control. If ‘under control’ is really ever ‘under control’ in Club100, I don’t know.
At the hour mark, Ministry of Speed’s Darren Teal pitted from 2nd place, 27secs off lead, to make way for Jordan Hill, by now most of the pit stops were slick, and the damage had been done in the first, particularly, and the second pit stop, for a while the other Titan team, Mitan, were 2nd although 30secs off the lead, Coppin had been on the fast pace (low 41s) throughout his first stint and would pick off both G3 teams, cLunge, and eventually Dendy in Bandito to go P3 again, 35secs off the lead and 5secs behind Hill in Ministry, setting up a three way battle for the lower steps of our slightly separated podium for the second half of the race but this was all half a minute behind Owen Jenman in Titan.
Slotting back into 5th after another poor stop was Mitan, Mike Philippou replacing Andy O’Neill, dad Martin O’Neill watching on, “Very frustrating watching Andy then Mike working their way forward only to have it all taken away at each stop. They had problems starting the kart on each fuel stop, which was hampering their progress each time”, by about 5-10secs a stop on their A team. And only made worse by a black flag for multiple contacts, I suspect some sort of totting up process here, and mostly not on Mike, but the penalty fell on his watch, and saw them out of contention for the podium. He would slide off the lead lap, where the G3 teams were briefly headed by Matt Hale, in the Pro team, before Farecla moved by. Slickspeed moved up to 7th to lead Clubman from Conman and Runtime Exception Racing, separated by 3 and 10secs to the class leader.
And the penalties kept on coming with Jordan Hill picking up an ABC Take Out for Ministry of Speed taking him out of contention, returning 5th behind G3 Pro, leaving the field clear for Chris Alcock in Team Applewood, and their improving pit stops, to drop Anwar Beroual Smith running 3rd. As the last fuel window opened with 20mins to go Titan led by 35secs from Applewood, 16secs ahead of Bandito, then 8secs to Matt Hale in G3 Pro, who had some success chipping time out of Beroual-Smith. G3 Pro were looking to send in their star striker Holmes asap for the finish, when the window opened. 9secs behind Ministry were under pressure from G3 Farecla, 23secs behind was Philippou in Mitan, who had just passed cLunge for 7th. Three Swans were winning Inters in P9 overall, CKS Throatpunchers had reached the top 10, in their new Premier Class home. Clubmans was going Runtime Exception’s way, but of course they would later be excluded, so it’s worth remarking that Conman, Slickspeed (before an ABC multiple contact penalty) and JK Rolling were still covered by 4secs in what with Runtime looks like a really entertaining class for the season.
After ‘The Holmes’ was deployed, Applewood was followed to pit lane by Bandito, Alcock would return still in 2nd place, Anwar would emerge in 5th, with Ministry and Farecla due to stop ahead of him and Joe Holmes 6secs behind for G3 Pro, after Bandito had already lost 3secs, they could ultimately ill afford, to G3 Pro in the fuel stop. In the closing stages of the fuel stops Jenman picked up his OverTaking under Yellow (OTY) penalty, Hill had already peeled off Ministry for their last stop, and when Farecla brought the window to a close, for the front runners at least, returning 6th behind Ministry, with 10mins remaining, Jenman re-emerged on Alcock’s nose to race to the finish, while Holmes had started hacking lumps off Bandito advantage in 3rd. It really all depended on the traffic. Jenman’s penalty also brought both G3 teams, and Ministry back on to the lead lap.
Holmes soon had the gap to 3rd place down to 3secs, and I can only assume Wileman and Dendy had got the hurry up message across as the G3 Pro closing rate had reduced to just a few tenths and even reversed on some laps, but it would not be enough. Head over and request access to our Drivers Facebook Group if you want to the see the video of how that finished in the last couple of corners of the race, as I can’t do it justice, and comments on the post are very funny. Matt Hale again, “We will have to analyse the race data and make the necessary changes to challenge Titan. I reckon this is the strongest Premier endurance championship line up I’ve seen in years so every race is going to be super tough. Joe was about 13 seconds of 3rd place with 15 minutes to go and the amount of traffic both he and Anwar sliced through was unbelievable.” Further forward Jenman had seen off one attempt by Alcock and was doing his best to stay out of draft range at just over 1secs to the finish, Owen Jenman, “I gave the fans what they wanted, that black flag eroding our entire lead, setting up a grandstand finish.”
In Clubman JK Rolling would hold off Conman Racing as they crossed the line for the win, Auditing Armageddon taking 3rd place, after recovering from a penalty of their own, following them home were Runtime Exception before they were excluded, promoting Slickspeed (penalty), Speedscreen (at least one penalty), and DDMM Barnstormers, Howard Mitchell finishing, his team Andy Mather summing up nicely, “Everyone seemed to get a black flag apart from us at some point, our excuse was I had a coming together with Dickie Allen mid race. That and I am currently too fat, and too slow at getting out of the kart in the fuel stops, and a season of E60 and no fuel stops means my wrist strength to get that fuel cap off has completely gone.”
Or put another way endurance racing is all about saving time – in the fuel stops, and not wasting it with penalties. This was always true. It hasn’t changed while it was away.
Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: John Patterson