Naff Taffs Go One Better in Class A, Clive Morphett Rediscovers His B Class Speed!
With everything else going on in the world it was nice to rely on the south Kent coast and Lydd in particular to provide near perfect karting weather. The day had started with the September dew dampness but after arriving on site, by morning practice, that was gone and the track was dry. The breeze a drying one, and the day was set fair for sunshine, the last days of summer and all that.
When the event got going behind a rapid time from tester/clerk of the course Niki Richardson’s, it was Claudio La Rosa, and G2 Pro’s Welsh franchise Naff Taffs pace that set the non-alien pace. Tarik Almou looked perhaps the most likely to challenge ‘the Taffs’, who, after a race long battle with Jack O’Neill, had come up short at Rye House. A few new faces, as is the case with this 2020 series, and some returning old ones, made up the 33 kart grid, however there was no Matt Wileman, no Darri Simms, neither O’Neill brother, no Tim Hill, in a Class A leaving the way a little clearer for Tarik to extend his lead in the Class A championship, but that also made Naff Taffs the team to beat. Starting out strongly at Lydd, after dipping from his early season pace, in Class B was Clive Morphett, joined by Andrew Mather, perhaps with Alex Edwards, as the trio looked to hold B Class favourite Matt Horgan from the title for as long as possible.
Chris Lewis-Evans broke the beam to start qualifying, but his 44.421 was immediately demoted from provisional pole by Horgan, then Jason Kirk, and Mather with 43.896, behind him Calum Jones for Naff Taffs, Almou, Tom Zswed, Jon Buck, and Morphett had demoted everyone up to and including Kirk. Lap 2 saw Murray Knott move up to P5, 0.17 off pole, so Mather looked in danger. Sure enough the next lap Buckmore winner Steve Moody moved to the top, before Jones moved pole on to 43.622, and Morphett joined him on the provisional front row heading into the last 2 minutes. Moody was joined by Knott on the 2nd row, into the final minute Almou moved up to join Mather on row 3, at the expense of Szwed, Tarik only to be replaced by Kirk, Tom responded with 43.773 to go 3rd, just before the session ended. Jones had already moved pole position to 43.614 and no improvements on the last lap. So Calum Jones would start Naff Taffs from pole position ahead of Clive Morphett, Tom Szwed and Steve Moody, Murray Knott and Andy Mather, Jason Kirk and Tarik Almou, Max Kenney and JJ Aiston rounding out the top 10.
After finding his mojo near Ashford the last thing Morphett needed was a poor start, unfortunately the outside of the front row often is difficult to convert, and both Szwed and Knott would get ahead of Clive, as Jones pulled Naff Taffs into 0.5secs lead, Tom himself pulling a second clear of the chasing pack.
I saw Lydd described as the Monza of British karting, and after initially spluttering some tea, and thinking about it, perhaps it is, chicanes, a fast ‘Ascari-ish’ of the Variante Horsehoe and a fast Parabolica-esque last corner (just squint a bit). That being the case this would be a slipstreaming battle depending on the direction of the wind, breaking the tow paramount, to the escape and success from the long crocodile of karts in the early going on the charge down the ‘Rettilyddeo’ (ahem) back straight. Sliding across the kerbs in the chicanes, ‘Prima’ and ‘Seconda’, and stretching this metaphor to a single ‘Lesmo’ – of the hairpin at the far end, to offer the only major stop in this layout. I confess I can’t imagine a beautiful royal wooded park around Monza on Rye, but we don’t get out much these days, do we?
Lap 2 and Morphett’s hard work pre race was long gone, shuffled through the pack to 10th place, just ahead of B class rival Matt Horgan, and with new B class leader Mather was in sight ahead of Aiston in front of him. Upfront the race continued to edge Jones’ way, moving out to 0.8secs, and the limit of ‘the suck zone’ that Szwed was riding in behind, it would break on the next lap, but long enough for Szwed to drop Knott who was breaking wind for Kirk, Moody, Almou and Max Kenney in 7th, although Kenney was soon ejected, from the chasing group. Moody moved through Kirk to sit on Knott’s bumper, before Jason was shuffled out and down the order into the 2nd B Class group consisting of Aiston 6th, the recovering Morphett, towing Horgan, Mather, Kirk, Buck, Elliott Wilson, Hilda Racing, Alex Edwards, La Rosa, Ian Wilson and Stuart Kirk in 18th.
By Lap 10, Morphett had worked his way passed Aiston to lead the chasing group, Clive was less than a second behind Almou and closing. Tarik had failed to hang on to Moody in 4th place and Steve closed in and picked up the tow from Murray Knott in 3rd. Szwed’s early pace appeared to owe much to the tow, or perhaps his concentration had wandered, and Knott began eating into his advantage pushed on by Moody, and a battle over 2nd place was briefly joined by the trio around the 12minute mark.
When the pit lane window opened on 15mins for the compulsory chain lube stop, Naff Taffs lead was 6.5secs and growing on Szwed and Knott, and would only be slowed by lapped traffic and earlier stoppers. The lead was also an 8secs advantage on Almou and Morphett, 10secs on Aiston, Horgan and Mather, the trio having dropped Kirk, and Wilson, the latter to be replaced by Claudio La Rosa in making up the top 10. For Mather a good race was just what was needed, “My least exciting race of the year so far for me. [But] just what the doctor ordered, a quiet run through. I really enjoyed going back and forth with Matt Horgan. [And it] felt good to have strong pace for the majority.” The front runners would not begin stopping until the 25min mark with Matt Horgan’s stop, but it looked like most were running long. By then Mather had demoted Matt for 7th, Matt returning 22nd, Morphett had slipped by Almou for 4th, and set off after Knott, La Rosa on a bit of a tear was up to P9 ahead of Jason Kirk. Mather himself pitted on 29mins, to emerge 17th 1.2secs ahead of Horgan. Almou picked up a penalty for bump and pass, worth 4 positions and he was out of the A class podium hunt again.
Jones pitted Naff Taffs from a 12secs lead on 31mins, leaving Szwed and Knott racing for the lead, while Morphett thinking strategically had just caught up with Szwed and Knott, and made the smart call to dive into pit lane, losing no time in a battle with them. Effectively going for an undercut of sorts, with the addition of his general pace, it would prove to be a master stroke.
When Rhodri Parry returned for Naff Taffs, Rhodri started in 11th, two places and 10secs ahead of Morphett, who in turn was 8secs ahead of a battling Mather and Horgan for class B honours, and had been the leading early stoppers. Parry and Morphett were on a similar low 44secs pace, and perhaps very slightly quicker than Szwed and Knott, and Almou and Aiston, 7secs behind them. It would come down to well executed lube stops, which the remaining front runners appeared to be leaving late. Almou was followed by Szwed on 40mins, Tarik returned 3secs ahead of Horgan in 8th, and 7secs behind Morphett. Tom returned 3secs up the road on Tarik in what became 5th place, 3secs behind Clive when Max Kenney peeled off from 4th place. The remaining pit stops shook themselves out of the race in the dying minutes of the window, Murray Knott pitted from the lead, leaving JJ Aiston with 4 laps on the front before he stopped and closed the cycle.
With the field reset and 15mins to go, Rhodri Parry for Naff Taffs led by over 12secs and had control of the race from Clive Morphett, Murray Knott was 2secs behind Clive but on a similar pace, with a similar gap to Tom Szwed. Aiston was a further 3secs behind in 5th, 1 secs ahead of Almou with his penalty, Matt Horgan 2nd in class B had got the the better of Mather again in 8th. Everyone had, more or less found their level, it would be a quiet finish, except for Mather who had to be just as worried about La Rosa on his bumper for the last B Class trophy, and going by, Max Kenney rounding out the top 10. Andy Mather again, “I just faded a little bit towards the end. [But I’m] very happy with the points and top 10 overall.” Matt Horgan 2nd in Class B to Morphett, “Yeah Clive absolutely smashed it today, I couldn’t get anywhere close. I was in a bit of a battle with Andrew Mather until Claudio arrived, they both overtook me, with Claudio driving off into the sunset but I managed to re-overtake Andy.”
So Naff Taffs made it a win to follow on from their 2nd at Rye House, the gap 11.5secs at the finish. Morphett must really like Lydd, with a win in class B as well as 2nd overall on the road. Murray Knott could make little progress in the last 10mins and finished 2secs behind, but 3secs ahead of Tom Szwed 4th on the road but picking up the 3rd place trophy in class A. The big finish came from Claudio La Rosa, his tear would take him passed JJ Aiston for 6th place with 5 minutes to go. JJ had nothing for Claudio and would make up the top 6, Max Kenney was 7th.
Clive Morphett’s 2nd place is the best class B score of the year and perhaps when he needed it most, or maybe it is a little late, we shall see, he moves to the top of the class with a 6point lead over Alex Edwards who finished 11th at Lydd. Alex is off the top for the first time since E60 started at Shenington however that was just a matter of time, as with a score dropped already in hand Matt Horgan is just 11points off the lead in 3rd place, and will take the title unless Morphett can continue to score big through the close of the season. Who knows?
Tarik Almou, despite more penalties continues to lead Class A by 25points from Murray Knott and a further 22 from Jason Kirk. They are the only 3 drivers to do every round, perhaps Aiston, Wileman and Simms may return to make more of a championship run in of it going into the closing rounds or it’s just the nature of this championship and the strange year outside of competition we are all having.
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson