New Season, But Reigning Champion Joe Holmes Picks Up Where He Left Off
Good to see reigning Champion Joe Holmes had decided to defend his Championship having been unsure at the end of last season if he would return but it was first blood to 2017 runner up Ian Blake as he got the jump at the start from fellow front row starter Jack Harding to lead all the way to flag. Good to see Jack back too after his non racing related injury in the latter part of last season. And he was immediately on the pace too pressuring Blake all the way to the flag. Mid race and Blake looked to have plenty in hand pulling away by almost a second before Harding came back at him finally missing out by just 0.097 at the flag. These two were the class of the field crossing the line almost four seconds ahead of Daz Teal in third with Holmes next but penalised down to eight after an ABC. Not the start he was looking for. That indiscretion promoted Jonathan Lisseter into fourth with Jay Elliott fifth after a storming drive from the back of the grid. Steve Brown was next, looking neat and tidy as ever. Dan Healey, Robert Newman and a returning Stephen Hicks completed the top ten with Newman setting the fastest lap of the race.
Lights to flag. Some drivers can make it look so effortless sometimes just as Steve Brown did in this heat, the former Champion romping home by almost three seconds and setting fastest lap in the process to capture maximum points. Jack Bolton spun away his front row start and would ultimately finish last whilst both Dan Truman and Edward Barrs both fell down the order leaving Hicks briefly into second from Newman with newcomer Sam Spinnael moving up four places into fourth. Brown continued to pull clear at the front with Newman in pursuit from Hicks who was defending from Spinnael. Jay Elliott had moved into fifth at the expense of Harding. Holmes too was in touch. Having fought his way up from grid seventeen to sixth he’d then been passed by Elliott before fighting back. He couldn’t catch the flying Elliott but did make it past Harding. Newman couldn’t close down Brown but second was a good result, well clear of Spinnael in third who was up a couple of tenths up on Hicks at the flag. Elliott was on his own in fifth whilst Holmes hung on to sixth despite a last gasp challenge from Harding. Pete O’Connor was eighth well clear of Darvill in ninth and heading a group of five covered by just half a second.
Rob Moore on pole from Elliott but it was O’Connor from fifth who made the sharpest start to lead the field across the line at the end of the first lap from Moore and Holmes who over the course of the lap worked had his way up from grid nine! Peter Harris spun away his chances at the first hairpin delaying Harrison Darvill who slipped from fourth to ninth. Elliott was fourth whilst Dan Healey ran fifth ahead of Daz Teal, up from grid eleven. With two run O’Connor still led from Moore but Elliott had fought back past Holmes with Teal now up to fifth ahead of Healey, Spinnael and Edward Barrs. Third time around and Moore was into the lead but it was to last only a lap as O’Connor fought back with Elliott and Holmes just behind waiting to pounce. Half distance and they did just that, instantly dropping O’Connor down to fourth. Elliott and Holmes then began to pull away slightly from the chasing pack headed by Moore. Teal, in fifth, was coming under pressure from Healey with Brown now into seventh having fought his way up from grid twenty. The leaders continued to stretch the gap but Holmes was now making serious moves on the leader and slipped by on the penultimate lap to take the win a tenth up on Elliott. Moore took third. A great drive this showing that he’s certainly not out of his depth in the class having held O’Connor at bay for over half the race. Brown took fifth, setting fastest lap again and establishing a record, with Healey next from Teal, Spinnael, Barrs and Hicks.
Brown on pole from Elliott with Holmes and Harding on the second row. Blake and the first of the Rookies Spinnael on three from Hicks and Teal with O’Connor and Newman completing the top ten. Brown led the field across the line but by the end of the lap Holmes was at the front with Brown just behind. Blake was into third with Elliott fourth whilst Healey was up to fifth from seventh having taken full advantage of the usual first lap ducking and diving at the first hairpin. Lisseter too had also taken advantage to slot into sixth from thirteenth whilst Harding dropped to seventh. Spinnael was the big loser falling from sixth to fourteenth. With three run Holmes continued to lead from Brown but Elliott was back up to third ahead of Blake from Healey, Lisseter and Harding. It was shaping up to be an epic race with all the front runners evenly matched but then came the race defining moment. Holmes, Brown and Elliott crossed the line with Blake still fourth. But Healey saw a gap and dived down the inside into the first corner. It was an ambitious attempt. Too ambitious as he was just too far back. Blake was shaping up to pass Elliott but as Blake took his line into the corner Healey hit him amidships cannoning him into the luckless Elliott and putting them both out of contention. Healey carried on, now third on the road but faced with the inevitable exclusion. It’s the second time in the last three races that Dan has been involved in a controversial overtake attempt. He’s a great young driver and deserves a win but he may need to curb his enthusiasm a touch and pick his moments a little better. At the front Holmes continued to lead from Brown, Healey and Harding, the four of them pulling away from the pack now led by Lisseter from O’Connor and Newman as Hicks and Teal fought over eighth. With five run Brown finally saw a gap and slipped by Holmes for the lead. And there he stayed for a couple of laps before Holmes fought back to take a lead he would never relinquish. Brown gave chase but picked up a penalty for cone abuse. It was cruel luck dropping him to third behind Harding who finished fourth on the road but with the penalties applied to Brown and Healey jumped up two spots. He also set fastest lap. Newman came home fourth and leading Rookie having taken Lisseter for the place on the penultimate lap. Lisseter held off O’Connor for fifth by a Karts length but both drivers were satisfied with their days work. Hicks took seventh, a good result on his return with Bolton eighth and second Rookie, after a good drive up from grid nineteen. Spinnael would have been next but he took a penalty for cone abusive dropping him to tenth behind Teal.
Not only did Joe Holmes take the big trophy for first but also got a bag of car cleaning goodies courtesy of G3Pro. Jack Harding’s second spot might have been a little fortuitous but I’m sure he won’t mind. He lies third in the standings behind Steve Brown. His penalty really annoyed him as he hadn’t felt anything when he brushed a cone. But he accepted that it had happened.
Robert Newman took the Rookie trophy, and Jay Elliott are fourth and fifth but there’s a long way to go.
A great days racing. Our thanks in particular to all the marshals 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.
Roll on Whilton Mill.