Red Flag & Jack O’Neill. Almou & Morphett Lead Championships When Racing Stops
Never thought I could squeeze the Prime Minister into a race report, and it be relevant, but this is just another aspect of (this increasingly hackneyed phrase) ‘it’s been a strange year’. While Boris Johnson took no part in Round 7, his dark shadow loomed large over Rye House. Even if it was not quite as an immediate impact as the clouds over Hoddesdon dumping heavily later on, and calling into question whether the programme would make it through the day. Everyone knew there was government announcement coming later on on Saturday evening, and pretty much what would be coming, about you know what. And it has left a question mark (or more likely a cross through) Round 8 at Buckmore Park and leaves the last round at Whilton Mill in some doubt, depending on the end of lockdown on December 3rd.
So where are we now, while in stasis, Jack O’Neill returned for a third outing in Enduro 60 and a 2nd win, in Class A, from Matt Wileman, who may regret missing Round 5, as his 2nd place leaves him joint 3rd with JJ Aiston, 18points off championship leader Tarik Almou, whose main challenger Murray Knott skipped Rye House. Tarik’s 5th place leaves him 10points clear of Knott, and with the end of the season somewhat up in the air, incumbency, or ownership being 9/10ths of law, at the top, and perhaps Tarik will be champion maybe (or maybe not). Whilton Mill slated for December 5 is going ahead.
If Class A may have been suspended in a slightly damp squib way, B Class may have ended in dramatic (in retrospect and after the fact) fashion, while Toby Gould won on his debut at Rye House, he is not a a championship player, Alex Edwards led the class at the start of the day by 2 points, an off while racing Matt Horgan left him in 5th place to Clive Morphett’s 3rd place in class and it has reversed Alex’s lead into a 2 point deficit. There’s more. Matt Horgan may kick himself for being off the pace at the previous Whilton Mill visit, or maybe it will be over losing out on the win to Gould by less than a second. Matt joins Edwards on 271 points, just 2 points behind Morphett. This really needs a winner take all final round, and for it to be cleared up in a fair fashion, and that’s on track! Let’s hope so. Stuart Kirk probably slides out of the champion picture if it’s just one round to go. Elliot Wilson races Kirk and his own father Ian Wilson for 4th and 5th in the championship.
Wileman ended practice quickest and when the session went green on setting the grid, it was O’Neill setting the pace with 44.5secs from ASquared, Jordan Hill moved on to the front row, before Wileman returned to pole with Naff Taffs on equal time at 44.345, before O’Neill reasserted himself with 44.285. Wileman settled the argument with the only time under 44secs. O’Neill secured a front row start, Naff Taffs on row 2 with Jason Kirk. Almou and Steve Moody on row 3, Alex Edwards was leading Class B runner with Briars Racing on the 4th row, Max Kenney and Jordan Hill rounded out the top 10, and the other contenders in Class B Horgan and Morphett lined on row 6.
Not wet. Not dry. ’Patchy’? With the ever present (and we’ve been here before) chance of a double six being rolled, while you were unaware on the other side of circuit, and someone dropping a wheel off circuit and stirring up the Rye-assic water monster the next time you come in on the limit into Stadium, or on the exit, or into or around the first… or second hairpin…
Calum Jones made the best start for Naff Taffs, up on the bumper of Wileman across the start line, he’d leave O’Neill no room to get on Wileman’s bumper on pole, and Calum would return to start finish at the end of the lap with the lead. Jason Kirk’s excellent qualifying counted for nothing, P4 becoming P32, everyone moved up 1 place from Almou backwards. As the field picked up experience and bravery the times dropped to mid 45s, almost a cliche now, but O’Neill picked it up faster and was back on the front, Jones on his bumper with Wileman, edging out over Moody and Almou, Sean Brierley settingly in 6th at his home circuit, the main field starting with Class B Edwards, Jordan Hill, Max Kenney, Horgan, Jon Buck, Morphett, DS Racing, Leapers and Leavers, and Stephen Westwood rounding out the top 15.
After 10minutes of trading fastest laps and leading positions, Jones, Wileman and O’Neill were 4.5secs clear of Jordan Hill (Ministry of Speed, latterly RaceAndClassics.com), an illustrious pedigree, and with nothing on the line, perhaps he could afford push harder than most, Moody the most recent pass was hanging on to his slipstream from Brierley, Almou and Kenney, Brierley’s Briars Racing team mate Anwar Beroual-Smith, watching on, “Sean only lives down the road from Rye, so we’d thought why not! He was doing really well, staying out of trouble was our plan, we knew being Rye penalties were inevitable and Jordan was picking up pens like they were going out of fashion and (of course – CS) I saw Tariq got one too so I knew we were in the hunt.”
And then the puddle appeared on the main straight into turn 1, Naff Taffs Calum Jones was gone, Class B leader Edwards as well, he’d been racing with Horgan over 11th place, “I’d been nose to tail with Alex for the opening laps until he got a bit unlucky with some water on the track and span off with a few others at Stadium”, it was not entirely a lottery, Beroual Smith again, “I saw it happen, and managed to signal to Sean to move over to avoid it, that gained us a couple of spots!” The brooms came out, and field slowed a little, when racing commenced the normal far left racing line into Stadium was being avoided, although the rest of the track was actually getting quicker. O’Neill and Wileman, were being joined by Hill, while Moody, Brierley and Kenney made up a second group, Horgan was 12secs behind, leading B Class, just clear of the main field brought through by Itchy Scratchy Racing in 9th, with the rest of the leading B class that included Toby Gould and Morphett in 12th and 13th.
Jordan Hill moved to the front of the field, dropping O’Neill and Wileman, although in doing so, he’d help Almou and Moody get back into the leading group. The pit window opened and O’Neill, followed in by Wileman and Almou, chose to go early, the trio returned, more or less as they were in 10th, 11the and 12th, leaving Hill with a comfortable 6secs lead over Moody, Brierley and Kenney. Horgan pitted from the lead of the B class he returned 13th. O’Neill was making a slightly better fist of the traffic passing Gould for 7th around the 20min mark, leaving Wileman in 9th, although 6secs clear of Almou in 10th. In B Class Gould pitted returned 12th, 2.5secs behind Horgan. When Hill pitted a few minutes later, it was a little slow, not much, but enough for me to notice he returned 7th, ahead of Almou, but 2secs behind Wileman, but 6.5secs behind O’Neill in 4th place. Briars Racing had taken over in front, Brierley pulling out 1.5secs on Kenney and then away from Max. Indeed Kenney was under pressure and losing out to Itchy Scratchy (from the G3Pro stable) over 2nd place.
Jack O’Neill was working his way back to the front passing drivers that still owed him a pit stop, he’d move into 2nd place to leave Brierley just 0.5secs ahead, to be fair Wileman was only 2secs behind in 5th, but unless Itchy and Kenney pitted immediately, O’Neill would benefit from clear track and would probably be long gone. Briars pitted, returned 7th behind Almou. Itchy Scratchy pitted and returned to lead Class B by 3.5secs from Horgan and Gould, as 8-9-10th places. It was a slow out lap and Gould would do the pair of them to lead class B for the first time, Horgan again, “Toby made a great move into the hairpin and then I was just about hanging onto the back of him after that”, and demoting Itchy to do that.
With the half hour behind them, only Kenney in 3rd owed the field a chain lube pit stop, O’Neill led by 7.5secs from Wileman, Max just off his bumper, Hill would pass him before Kenney’s pit stop, Tarik Almou was a further 10secs behind, with Anwar Beroual Smith into Briars looking to run him down, although, “I was doing E60 to get wet practice in for the sprints! At the time forecasts were for a very wet Sunday… By the time I jumped into the kart, I knew (with all the penalties) I would be racing Steve Moody for 3rd” and Steve was on his bumper for now.
And then it settled down O’Neill holding Wileman at 6.5secs, with the lapped traffic, like the 3secs gap to Hill it would wobble up and down half a second this way and that. 14secs behind Almou in 4th was holding Beroual-Smith at 2.5secs, Moody his shadow, gap to Kenney, and then gaps between Gould, Horgan and Clive Morphett 7secs behind but in the top 10 for the first time.
And then a heavy shunt brought the race to an early end. It’s part of racing, unwelcome, but part of it. Red flag at 48mins. When Jordan Hill’s track limits & advantage by contact penalties (+6), and Almou’s multiple contacts (+2) were applied, O’Neill had the first part of his three wins in a weekend attempt in the bag from Wileman, Briars were promoted to 3rd, Beroual-Smith holding off Steve Moody, then Almou, Kenney, Gould as B class winner, Horgan, Hill, Morphett as B Class leader, once again in 10th.
And by the time the trophies were being handed out it was raining heavily, but more of that in Sprint 60…
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson