TITAN, TITAN, TITAN… But Take Hope Clay Pigeon is a Favourite Track of There’s.
Into the afternoon programme Lights were out first for practice and qualifying, and with a full grid of 38 karts, and much of the 2020 field returning, it was a great advert for Club100 and the SP60 format. I have to warn you it will be hard to talk about SP60 Lights here without mentioning Titan Motorsport, and for Clay Pigeon, returning champion Jack O’Neill was joined by brother Andy, Owen Jenman and Mike Philippou for the sunny event. And it was Andy O’Neill setting the practice pace, from Owen, Jack, but Stephen Westwood slid in ahead of Mike, and fellow returnees Murray Knott, Ramunas Cerkauskas, Graziano Malivindi, Jason Kirk and Christopher Powell. The Top 10 were covered by 0.75 of a second, although a better measure 8th to 25th, Josh Wood were covered by less than 6/10ths of a second and 8th to 34th, Philip Tychon by 1 second.
Running straight into the 5min qualifying session, it was Jenman setting the pace with 40.8secs from Jack and Andy O’Neill, before Andy hit the ultimate pole position lap on the next lap, with a 40.6secs, Westwood, Powell and Fraser Brunton then moved into top 6 behind them, before Philippou moved in behind Westwood in P5. And while times improved on the final laps no one could change the top 7, Jason Kirk, Cerkauskas, and Javier Gorostidi-Turner made up a top 10, covered by 0.82secs, but again 8th through 34th was more representative demonstration of the field’s competitiveness, and our kart’s evenness, covered by just 0.75secs.
Andy O’Neill nailed the start from pole position as Jenman was straight into a fight with his other Titan team mates, Westwood, Powell and Brunton, when they returned to start finish, Andy’s lead was 0.4secs, Phillippou would briefly go 2nd, before Jack O’Neill moved by, this broke the tow and the leader was away. The battle was on for 3rd with Mike under pressure from a recovered Jenman, who would go by soon enough, then a gap to Westwood just back passed Brunton, then a gap to the trio of Powell, Knott, Malivindi, gap to Nik Hoyle in P10 bringing through the main field. The big movers in the field were Mac White grid 25 to 17th, Matthew Cockerham grid 32 to 21st and Chris Vrettos grid 33 to 25th.
After the initial cavalry charge, the race settled down into running laps as quickly as possible, at least for the top 10 to begin with, with Andy O’Neill pegged by his brother at 0.8secs, half second behind Jenman towed Phillippou gradually back to Jack O’Neill ahead, and gradually clear of Westwood, Brunton, Murray Knott replaced Malivindi at the tail of a chasing group of 4, as Powell lost touch with them in 9th place.
At the 8min mark Jenman caught up with and passed Jack O’Neill after picking up his tow, and Jack slotted in behind Phillippou for a few laps, as Owen broke clear of the pair to start running down the leader. It was all Titan Motorsport, beyond which first Brunton then Knott took over from Westwood but the gap to Titan & 4th place had already slipped to 3secs.
With the assistance of soon to be lapped traffic, Jenman was able to pick Andy’s tow at the 12min mark, he’d waste no time going for the lead. But catching is one thing, passing is another, we all know the cliche, but then it flips and Andy was able to follow Owen through the traffic, and their battle would continue, swapping places to the very last lap, Martin O’Neill watching on, takes up the story, “Andy went for an overtake on the hairpin around the outside, running out of road on the exit, and although alongside, he’d be tracking out for a bumpy run across the grass. Compromised for speed through the horseshoe, it allowed Mike to close into Button, and run down the inside into the last corner. It had been a great battle between Andy and Owen throughout, and Mike’s overtake was a great move.” Philippou coming through for perhaps a fortuitous 2nd place, from a richly deserved 3rd place after hanging about 1secs off the leading pair for the 2nd half of the race while holding off Jack O’Neill behind.
In the non-Titan race, 5secs behind, Murray Knott had driven through from grid 13, to pull a second on Brunton, Malivindi, 2.5secs behind Powell having lost drafting partners earlier was sliding into Nik Hoyle’s clutches, and Nik would move by approaching the 20min mark. Jason Kirk had already fallen away from Nik’s bumper long before in 10th by then. The surprise was Stephen Westwood he was slipping away to 5secs behind in 11th, and when the penalties were added post race, Stephen, with a 6 position, Advantage By Contact (ABC) Take Out penalty would be classified 17th, and in good company Jason Kirk (ended up classified 32nd) and Andrew Golby, who had worked his way back to his 15th after dropping to 20th in the early laps, saw 14th, classified as 20th, with the same penalty. All this and more brought Hussain Rashid, initially up to 10th, but a one place penalty for knocking over a cone, a popular Clay Pigeon past time, classified him in 11th, from fast starting Mac White and Matthew Cockerham, Udi Menon and Jamie Blanchard making the top 15 as a consequence.
Someone will eventually suggest race 2 in SP60 is a reverse grid of part, or all, of the finishing positions of race 1, (there I said it for you) but for now, the first 2 Titan rows were away, but this time it was Mike Philippou from grid 2 grabbing the lead from poleman Jenman off the start, with both Andy and Jack O’Neill, also pushing through by the end of the lap, leaving Owen out of the top 3, the tow and with Brunton, Knott, Powell and Malivindi lined up behind him
With a slightly better kart than race 1, Jack O’Neill tracked his brother for a few laps before going by and leap frogging Philiippou the next lap for the lead, Mike gamely hanging in his slipstream, as Jack was particularly rapid through the first 2 sectors of the lap, making the most of a strong engine and great handling, Andy O’Neill couldn’t live with them and lost the tow. Behind Jenman had made no impression on the 2secs deficit to 3rd place, but he had at least shaken off Powell, temporarily, and Malivindi for good, both of whom had been overtaken by Javier Gorostidi-Turner. This left just Fraser Brunton and Murray Knott in Jenman’s slipstream, in 5th and 6th places.
Reaching traffic for the first time, in the shape of Wesley Hutchinson, Jack O’Neill would make slightly better work of it, perhaps it just broke Mike’s rhythm, but the semi permanent bumper fixture of a 2-3 tenths gap, he had been, slipped out to 6 then 8 tenths, then a second, and with plenty of clear track ahead Jack O’Neill was edging clear at 1-2 tenths per lap, into a safe lead. Moreover, Mike without the assistance from the kart ahead, had Andy O’Neill edging back in, and by the 12min mark the tow was engaged and Andy O’Neill was looking for a way by.
Four seconds behind Brunton had finally got a run on Jenman, for 4th place, and assisted Knott getting by, putting Owen down to 6th, where he’d settle into a race of his own to the finish. It was a safe 6th place as even though Chris Powell had worked his way back passed Gorostidi-Turner for 7th place, he had lost 5secs to the group ahead, and was by half distance 8secs behind, and running for a finish, 2secs ahead of Hussain Rashid, Mac White, Nik Hoyle and Graziano Malivindi. Murray Knott after showing strongly in Race 1, wasted no time going for for 4th place from Brunton and got it done, although he would be unable to shake off Fraser, and he’d back and back through inside the last 10mins, Knott eventually settling into 5th. By this point Jack O’Neill first win of the season, looked assured, over 5secs clear, at the same time Andy O’Neill’s challenge on 2nd place Philippou broke, and Andy would not get within a second again until Mike cruised over the finish line.
In the lower half of the top 10, it was Mac White working his way through, and passed Rashid for 8th place. Gorostidi-Turner and Malivindi disputed 10th place with it eventually going Javier ’s way.
Of course thats how it finished on track, but there was a long list of penalties, not affecting the top 4, but Murray Knott was one of many to fall foul of a cone penalty for abusing (his kart) with Clay’s kerbs, he was demoted 1 place to 6th, moving Jenman into 5th, a similar fate for Gorostidi-Turner, putting Nik Hoyle back into the top 10. Worse still, the excellent run from grid 12 to 8th place for Mac White, evaporated on the weighing scales, by exclusion for being underweight post race, Graziano Malivindi took over 9th place. Matthew Cockerham moved up 12th, Jason Kirk, who had driven from grid 32 (due to his penalties in race 1) was classified 13th, Stephen Westwood was 14th, and Leo Stolyarov was 15th, the first kart (on the road) off the lead lap, although he’d finished race 2 in 19th place and was helped by penalties ahead of him.
Well let’s not labour the point, Titan Motorsport have planted 4 flags on the top of 2021 SP60 Lightweight hill, Mike Philippou and Jack O’Neill share the lead, race 1 winner Owen Jenman is point behind, Andy O’Neill is 4 points off the lead, and challenge the rest of the entry to come and take it from them. It will be no easy task, they have pace and they have numbers! Fraser Brunton, Murray Knott and Christopher Powell look like the most likely challengers, with Nik Hoyle, Graziano Malivindi, Hussain Rashid, Javier Gorostidi-Turner looking like top 10 contenders, with Matthew Cockerham and Stephen Westwood. It’s important to note, I don’t know the Titan collective’s intentions for racing every round, this year, at least not all four of them at every round, but if you had summer holiday money in the bank, wouldn’t spend it in the the UK on karting this year? We must also remember Clay Pigeon is historically a happy hunting ground for Titan Motorsport and ‘one swallow does not make a summer… “. So Whilton Mill might be different.
Words: Chris Simpson
Pictures: John Patterson