Race Won by the Lube Stop. Jack O’Neill Dominates!
Local reports, matching the general national weather, suggested heavy rain in the run up to the event, although the track was drying out, the high water table (by a canal) would play it’s part later, the track was shaping up to be dry by practice time, but with perhaps the odd puddle and weeper. Race day itself was overcast, with no immediate likelihood of rain. But water would still play a part as you’ll read and see.
Matt Wileman broke the beam to start qualifying, Jon Buck, Wolfie Returns (aka ’99 & ’00 Heavyweight Sprint Champion Rob Hart & son) and Murray Knott briefly held pole before B Class championship leader Matt Horgan set a competitive mark at 47.122, on a still damp in places Rye House. The field had not completed it’s first rotation yet and Titan’s Jack O’Neill struck for pole position with what appeared to be a rapid 46.304, possibly tow assisted, he was ahead of new team Naff Taffs’ Calum Jones. Horgan responded on lap 3 to go P2.
While the bottom of the top 15 rotated with bottom half of the 30 kart grid, it would take until the final minute of the session to see further major movement at the top of the timing screen, with Naff Taffs Jones demoting O’Neill with a 46.132 and JJ Aiston moving into P2, before O’Neill moved his mark to under 46secs, with a 45.849. But coming through at the chequered end to the session Jones for Naff Taffs moved it down again to 45.123, perhaps the last of awkward puddle had evaporated as Matt Horgan came back to take grid 2 with 45.4, then JJ Aiston moved in ahead of, O’Neill. So grid 4 for the Clay winner. Arrun Saunders would line up on the 3rd row with G3 Pro clan’s chieftain Matt Hale, Tarik Almou and another G3 Pro clansman Barry Luetchford on row 4, Stuart Kirk and Murray Knott rounded out the top 10. Notables Darri Simms still making work for himself with a lack of front running qualifying pace on P12, Jimmy Broadbent P13 (looking forward to some content?), and Andrew Mather P30 and last, after missing most of qualifying changing karts after getting collected by a spinner. Only 1 lap of qualifying for Mather on a track still a couple of seconds from dry.
Off the start the unofficial Welsh national team sponsored by G3 Professional Products by Farecla, Calum Jones made a strong start leading by 1secs from Matt Horgan at the end of lap 1, Jack O’Neill and Matt Hale getting the better of JJ Aiston on grid 3. O’Neill moved by the B class leader on the next lap for P2, and while 1.5secs behind a rapid Naff Taff it would not take long to realise O’Neill was in the mood. Saying that the top 3 immediately broke clear of the main pack by 2.5secs as Hale having got to the front of the pack struggled to drop Aiston and he held 4th down to 11th place in a line.
At the 5min mark, O’Neill was edging in ever closer to the leader, while Horgan had at least made a very comfortable space for himself between the leading pair and and the main pack 6secs behind, which was headed by Murray Knott, who himself was breaking clear of a loosening grouping of Hale, Aiston, Luetchford, Saunders, Almou, then a gap to Stuart Kirk in 10th, another gap to Jason Kirk 11th, gap to Darri Simms P12. Broadbent picked up an ABC take out penalty to that would also send him to the back of the field, we look forward to the video.
Jack O’Neill towed into the back bumper of Naff Taffs, and appears to have bided his time, as the pair, 5.5secs ahead of Horgan, who himself was coming under pressure from a very hot Murray Knott, were still pulling clear. A bit sooner than usual, but that’s Rye House – a fairly short lap, and if it wasn’t a short lap, it’s narrow pinch points cause trouble, left soon to be lapped traffic homing into view, in the shape of Claudio La Rosa and Chris Heath. Jack O’Neill continued to wait on Jones’ bumper as they threaded by, the gap to Horgan still expanding out to 6.5secs. If Jack had a plan, and this was it, it was working perfectly. In B Class, behind Horgan, Saunders was 10secs back in 9th with Stuart Kirk behind him in 10th, Itchy Scratchy were 13secs further back in 14th in group containing Andy Mather up to 16th after a rapid start.
Running into the opening of the chain lubing pit window on 15mins, O’Neill set a series of fastest laps in Jones’ slipstream, down to 43.48 and the gap opening up to 9secs, ahead of Knott now, after Murray demoted Horgan for 3rd. Almou worked his way through the Hale group, as Matt went the other way, to go 5th ahead of Luetchford. Jason Kirk peeled off for pit lane for 24secs loss for his stop from 10th place to return 24th, that ruined his chances. A typical stop ought to cost no more than 15secs, with something like 12secs being the target for any undercuts.
Jack O’Neill made his move for the lead. 17mins in Matt Hale peeled off as one of the front runners from 8th, a time loss of only 13secs returned him 14th, then O’Neill pitted from the lead returned only 3rd, his time on pit lane was about 11.5secs, Barry Luetchford pitted from 6th returned 10th, he was quick in and out but he was still 20secs behind the O’Neill. It was hard not to think Jack was already on his way to his first win of the season. Would Naff Taffs respond or go long? Initial indications suggested long, and O’Neill was straight back in the 43s. Going long might be a mistake.
At 25mins Naff Taffs led by 8.5secs from Knott both owing us a lube stop, and 2 more seconds ahead of O’Neill, then Almou a further 8.5secs behind, as Horgan had pitted and returned P8, 6secs behind Tarik. Knott pitted on 27mins a slow one from 5th he came out over 2mins later something had gone wrong in pit lane.
At 30mins, O’Neill was back in 2nd place 4.5secs Naff Taffs peeled off and returned 3rd 1.5secs behind Almou and 10secs behind O’Neill, indeed O’Neill was out of sight deep into Stadium before Rhodri Parry for Naff Taffs emerged on to the pit straight. Only traffic or self inflicted gaffe could stop Jack scoring a victory. Almou headed to pit road a few minutes later probably the last front runner to stop, this gave O’Neill a 11.5secs lead over Naff Taffs, a further 9secs over the returning Almou, another 3secs over Luetchford, the closest fight was a 5secs behind as Simms demoted Class B Horgan for 5th overall, then healthy gaps to Stuart Kirk. The Kirks going off the lead lap with briefly Jason Kirk just ahead, but just pitting, of Wileman and Saunders in a 4 way battle for 8-9-10th. With the exception of Wileman who looked like he could make progress up the field the top 10 looked settled. In Class B Horgan led Kirk by 16secs and Saunders by another 8secs, if there was a fight in Class B it was over 4th place 10secs further back where Chris Williams, Clive Morphett, Andrew Mather and Shane O’Neill briefly raced together before a heavy shunt into the tyres that included Mather, and Alex Edwards, Andy takes up the story, “I’d worked my way up from 30th to 0th, pitted and come out 14th. Then I was in the firstgroup to get caught out by a fresh wet patch into stadium. I was joined there 15secs later by Alex Edwards who joined about 15 seconds later. It bent my chassis, and I had no pace after that. It was disappointing to not turn a recovery drive into potentially a class podium… Especially after a cracking start from 30th on the grid.”
Perhaps it collected Kyle Plumridge and Clive Morphett. Someone had pulled water on to the circuit in Stadium, the fastest and signature corner at Rye House, and in moving that water around. It was catching people out. Naff Taffs’ Parry came through with a slow lap, before the track went Full Course Yellow for a few minutes. Everyone got up walked or drove away. We race safe karts and circuits no matter how spectacular the shunts look. And with a little under 20mins to go, somehow Almou came through ahead of Parry in 2nd place. Matt Horgan, described the treachery, “there was a load of standing water at various edges of the track”. Jack O’Neill’s lead had been out as far as 24secs, that was nearly gone but he did have a lot of traffic in the queue behind him and ahead of Almou and Luetchford into play on the last podium.
When racing restarted the strange case of how Almou got ahead of Naff Taffs was explained with a penalty for overtaking under yellow, a 4 place penalty. While Parry for Naff Taffs was on his bumper he’d play a clever game to hold station if he could, 2nd would be his. So while he’d lost 20secs of his lead, Jack O’Neill was still 4secs clear and at the head of the queue, even bunched his competition was down the line. The track ahead was clear to the finish, and with the comfort of time and space for fast lappery if he needed it. He would not.
The run to the flag behind was busier and trickier, Luetchford picked up a contact penalty in P4, making the podium result more about arithmetic than speed. It put Aiston, P5 on the road, on the podium and perhaps the so far quiet Wileman P7 within striking distance of a trophy. Simms, who had made it up as high as 7th while touring behind the pace kart, lost out to Wileman and Stuart Kirk off the restart, he then picked an advantage by contact penalty in P9, to drop him out of the top 10 at the finish. Matt Horgan still had full control Class B under full control, “I was battling in the middle of the pack with no idea what position I was in – I was overtaken by at least 5 or 6 people so I think the good qualifying got me my result. It was so even amongst the field that made it so difficult to overtake.” He was 7secs ahead of Stuart Kirk, and his class win, and his 4th overall with the penalties to Almou and Luetchford, has perhaps placed one hand on the Class B title, Matt again “Fingers crossed for the title!”. Saunders moved on to the Class B podium P12 on the road.
While not the last 20mins, the last 10mins was actually pretty uneventful. Jack O’Neill ran out victorious cruising into the finish letting the gap drop 3secs clear of the soon to be demoted Tarik Almou, Naff Taffs Rhodri Parry, G3 Professional sponsored was 10secs off the winner, there’s nothing he could do, O’Neill had won the event with speed and his strategy in the first 30mins, the full course yellow only flattered everyone else. In the results behind Horgan, Luetchford classified 5th, Almou 6th. Their penalties put JJ Aiston (5th on the road) on the Class A podium 3rd (a metaphorical podium at that of course) as the last runner on the road on the lead lap. Matt Wileman was 7th, Jason Kirk, Shane O’Neill and Chris Williams came on to the top 10 and 2nd in Class B ahead of Arrun Saunders 11th and 3rd in Class B. as Stuart Kirk had 4 place penalty that took him from 10th and 2nd in Class B to 14th in the classification and off the Class B podium.
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson