The curtain came down, or perhaps more appropriately, the curtains were drawn, on the 2021 Super Lights season under the flood lights, at chilly late November Buckmore Park finale, with a surprise double win for Nathan Crowley, another part of the Brentwood Karting Massive, who only joined the championship at Round 4 but finished the season in perhaps a style that might worry the returning field next season.
The championship fortuitously for the champion Ralph King having a poor day, certainly in terms of results, as well as for runner up Dan Munro, just a 3rd and 4th places, had already been decided at the previous round in September and both were safe in their positions going into the event. Third through 5th though, with a championship trophy for 3rd up within the reach of Dillon Davis, Max Papworth and Beau Sullivan. As it turned out possession is also 9/10ths of the karting law, and even though Davis, Papworth and Sullivan were covered by only 5points in totals of 1263-1262-1258 the order remained as they finished. Dillon Davis took the last championship trophy. Papworth took 3rd place in the final, Sullivan took a 2nd in the Pre Final, Davis’ 5th place in Pre Final improved his points tally just enough to leave Papworth needing to win the Final to take 3rd from Dillon. Max came up short by less than 3/10ths of a secs in a tense Final that saw William Taylor win on the road from Crowley, Sullivan, Papworth, King, Kasper Marriott, and William Henn, in a long line flashing across the finish line, only for penalties, in an event that is also variously, and perhaps charitably and could euphemistically be described, as ‘pretty robust’, or somewhat ‘end of term’, before the penalties were applied. Perhaps they were rusty the previous round was two months prior, again at Buckmore Park, but starting close to sundown, and finishing in a chilly darkness, was a very different proposition with a track so cold, it drives not like wet, but certainly with a lot less grip. The champion, Ralph King, +4 Positions, Rule 17b – Contact driving by forcing a driver wide, and +4 Positions, Rule 17a – Gaining a single place through contact, was demoted to 14th from 6th, final winner Will Taylor, +4 Positions, Rule 17a – Gaining a single place through contact, from a first win to 6th. Our new champion pleaded guilty, throwing himself at the mercy of the karting court, “So the first penalty was completely fair, I had been shuffled down to 9th at the start and coming into hairpin 2 through frustration and trying to make up places braked too late and loaded Dan [Munro] wide. The 2nd penalty at the mid point of the race I went for an ambitious dive on Nathan [Crowley] for the lead at Garda, there was contact and I let him back through to avoid a penalty. Unfortunately I got a penalty regardless.” Will Taylor reporting his penalty as unfortunate, but “Nevertheless I really enjoyed the battle with Ralph and Nathan, and I’m very pleased with how I drove… definitely looking forward to next year [in Club100].” King takes up the final lap of the season, “I went round the outside of Nathan at hairpin 2. We were side by side through the Esses and we were both off the track, Will got through for the lead past both of us on the inside of Symes Sweep, a brilliant move. I unfortunately got shuffled back in it all.” And unfortunately for Taylor he had picked up a penalty earlier of his own. Max Papworth, on missing out on 3rd in the championship, but getting on the Final podium, the 3rd for the 3rd time in the last 4 races, recalled, “In the Final Nathan held a great defence for first however it was aggressive and this led the top 8 drivers to become backed up.” Twelve minutes later it was still backed up. “Nathan races at Brentwood like me usually and he’s very good at Buckmore Park and he managed to get a clean start in the Pre Final and defended [well].” And having warmed to the defensive task, he’d repeat it for the Final. And it paid off, sort of, with the assistance of Taylor’s penalty.
Monday morning social media is always worth a scan and ‘Not the finish to the season I was expecting/hoping for’ was a common theme but as I scan through all the posts I find they are also accompanied by a last line stating a clear intention to return for 2022 for a crack at the Club100 Junior Championship, which YDC/Junior champion King intends to defend/add to the YDC title. Summing up his season “This season has been epic, to be the first ever Super Lights champion is really something I didn’t expect!! Looking back I am proud to have won 4 of the 7 finals. The talent in this series is very high, every race has been a hard battle and I’ve really had to work for the title. And yes I will be returning to Super Lights next season. The calendar looks amazing and I can’t wait to get going in April!” And as I say reading Instagram he captures the mood nicely. Junior Super Lights looks likely to be even better, and bigger, than YDC 2021.
Dan Munro had headed the practice times with Louis Robinson and Liam O’Sullivan, and when the lights went green on qualifying it was King with 46.654secs, by 0.001secs ahead of Archie Johnson, King returned to move provisional pole to 46.349 and Louis Robinson returned to the front row, Casey Baughan demoting Johnson to P4. King moved pole to 46.101, Munro moved back on to row 1 and Johnson moved across the 2nd row to the inside, to secure grid 3 for the Pre Final.
Closing stages that was all King had, Munro returned with 46.123, but that was all he had. Liam O’Sullivan finished off with a rapid 46.31 to take grid 4 to join Archie Johnson on row 2. Crowley started with Papworth on a Brentwood Karting row 3, Philip Baboolal, Beau Sullivan, Will Taylor and Casey Baughan made up the top 10, on a grid of 27. Top 20 covered by 1 second, and top 10 covered by just 3/10ths.
It was crowded and there is talking of loading into turn 1 and hairpin 1 on the opening lap, Crowley found the seas parted and he would come through 2nd, with Taylor in behind, to King 0.7secs up the road. There was a 1.5secs gap behind the top 3 to Louis Robinson starting outside of the top 10 but bringing through the main field in 4th place, with Munro from the outside line, Johnson off grid 3, then Dillon Davis (from P15) and Stefan Kaczmarczyk (from P18) also from outside the top 10 on the grid. Papworth dropped to 9th, Oliver Barnes coming up into the top 10 from P16. Liam O’Sullivan after his excellent P4 qualifying complained of being bullied (metaphorically) around the opening corners down to 11th.
The race needed to settle down and it did, Munro picked off Robinson for 4th place to take up the chase of the top 3 on lap 2. Crowley picked up King’s slipstream, and struggling to hold him off, Nathan moved through and at the same time the pair slowed each other down just enough to let Taylor in to make it a 3 cornered affair. Behind Munro set fastest lap dropping the main pack, to make it 4 for the lead as King moved back ahead at the 5min mark, and Archie Johnson recovering from his poor start, moved back passed Robinson to lead the chasing field in 5th place.
Crowley moved back to the lead on halfway and broke clear as King and Taylor diced, and Johnson closed to make a 4 kart pursuit of Crowley. Dan Munro moved passed Taylor to go 3rd, what might have been, save for the early driving around him. Behind Dillon Davis moved through to P6 leading the main pack of himself, Robinson, Kaczmarczyk, Papworth and Phillip Baboolal making up the top 10.
Closing stages Crowley was holding a 1secs lead, desperate not to let King pick up a tow up to turn 1, but that only begins at 7/10ths, and Nathan kept him outside of the suck zone. King was busy holding off his erstwhile rival Munro to the chequered flag, Taylor losing touch toward the finish as he tried to hold off Archie Johnson, and thats how it finished. On the track at least. When the penalties were applied to Kaczmarczyk, finishing 8th, +6 Positions, 17c – Contact causing driver to come to a halt, Robinson, 7th, +1 Position x2, 17d – Knocking over a cone, Phillip Baboolal, 10th, +4 Positions, 17a – Gaining a single place through contact, and Johnson 5th, +1 Position, 17d – Knocking over a cone, the new top 10 was Crowley’s maiden win, King, Munro, Taylor, Davis, Johnson, Papworth, Sullivan, Robinson and Oliver Barnes.
Crowley timed his run perfectly to make King’s job harder, Munro was able to claim the inside to try and nose ahead into turn 1, being shuffled down the outside line he’d be frustrated enough to try and gain back what he’d lost into hairpin and pushed Munro wide. When the field had weaved it’s way downhill and back, Max Papworth was on Crowley’s bumper, the leader defending hard, backing up the field so that Dillon Davis 3rd at the end of lap 1 would find himself shuffled back to 9th on the next lap in the concertina behind Will Taylor, Munro, Sullivan, King, Kasper Marriott and Louis Robinson, then behind Dillon, Archie Johnson made up the top 10.
Crowley’s resolute defence would keep the top 12 together in a line that ended with William Pemble and Phillip Baboolal. Papworth perhaps sensing the queue behind took his shot at the lead on lap 5, shut down by Crowley, Taylor used the opportunity to pick off Max for 2nd, then King, Munro and Sullivan would go by Max, as the leading pack split briefly around 7th place with Marriott and Johnson moving passed and dropping Robinson into new 10th place William Henn.
Crowley’s pace was enough to hold off Taylor, but not nearly fast enough to stretch the field, and those gaps in the lower top ten disappeared creating a line of karts starting with the leader but stratching back through Henn in 10th to Liam O’Sullivan, Casey Baughan, Zach Berney, Tom Haffenden, Thomas Northcott, Tom Guinan to Oliver Barnes in 17th place. Something had to give, and that link appeared to Crowley, Taylor making his move for the lead on 9mins. Papworth latest attempt at moving forward went the same way as earlier attempt and he got shuffled back to 6th again by King, Munro and Sullivan. The champion joined Crowley in overtaking Taylor, Sullivan passed Munro for 4th as Marriott pushed Papworth further back to 7th.
Coming on to the final lap, Papworth pushed back passed Marriott and then Munro to be 5th soon to become 4th as King came off worst in the last lap battle with Crowley and Taylor, that Ralph described in the introduction, and before the penalties were assessed. Will Taylor took the win on the road at least by 0.2secs from Crowley, Sullivan, Papworth, Munro, King, Marriott, Henn, Robinson and Johnson, 10th, all crossing the line much faster than anyone could say the names, 1.2secs covering the top 10. But as you already know the penalty roster was long, too long to go over again, but between contact forcing drivers wide, gaining a position or knocking a cone over, Will Taylor missed out on the win, King dropped out of the top 10, not that it mattered he was champion, Beau Sullivan had equalled his best finish of the season with another 2nd place, and Max Papworth moved on to the podium in 3rd place.
And the Young Drivers Championship 2021 was done, and finished forever, as the experiment had proved to be the success that we hoped it would be but were robbed of 2020, by you know what, and it all becomes the bigger and better Club100 Junior Championship in association with Rotax Karting in 2022.
Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: John Patterson