Steven Downes Dominating!!! Becomes Leading Challenger to Beroual-Smith

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Off to Dorset the for the third round. With all the Covid rules it makes for an odd atmosphere but everyone is playing their part and at least we are racing again even though the social side of racing is suffering a tad. I find it particularly frustrating not being able to stick a tape recorder under a driver’s nose to get a proper insight into how they are performing. But we cope. Clay is a funny place in terms of its weather. Some days it can be sunny one minute and chucking it down the next but fortunately save for a few light spots it remained dry on Sunday although windy. Here’s how the morning unfolded.

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The Road to the Finals

Oliver Moss took the first heat of the day. After starting from grid five he was into second by the end of the first lap and hunting down pole man Stuart Jones. A lap later and he was into the lead. Thereafter he controlled the race setting fastest lap along the way. Jones came home second well clear of third placed Lee Henderson who put in a solid drive from grid three. 2001 Heavyweight Champion James Winslow claimed fourth after starting on the front row. Good to see him back getting some track time. I’m not going to go over all James exploits as a professional race driver over the years as they have been well documented elsewhere. Most certainly one of the Club’s leading alumni.

The second heat fell to Tarik Almou. A dominant win too taking the flag over four seconds clear of Geoff Lamb whilst a returning Mark Ridout claimed third. Steven Downes opened his account for the day with fourth after working his way up from grid eleven with Tim Hill next after starting alongside Downes.

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Heat 3 was a cracker. Pole man Alex Joyner led away before Steve Bosley hit the front after starting from the second row. But his lead lasted but a lap as front row sitter Jonathan Elliot moved to the front. But he couldn’t shake off Bosley who was either on his bumper or alongside as they crossed the start and finish line. But Elliot kept holding him off. Sean Brierley was next up just a couple of tenths back whilst behind the leaders Steve Lindley ran fourth a few Kart lengths adrift. Dominic Vallance led the battle for fifth from David Whitehouse, Alex Pritchard and Bradley Shears. With two to go Elliot had pulled half a second clear as Bosley and Brierley fought over second and lost time. Lindley remained fourth with Whitehouse next just over a second back and a Kart length up on Pritchard. Last lap and Elliot still led but he’d lost some momentum. Out of the last corner and the leading three headed towards the flag three abreast with Elliot taking the win by just 0.014 from Bosley who was in turn just 0.048 up on Brierley. Great racing. Whitehouse was next across the line but then got deducted six places after an early race penalty promoting Pritchard to fourth. Lindley was next across the line but he too got hit with a two place penalty after excessive kerbing. All of which promoted Valance to fifth.

Heat 4 went to Matt Wileman. Starting from grid ten he fought his way into the lead by half distance and then steadily pulled clear of the pack to take the win by almost four seconds. But the battle for second was proper entertainment. With two to go Dave Pethers held second from Chris Gristwood with Anwar Beroual-Smith fourth ahead of Ed White. One to go and Pethers was down to fourth as Beroual-Smith challenged Gristwood for second. Gristwood held him off and Pethers took advantage to slip by them both taking White with him. And there they stayed. Pethers second from White, Gristwood and Beroual-Smith.

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Steve Downes took a comfortable win in the fifth heat with Tim Hill second. Tarik Almou fought hard to cross the line third after starting from grid ten but he dropped four places after a penalty promoting Alex Pritchard to third with Steve Bosley fourth from Mark Ridout. Solid points for all.

Anwar Beroual-Smith took his first win of the day in Heat 6 but it was no easy victory despite leading all but the first two laps. Early leader Miguel Hall harried him all the way to the flag. He was getting much better traction out of the final turn but Beroual-Smith always kept him covered as they crossed the line. The gaps over the line over the last three laps tell the story well. 0.080. 0.071 and 0.073. Close, fair, racing. David Longman took third after a good drive up from grid nine with James Winslow a solid fourth. Fifth across the line was Sean Brierley but he took a four place penalty promoting Stephen Jennings to fifth.

Matt Wileman took his second win of the day in Heat 7. No easy victory this though as he had race long battle with Ed White who managed to get ahead with a couple of laps to go but couldn’t hold on dropping back to third on the penultimate lap behind Chris Gristwood who had fought his way up from grid twelve. White almost got the place back losing out by just 0.019 as they crossed the line. David Whitehouse came home fourth a few lengths adrift of the leaders and just holding off Stuart Jones on the run to the line by half a kart’s length.

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Heat 8 went to Adam Wright. He had to fight his way through from grid ten before taking Oliver Moss for the lead the latter having started from grid seven. He was in front after two laps and looking good for the win before Wright came on the scene. Once at the front Wright stroked it home with Moss a few Kart lengths behind. Jordan Hawkins came home third from Rob Adlam. Fifth across the line was Paul Williams after a strong drive up from grid twelve but he took a two place penalty for excessive kerbing promoting Richard Allen to fifth.

Anwar Beroual-Smith took his second win of the day in Heat 9. Stephen Jennings made him work for it though. Jennings took the lead two laps in and then had to keep Beroual-Smith at bay for the next eight laps. Over the line at the end of each lap Beroual-Smith would be almost alongside heading down into the first corner but Jennings held on. Till the last few corners of the last lap when he lost out. Mark Ridout came home third getting by Geoff Lamb the final time around with Stuart Jones fifth.

James Winslow crossed the line first at the end of Heat 10 after a great drive up from grid thirteen. The win however was chalked off. He’d fallen foul of the ‘’sausage’’ kerb out of the chicane and dropped to third handing Adam Wright his second win of the day with Lewis Ridd second, Winslow third, Tarik Almou fourth and Alex Pritchard fifth.

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Steven Downes took his second win of the day in the penultimate heat. From grid nine he was up to third by the end of the first lap running behind pole man Chris Gristwood and David Whitehouse. Whitehouse led for a couple of laps before Downes powered by taking Gristwood and Tim Hill with him. Downes pulled clear as Gristwood and Hill battled over second. Hill led the fight with a lap to go but had to give best to Gristwood. Good entertainment though. Whitehouse was a couple of tenths back in fourth with Paul Williams fifth.

Matt Wileman crossed the line first for the third time in the final heat but the win was not to be his. He’d taken a contact penalty early in the race which demoted him to fifth and cost him pole for the A Final. Steve Bosley inherited the win. No one could begrudge him either after a strong drive up from grid thirteen. Ed White took second. He too had had to work hard fighting his way through from grid fourteen and taking Dave Pethers for the place on the penultimate lap. Sean Brierley was fourth followed by Wileman.

The Finals

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C Final

Matt Kendall on pole from Luke Chapman with Dan Giles and Peter Clark on row two. Row three saw Nick Trafford alongside Justin Shaw with Jordan Salter and Vinod Harani on row four. Ian Zumbuhl and Jason Small shared row five with Doug Cooke and James Fremont on row six. Elliott Garnett and Mathew Batter were on row seven with Chris Warton and Rory Severn on row eight. The final three spots were occupied by James Dunnett, Alex Joyner and Martyn Robinson. Top four to qualify for the B Final.

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Kendall led the field away whilst Charman lost out round the first turn and was down to fourth by the end of the lap. Giles was up to second with Trafford in his wheel tracks followed by Shaw, Salter and Harani. Second time around and Kendall was still at the front but it was Trafford into second with Giles third from Charman. Further back Salter had dropped briefly behind Harani whilst down the order Severn was making rapid progress from grid sixteen. Kendall continued to lead but Trafford was cutting the gap whilst Giles was still third but coming under pressure from Salter who was anxious to get by as he could see the leading pair stretching the gap to third. Salter made it by Giles and once through immediately began to cut the gap to Trafford. Within a lap he carved almost a second out of the gap and was soon into second and chasing down the leader. Within a lap he was ahead and immediately began to pull clear. Trafford took Kendall for second across the line with Giles almost following him through. The two got a little out of shape in the first turn and Shaw nipped by for third. Salter continued to pull clear whilst Trafford now had to defend from Shaw. Kendall was still occupying fourth but looked to be on the ragged edge as he fought to keep himself clear of Giles. Charman was sixth but looking out of the hunt for a top four finish running over four seconds adrift with Harani a couple of lengths back. Severn was next and although a couple of seconds back he was lapping quicker. Two thirds distance and Salter had the lead out to almost two seconds from Trafford with Shaw next whilst Giles was barely a tenth back and intent on third and seemingly not interested in working with Shaw to create a gap back to the following pack.

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Three quarter distance and Salter was well clear at the front. Trafford was holding second still half a second clear of Shaw with Giles still fourth ahead of Kendall. Charman was out of the hunt now trailing by over five seconds but a second clear of Hirani and Severn. Two to go and the gap would be down to half a second. Final lap and Salter was in no danger and although only half a second clear Trafford looked equally safe in second. And so it proved. Salter took the win and the trophy with Trafford second from Shaw and Giles. But the drama wasn’t over. Giles was underweight and excluded. A lot of hard racing for nothing. Kendall was next over the line some seven seconds clear of Severn. With Giles exclusion this should have promoted Kendall to the final qualifying place but he’d fallen foul of the sausage and was classified sixth. Which should have seen Severn promoted to fourth but he’d been penalised for cone abuse and dropped a spot to fifth. Where would you have been Rory without all the penalties throughout the heats? So Harani found himself as the final qualifier for the B Final.

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B Final

Paul Williams missed out on qualification for the A Final by a mere 0.004. Still, at least it gave him the chance of an extra race. Jordan Hawkins sat alongside. Jacob Harris and Steve Lindley shared row two. Reigning SHW Champion Richard Allen was on row three with Rob Adlam whilst Ben Benneyworth and Bradley Shears occupied row three. Next up, Lewis Ridd and Richard Newton. Pete Newbury and Kieran Chidgzey shared row six with Paul Goddard and Wayne Dunham behind followed by Stewart Madden and Gary Miller. Row nine featured Richard Neale and Sunny Kundi whilst row ten featured Simon Kavanagh and Dominic Gorrett who then none started. Dominic Vallance and Nick Pollicott shared row eleven with the final two rows occupied by the qualifiers from the C Final, Salter, Trafford, Shaw and Harani. Top two to advance to the A Final.

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Williams led the pack away but as so often happens at Clay, Hawkins, on the outside as the field swung right lost out and would be down to fifth by the end of the lap. Lindley was up to second with Harris third from Allen. Adlam remained sixth whilst Shears held seventh ahead of Benneyworth. Ridd was forced wide and fell back whilst Trafford had driven a mighty first lap to move up from grid twenty four to eleventh. Williams continued to lead but it was Allen doing the chasing now as the race settled down after the frenetic first couple of laps. Quarter distance and Williams still led but Allen was almost alongside as they went down the main straight. Lindley was third but coming under increased threat from Adlam. Shears was close at hand with Harris next from Benneyworth, Goddard, the flying Trafford and Hawkins completing the top ten. Adlam wasted no time getting by Lindley and took Shears with him. Harris was defending hard from Benneyworth whilst Trafford had moved ahead of Hawkins and Goddard. With six run Williams was still running at the front but Adlam had deposed Allen for third and setting fastest laps. Williams continued to lead but Adlam was closing the gap and holding Allen at bay whilst Shears was getting away from Lindley. Harris was next whilst Trafford’s good run looked to be over as he fell back behind Benneyworth and Goddard. Ninth time around and Adlam got better drive out of the final turn and pulled alongside Williams as they went down the straight. Adlam was far enough alongside to discourage Williams from defending. Williams got a little out of shape as he rounded the corner and headed towards the chicane. But his misfortune allowed Adlam, Allen and Shears to nip by. Into the hairpin and suddenly Williams and Bennyworth were stationary along with Goddard after a late lunge by Lindley. Goddard was quickly away with Williams behind but the luckless, and innocent, Benneyworth was out. End of the lap and Adlam was out front with Allen next from Shears who was almost alongside as they crossed the start and finish line. Harris was next from Hawkins whist Trafford had taken full advantage of the mayhem to move up to sixth ahead of Lindley.

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Two thirds distance and Adlam was pulling away with Allen second. Shears good drive came to end when he spun to the rear of the field allowing Allen some breathing space. Penultimate lap and Allen had carved into Adlam’s lead whilst Trafford was now up to an astonishing third and still in with a chance of a top two finish. But it was not to be. Adlam held on for the win just 0.087 clear of Allen with Trafford third just a tenth back. A great drive. Or was it? I suppose this depends on your point of view. He’d managed to rack up eight penalties in the course of the heat. Unfortunate because he’s not in any way a driver who is overly aggressive or seeks an unfair advantage. But he dropped to eleventh. Hawkins was promoted to third with Madden next from Ridd. Newbury crossed the line next but he was penalised down to tenth promoting Harris to sixth. Lindley was next across the line but he dropped six places to fifteenth leaving Goddard seventh from Newton and Williams.

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A Final

Steven Downes on pole from Matt Wileman with Anwar Beroual-Smith alongside the first of the C2 drivers, a very on form Steve Bosley on row two. Row three saw Ed White alongside Chris Gristwood with Adam Wright and Oliver Moss on row four. Tim Hill and Mark Ridout shared row five with James Winslow and Dave Pethers on row six. Tarik Almou and Stuart Jones shared row seven whilst Alex Pritchard and Geoff Lamb shared row eight. Jonathan Elliot and David Longman were on row nine followed by Miguel Hall and Sean Brierley. Stephen Jennings and Lee Henderson occupied row eleven the latter starting his first A Final. David Whitehouse and Bill Taylor were on the penultimate row followed by the two qualifiers from the B Final Adlam and Allen.

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Downes led the pack away in what proved to be a very tidy start with the top seven staying in their respective qualifying spots as they completed the first lap. Second time around though and it was Wileman heading the pack with White getting ahead of Bosley for fourth. Gristwood dropped a couple of places behind Wright and Hill. Wileman’s turn out front lasted just a lap as both Downes and Beroual-Smith moved ahead. The order then settled down for a few laps with Downes remaining at the head of the pack from Beroual-Smith, Wileman, White, Wright, Bosley, Hill, Gristwood, Ridout and Almou completing the top ten covered by just over three seconds. Half distance and White took Wileman for third. But the pace was heating up as the top three set their best times thus far ninth time around. Two thirds distance and Beroual-Smith slipped into the lead. Downes wasn’t about to give up without a fight and a couple of laps later he was back at the front. White remained third whilst Wright was up to fourth ahead of Wileman. Almou was up to sixth ahead of Bosley, Gristwood and Hill.

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With two to go Downes was half a second clear as Beroual-Smith came under pressure from White whilst Wright kept a watching brief. Wileman had dropped back a little but was still in touch. Penultimate lap and Downes looked to have the race won. Beroual-Smith was holding off White but having to defend as they rounded the first turns. Into the hairpin and Beroual-Smith made White go the long way round but as they approached the Horseshoe White dived up the inside. Sadly for him he climbed up the kerb and although momentarily ahead he lost momentum and Beroual-Smith stayed second. A following Wright saw White drift wide and sliced through to take third. Downes crossed the line punching the air with delight followed home by Beroual-Smith with Wright third from White. Almou claimed fifth ahead of Wileman with Bosley next and winning the C2 class ahead of Gristwood who finished eighth overall. Moss was ninth with Hill tenth and third in the C2 class. Bill Taylor took the Super Heavyweight honours and seventeenth overall with Allen second in the class from Elliot. The Class 3 honours went to Richard Neale, Simon Kavanagh and Wayne Dunham after finishing seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth respectively in the B Final.

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Championships Round Up.

With Joe Holmes missing Clay he loses the HW Championship lead of course. Anwar Beroual-Smith takes over at the top with Clay winner Steven Downes next from Sean Brierley and Stuart Jones. Geoff Lamb is fifth followed by the leading Class 2 runner Chris Gristwood. Tim Hill is second in the Class with Alex Pritchard third. Richard Allen leads the Super Heavy division from Bill Taylor and Jonathan Elliot. In Class three Wayne Dunham leads the way followed by Nick Pollicott and Sunny Kundi.

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There were an awful lot of penalties at Clay which provoked much after race debate regarding what does and does constitute fair racing. Whilst most of the comments I felt were sensible and some of it light hearted banter there were a few which appeared critical of how penalties are given. This isn’t the first time I’ve commented about this. Our observers together with the clerk of the course work extremely hard. It is a tough job requiring one hundred percent concentration all the time. It’s mentally tiring and physically tiring having to be on their feet for hours on end with only a short fifteen minute break between morning and afternoon sessions.

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Sometimes they will get calls wrong but not often. Sometimes two observers will see the same incident differently from different angles. It is not easy and they don’t have the benefit of video re-runs or being able to blow a whistle like a football referee and give themselves thinking time. But I get particularly angry when drivers suggest that they do not act impartially and turn a blind eye to a driver’s transgressions whilst being unduly harsh on others. This is palpable nonsense and insulting to their honesty and integrity. Drivers who make this type of comment need to have a serious look at themselves.

If you are picking up lots of penalties it’s because of the way you drive not because you are being picked on. Without our observers and marshals there would be no racing. Worth remembering.

Just two weeks and it’s back to Buckmore Park for Round 4.

See you there!

WORDS: Steve Gray

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Patterson