Jack O’Neill took another win and a 3rd place to take the Round 9 win at Whilton Mill in SP60 Lights and added the SP60 Lightweight title to his team title in Endurance, on a quiet day for team mate and chief rival Mike Philippou. Philippou remains comfortably on course for 2nd place in the championship table although it is not yet assured, he is however moving inevitably closer. After some swift (possibly dodgy) maths, if Mike could not improve any of his lowest 4 scores in his 16 counting races Anthony Amato would need a win and at least three 2nd places to beat him by a point. Mike needs to find 12 more points in 4 rounds to absolutely sure to put the runner up spot beyond Anthony, and with two 7th and two 6th places in his 16 race tally, thats eminently possible, even though I don’t think he’ll need to. If Titan Motorsport keeping running Owen Jenman and Andy O’Neill to occupy the podium steps as they did here. O’Neill, winning race 2, and Jenman, a brace 2nd places, Titan are literally stealing bullets (opportunities) in Amato’s gun to score the points he needs. Fraser Brunton still has a shot at 3rd place in the championship if Amato’s run on 3rd in the championship should falter. Unlikely.
Titan mascot (sent to pick up the Andy’s trophy), and spokesperson, Martin O’Neill, “One of the strongest points (in my opinion) of the Titan team is the lack of egos. They have all won enough, raced enough and respect one another on the track.”
They do win a lot, “So with the lack of ‘I’m better than you’ mentality, all 4 were just looking forward to just getting in, and going racing, and having as much fun as possible. And that’s what they did. During the races, after Mikes accolade of fastest in practice, his day went downhill, with machinery ‘not quite to his liking’ putting him on the back foot compared to his team mates. Such is the standard, each driver cannot afford any slight disadvantage. Personally I used to love racing, back in the day, but watching this lot is even better.”
Owen Jenman set the initial mark at 53.154 from Jack and Andy O’Neill and Ben Lambeth, Jack moved provisional pole to 53.032, before Owen returned to take it down under 53secs to 52.9. Jasper Chamberlain, after an excellent showing at Llandow moved ahead of Lambeth. Philippou moved into P3 to make it a Titan 1-2-3-4, leaving Chamberlain and Lambeth on row 3. Another lap and Amato moved to the inside of row 3, by then in the closing stages Jack O’Neill went close to pole on his last lap with 52.948 but pole position would be Owen Jenman’s. Behind the quartet, Murray Knott and Fraser Brunton left it late to occupy row 6 moving Amato and Chamberlain back on to row 4, Lambeth and Michael Preston made up the top 10, in a full 37 kart grid.
Philippou made excellent use of grid 3, in the inside but outside line, as the road bends left into turn 1, following pole man Owen Jenman, to get by Jack O’Neill off the start, but the gain would be short lived, O’Neill moved back through to 2nd place on lap 2. Having already lost the slipstream of Jenman, Jack would have to work hard to get hold of the magic tow up the hill to Xmas corner. Philippou could not hold on to O’Neill and slid back into the clutches of a fast starting Fraser Brunton, behind Amato had picked off Murray Knott, and a slow starting Andy O’Neill. Lambeth, David Joseph and Michael Preston holding on to his 10th place starting slot. A poor start for Jasper Chamberlain falling back to 17th.
Again, with ‘a kart not quite to his liking’ Philippou could not hold Brunton, and Amato was closing on both of them, after his slow start. Andy O’Neill moved passed Murray Knott to be 1.3secs behind the battle for 4th place just beginning between Philippou and Amato. After a couple of laps Mike had to concede again, and in that Andy had caught up with Mike and at the 10min mark he moved through to 5th place. Philippou had 1.7secs gap over Ben Lambeth and Murray Knott perhaps he could stem the bleeding at 6th place. Up front Jenman finally had Jack O’Neill closing to his bumper and the pair were 1.8secs clear Brunton and a further 2.2secs clear of Anthony Amato. The top 8 ending with Knott and Lambeth were, in a very, very loose line, already 7.5secs clear of Michael Preston in 9th, as Joseph had departed to the back of the field as fast as he had entered the top 10, Andrew Golby coming into the top 10, with Jack Cameron-Drayton, moving passed Josh Wood and David Cunningham chasing a top 10 finish.
By halfway Jenman had taken the fastest lap down under 53secs in his efforts to shake Jack O’Neill off his bumper, and failed, the string being stretched but not broken, Martin O’Neill again, “All the action was between Owen and Jack for the win. With a fast starting Fraser Brunton, Jack was concerned any battle with Owen could have them fall back into a 3 way race. Besides, Jack told me afterwards, that it was all he could do to stay with Owen, and with no likelihood of any mistakes [from Owen], and that this was how it would probably end up unless an outside influence got involved!” Brunton was able to hold the pair at a shade over 2secs, Amato holding station a further second behind as traffic came and went a lap down. Philippou was fading badly over 8secs off Andy O’Neill in 5th, who was managing to close on Amato ahead, Mike sliding closer to Knott and Lambeth. Cameron-Drayton replaced Golby in the top 10.
Outside influence duly arrived up front, and a split second decision to go left or right would decide the race. Martin O’Neill watching on, “In the last corner, Owen and Jack had to go either side of a back marker, the result being Owen being pushed wide by the tail ender, but Owen now on the slippery stuff did a brilliant job of avoiding a crash into the barriers. Either way, the skirmish left Jack with a sizeable gap” 1.3secs. Jack had seen his opportunity, Owen set off after his lead. The incident allowed Brunton to get close to Jenman’s slipstream just as Amato caught his, and even Andy O’Neill was beginning to pick up Amato’s. There was a real possibility of the top 5 coming back together for a grandstand finish, if only briefly.
With only 3 laps to go O’ Neill was 1.6secs clear, Jenman had seen off the Brunton threat with Fraser looking over his shoulder at Amato, by now the top 5 were working through to the midfield to put them a lap down, and the risk was just the wrong back marker in just the wrong bottleneck of the track. As it happened the next back marker was Gerard Moore in 18th place 4secs up the road, who would loom large, Jenman getting the gap to 1secs coming on to the last lap. Backmarker dispatched O’Neill, Jack would run out the winner by 0.5secs, Brunton would hold off Amato by just 0.09secs, Andy O’Neill ran in in a comfortable 5th place. Philippou, over 14secs down on his Titan team mate, for a score I suspect he will drop to secure runner up in the championship and a race to forget, would hold off Murray Knott, Murray retaking 7th from Ben Lambeth on the last lap, .
A further 10secs back to Michael Preston in 9th place, another 5secs to Jack Cameron-Drayton. Unfortunately the race is not over until the penalties are applied, Lambeth – +4 Positions, Rule 15 a – Gaining single place advantage, and +1 Position, Rule 15 e – Knocking over a cone, and Preston – +6 Positions, Rule 15 c – ABC – Take out, possibly related to the sudden departure of David Joseph in the early going, moved them out of the top 10, and improved Cameron-Drayton to 8th, Andrew Golby and Jasper Chamberlain coming back into the top 10.
Brunton would star in the early going, making the most of grid 3 to follow Jack O’Neill on pole position to go 2nd, Jenman slipping to 3rd, behind a strong start from Jasper Chamberlain moving up to 7th. With 5 laps in the books, a top 3 had become a group trying to drop Anthony Amato, who himself was under pressure from Andy O’Neill towing Philippou, then 1 secs gap to Chamberlain who was pulling clear of Lambeth, further back Aymen Salih had moved passed Matthew Cockerham and Gerard Moore for 9th place and to lead the chasing pack.
Andy O’Neill would not be held by Amato and moved into 4th place then set off at pace after the leading trio, his cause helped by Brunton moving for the lead and Jack shuffled by Jenman back to 3rd place. Spectating Martin O’Neill, “Wow! What a race between the front runners. Stand out performances (out of a bunch of stand out drives) were Andy and Fraser. Andy with his drive from 5th.” The top 5 were half a second per lap and more quicker than the rest of the field, Jenman setting a new fastest lap with 53.234secs with the top 5 within a tenth of second approaching halfway. Amato was able to hold the top 4 but could not close the second he was down on O’Neill. Philippou could not live with their pace and was starting to offer a tow to Chamberlain, but Lambeth, Cockerham, Cameron-Drayton and Salih, and indeed the rest of the field were being dropped rapidly.
At halfway the leading trio were pushing each other on, 12 wheels through the air being faster than 4, although somehow Andy O’Neill was edging in, and with his brother’s move on Jenman, he was pulled into the top 4 for the second half of the race. Andy wasting no time picking off Jack to go 3rd. Approaching the 20min mark, Chamberlain, as he had been threatening to, moved passed Philippou for 6th place, after a mistake that would leave Mike over 4secs behind Jasper.
Into the final quarter of the race Andy O’Neill passed Jenman, and this was Jack’s opportunity to shuffle Owen to the tail of the group. It would take a few laps for Andy to get up and on to Fraser’s bumper, but there was a sense of some inevitability about it, with 3 Titan team mates, it was hard to imagine they were going to let Fraser have a win. Andy moved by for the lead with three laps to go but Fraser was not going down without a fight, Martin O’Neill again, “The only disappointment for Jack and Owen was the 5th place for Fraser. Having lead for most of the race, a last lap racing incident with Fraser, Jack and Owen, all trying to occupy the same piece of track and trying to get on terms with Andy for the win, resulted in Fraser losing out. A real shame but a great weekend performance from young Fraser, including the sprints on Sunday. Very impressed with him, on and off the track this weekend. Andy described the race as ‘One of my best wins, and fantastic fun’, and that after missing so much racing this year.”
Coming into the final two laps Amato had been dropped to 9secs down, but as it all kicked off ahead, he’d be 2secs faster than all four ahead on the penultimate lap and when the 2nd, 3rd and 4th went for the same piece of asphalt to have a shot at Andy O’Neill for the win, Anthony was well placed to pick up 4th from a slow moving and recovering Brunton. Spread out a long way behind, Chamberlain, Philippou, Lambeth holding off Cameron-Drayton at the line, with Aymen Salih doing the same to hold off Murray Knott and Matthew Cockerham, for 10th place. Once again the results aren’t final until they are official and including penalties for Knott, Cameron-Drayton and Lambeth, this would promote Salih to 8th, demote Lambeth to 9th, and Cockerham to 10th.
Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: John Patterson.