Titan Punishment Continues! James Dixon Stars in JK Rolling’s Clubmans Slaughter.

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So the Titan beatings continue. It’s 3 wins out of 3 races now in Premier Class. Briefly G3 Pro’s Joe Holmes had led the class off the start of this race, before Jack O’Neill (yes him again!) took over and with another one of their F1 style pitstops returned him to beat Clubman’s JK Rolling’s surprise packet, former Formula Renault UK & most recently 2012 Clio Cup podium regular, and former international and european KF2 driver, James Dixon off pit road in their early fuel stop duel. As the race went on, and around the increasingly warm but beautifully summer day on the south coast circuit, Ministry of Speed would slip by JK around 45mins, then Team Applewood would slip them at 80mins, only for Ministry blow it in the final fuel stop, handing Applewood 2nd place. Cap’n Alex Pritchard reporting, “Ministry I think came too hot into the pits costing them quite a bit”, Scuderio Bandito were able to move on to the last Premier podium step, seeing off Palatinate Racing 5th, who were the last kart on the lead lap. 

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Clubman Class with James Dixon, in his own class really, qualifying on the overall pole position was all about JK Rolling. James slotting into 2nd overall in behind Titan after Jack beat him back to the track after that first pitstop, Clubman championship leaders Auditing Armageddon, have seen this before, and had qualified on grid 10, and with Speedscreen off grid 14, they just kept digging to finish 2nd and 3rd in class. We’ll need to see if Dixon is a new feature for JK Rolling to see if the power balance has tipped in any one direction. Speedscreen’s Tim Hill did the first hour this time, commenting on the class, “JK Rowling we’re in another league and qualified pole, they had James do 90% of the race… Allegedly! We got it up to third but was never going to better that, Auditing Armageddon and JK were just too quick. Dickie and I maintained a 18sec gap that didn’t grow or shrink. The heat was unbearable, so my 60mins non stop was madness!” As Ben Chapman for Conman Racing remarked, “JK Rowling stormed it, Kyle Young managed not to get a black flag for the first time this season and they duly took their second win with relative ease”. Auditing Armageddon continues to lead the class, but only by 5points clear of JK Rolling, and another 5 ahead Speedscreen, with Chapman’s Conman Racing trying to hang on to the top 3 25points off the leaders, as the most competitive class now has an established shape heading into Buckmore Park.

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No surprises in Intermediates, Brillio started grid 11 finished with the win 2 laps off the overall leader in 14th overall to win the class, a lap ahead of The Three Swans taking 2nd place back from the Muttley Crew on the last lap. It’s a 2nd win on the bounce for Brillio, and after being excluded after round 1, we might have to wait to Rd.9 to see it, but they have a small but significant performance advantage, but it’s The Swans well ahead of BigSky and Muttley Crew, with Brillio rising, and with a stagger of that exclusion in the points, we’ll have to wait until they overhaul that exclusion or wait until Round 9 to see them take up what appears to be a class stranglehold as they are unwinding that stagger in the points rapidly at the moment. 

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If you stare at it for a long time it makes your eyes hurt.

Qualifying 

James Dixon was already raising eyebrows posting in the high 43s in practice, before setting the pace in the qually with 43.72 with Mike Coppin moving in behind on the next lap with Holmes in G3 Pro and Jack O’Neill for Titan. The consistency of fast laps from Dixon is clear, but O’Neill hit it again to edge pole down to 43.67. Then Holmes nailed one to squeeze ahead with 43.64, only for Dixon squeeze in between them with 43.66. By halfway the top 11 were within half second of pole position with Ministry of Speed and Palatinate on row 3, cLunge Racing and Auditing Armageddon on row 4, and G3 Farecla and Scuderia Bandito making up the top 10. At this point the sweet spot of track, tyre and air temperatures appeared to have passed and the times up front dropped off. So much so that Titan parked up, strategist Martin O’Neill, “after realising this is all we had, good enough for third”. Holmes kept trying, Dixon backed off for a lap, perhaps looking for a drafting partner.

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Ministry moved up to ahead of Applewood for P4, then Dixon hit 43.607, and then on the next lap 43.592 to secure pole position and the top 6 was set – JK Rolling, G3 Pro, Titan, Ministry, Applewood and Palatinate. Scuderio Bandito moved late into P8 then P7 on the last lap ahead of cLunge, Farecla, and Clubman’s Auditing Armageddon making up the top 10. Leading Intermediates were Brillio and Peterborough Pythons on row 6. They were only just over 0.5secs off pole, on a grid of 35, where the top 28 were within 1secs of pole psition. As ever something should be born in mind on the UK karting Monza, it’s a power circuit where mid to top end waft matters, so these times were impressive and pleasing to owner John Vigor in regards to the weekend kart preparation.  

Race

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Dixon made the hole shot into the first chicane for JK Rolling with Joe Holmes struggling to hang on to 2nd for G3 Pro, in the ensuing bun fight with Ministry and Titan, Darren Teal came out in P2, before Holmes pushed back through. But Dixon with the play clock just ticking through 2mins ran straight into pit lane for an under cut on the front runners to gain more time as first kart to stop. Knowing, as we all do now, how the first stop is probably the most important stop of the day, save  for maybe the last one, the next lap Titan with Scuderio Bandito from 7th in the line, followed Dixon’s lead, perhaps to get out of the battle with G3 Pro and Ministry ahead. Jack O’Neill’s stop would be turned around 3secs quicker than JK Rolling’s, Jack exiting pit lane as Dixon was coming off the last corner, but James would beat Beroual-Smith in Bandito in what was their race for 32-33-34th places. Up front Van Es had moved Palatinate up from 6th to go 2nd behind Teal in the slipstreaming battle down the back straight, Pritchard staying in the suck zone behind, “The race started well I was keeping up with the leaders, who were just about dropping me, I think Ministry’s and JK’s karts were the punchiest down the straight, while Joe Holmes was making up for their kart.” 

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Holmes would start the main pit stop window on 10mins, Matt Hale coming in 3secs behind Titan, O’Neill beginning to stretch Dixon in JK Rolling, who was still just ahead of Scuderio Bandito, but only briefly. Van Es took over the lead as both Applewood and Ministry pitted. Ministry slotted back in 1.5secs behind JK and 4.5secs ahead of Beroual-Smith, Pritchard slotted in behind Hale who had been 12.5secs off Titan, but were now back up to 10th place as the cycle continued. 

Van Es peeled Palatinate off the front on 15mins to be replaced by Andy Dawson, who returned ahead of G3 Pro. cLunge took a lap on the front, then Auditing Armageddon to close the first cycle. The field was reset Titan’s Jack O’Neill led by 1.5secs from Dixon in JK, 1.6secs ahead of Ministry, another 6.6secs clear of Bandito, cLunge, Palatinate, Applewood, G3 Pro and Farecla loosely running in close company. Clubmans Auditing Armageddon, 2nd in class, made up the top 10, 19secs off the lead, as they seemed to do after every fuel cycle. 

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Brillio in 11th already had control and led Intermediates by 15secs ahead of The Three Swans and Wait This Isn’t A Simrig? in 19th and 20th. Ahead of that pair All Torque, Runtime Exception Racing, Speedscreen, Conman Racing and DDMM Barnstormers were fighting over 3rd in Clubman Class leading into the 2nd pit window from 25mins to 45mins. Speedscreen and Ministry were early stoppers, Jack O’Neill brought leaders Titan in from a 4secs lead on 35mins, returning 5secs ahead of Ministry in 15th. JK Rolling peeled off the front with Runtime Exception Racing, then All Torque and Conman getting time on the front of the field before closing the window. By then all that had really changed was all the gaps had eased out just a little more, except maybe Mike Coppin in for Team Applewood who had moved 4secs ahead rather than behind Palatinate, Alex Pritchard again, “We had great stops even if we did lose out to a few teams early on. Our pace for the whole team was very good and later stops were great which helps pass teams in front.”. 

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James Dixon departed JK Rolling, Kyle Young coming in around 50mins to start the next fuel cycle. Coppin moved passed cLunge Racing on track for what had just become 3rd place. By 65mins, when Jack O’Neill ran the leaders to pit lane for his last time, his lead had briefly been 35secs over cLunge, Apteryx Racing and CKS Throatpunchers but after their departure for the fuel and service, the real order of play was revealed again. Andy O’Neill after a bit of a faff swapping lead ballast over had only a 3.7secs lead for Titan over Ministry of Speed’s Jordan Hill and a further 10secs on Young in JK Rolling and that was a shrinking 8secs margin over Coppin, in his 2nd stint for Applewood, monstering the chicane kerbs in his hurry. Matt Wileman in Scuderio Bandito was not far behind, a small gap to Will Van Es back in Palatinate Racing moving ahead of cLunge. Sliding off the lead lap were Apteryx, Auditing Armageddon and G3 Pro, the latter fading out to the tail of the top 10 over the mid race. 

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O’Neill would spend the next 10mins edging the lead out to 5.5secs before a fuel stop, and when that round of fuel stops was all done with 30mins to go, Mike Phillippou was in for Titan but the lead was only 3.3secs, and there was race on for the win with Ministry of Speed. Chris Alcock for Team Applewood was in, and in 3rd overall, not just in class, after demoting Clubman leaders JK Rolling for 3rd on the road,  but Alcock was being asked to find a little too much in the shape 22secs to catch the leaders, whoever it would be, by the finish. This left Will Dendy for Bandito in a head to head with Palatinate to the finish overall 5th on the road. Off the lead lap in Clubman Auditing Armageddon were 2nd, but that battle for 3rd in class was long over as Dickie Allen had replaced Tim Hill over the hour mark and had seen off everyone again in the traffic. But he needed to find 18secs to make 2nd in class a contest, and Auditing appeared to have enough to cover him off. Two laps off the lead Brillio were managing their advantage over Three Swans as they most of the race at around 15secs, and they had at the time 10secs advantage over Formula None. 

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Coming into the final window with 20mins, the Titan pit wall were uneasily ‘nail biting’ as the gap was down to 1.2secs over Ministry, JK Rolling started the main players turning around their last stops just after the fuel bays opened, Andrew Hall staying in to finish for them, Palatinate pitted, then Bandito pitted to cover them off. Emerging behind off pit lane the Banditos would take it back soon enough with 15mins to go and while it would still be close they would see Palatinate off to the finish. While all that was going on Ministry, perhaps sensing an opportunity to break the Titan stranglehold on 2021, had tried to execute a speedy final pit stop. Information is sketchy here, I did approach the team for comment, but I can only assume the emotion of it all is still too raw, according to rivals Titan’s Martin O’Neill, “Ministry had an issue with the last stop, effectively handing an easily manageable gap for Mike to bring home the win. It sounds easy saying that now but we were expecting a tough last 10mins.” This moved Alcock in Applewood into 2nd place, Pritchard again, “It gifted us second. And it left us not that far behind the leaders.” Taking heart, Alex continues, “I had the fastest lap for the team for the first time and with my weight loss I think it’s looking like we are now the team to break the Titan deadlock.” We shall see.

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Premier Class Podium.

When Phillippou returned from Titan’s last stop the lead was 14secs over to Team Applewood with 6mins remaining, so Alcock had made a little progress, but Applewood still need to be closer to give their anchor man a realistic shot at the top step. Any nervous smiles in the Titan camp were replaced with friendly grins again. It’s Three-Nil in 2021. 

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Benjamin from Intermediate Winners Brillio.

JK Rolling were 3rd on the road, miles ahead in the Clubman Class, Scuderia Bandito were on the Premier Class podium, Palatinate were 5th on the road only giving up the chase on the last lap. Off the lead lap Joe Holmes had come back in to repair some of the positions if not the time lost by G3 Pro finishing 2.7secs ahead of the washed up Ministry of Speed, in 7th place, 3secs ahead of cLunge Racing, Apteryx Racing were in 9th, Auditing Armageddon were 10th (again) on the road, 2nd in Clubmans and our auditors had extended their advantage to fellow Clubmans Speedscreen’s Dickie Allen to 25secs by the finish. Intermediate Class was still the same story, only Brillio’s lead had become a win, but from The Three Swans, rather than Muttley Crew, coming off the last corner. 

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The Clubman Podium, winners JK Rolling, flanked by reps from Auditing Armageddon and sponsors (bottom right) Speedscreen.

Words: Chris Simpson

Photography: John Patterson