Another trip to Wales greeted the Lightweight Clubman drivers as they made their way South to the familiar surroundings of Llandow Kart Track. The weather had improved considerably over the two weeks that separated Rounds 3 and 4. The Sun was out and not a rain cloud in sight as the 22-strong grid arrived to pick up where they left off. A regular fixture on the calendar and a firm favourite for most, the 1050m track presents a different kind of challenge to the previous round. With no particularly long straights and plenty of mid-speed technical corners, Llandow presents a real challenge to the drivers’ skill and race craft as every move would need to be executed to perfection, with little margin for error. The kerbs are unforgiving, in particular the infamous Sausage on the exit of MacWhirters. A truly savage kerb which claims more victims than probably any other on the calendar.
Pretty much all the main protagonists of the 2012 Championship were here to play out another episode of this extremely open title fight. Championship leader Andrew Johnson has marked himself out as the man to beat after a dominant weekend at Glan-Y-Gors. Jay Elliott has made everyone sit up and take notice as he looks to maintain his good start to life in this class. Championship contenders Geoff Saunderson and Shaun Hollingsworth would be looking to maintain the pressure this weekend. Hollingsworth endured a less successful weekend at round 3, which has seen him lose some ground at the top. Can he get back to winning ways and prove that he’s capable of doing it anywhere else apart from his home tracks? Glen Beard is still struggling to get his season underway and has so far been found wanting. Can he turn it around and catapult himself to the fore? He’ll certainly be hoping so. The only glaring omission is in the form of previous Championship leader, Carl Watt. After a nightmare showing at Glan-Y-Gors that saw him slip down the standings, he opted to sit this round out and should return to the fold in the summer. Once again there was no Ryan Ferris. God only knows what excuses he came up with this time!
Heat 1 can probably best be described as one of the most boring and unmemorable heats to ever be witnessed by the Club100 masses. It was won with ease by Alex Vincent after he took off and left Alcock behind him. After starting 2nd, Vincent overtook pole –man Alcock on lap 3 and never looked back. The pair had an untroubled drive to the chequered flag ahead of Hurlock in 3rd. Ross Britten was further back in 4th, finishing exactly where he started. That happened to be the case with a lot of the drivers, with relatively little overtaking being seen. Perhaps a true testament to how good a job the Club100 team do in keeping the karts at an even level of competitiveness. The only drivers to make any real impression were Championship leader Andrew Johnson and Zach Seward. Johnson made a net gain of 5 places on his way to 11th, whilst Seward was the pick of the bunch, taking an invaluable 13th from grid 22. A couple of cone penalties were awarded, with Elliott and Walters being the recipients. Darryl Evans is beginning to make a habit of collecting ABC penalties. He can add another 4-placer to his list after an indiscretion on his behalf.
Heat 2 saw Zach Seward take victory after starting on Pole. He held his nerve and fought off the challenge of Scott Martin as the pair crossed the line ahead of Darryl Evans, who did well to take 3rd ahead of Darrell Boyle after starting 4th. Volpe and Vincent were the big winners from the back of the grid in this particular heat. Starting 16th and 21st respectively, the pair made the most of all the melee and carnage around them to pick their way through into 9th and 10th respectively. Danny Hurlock also had a good run from 20th to earn himself 12th at the flag. There was far more drama this time round, with several hefty penalties being dished out following a few collisions. Saunderson and Britten were both excluded early on for ABC offences, whilst Alex Ring and Ray Norris were awarded slightly softer 4-place penalties for the same offence. Dan Milner, Steffi Walters and Jason Sichel were their unsuspecting victims.
The grid for Final 1 saw Alex Vincent on Pole after great heats, giving him the opportunity to win his 2nd final of the season. Alongside him in 2nd was Zach Seward, whilst Francesco Volpe and Danny Hurlock were 3rd and 4th. Simon Alcock quietly went about his business and earned himself 5th, with Championship leader Andrew Johnson 6th. Some big names were found further down the order, with Glen Beard 12th, Jay Elliott down in 15th and Geoff Saunderson a lowly 19th after his black flag in heat 2. As the race got underway, Vincent got an excellent start to maintain the lead and pull clear of Seward behind him. There was the usual drama going into the Hook as Hurlock and Volpe battled behind Seward to get ahead. As they went in, Volpe prevailed over Hurlock, holding the outside line and beating him to the double left-hander to hold onto 3rd. Hurlock then found himself mugged by Alcock as he dropped down to 5th. Further back, Jason Sichel found himself muscled out of 16th and he dropped to the back of the pack.
As the field began to settle, Alex Vincent did a great job of maintaining his lead over Seward. The pair were flying and slowly opening up a gap over the karts behind. Volpe was doing his utmost to keep on the pace of the front two but his kart was found wanting. He now found himself under intense pressure from Alcock and Hurlock behind him. The trio were neck and neck as the pack behind slowly started tightening. It was all fairly even and settled though, with Alcock and Hurlock waiting for their chance to strike. Andrew Johnson had got off to a sloppy start, losing out on a couple of positions, but he began to make amends when he found a way past Eddie Hall to move back into 7th, with Shaun Hollingsworth just ahead of him. He kept the pressure on and by lap 3 he’d forged a good move on Hollingsworth too to move up another position. Further back, Darrell Boyle and Glen Beard were having a great scrap over 13th, with Jay Elliott taking advantage and opening up some breathing space over them. Behind them, Dan Milner was busy squabbling with Ross Britten in the hunt for 16th, but his challenge ended when he went off, gifting the position to Geoff Saunderson and putting himself at the back of the field behind Jason Sichel.
With the front two well gone, the battle over 3rd intensified with Volpe unable to shake Alcock and Hurlock off. As the three of them came round the double left-hander, Volpe left the smallest of gaps to his inside. That was all that Alcock needed, forcing it up the inside and nudging the unsuspecting and unimpressed Volpe out of the way on the entry to MacWhirters. The contact pushed Volpe wide and the loss of momentum allowed Hurlock to come through, dumping Volpe down to 5th. He now had Andrew Johnson all over him and knew the inevitable would come. However, with Alcock and Hurlock busy fighting each other tooth and nail for 3rd, Volpe found himself distracted at the opportunity of regaining the places. As the pack came through the esses, Volpe was blocked off by a slowly exiting Hurlock, giving Johnson the perfect opportunity to out-drag him to the hairpin and claim the position. Eddie Hall and Hollingsworth subsequently launched themselves through up the inside at the hairpin. Both men ran wide though and Volpe was able to get back ahead of Hollingsworth into the Hook, now down to 7th. All the time the front two continued to press on and opened up a 3sec gap. Vincent was still in control, but Seward had now found another gear and had closed the gap down to half a second. Scott Martin and Jay Elliott were both on a mission and making good progress in the mid-pack. Martin quickly caught and ousted Hollingsworth from 8th, whilst Elliott picked off both Wheelaghan and Rob Larque as he moved up into 10th.
The action was continuing to unfold as the laps were cast aside in quick succession. Zach Seward was still hunting down race leader Alex Vincent, but his efforts appeared to hit a brick wall with the gap now plugged at the half a second mark. 4secs behind, Alcock was still trying to shake off Danny Hurlock for third. Hurlock couldn’t find a way past and it looked like Alcock would be able to hang on. Johnson was now reeling those two in, with Eddie Hall just behind them in 6th. Volpe was still struggling to get to grips with his kart and now had Scott Martin all over the back of him. The frustration building up inside Volpe was plain to see with every lap that passed, made only worse by the constant love taps from the impatient Martin. On successive laps, Martin ran through the back of the man in front on the entry to MacWhirterts. The 2nd time it caused Volpe to be pushed off line and run wide, allowing Martin to come through and steal 7th. This move by Martin went unpunished though, much to the anger of Volpe who waved his arms in frustration. However, Volpe was back ahead at the hairpin when Martin out-braked himself and ran wide. It didn’t take long for another move to come though. On the following lap Martin brutally lunged in at Chandlers to barge Volpe out of the way and take 7th once more. Further back, there was drama between two endurance team mates as Ross Wheelaghan collided with Alex Ring whilst the pair were fighting over 16th. Ring was forced off and retired prematurely, whilst Wheelaghan was handed a black flag on lap 9.
As the race came to it’s conclusion, the battle for the lead had intensified once more with Seward managing to close the gap down again and dragging himself to within striking distance of Vincent. Try as he may he couldn’t pull it off though, with Vincent holding firm to take the chequered flag and secure the win. Seward settled for 2nd, a mere 0.4secs adrift of the winner. Simon Alcock eventually followed them through to complete a great race in which he claimed his first ever Clubman podium. Hurlock faded in the closing stages and succumbed to Andrew Johnson. The Championship leader had too much for him and got his man with a lap to spare to claim 4th. Eddie Hall was unable to join in on the action and finished behind Hurlock in 6th. It was a relatively subdued finish to the race as Martin came through in 7th. Volpe had to do yet more defending and was almost pipped to the finish line by Elliott. He held firm though and narrowly edged 8th. Darrell Boyle had a great final lap, with the only real action of note coming at the tail end of the pack. In a scramble to the finish, Boyle prevailed as he leaped up to 14th from 17th, with Saunderson losing out the most as he fell back to 18th.
The front row for the 2nd Final was the same as Final 1, only this time the order was reversed. Zach Seward took Pole ahead of Alex Vincent with the fastest lap of the day. Row 2 contained Scott Martin and Eddie Hall, whilst Jay Elliott and Andrew Johnson formed up behind them. The race got off to yet another explosive start. The front two got away well, but it was Vincent who got the upper hand, getting the better of Seward to take the lead. Just behind them, Martin held off Eddie Hall to stay 3rd. With the pack congested through the first few corners, Eddie Hall found himself cast aside by Andrew Johnson as he made a great start to go from 6th to 4th. The biggest loser was Simon Alcock, getting pushed out from 7th and being swallowed up by the swarming pack behind him. By the end of the lap he’d been dumped down to 13th, with Ross Britten also losing out. Saunderson and Volpe made excellent starts, making 2 and 3 place gains respectively. As the dust from the first lap settled, the top 6 were all separated by less than a second, with Saunderson and Volpe fighting it out a further 2secs down the road.
So with the same front two competing for the lead, it was looking like a repeat scenario as Seward tried to find a way past Vincent. Not wanting to miss out again, Seward made his move on the following lap with an excellent pass to re-take the lead. Scott Martin and Andrew Johnson were right behind them as they threatened to make this a very entertaining and exciting fight for victory. Further back, Saunderson and Volpe were absolutely flying as they worked together to close the gap to the karts in front. With the leading pair holding everyone up with their duel, they had soon closed the gap and had joined the party. At the back of the grid the racing was just as intense, with Rob Larque and Darryl Evans fighting each other hard over 14th. A coming together saw them take each other out though, gifting a very grateful Alex Ring with a couple of free positions. Their race was over as they dropped to the back of the pack. At the front, the following lap saw yet more drama when Seward found himself running wide whilst in the lead, costing him 1st and being hung out to dry in the process. By the time he got back on track he had plummeted down to 9th behind Ross Britten. The incident had also caused Vincent to lose momentum and Scott Martin took full advantage to squeeze past and into the lead. Eddie Hall also came off badly, losing two places to both Jay Elliott and Geoff Saunderson before the lap was done. He was now under intense pressure from Volpe.
As the race progressed, it seemed that every lap brought a new twist. With Scott Martin out in front, Alex Vincent now had Johnson all over his rear bumper. Johnson looked in no mood to be denied and it didn’t take long before he got his man with a sweet move to push himself up into 2nd. Johnson was on an absolute charge and he soon latched onto the back of Martin’s kart. He wasted little time in making his move for the lead, forcing his way through just a lap later to take command of the race. A little further back, Eddie Hall and Volpe were having a great scrap over 6th, with Volpe seemingly the faster of the 2 men. As they came through the esses and into Raymonds, Volpe had got a great run and dived to the inside in an attempt to take the position. Eddie Hall is a seasoned campaigner though and ensured he got a better exit to cut back underneath Volpe and regain the position. The pair were neck and neck with Volpe trying everything he could to get past, but he was left frustrated and unable to make anything stick. \behind them, Shaun Hollingsworth was going backwards and found himself sliding down into 13th after being ousted from 10th by Danny Hurlock. Simon Alcock and Ross Wheelaghan were the other drivers to take advantage of his misfortune. Over the following laps Hollingsworth stumbled further as his race went from bad to worse. By the time he’d regrouped, he was way down in 16th.
With the race well in full swing, Johnson began to pull away from Martin. It all went wrong for Martin on lap 7 though. With the barrage from behind, the pressure was really on Martin as he tried to hold on. He choked under the pressure though and fluffed his lines, getting wide out of the chicane and going the wrong side of the raised kerb. His kart span out and he was out of it, gifting Vincent with 2nd and promoting everyone else by a position. Elliott was doing his best to close the gap on Vincent, dragging Saunderson with him as he went. Meanwhile behind them, Volpe was becoming increasingly frustrated at Eddie Hall’s stubborn resistance. Again he made a move into the hairpin, but again Hall had the answer, undercutting his fellow Club100 journalist to deny him of 5th. All the time Zach Seward was closing in on them and he made his move on Volpe on lap 8, taking 6th. Volpe dug deep though and got the position back with a great move through Raymonds. Seward couldn’t do what Eddie Hall had done, with Volpe finally able to make one stick. It allowed Hall to pull away from them though, opening up a 1sec gap in the process as the squabbling pair held each other up. Just behind them, Alcock muscled his way through and ahead of Britten for 8th as he stepped up his efforts to recover from his poor start. The following lap saw Alex Ring make two positions up as he forged a way past both Ross Wheelaghan and Danny Hurlock to climb into 10th.
As the race came to an end, Johnson held his nerve and maintained a safe gap back to Vincent as he took the chequered flag and his 3rd win of the season. Alex Vincent was unlucky to miss out on another win but was comfortably 2nd, with Saunderson completing a great drive from 9th on the grid to seal 3rd. Elliott was next as he crossed the line 4th, whilst Eddie Hall eventually came home untroubled and on his own in 5th. There was plenty of action behind them though, with Volpe and Seward still fighting hard over 6th. It was Seward who prevailed though, getting a good run out of MacWhirters and forcing his way through up the inside of Volpe into Chandlers. There was contact between them as Volpe turned in, causing him to run wide and onto the wrong side of the geo-blocking, bouncing up and down as he battled to keep control of the kart and rejoin the track. He held it together though and the pair came through to take 6th and 7th. Alcock, Ring and Wheelaghan completed the top 10.
So an action-packed race saw another victory apiece for Vincent and Johnson. The Championship leader boosts his credentials at the top of the standings with two more big scores. He’s looking an excellent prospect for the title and will take some stopping. He’s really adapted to the class superbly and has taken it all in his stride. Geoff Saunderson remains in 2nd after he made amends for a poor Final 1 with an excellent podium in Final 2. Hollingsworth is still 3rd in the standings, despite another mediocre weekend for him. Eddie Hall now closes the gap on him and sits in 4th, whilst Alex Vincent’s fantastic performance means he moves up into the top 5. Another disappointing weekend for Glen Beard and Darrell Boyle means they have plenty of work to do in order to get themselves up into the fight.
Andrew Johnson was once again in excellent form and deserves credit for a superb win, backed up with a solid 4th. He’s marked himself out as the man to beat with the season now in full swing. But the Driver of The Day award goes to Alex Vincent after a fantastic showing. A brilliant drive in Final 1 saw him run out worthy winner and if not for Johnson it could have been 2 out of 2. Despite a relatively inconsistent start to his season, he’s showing all the credentials to be a genuine contender. He’ll definitely be one to keep an eye on over the course of the year and if the ‘real’ Alex Vincent is on display for the rest of the season, he’ll certainly be giving the other contenders a real headache.
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