Tim Hill Uses All His Experience To Narrow Seb Algieri Championship Lead To Just 5 Points. 2 Rounds To Go!
Qualifying Nick Trafford was the early pace setter in group 1 before being usurped by Michael Ballinger. Trafford wasn’t done though leaving it till his final lap to top the session with 41.515. Ballinger was just 0.051 adrift with Stuart Jones next up just 0.036 back. Ben Cottle was next with Lennie Wood fifth after setting his fastest lap on his opening lap. Paul Williams was the fastest of the EssexFlatPack SHW runners. Tim Hill was quickest for most of the group 2 session and steadily improving his times after being quickest on his first lap. But then Nima Oparver bettered his time by just 0.046. Championship leader Seb Algieri looked to be off the pace but he dug deep, very deep, to record a stunning 41.248 lap to easily take pole. Miguel Hall and Mike Bodnar were but it was mightily close among the front runners. Trevor Randall was the quickest of the EssexFlatPack SHW runners. Pre B Final Ben Benneyworth on pole from SHW Jordan Salter the former desperate to rediscover his form after a poor run of results. SHW Andy Clarke alongside Daniel Taylor on row two. The EssexFlatPack man himself Stuart Germon shared row three with Mike Townsley and Robert Stapleton sat alongside David Stirling on row four. SHW James Edwards and Rob Adlam completed the first five rows. Benneyworth led the field down to the first turn but Salter lost out round the outside and dropped to third behind Taylor with Germon fourth profiting as Clarke spun to the rear of the field Adlam got a great start and had a good run through the Esses to emerge in fifth with Townsley sixth from Stapleton. Benneyworth crossed the line with Taylor almost alongside and with the momentum for a look at the lead into Billys. It didn’t come off but he tried again the following lap and was side by side with the leader as they crossed the line with Salter a couple of lengths back. Taylor lost out as he ran wide and Salter took over in second. Benneyworth still led but it was clear he was losing ground out of the final turn. Salter was alongside down the straight but Benneyworth again held off the challenge. Meanwhile Germon forced his way past Taylor for third. Benneyworth was defending hard from Salter which allowed Germon to close in on them both. Half distance and Salter finally found away by Benneyworth for the lead as they accelerated across the line. Germon was closing in and dragging Taylor along with him whilst Townley was out of the running for the final qualifying spot in fifth. Unless the front runners tripped each other up fighting when they didn’t really need too. In the space of a lap Germon moved into second ahead of Taylor with Benneyworth down to fourth. Salter was a couple of lengths clear but still the fight for second went on with Taylor in the place from Benneyworth and Germon. Finally, the penny dropped and they stopped fighting it out safely in the qualifying places and well clear of fifth placed Townley. Salter took an emotional first ever Club 100 win just a tenth clear at the flag from Taylor with Benneyworth third from Germon. Townsley took fifth and pole for the B Final with Barney Langley next. Stephane Appleton, Rob Adlam, Chris Scivier and David Stirling completed the top ten. Pre A Final Championship leader Algieri on pole from Oparver with Hill and Trafford on the second row. Hall and Ballinger shared row three with Bodnar and Jones on four. Mark Turner and Alexander Lammin completed the first five rows. Algieri led the field down to the first turn with Oparver alongside. Algieri ran a touch wide and Oparver gave him space but then found himself swamped by the chasing pack and spun to a halt along with Ballinger. Algieri lost momentum and was down to fifth as the field streamed down the back straight for the first time. Hall had made the most of the mayhem to lead with Trafford next from Hill with Bodnar fourth from Algieri. Jones was up to sixth ahead of Lammin with Turner next from Steve Bosley and Ben Cottle. The latter though was already carrying a penalty after a bump and pass on SHW Championship leader Trevor Randall. Hall continued to lead but Trafford was closing in along with Hill whilst Algieri had got by Bodnar but was almost a second adrift of Hill. Three down and Trafford was alongside Hall on the run down to Billy’s with Hill third and Algieri just a couple of lengths back. Trafford tried a move on Hall but couldn’t make it stick and immediately dropped back to fourth with Bodnar fifth from Jones. Bosley was next and defending hard from Lammin with Martin Gurnett and Randall just in touch. Fifth time around and we had a new leader as Hill moved to the front whilst Algieri moved ahead of Trafford for third. This was proper hard racing with some marginal moves at times but thankfully everything stayed just on the right side of fair. Depending on your point of view of course! Once ahead of Trafford Algieri immediately set about challenging Hall for second and took the place out of Billy’s courtesy of better traction and Hall running a little wide. A lap later though he was down to seventh. Hill was pulling clear at the front as the battle raged behind. Into the Esses a backmarker had spun. Immediately the front runners got into all sorts of trouble as some slowed and some didn’t. From My position on the balcony I couldn’t see whether a yellow flag was being waved or not. Certainly Algieri thought so whilst a following Trafford thought not or simply didn’t see it in the heat of battle. Algieri lost out as Hall swept back into second tailed by Trafford with Gurnett up to an incredible fourth after starting on grid seventeen. Bodnar was fifth from Jones with a disgruntled Algieri seventh from Bosley who was having a fierce battle with Lammin. Having been passed the previous lap Lammin was desperate to regain the spot and got inside Bosley at the kink before Billy’s. Bosley tried to cover the move but contact was made and he spun to an arm waving halt. He’s not having a great deal of luck this year. Lammin would incur an eight place deduction post race. Hill continued to pull clear at the front as the fight for second raged on with places swapping back and forth round the lap but with the order stativ as they crossed the line in a seething pack. As the race wound down Algieri fought his way back to fifth whilst Gurnett and Trafford swapped places a couple of times with Hall only a length ahead in second. With three to go Gurnett went by Trafford and then took Hall in the same move. Once into second he immediately began to put a little air between himself and the chasing pack whilst Hall and Trafford settled into third and fourth. Final lap and the order looked settled but then Algieri got mugged by both Jones and Randall. Hill crossed the line over five seconds clear with Gurnett a very fine second from Hall with Trafford fourth, Jones fifth from the first SHW Randall and then a very disgruntled Algieri who had Lammin all over him as they crossed the lone. Lammin’s penalty dropped him out of the top ten promoting Taylor to eighth with Aaron Stephens and Bodnar rounding out the top ten. Hill set the fastest lap on the penultimate tour with Williams the fastest SHW. Phew! B Final Daren Townsley on pole from Barney Langley with Stephane Appleton and Rob Adlam on row two. Chris Scivier alongside David Stirling on row three with Matt Sussman and Clifton Malcolm on four and Rhys Collins alongside Brad Chambers on row five. Two to qualify for the A Final. Townsley led the pack away but Langley and Appleton both ran wide in the first turns allowing Scivier to jump from fifth to second with Adlam third from Langley and Appleton with Stirling next ahead of a fast starting Rob Stapleton, up from grid twelve. Townsley really got his foot down over the first lap crossing the line almost two seconds clear of the pack. Over the first few laps he continued to extend the lead as the fight for second on the road raged. It took Langley a couple of laps to dispense with Adlam and Scivier but once he did so he immediately began to close the gap to the leader chipping away a few tenths at a time before catching Townsley. Once on the leaders bumper he was quickly into the lead setting the fastest lap the eleventh time around and pulling clear to take the win and the B Final Trophy. Townsley was a comfortable second with Adlam third from Stapleton and Scivier. A Final Hill on pole from Gurnett with Hall and Trafford on the second row. Jones and SHW Championship leader Randall on row three with HW Championship leader Algieri and Taylor on row four. Stevens and Bodnar completed the first five rows. Hill led away from the line with Gurnett slotting into second. But yet again the field bunched up into the Esses and Hall was forced across the grass dropping to fifth whilst Trafford got baulked too, losing momentum and dropping to ninth. He would retire a few laps later. Algieri moved into third with Jones fourth from Hall, Taylor and Randall. Hill continued to lead but wasn’t pulling clear the gap remaining at just a couple of Kart lengths as Algieri fought desperately to get by Gurnett. But Gurnett was not going to give up second without a fight and was defending superbly and still keeping Hill honest. Hall closed in on Jones and found away past at the hairpin. Randall was just a few lengths back in sixth. Hill remained at the front with Gurnett still holding Algieri at bay. Algieri was trying moves all round the circuit but Gurnett was placing his Kart in all the right places to prevent the Championship leader getting by. Finally he got a better exit out of the final turn and dived under Gurnett at Billy’s to take second. Both he and Gurnett lost a little bit of momentum allowing Hall to get close enough to make a move at the end of the back straight. It didn’t come off and as he collected himself up Jones moved ahead. But only for a few corners as Hall regained the place. Once by Gurnett Algieri began to close up on the leader. Hill defended but down the main straight with three to go he pulled level across the start and finish line and was just ahead as they braked for Billy’s. Algieri gave Hill racing room but Hill still made contact pushing Algieri wide and allowing Gurnett back into second. And Hall, Jones and Randall were right behind ready to profit from any incident. Hill now had some breathing space as Gurnett went defensive against Algieri. It was superb stuff and Algieri knew he was going to have to pull out something very special to get by. Last lap and Hill had a couple of lengths lead. Down the back straight and Gurnett went defensive into the hairpin. He went in just a little too deep and ran wide on the exit. Algieri took the chance and was just ahead on the outside into the Horseshoe. He held his nerve and Gurnett gave him room and the place. Hill took the win and vital points with Algieri second from Gurnett. Hall took fourth with Jones fifth from Randall who took the SHW honours. Stevens was next. A good drive this. Taylor, Netting and Turner completed the top ten with Williams taking second from series sponsor Germon in the SHW class. Great, great racing. Round up Seb Algieri’s lead in the HW’s is down to just five points from Tim Hill but with dropped scores coming more into play the latter can’t afford any bad rounds now. Every point counts for Tim whilst Seb has a little more breathing space. The pressure is on. Nick Trafford remains but his Championship challenge is virtually over now. Stuart Jones is fourth with Ben Benneyworth fifth despite enduring a poor run of form. He’ll bounce back I’m sure. In the SHW division sponsored by EssexFlatPack.co.uk Trevor Randall is surely only one round away from clinching the title with series sponsor Stuart Germon second from Jordan Salter. Reflections There was some very hard racing at Clay and the Observers had much to occupy them. It’s a tough job but as always they handled the pressure superbly well. I was a little taken aback though by the attitude of some spectators who think it’s acceptable to abuse and gesticulate at officials if they think a decision hasn’t gone the way they think it should. It’s infantile and pointless. Three out of the four Championship leaders had bad days at Clay which has left the Championships finely poised as we head for the final two rounds of the season. Hang on to your hats because it’s going to be a very exciting run in. See you at Whilton! Words: Steve Gray Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography