Tim Clark Wins Season Opener. Can He Keep It Up?
Another bumper sell out 38 kart grid for the other SP60 class in afternoon programme returning champion Anwar Beroual-Smith being the benchmark and proudly wearing the number 1 plate in defence of his title. Phil Ingram, Tarik Almou and Wayne Lidgbird were missing from the entry, at least for this round, but Stuart Martin, Daniel Taylor, SuperHeavyweight Champion Alex Pritchard moved into the main class with Tim Clark from the 2020 top 10, with 2020 E60 B Class champion Matt Horgan moving into SP60. Richard Allen would start favourite for the Super Heavy (SHW) crown, with competition from Richard Newton, Stuart Kirk from the 2020 class and perhaps new to the class James Johnstone.
Practice had seen Beroual-Smith, Daniel Brewer, Tim Williams, Horgan and Clark topping the leader board, joined mid session by Taylor and Sandall in the sub 42secs bracket, as the 10min session flowed into 5mins of qualifying, it was Horgan leading the field with 41.135, not that it would count towards the grid. Anwar set the pole target with 41.268 ahead of Sandall and Horgan, Taylor and Martin, before Horgan moved to the top of the timing tree with 41.227. Brewer moved into P3, before Tim Clark moved pole to 41.239, only for Horgan to hit again with 41.103 as the session was chequered flagged Kai Crawford moved on to the front row, Clark and Beroual-Smith starting on row 2 with Brewer and Jason Bear on row 3. Martin and Daryl Snelling, Sandall and Phil Kendall made up the top 10. A top 10 covered by 0.365, 8th-23rd covered by just 4/10ths, again showing the midfield and evenness the machinery will make for a tremendously tight and close midfield, and that the tiny fractions of performance and qualifying well in 38 kart grid will crucial for every race 1 in 2021.
Crawford would push Horgan hard from the green light, but Matt would have his nose just ahead when a long line of karts returned to start finish with the top 12 flashing nose to tail pretty much as they started in the space of 2 seconds, the first gap in the line was to Garrett O’Connor in 13th up from grid 15, with the next 20 karts rushing passed. In SHW Dickie Allen had started 12th, with James Johnstone on grid 13, but that would be as close as they would be together in race 1, Allen moving up to 10th, while James slipped backwards behind O’Connor, Kendall also starting poorly, George Watson and Stuart Osborne moving forward, Johnstone commenting, “To be honest it was a bit of a stinker for me, I just went backwards.”
It looked like it might be a case of Horgan needing to find his feet in the class as well, Anwar having enjoyed (possible not quite the right word) plenty of practice in the morning endurance race, was right on the pace for the afternoon and dispatched both Crawford, at the hairpin, and then Matt on the next lap, on the exit of the last corner. I sometimes feel HW SP60 is Anwar’s class, in the same way Joe Holmes has made HW Sprints, more or less, his. I’m not sure if that would stand up to closer scrutiny or not, but sometimes, drivers just have that feeling or air about them or maybe it’s in your own mind. Either way Anwar Beroual-Smith is the benchmark for Saturday afternoon, Horgan then lost out to Crawford, Stuart Martin and Tim Clark, both whom who might as well be team mates as they always seem to be around in the same races and in the same area of track for what feels like years and years, on the next lap, getting around Matt easily much to his consternation, “I’d had an amazing qualifying to put it on pole, but race kart was so slow that I just went backwards. I put it in the mechanics bay at the end of the race, it wasn’t right and it turned out to be the brake pads rubbing against the disc potentially from a crash in a previous LW SP60 race.” And I suppose that is one of the few downsides in amongst so many upsides in an arrive and karting, even Club100. Of course there is always race 2, and in the cosmic karma of things, the next kart might be the rocket.
Beroual-Smith was soon breaking clear, removing his slipstream aid from Kai Crawford and his fight behind with Martin & Clark, they’d double team him to get by, while also moving forward Dickie Allen had cut through to 6th place, a second behind Horgan (although not for long), passing first Alex Pritchard, then Dan Brewer, then Jason Bear and Ryan Sandall to lead a very competitive 8 kart battle stretching back to O’Connor and George Watson in 13th place.
Approaching the 10minute mark, Beroual-Smith’s lead had edged out to 3secs, aided not so much by his own pace, but Clark and Martin’s dicing, when they were in line they were on Anwar’s pace, but they were racing hard and swapping positions, Clark was back in 2nd place, and maybe this time with Sandall and Brewer closing back in, the penny had dropped. Tim was trying to break clear, Ryan Sandall, “I’d fought my way through from 9th on the grid, and through some hard battles, I’d made a move in turn 1 which wasn’t really rough at all, more robust, but I’d got a penalty for it, so typical me… but I could see I was catching Tim for 2nd place and with traffic looming I was going for it.” Ryan used the tow from Stuart Martin to good affect to move through to 3rd place a few laps later, Brewer once again riding through in Ryan’s wake to 4th place. Clark was only a second ahead, 3.5secs ahead on the back straight Anwar Beroual-Smith had reached the first clump of traffic, and Ryan was indeed going for it. Going for 2nd place.
At half distance, Beroual-Smith had cleared the first group of traffic that the chasing group of Clark, by now very much in drafting target range of Sandall, with Brewer and Martin in line with him, Stuart recovering 4the from Dan a lap later. One second behind Allen was looking strong in SHW, after dispatching Kai Crawford and dropping him, Alex Pritchard was battling with Dan Taylor and 2.5secs behind Tim Hill had entered the top 10, a shade over 11secs off the race leader. After clearing the first traffic, Sandall was sat on Clark’s bumper, the pair stretching Martin and Brewer without quite dropping them, edging in from behind Allen was flying.
The run to the flag looked relatively easy for Anwar, 4secs clear, but everything was to play for behind Clark, Sandall, with his +4place penalty, went into the closing stages dropping Brewer, Martin and Allen by 3 seconds, leaving Sandall just waiting for a hiccup, or a trip up, over a backmarker from Clark ahead. Right on cue the lapped traffic was looking thick and fast for the last 5 laps, Beroual-Smith had played it safe, trading time, but putting at least 2 or 3 karts in between him and Clark and Sandall the gap coming back under 3secs. Sensing his opportunity, Sandall went for it, “I finally got past thanks to an awkward backmarker only to throw it away half a minute later getting tangled with the next backmarker. My mistake.” And that’s traffic, you roll the dice and take your chances. With only 1min 20 left on the play clock, and 2 secs down, there wasn’t time to do anything else about Clark.
On the road Anwar Beroual-Smith won by 4.5secs, from Clark, Sandall, Brewer on his bumper at the line, Martin and Allen, winning SHW easily, then a 6second gap to Pritchard, well clear of Crawford under pressure by Stephen Jennings, and Dan Taylor 10th, but with penalties applied to Sandall, and a kerb cone hitting penalty for Brewer, Sandall dropped in behind Alex Pritchard in 6th, and Brewer stayed where he was but was leap frogged by Stuart Martin to be classified 3rd. Top 10 were covered by 16secs, in SHW James Johnstone recovered/limited the damage finishing 14th, and 2nd in class, with Richard Newton looking like his 2020 self starting grid 30, and finishing 18th.
Beroual-Smith hit it hard out of the gate, coming through with the lead while Martin replaced Clark in 2nd place, following Stuart on the inside line of the grid Allen, from grid 5, would move ahead of Dan Brewer for 4th. Clark would be straight back at Martin and back in 2nd place giving a 0.8secs advantage to Anwar Beroual-Smith, this would usually be a mistake to be regretted. Alex Pritchard pushed up through Brewer to P5 and at the end of lap 2 a snake of 9 karts from Martin in 3rd to Richard Newton in 12th rushed across start finish, a second group headed by Jason Bear in 12th was joined by James Johnstone, Dan Taylor, Tom Eastwood, a third group headed Claudio la Rosa, 17th, having a quiet start to the season, Stuart Osborn, Steve Lindley and beyond. Poor start for Phil Kendall I’m guessing off the road with contact down and dead last in 38th place, after starting grid 24.
Freed from Martin’s attention, Tim Clark was immediately chipping 3/10ths off Beroual-Smith’s lead, inside of 3 laps it was gone, and all was not well at the front, Anwar Beroual-Smith, “The kart just didn’t have the legs, I clung on to Tim’s tow for as long as I could”, and to be fair to Anwar he put up a fight for 4 minutes but there was a sense of inevitability about it, once Tim was by, Anwar was surfing his slipstream with the elastic on full stretch at 0.4-0.5secs each lap. Behind Pritchard had worked his way through 3rd place 1.5secs down and was trying to shake off Dan Brewer, who was towing Martin, Sandall and Allen. Tim Hill had made a strong start and was nearly 2secs further behind in 8th place, demoting Kai Crawford, with Tim Williams making up the top 10. Gap to Dan Taylor, then the next group started with Stephen Jennings, La Rosa shaking off the cobwebs and making progress, through Eastwood, Bear, Stuart Osborn, and Richard Newton and James Johnstone battling over the lower Super Heavyweight (SHW) podium steps, James again, “I have to say Richard and I went hammers and tongs for basically the whole race, I had the pace on him but he wouldn’t let me go.”
By the 12min mark, Clark had edged out to over half a second on Beroual-Smith, and within another lap or so it was 0.7secs and he was relying on back markers to get back on, or using the back markers themselves as drafting partners, but the latter never really works, and certainly not for very long, there’s a reason they are back markers after all. Still Anwar kept the gap at 1 second, while Pritchard edged in to about 0.6secs. Then Tim got caught up with traffic for half a lap approaching halfway and Anwar was back on the bus, but so was Pritchard, and he had Brewer and Sandall close behind, the top 5 covered by just 2secs. A few laps later Clark broke free again, and it was only Pritchard and Brewer swapping positions that in reality was allowing Anwar to hold on to 2nd place from a concerted effort to pass. Sandall again, “I took a long time to catch the lead group and I was able to take advantage of a few scuffles involving Anwar and Alex and Dan, [and as they were knee deep in traffic] a collision with a back marker gave me my chance.” There was just over 6mins to go. Anwar was down to 5th, Dan Brewer moving ahead of Pritchard, Sandall slipping into 4th place, “I had, of course, picked up a magic cone penalty by then.” Next it was Dan’s turn to be sent to the tail of the group. 3.5secs ahead race 2 was in the bag for Tim Clark, and the lead of the championship.
Pritchard was raced hard for 2nd place by Sandall but with a one place deduction for a cone it was always going to go Alex’s way, Ryan again “After a mistake from Alex I got 2nd place. Then he went full send into turn 1 on the penultimate lap but [in classic Clay fashion] on the cut back it was all good to the finish.” But for a cone! A 2nd place became 3rd, Alex moving up to the second step. Brewer might have taken his cue from what was happening 2secs up the road with a send of his own on Anwar on the last lap, he made it stick, Dan finished 4th. Four seconds behind Stuart Martin towed in Dickie Allen, but a cone penalty of his own promoted Allen to 6th overall, and a comfortable Super Heavyweight win, and it looks like it will be his year in the class. Tim Hill pulled Kai Crawford and Tim Williams to make up the top 10. Richard Newton finished 15th to take 2nd in SHW, Johnstone missing out to Jamie Garside for 3rd place, James finishing 24th, and he explains “When I’d got past Richard I thought that was that until I got taken out on the last lap. It’s shaping up to be a stonker of a championship fight between me and him.”
It’s early days, Tim Clark has a 4point lead over Anwar Beroual-Smith, another 4 points over Alex Pritchard, with Brewer, Martin, Sandall looking like contenders. Although they’ll all have to get passed Beroual-Smith to the title. It’s really hard to look passed Richard Allen for Super Heavyweights. He might be heavy but he carries it so well, and in a kart, for sure.
Words: Chris Simpson
Pictures: John Patterson