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Win For On Form Mike Coppin, Brunton Continues To Lead Championship

by Steve Gray | March 23, 2022 | Sprint Championships

It’s so good to be back. After being forced to miss round one it was great to pull into the paddock at Whilton on a beautiful sunny morning. Big grids again too. Early days of course but Fraser Brunton had laid down a marker in the Lights with his win at Buckmore whilst Anwar Beroual-Smith was hoping for another strong run in the Heavies. Burning question of the day was surely how the reigning Heavyweight Champion Joe Holmes would respond to his rare defeat at Buckmore.

The Road to the Finals.

Mike Coppin got his day off to the perfect start with a comfortable win in the first heat. Starting from the second row he was quickly into the lead and then never threatened as he extended his lead to over ten seconds from second placed Daz Teal who had had to fight his way through from row three. Stephen Westwood took third after Ben Lambeth lost four places after an ABC with Rob Langthorp and Andrew Ward completing the top five.

Garrett Berry was made to work for his win in the second heat as Ashley White kept him under pressure only to lose out on the final tour to Yousuf Bin-Suhayl. Stef Theodorou was fourth from Hussain Rashid.

Heat Three was a cracker featuring a race long duel between Rhianna Purcocks and Ed Barrs. Purcocks led the opening laps with Barrs right on her bumper. Ned Douglas, Dante Dhillon and Dan Seager were all just a few lengths back. Half distance and Barrs took over at the front but didn’t pull away. Last lap and Purcocks gave it everything she had taking the win by just 0.057. Dhillon was third from Seager and Douglas with the top five over four seconds clear of sixth.

Heat Four was a straight fight for the win between Reece Pope and Mathew Cockerham. Pope had pole but Cockerham took the lead on lap one and despite all his efforts Pope couldn’t quite get the place back and had to settle for second just a tenth adrift. Josh Adams took third some three seconds back but he he’d worked his way up from grid eleven tailed most of the way by Fraser Brunton who started from grid thirteen. Liam Nolan was fifth.

Heat Five went to Dan Seager. He started from the front row and was never headed. Ashley White kept him honest initially but he had his hands full holding off the attentions of James Martin and Dante Dhillon. Penultimate lap though and he lost out slipping back to fourth from Martin and Dhillon with Stef Theodorou fifth.

Andrew Ward controlled the majority of Heat Six leading all the way from pole until the final lap. Josh Adams was just behind but never quite close enough to attack and lost second with two to run to the on form Mike Coppin. Final lap and Coppin went by Ward for the lead taking Adams with him. Reece Pope drove a solid race up from grid nine and crossed the line fourth. But both Coppin and Adams had penalties. Ward was promoted back to first with Pope up to second from Coppin and Michael Preston fourth from Samuel Essery. Adams had an ABC and fell to sixth.

Fraser Brunton started Heat Seven from the second row but was quickly into the lead chased by Jed Toole who took over at the front for a couple of laps before Brunton re-asserted himself. Brunton took the win just over a second clear of Toole with the two of them well clear of third placed Christopher Powell who worked his way up from grid eleven. Justin Draper and Matthew Cockerham were fourth and fifth.

Rhianna Purcocks and Ed Barrs were at it again in Heat Eight. Jake Wilkins led away from pole but a second lap assault by Greg Smith saw him fall to the back of the grid and Smith get hit with a six place penalty ruining both their chances. Ben Lambeth took over at the front chase by Purcocks and Barrs. Three to go and Barrs went by Purcocks for second. Penultimate lap and Lambert had an incident dropping out of the top ten and promoting Barrs into the lead. But it was not to be. Barrs had clipped a cone and was penalised to second. Not a great birthday present for him. Daz Teal was third from Andrew Rabbage with David Longman fifth after penalties to Smith and Garrett Berry.

Heat Nine saw Fraser Brunton take his second win of the day. Starting from grid six he was into the lead on the first lap and never threatened leading Mike Coppin home by over seven seconds. Coppin however had to work his way up from grid eleven. Dante Dhillon claimed more valuable points with third after shadowing Coppin up the order with Aaron Stillwell and Russell Cooper completing the top five.

Yousuf Bin-Suhyl almost claimed his first win in Heat Ten but had to give best to Hussain Rashid on the final lap. Ashley White tailed them home but a penalty dropped him to seventh and promoted Garrett Berry to third and Steve Hicks to fourth, after a great drive from the back of the grid. Ami Breacher was fifth.

The penultimate heat saw Dan Seager claim his second win of the day and secure himself pole for the A Final. An outstanding effort. Ed Barrs took second after fighting his way up the order from grid twelve with early leader and pole sitter Ramunas Cerkauskas third from Liam Nolan. Rhianna Purcocks was fifth after working her way up from grid eleven.

The final heat fell to Sam Essery. An excellent drive after starting from the second row and taking the lead on the first lap he was never under threat and headed home Daz Teal, up from grid eleven, by just over two seconds. Joshua Sangster was third from David Longman whilst Bryn Alban crossed the line fifth only to lose six places after a penalty. Jeremy Deeks was promoted to fifth.

The Finals

C Final

(All drivers in C3 unless otherwise noted.)

Two C2’s on the front row, Ami Breacher on pole from Ross 0’Brien. George Lawlor and Kim Eley shared row two with James Browning and Harrison Kirkham on row three. Row four was shared by C2 Sam Morris and Jagjeet Singh. C2 Jake Wilkins occupied row five with Adam Brittain. Dan Grocott and Matt Ellis occupied row six with C2’S Clifton Malcolm and Cameron Williams on row seven. Row eight had Oliver Johnson alongside Chris Harris with Toby Smith and Andy Berry on row nine ahead of Rizwan Mangat and Nikolas Lakasas on row ten. C2 Corey Smith was alongside Christopher Pautz on row eleven followed by Alexandre De Silva and C2 Keith Segal on the penultimate row with Louis Stagg bringing up the rear. Top four to qualify for the back of the B Final.

Breacher was slow away from pole so it was O’Brien who went into the lead chased by Eley Kirkham and Breacher. Wilkins was up to fifth whilst Lawlor fell back to ninth. Eley’s chances evaporated with a spin out of second. Two run and O’Brien had opened up a two second gap from Kirkham who was coming under serious pressure from Breacher. Wilkins ran fourth from Browning whilst Lawlor was beginning to get back on the pace.

Quarter distance and O’Brien’s lead at the front had been cut to less than two seconds. Kirkham remained second a tenth clear of Breacher and Wilkins. Lawlor was up to fifth and lapping quicker than the leaders. Breacher made a move on Kirkham for second but it slowed them both allowing Wilkins up to second and a charging Lawlor into fourth. Breacher and Lawlor crossed the line almost alongside Wilkins and by the time they reached the top of the hill both were ahead. Kirkham was half a second back and still in the hunt but Browning was over two seconds back and barring incidents at the front, out of the hunt for fourth.

Three to go and O’Brien remained at the front from Breacher, Lawlor and Wilkins. Kirkham was now almost a second adrift of fourth place but over eight seconds clear sixth placed Browning. Top four to qualify and all safely through to the B Final. Then they decided to squabble. Lawlor took over at the front from Breacher with Wilkins third. The three of them crossed the line almost side by side with O’Brien now down to fourth and in danger of being caught by Kirkham. What’s more important? A trophy or another race? Into the final lap and Lawlor still led but it was Wilkins in second now from O’Brien with Breacher down to fourth from Kirkham who didn’t quite have enough time to get on terms despite being quicker over the final couple of laps. Browning was sixth some eleven seconds back from the leading quintet with Ellis seventh from Eley, Smith and Lakasas.

C Final Winner – George Lawlor

Lawlor’s win and subsequent elevation to the B Final gave him the C3 honours on the day with Kirkham second from Browning in the class.

B Final

(All drivers in C2 unless otherwise noted.)

Stef Theodorou on pole from Ramunas Cerkauskas with Stephen Westwood and Michael Preston on row two. Row 3 saw Joshua Sangster alongside Tim Penny with Liam Nolan and James Dunnett on row four. Next up, Bryn Alban alongside Greg Smith followed by C1 Rob Langthorp and Dean Everest on row six. Row seven had C1 Steve Hicks alongside Tom Eastwood. Hicks had started all his heats from the back row so it was no surprise to see him where he was. Good practice though for a driver who is usually an A Final frontrunner. Callum Martin and Aaron Stillwell shared row eight with Charlie Summers and Justin Draper on row nine followed by Jeremy Deeks and David Hamer on row ten. The penultimate row saw Luke Phillips alongside Andrew Rabbage followed by the four qualifiers from the C Final, Lawlor, Wilkins, O’Brien and Breacher. Top two to qualify for the back of the A Final.

Theodorou led the pack slowly up to the line and made the perfect getaway to lead into the first turns. Cerkauskas was a little slow off the line and lost out to Westwood on the run up the hill. Preston lost ground dropping behind Sangster and Penny. Nolan and Langthorp were early spinners. End of the lap and Theodorou was almost a second clear of Westwood who was himself running clear of Cerkauskas. Two down and if Theodorou thought he was going to run away with the win Westwood had other ideas cutting the gap considerably. Cerkauskas was being dropped and was over two seconds back from the leaders with Sangster next and holding off a very determined Alban and Penny as they crossed the line side by side.

Three down and the leaders were long gone as Cerkauskas remained third. Penny was now up to fourth from Sangster, Preston, Wilkins, Smith and Alban. Quarter distance and the two leaders continued to pull clear. Start of the fifth tour and it was four abreast over the start finish line with Sangster just ahead of Cerkauskas from Penny and Preston. Cue holding of breath in Race Control. Everyone got through though but Cerkauskas lost out badly dropping to eighth. Half distance and Theodorou had broken away at the front. Westwood was safe in second whilst Sangster remained third from Preston, Penny and Wilkins. Hicks was into the top ten and lapping quickly.

With the top two long gone the fight for third raged on. Nine run and both Preston and Penny found a way by Sangster. Wilkins was next but coming under pressure from Hicks who set the fastest lap ninth time around. Penultimate lap and Penny launched an attack on Preston for third. He couldn’t make it stick. Sangster had tried to profit but he too lost out dropping out of the top ten whilst Wilkins avoided the carnage and climbed up to third. Theodorou crossed the line over four seconds clear of Westwood with Wilkins third well back from Westwood. Penny was fourth with Hicks fifth from Preston, Alban, Cerkauskas, Smith and Lawlor.

B Final Winner – Stef Theodorou

But then came a rash of penalties. Wilkins lost third after a four place deduction for forcing Langhthorp wide early in the race. He was classified seventh. A shame this for his was arguably the drive of the race after qualifying from the C Final. Penny moved up to third from Hicks, Preston and Alban. Cerkauskas remained eighth with Smith dropping out of the top ten after an ABC. Lawlor was promoted to ninth from Draper.

C3 Class Podium – Winner George Lawlor, flanked by Harrison Kirkham (left) and James Browning

A Final

(All drivers in C1 unless otherwise noted.)

A surprise pole sitter in C2 Dan Seager after a stellar performance in the heats with Buckmore winner Fraser Brunton alongside. Mike Coppin was next. He would have been on pole but for penalties in the heats. Former Champion Ed Barrs lined up alongside. Row three saw Rhianna Purcocks alongside Daz Teal with C2 Dante Dhillon on row four alongside 2021 Driver of the Year Reece Pope. Row five had C2 Garrett Berry alongside Andrew Ward followed by C2 Matt Cockerham alongside Ashley White on row six. Josh Adams and James Martin shared row seven with C3 Samuel Essery and Christopher Powell on row eight. Two C2’s shared row nine, Hussein Rashid and Yousuf Bin-Suhayl. Four C2’s occupied the next two rows, Ben Lambeth and Jed Toole on row ten with Sam Slater and Ned Douglas on row eleven. C2 Russell Cooper and David Longman shared the penultimate row followed by the two qualifiers from the B Final, Theodorou and Westwood.

Seager led the pack up to the line but it was Brunton who got the better start to lead up the hill. Coppin tucked into third with Barrs in his wheel tracks whilst Purcocks had a grassy moment and fell down to eleventh. A lap later she would be down in sixteenth. Teal was next from Pope and Dhillon. Two down and Coppin nipped by Seager for second and set about reeling in Brunton. Four down and he had chipped away a couple of tenths whilst Barrs had slipped by Seager for third and was homing in on Coppin. Brunton was being forced to defend as both Coppin and Barrs closed in. Up the hill sixth time around and Brunton went to the right to stop Coppin’s run up the inside. Coppin immediately went left hoping to get the cut back round Christmas. But in moving left he didn’t see, or rather couldn’t see as his focus was on Brunton, that Barrs was making a run down the outside. Barrs took to the grass in avoidance spinning to the rear of the pack. A racing incident and no more. Indeed, it wasn’t until after the race that Coppin even knew that Barrs had gone off. Brunton held on at the front from Coppin whilst both Teal and Pope demoted Seager. Dhillon was next but almost two seconds adrift of fifth placed Seager.

Half distance and Coppin had another go at Brunton. This time he went through. Brunton lost momentum and Teal nipped by for second. Coppin and Teal immediately began to pull a gap whilst the battle for third raged. And what a spicy battle it was too. Brunton was defending as though his life depended on it but both Pope and Seager found a way by. And the leaders weren’t getting too far away. Coppin led by a couple of lengths with Teal just half a second up on Seager who had battled by Pope. Brunton was still there and still in with a shout at the podium. But as they fought for third the leaders again pulled clear. Pope deposed Seager and Brunton followed him through. Final lap and Coppin was over half a second clear with Teal settling for second and valuable points almost half a second up on third placed Pope who had Brunton and Seager line astern. Dhillon remained sixth just over a second back and well placed to profit from any mistakes in front of him. And Berry was in close attendance to Dhillon. Into the Boot for the final time. Pope defended and looked to have the line but Brunton took a chance and dived up the inside round the top of the corner. From my vantage point it looked a stonewall penalty but angles can be deceiving. The observer judged it hard but fair and he was better placed to judge and no foul was called. And I trust the observers implicitly. Pope went wide and Seager too went by.

This Time Styling The Right Way For The Camera – MONEY SHOT!

Coppin crossed the line for a very well judged win with Teal a strong second. Brunton was third from Seager who took the C2 spoils with Pope a disappointed fifth. He needn’t be. He’s proving constantly that he can mix it with the front runners. Great drives from the top five. Dhillon too can be proud of his sixth place which gave him second in C2 with Berry a splendid seventh which gave him third in C2. Cockerham, White and Essery completed the top ten. Good drives from these too. The Lightweight Championship is certainly looking bright as the younger drivers challenge the old order.

Championship Round Up.

Fraser Brunton heads the standings with Mike Coppin third from Daz Teal. Another strong result from Dante Dhillon sees him fourth and leading the C2 runners. Reece Pope is fifth with Garrett Berry sixth and second in C2. Ed Barrs lies seventh and fifth in C1 but he’s sure to be a factor as the season unfolds. Dan Seager had a great day at Whilton, eighth overall and third in C2. C3 is headed by George Lawlor from Oliver Johnson and Matt Ellis.

Class 2 Podium – Winner Dan Seager, flanked by Dante Dhillon (left) and Garrett Berry

Reflections.

A great days racing at Whilton with lots of good clean driving. Several drivers though found themselves caught out by the strictly observed rule regarding breaking formation. It might be a good idea if everyone listened at the driver briefing. There is no excuse for breaking this rule and no mitigating circumstances.

Good to report that most drivers stayed away from Race Control. As has been said before it’s out of bounds and complaining to those manning race control does absolutely no good at all. They are concentrating hard on the job in hand. They do not make decisions save for false starts. Yet when driver did enter. To be fair to him he wasn’t shouting the odds but he was quite forceful and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I don’t think I would have wasted so much energy arguing over a single place deduction for a cone penalty which cost a place in the lower reaches of a C Final.

Oh yes, it’s so good to be back!

Words: Steve Gray
Photography: John Patterson

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