This is actually encouraging progress. Josh Bates and, to a lesser extent Ben Foden, kept the champion elect honest throughout the Pre Final, but Josh could only feign to the inside with his nose coming out of the champion’s slipstream mid race into turn 1. Otherwise Anthony Amato was controlled and precise as ever and even then never felt the need to drive defensively from lights to chequered flag. It was great demonstration of precision driving from the top 3 but without a mistake from any of them, particularly Amato nothing actually happened. Like Formula 1 before DRS was introduced often high on suspense and expectation that just fizzled, without an explosion of action and overtaking. One for the purists who enjoy seeing karts driven up to the limit but not exceeded. His fellow Lightweights were getting closer, so Amato, late in the season, is no longer in a class of his own, he only leads as top of the class.
The main Final, truncated by a mid race red flag, was more of the usual fayre we have grown used to, and by that Anthony Amato not one but twice driving gradually away from the field. On this occasion from Ben Foden, using grid 3 to his advantage to take and keep 2nd place. But he could keep not hold of Amato, and was less successful in doing it than Bates had been in the Pre Final. Once released Amato never looked like being caught, and after the start line he never looked back, and never felt the need to defend for win number 12 of the season. Can anyone stop Anthony Amato winning all 14 finals of 2021?
In the championship chase for the top 5, behind Amato, and of course potential prizes from the Daniel Ricciardo Series, Louis Falk is 18 points clear of George Hannay. I believe Louis cannot be caught, so will be runner up in the championship. The same cannot be said for 3rd place where Hannay holds a 19point advantage over Ben Foden, and though difficult to overhaul in the remaining 2 races there are no less than 5 drivers, mathematically (and my maths is dodgy, and this paragraph is a revision -CS) within striking distance, who could finish in 3rd in the championship, but probably only if George has a bad day, so 3rd through 5th in the championship remains in question for Hannay, Foden, Charlie Folland, Ben Lambeth, Josh Bates and Jack James. They are lovely trophies by the way. The points permutations between the 6 are too many to even contemplate.
Anthony Amato led practice and struck first with 45.993, from Mckenzie Jones and Ben Foden. Jake Riches briefly took provisional pole on the next lap with 45.739, only for Amato to push him off the top spot and set pole position on the next lap with 45.483, then Josh Bates moved Jake off the front row on the next lap. No one would go close to pole position after that, and when session ended behind Amato, Bates, Riches and Jones, it was Foden, Jack James on row 3, George Hannay and Tommy Welsh on row 4, Ben Lambeth and Lewis Appiagyei. An excellent 26 kart grid, top 16 covered by 1secs.
After a couple of misfiring attempts at the start, Amato hesitated as the pace kart pulled off, holding back until Riches on grid 3 bumped into him from behind, this might have been informed by one of the false starts that had seen Riches through up the inside of turn 1 for the lead as Bates and Amato tracked out wide. Much to Foden’s relief after a bounce down the grass exiting turn 1 the field was reset again. So on the genuine start Amato slowed and Foden also ran into Riches as well during the final run up, like slow moving traffic in a motorway fog. It was a good job Club100 haven’t adopted dropped noses. No sooner than he’d felt Riches’ tap and Jake lost momentum, than Amato was a way, opening up a gap to the grid 3 man of a little more than the kart length that Josh Bates on grid 2 could swing across into, heading into turn 1. Jake hung on the inside kerb, a corner sometimes driven as a double apex, but here he wandered off the kerb or was unable to hold of the kerb or come back for a late apex, cold tyres perhaps. But behind it opened up a line for Ben Foden, whose kart appeared to tracking round the corner on rails on the inside on the run to hairpin for 3rd place.
Bates settled into Amato wheeltracks through the hairpins as Foden struggled to stay in touch, running deep into Garda and losing ground on the exit, but he would not have to contend with Riches though as Jake had to hold back Hannay and a fast starting Ben Lambeth all the way down the hill and back up again, with Tommy Welsh, Jack James, Tamino Colavecchi having a great start grid 13, and Lewis Appiagyei, in the same line rounding out the top 10.
And this is where the pattern for the race would become apparent, Anthony Amato confident that no one could drive any faster through the infield, stuck to the racing (fastest) line, effectively challenging Josh Bates to ‘send one’. One can’t read drivers minds, and my initial thought was Bates was not going to to tip his hand early and would follow and work with Amato waiting for an opportunity later, but over time it appeared Josh was having to use the slipstream coming back from the bottom the circuit pick up any ground lost going downhill.
It was similar story for Ben Foden he was struggling to stay close, but was able to stay at around half a second down, where typically some help from a kart in front might stretch out to perhaps 0.6-0.7secs, with the leading duo punching a hole in the air in the high speed section over start finish. In the early going the trio pulled clear of Riches who instead was joined by Lambeth after passing Hannay. They’d swap back again a lap later before at halfway to Hannay attacking Riches before everyone behind moved up one as Riches fell down to 20th place. Around the same time Bates showed Amato the nose into turn 1, just a little, and a far from convincing, or a likely looking pass, it at least showed some intent. Amato stuck to his fast line. Foden had hung on very gradually working his way in to make it a top 3 around mid race, when he nailed Garda perfectly, he would set fastest lap with 45.559 and was drawn more strongly into Bates slipstream after he lost a a kart length or two more than usual from the race leader exiting Garda. Amato responded with 45.553, going faster, Bates once again sitting in the back seat stretching Foden back out to 0.55secs behind. And so the pattern continued.
Lambeth passed Hannay again, and every time the pair swapped positions they lost another second to Foden, the gap was then 4.9secs, then a 3secs gap to Tommy Welsh in 6th place, a gap to Folland, gap to James, another gap to Lewis Davis towing the main pack with him, with Lewis Appiagyei replaced by Louis Falk 10th, then another gap to Elliot Alt towing through the midfield of Joneld Muhaj, Tamino Colavecchi and Fynn Wheatley.
But no sooner had Amato pulled a couple kart lengths at last on Baters, then traffic in the form of Oliver Deeks loomed ahead, maybe this was it, maybe this is what Bates and even Foden had been waiting for. Even though Oliver very politely pulled well out of the way it was still enough for Bates to close in again, although by this point it was Josh’s head was swivelling to see where Foden was at the end of the start finish straight, clearly able to hear the buzz of Ben’s Rotax closer then he’d like, rather than leader Amato. He knew Bates was there, but he was not changing and he was not looking around.
By the end of lap 13, with just 3 to go, the leading trio were close enough to suspect a lunge must come from someone soon with the laps ticking down, behind Lambeth and Hannay, and Welsh and Folland ran just as close, but most of the action was 5.5secs behind, beyond Jack James in 8th place and with Louis Falk and Lewis Davis regularly exchanging 9th and 10th places. Then Welsh fell down the timing screen to 16th, I’m going to hazard a guess here that this may be connected to Charlie picking up +6 Positions, ‘contact causing driver to come to a halt’. Everyone behind Folland moved up one position.
Penultimate lap and Bates still appeared to be waiting, or maybe he was on his limit, and unless Amato made mistake, he could not get passed. Coming to the final lap Amato seemed to have Josh’s measure, a very close measure, but he was handling it, his only worry was whether he would catch Henry English and Owais Zahid to lap them before or at Garda or somewhere in Cafe Curve on the run to the finish line. I’m sure it crossed Josh and Ben’s mind. They would be out of luck, indeed the duo ahead would move on to their last laps and may have offed Amato a tow for the first time in the race. The winning margin, I think the closest of the season so far, at 0.35secs, but as convincing a 0.35secs margin as you’ll see. Anthony appears to have the confidence in his ability that no one in YDC Lights can drive Buckmore Park any faster. Bates, Foden, 5secs back to Lambeth, edging a second clear of Hannay, 6secs clear of Charlie Folland before he was demoted to 12th place, Jack James to 6th, Louis Falk, Lewis Appiagyei, Lewis Davis, after a cone penalty and Elliot alt making up the top 10.
The sun was falling in the sky, hinting at the changing of the seasons, by the time we got around to the final. Foden using his pre Final practice to ride in behind Josh Bates again. The pace kart pulled off, Foden was ready for what Amato was going to do, when Anthony went for it, Ben was ready and right on his bumper over the line. Anthony looked left to see where Bates was at the line, but Josh had fractionally missed the start, there was little doubt Amato would be first into turn 1, and he was, and Foden had also got the drop on Bates to be comfortably in 2nd place.
The question for Ben was could he hang on to Amato, and hang on close enough to be able to throw it up the inside anywhere at any point. The gap was 3 or 4 kart lengths returning to the line Amato’s kart pulling hard back uphill, Foden would have his work cut out. Amato added another kart length the next lap and the lap after that, the gap expanded to over 1 second, and we’ve seen this before. Anthony Amato was back to normal service driving away from the Lightweight field.
And then the red flag came out for Tommy Welsh in the tyres at turn 1. After parking down down at Garda for 5mins, the field set off again in single file. Foden starting 2nd, Josh Bates banished to 10th place, from Hannay 3rd after a strong run from grid 5, Lambeth, Lewis Appiagyei, Folland charging through from 12th on the grid, Mckenzie Jones following him from grid 13, Jack James, Louis Falk and Jake Riches for a 6 lap sprint for the trophies.
Amato closed in on the pace kart who pulled off to the left slowing until Foden barely touched him from behind and went for it, checking his 6 to the left and to the right over start finish he had a kart length and a half and the lead into turn 1 again. Could Ben hold on to Anthony this time? Yes he could, after just a kart length into turn 1, but he would run too hard into Garda and would have tighten his line out of the corner over the crest, in making the Senna left following it, losing a couple kart lengths which were still lost by turn 1, 0.25 would become 0.4secs, Amato hadn’t bothered to look over his shoulder. Once again Lambeth had passed Hannay but had only succeeded at the expense of time to the leaders, Lambeth 2secs behind Foden and bringing through the field, starting with Hannay of course, George ready to have another go. Amato went faster again, the gap stretched out to 0.6secs, Lewis Appiagyei passed Hannay to 4th place. Amato set another fastest lap, and would be the only driver under 46secs with 45.773 to reach a one second gap. He would not be caught. Behind Lambeth in 3rd, Lewis Appiagyei was 0.8secs behind, Hannay sliding out to a similar distance and put under pressure by Mckenzie Jones who had just passed Folland for 6th place. Charlie fell back into the next group led by Jack James who’d just passed Louis Falk, Ed Gordon coming into the top 10 for the first time with Josh Bates, Jake Riches, Joneld Muhaj, Lewis Davis and Fynn Wheatley in 15th in a line in the midfield.
Final lap, Foden eased off towards the finish, Amato’s winning margin a flattering at 1.76secs, but it hardly looked in doubt Ben Lambeth held off Lewis Appiagyei in the sprint for the line for the last podium step, George Hannay holding off Charlie Folland, after Charlie had returned the favour to Mckenzie Jones. Jack James, Louis Falk and Ed Gordon rounded out the top 10 on the road. A 4 place demotion for Louis Falk dropped him from 9th to 13th and brought Josh Bates into top 10.
Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: John Patterson