So 2020… And Getting It Finished. Almou & Horgan.
We all know what has cast a long shadow in so many ways over all of the season, and the E60 only exists because of it. It seemed only fitting that in it’s way, it should also play an immediate part in it’s conclusion, at, or perhaps more accurately before, the last round as well.
Championship leader in A Class Tarik Almou (263) was unable to get a flight to the UK so had to pass, his 10 point advantage in the class wasn’t that shaky as Murray Knott (253) had already cancelled (reason unknown to me) and so this left Tarik with an 18 point lead over Matt Wileman (245), counting the best 7 scores from 9 rounds, to finish the season. With his worst score (36) he could drop and win (50) this left Matt no way to win replacing his worst counting score (36), a gain 14points + 245 = 259. With their no shows, Almou and Knott could replace their best dropped scores (43 and 35 respectively) with a zero and count for those dropped scores boosting their finishing scores to 263 and 253 respectively by my man maths, Matt could finish 2nd, with a win or 2nd, a 3rd would not be enough. JJ Aiston level on Wileman’s points (245) could only improve by 12points with a win so could finish 2nd overall, if he won or finished 2nd. But a ‘bird in the hand, is worth 2…’ at this stage incumbency is an distinct advantage, a top 3 in the championship , and the last championship trophy, it also would be a stretch.
Of course a top 2 finish for Matt doesn’t sound so complicated, with his speed, however this is 2020. The membership’s support which has been fantastic throughout the year, it turned out again en masse, to get a final run out, in the post 2nd lockdown period, and put 36 karts on the grid. Wileman’s shot at the runner up spot would therefore be complicated by the O’Neill brothers in Titan Motorsport, in particular Jack O’Neill, putting in practice ahead his tilt at closing out the lunchtime Sprint 60 Lightweight title, possibly with a little team play from brother Andy. Joined by Richard Allen practicing, perhaps not so urgently (more of that later for) for a Sprint 60 Super Heavyweight showdown with Alex Pritchard, and Anwar Beroual Smith practicing before closing out the Sprint 60 Heavyweight and Sunday Sprint Championship.
Richard Allen took the green light to the start of the session briefly setting the mark for the Zulu layout in the dry-ish/damp/odd small puddle around the kerbs, +4 degrees of temperature with 64.564, before David Hamer, Vince Cogzell, Naff Taffs, Tom Szwed and a host of others jumped in ahead of him but they were all behind Titan Motorsport with a comparatively rapid 61secs flat., compared to the field in the conditions, Wileman slotted into P3 behind Swzed.
By mid session Allen had returned to go P2 with 61.674, and when it was finished no one had come close to Jack O’Neill’s 2nd lap time, taking pole position ahead of Allen on the front row, James Johnstone arrived late to go P3 ahead of Szwed. Matt Wileman was going to have to work hard for an hour, as trailed above if he was to win the title, starting with Naff Taffs on his right, Leapers and Leavers, Alex Edwards both going for B Class glory, on the row behind, the latter fighting for 2nd in the championship with Clive Morphett (P19). JJ Aiston and Briars Racing (Anwar Beroual Smith running solo), after a kart test limited Anwar’s laps. In addition in B Class Elliott Wilson lined up 12th, racing Stuart Kirk (P26) for 4th in the championship, Andrew Mather 13th, B Class leader and favourite Matt Horgan 15th. Matt had a 1 point lead over Alex Edwards and 3 point advantage over Clive Morphett, but with only the ability to replace their next worst scores, while Matt could count any score he posted the championship was almost inevitably his.
Jack O’Neill brought Titan through with a 1sec lead at end of lap 1, from Allen, Johnstone, Swzed, Naff Taffs, Leapers and Leavers, and Wileman dropping down to 7th, Matt would lose out to Beroual Smith in Briars Racing on the next lap, winning the runner up berth that was already a steep climb was looking slightly steeper. But 60mins is 60mins, and there was 58 left for a reversal of fortune. With lap 3 in the book and after the surprise P3 on the grid for James Johnstone had taken a knock dropping to 8th place behind Wileman. Anwar commenting on the conditions, “It started damp and took ages to dry as it was so cold”.
As ever the run up to Xmas remained the prime overtaking spot at Whilton Mill with the switch to the Zulu layout robbing drivers of Ashby, Parker and Chapmans (as I know them) with only the old slow approach to the Inkermans hairpin coming back in return, to add to The Boot In and The Toe of The Boot as potential passing spots, enough obviously but the latter required a degree of co-operation or opportunism.
After 6mins Titan were out to a lead of 4secs, Allen coming under pressure from Szwed, Johnstone was not giving up without a fight and had moved back up to 4th but that would be short lived as Naff Taffs and Briars swapped around at the head of the main chasing pack which was beginning to lose sight of Allen and Szwed and could probably forget about Titan checking out. In B class Stephen Westwood led the way in the chasing pack up to P8, although not a championship player, while Elliot Wilson in class B was P10 overall. With B class scoring separately from A class Wilson was moving from 5th in the table to 4th ahead of Stuart Kirk, who was languishing outside the top 20, and 4th in the table was as far as Elliot could go in the championship, even with Alex Edwards off the back of the field, leaving the way clear to the title for Matt Horgan (P13), who would replace Wilson as 3rd in class with his only real challenger Clive Morphett down in P20.
At the quarter hour the pit window opened although no one dived in for the mandatory chain lubrication, and in the intervening time O’Neill’s lead had pushed out to 17secs, and barring disaster the race was in the bag. Szwed had moved through to 2nd, 1.7secs clear of Allen, then a gap to Beroual-Smith for Briars, towing Wileman (picking up contact and track limit warnings in the process) and Johnstone around while fighting over 4th place. Leapers and Leavers were 7th (as B class leaders) holding off Naff Taffs, who had picked a multiple track limit infraction penalty, being slowly joined by Matt Horgan, Itchy Scratchy made up the top 10.
Closing in on half way Wileman had passed Beroual-Smith to go 4th, 31.5secs behind leaders Titan, only to start swapping the position back and forth, perhaps seeing an opportunity James Johnstone was the first leading player to pit, perhaps Briars/Wileman dicing would play an undercut into his hands. James returned 10th behind Itchy Scratchy. Horgan pitted on 30mins returning 12th behind Elliott Wilson and Shane O’Neill. Itch Scratchy peeled off as the two man teams weighed up sharing the drive time fairly and the singletons started to consider being trapped up against a closing window or a risk of queuing.
Swzed had chipped a few, pretty meaningless, seconds out of Titans 30+secs lead, with Allen 5secs further behind, in 3rd place, he may have looked over his shoulder to see his advantage disappear to both Briars and Wileman moving in on his bumper, leaving the question would Dickie be passed on track or in the pits?
At 35mins Titan Motorsport pitted from the lead and still returned Andy O’Neill with an 11secs lead, but in clearing pit lane without incident, it meant it was pretty much race over for the win, Andy just needed to pedal to the finish. Beroual Smith and Wileman pitted together and returned together still in 4th and 5th and still ahead of Johnstone, by 7.5secs, in 6th place. Szwed pitted and returned 3rd 5.5secs ahead of Briars, close enough for a little pressure on Tom to the finish. It was just a matter of where Richard Allen would return from his pitstop before the window closed on 45mins. Would it be ahead or behind Briars Racing and Wileman, or maybe Johnstone? In B Class Matt Horgan had moved 7secs ahead of Leapers and Leavers, only a mechancil could stop Matt running out champion in winning style in 8th place.
Running close to the guillotine on the pit window at 42mins Allen pitted to exit pit lane to see Wileman flash by into 4th place, and by the time he was back up to race speed he was 1.5secs behind. Up front Titan had got back into the groove and Andy O’Neill moved the lead back out and into a winning 35secs advantage over Tom Szwed. Even if Wileman could catch and pass Briars before the finish, 45points for 3rd position, it would only be enough to go level with Murray Knott in the A class championship in 2nd place, with Murray taking the runners spot by dint of more 2nd places. Although in the short term Wileman had more immediate problems as Allen caught and passed him for 4th place, game over, or was it? Beroual Smith pulled away in 3rd place. Similarly JJ Aiston’s early optimism on a top 3 in the championship was long gone running in P13, unlikely to increase his total score, he had compounded his lack of A class table progress with a cone penalty.
Into the final stretch, and it would be a stretch to include Titan Motorsport in the top 10, such was the advantage, in a race they had led from green to chequered, 41secs ahead and rising, lapping everyone up to and including 4th place Richard Allen, ahead Tom Szwed, a comfortable though very distant 2nd place, ahead of Briars 4.5secs behind. But if the introduction was a little complicated, we should finish with some more, Beroual Smith had both cone and track limit penalties to see P3 on the road become 6th in the classification, Anwar commenting “No complaints about the penalties I struggled with the new track limits rule and kerb in the last corner, especially in the damp”. Also off the lead lap Matt Wileman finished the day where he started in the championship 3rd, with 5th place on the road, 4th in the final result. James Johnstone finished his best performance of the season in 6th but promoted to 5th, then Briars Racing. Naff Taffs with a penalty in 7th on the road, but 8th in the classified result, making way for Class B race winner and congratulations to B Class champion Matt Horgan, ahead of Leapers & Leavers, with Steve Moody to round out the top 10.
For all the potential for changes possible at the outset of the day in the A and B classes, little actually changed. A Class finished as it started, and despite all the penalties Tarik Almou, appeared to acquire (not all in E60 to be fair), he clinched the 2020 Endurance 60 title, from the comfort of wherever he is in the world, the penalties were not an achilles heel to his title aspirations after all, and in his absence, ahead of the also absent Murray Knott, Matt Wileman, JJ Aiston and Jon Buck sealed the top 5 in Class A.
In Class B Matt Horgan won it in style, with 4 wins in total, after confiding in me earlier in the season, that in missing Shenington he’d thought he’d blown his chances with a poor result at the previous visit to Whilton Mill, but not so. Strange year. Lydd winner Clive Morphett had never shown that speed again and in the last round, finished P26. Alex Edwards had a race to forget finishing 4laps down and 33rd, fortunately his advantage, with wins at Shenington and the previous visit to Whilton Mill, in class B was more than enough to see him clear of Elliott Wilson finishing 3rd in class on the road, and Elliott moved into 4th place in Class B ahead of Stuart Kirk who could only manage 6th in class in the race for 5th in Class in the championship.
WORDS: Chris Simpson
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson