The Dark Knight. The cold wet downpour

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Clubman Class began it’s 2015 UK tour in the afternoon and the biting windchill, and skies were already starting to look menacing. Oliver Knights looked domineering taking both final wins in pretty awful conditions as Buckmore slid back into last November’s “Waterworld”, in the lead in championship of Paul Crawford and Russell Endean. Indeed this championship I think could be the highlight of the season, with serious depth to the contenders once we get into warm weather.

The morning had started brightly enough, but had been cold and long. Heat 1, perhaps preseason favourite Russell Endean – in for another year, had pole position for the first heat, getting into turn 1 first, and pulling clear of the mess behind, 2secs clear ending lap one, from Daniel Truman, although it was James Small who had the field stacked up behind him. But not for long as Small got by Truman, and the chase was on, and it didn’t take long, James was on it, moving into the lead on lap 3 and he was never headed although only a 1sec behind he always was in danger of being caught by Oliver Knights, if he made a mistake, Oliver had chopped through from grid 19 to finish 2nd. Thats right, you heard right, 17 positions according to T&S in 7 laps. Although to be fair I did say the opening lap was a bit of a mess, and it was quids in for Oliver, up to 5th (14 places) and on the tail of Paul Crawford beginning lap 2 with Oscar Cooke, David Longman, Danny Turlock and Myles Sharman in the chasing line, gap to Adam Nakar, who’d had a poor start, bringing through the bulk of the 23 kart field. Crawford lost out to Knights, the next lap, and was passed by Cooke and Sharman in short order, before he could get his momentum back to pick off Truman, mid race. The last 3 laps were close at the front, Small winning by 0.5sec from Knights, but they were 5secs up the road from Endean, that sort of sends a message, Sharman and Crawford. Heat 2 is the reverse of the first grid, which pretty much put Oliver Knights in as a shoe-in for pole position for the Pre Final, save for heavy rain, starting on grid 5, Edward Barrs on pole, Justin Buck, Miguel Hall, Mike Bodnar ahead of him. None had featured in heat 1. Barrs got the hole shot fair enough, but could barely make the corner, the front end washing him out wide and just off the outside tyre wall, he was back in the pack, pod to pod with Buck out of hairpin 1, Knights and Hall would clear out of hairpin 2, ably assisted by Rhianna Purcocks throwing a mighty one down the inside of Longman, and Truman, and damn if she wasn’t going to do Buck as well, off the corner, she was 3rd! And Knights and Hall were gone. No, no. Gone, gone. Longman understeered inside of the Esses to get back to the head of the queue, Purcocks criss-crossed and tried the outside of the exit, it almost worked. Single file is so much easier, Knights with Hall, in a losing battle to stay in touch, were 4secs clear, end of lap 1. Oliver running out 5secs clear, of a struggling Hall, but only in comparison to the leader, until he settled for 2nd, 6secs clear of the field at the finish. And for long time it looked like David Longman and his armfuls of full lock & straight ahead understeer – slicks and standing water… in 3rd, pulling clear of Buck, then Bodnar moved by, he’d extricated himself from a wrestling match with a combative Purcocks. This time it was James Small chopping his way through the field from grid 18 to finish 5th, and to the front row of the Pre Final. 2secs behind Longman, who’d first been done by Bodnar up the inside at Garda, only to get it back in Cafe Curve on lap 5, only for Mike to use an awful lot of geo block before Pullmans to make it his, on the last lap.

By now with the daylight fading, the floodlights coming on, the Pre Final weather was filthy. Rooster tail wet, wind chillingly cold. Filthy. James Small barely took grid 2 into turn 1 before he was reversing into the tyres, but he’d keep going drop to 19th, with prodigious seamanship, fight his way (again) back to 6th. Thats persistence. Poleman Knights would have to contend with Sharman off grid 3, Crawford and Hurlock off the row 3, behind Russell Endean, Oscar Cooke, Andy Cowell, Bodnar, Purcocks and Miguel Hall went hard at it for positions in the top 8, through the hairpins before the field sifted through the Esses, pod, pod, splish, splosh, carry on… Endean was 5th and clear. And it stayed that way for a few laps, Knights and Sharman just edging clear of Crawford, Hurlock coming under pressure from Russell, dropping Purcocks rapidly, a gap to Cowell bringing through the field. Indeed this midfield water polo match (underwater and pretty rough, you get the picture) was great fun, with Miguel Hall (excluded), Cooke, Tyler Mays, Ed Barrs, Truman and Nakar. Endean neatly slid down the inside of hairpin 2 for 4th on Hurlock, Crawford was already looking over his shoulder off Paddock, under pressure and passed on the exit of turn 1. Russell pointed the way, but Crawford couldn’t stay with him anyway, and when Sharman took a look down inside of Knights at hairpin 1 the next lap, Endean had a sniff of a win. Game on. It was a 3 way, admittedly a baggy 3 way to begin with, dice for the lead. Sharman must have had wind of Russell running him down, as he sort of covered the inside line off Paddock, then pulling over to take the turn into Garda, and when he did, Russell was there in 2nd. Myles tried to repay in kind the next lap, but that just slowed them down, they went side by side, Sharman criss crossed to get inside of Cafe Curve. Knights was clear, Myles looked to dampened Russell’s fire only for Myles to drop it, heading for 2nd, on his own at Paddock, as Russell looked to be settling for 3rd, it was the penultimate lap. Russell wasn’t going to catch Knights with a lap to go. Hurlock was 4secs clear of Crawford. Purcocks led the field in 20secs behind the race winner.

The Final – what’s worse than filthy? I mean I am lost for words on how bad conditions were. We were also struggling to get finished under the curfew. With fastest laps setting the grid, the front had a familiar look – Knights, Small, Sharman, Crawford, Bodnar, Endean, Hurlock, Cowell, Truman, Purcocks. There were a few others down the field who you could slide in there as well, and I think you say could says there’s prospects for a cracking season. It was really borderline conditions and in any other championships, etc, etc… Especially still on slicks! Although in it’s way thats a safety feature, you just can’t go that fast on those tyres, can you? Apparently you can. The first few corners had some loading and leaning on, but Knights had dropped the hammer for his benefit and was clear, and they’d all made it through into the Esses Crawford was 2nd, Sharman, Hurlock, Small, Bodnar and Endean. It was traditionally difficult to see with the low set lights and water on your visor, made next to impossible with standing water in or around nearly every corner. It makes overtaking a challenge, and leading the best of a bad lot. Endean lost touch with the top 5 after getting caught up in Bodnar and Hall. Knights was holding off Crawford as time moved on, Small ready to pounce, but Sharman couldn’t live with their pace, or maybe just wanted to see where he was going so left himself some space, giving Hurlock a chance to get by but not stay by, Sharman finished 4th. It was intense up front, but Knights prevailed to take maximum points, technically driver of the day, Crawford 2nd, but Small for me in 3rd. Helter-skelter or was it the log flume? For everyone else it was the log flume.

So that was Buckmore Park and Round 1… To say it finished wet is an understatement. Sunshine for Ellough, and definitely no rain please.