A Cruel Blow? Fincham Keeps It Together Clear Of Woodger & Noon


Steve Gray
Lightweight Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.2,

After the lengthy early season break everyone was looking forward to getting back on track at the great Northamptonshire venue. Full grids too, unlike some series which are apparently struggling for numbers this year. Just goes to show what great value for money Club 100 is and how drivers love big grids and plenty of opportunities to race wheel to wheel. After Saturdays warm weather the expectation was for a warm Sunday but the awful spring weather had returned. Solid grey overcast, cold, and a stiff breeze snapping the flags from the south. Still, at least the morning was dry for the Elites and Clubman’s. Into the afternoon then for the Heavyweights and Super Heavyweights, sponsored by EssexFlatPack.com, and the Lightweights. The weather remained overcast with a stiff wind blowing still from the South and whilst the temperature had risen a degree there was a threat of rain in the air.

Qualifying

Freddie Fincham took Group 1 and was another driver to leave it till his last lap setting a time of 54.322 which was almost half a second up on second placed Jon Gooch. Tom Maton was third quickest from Chris Woodger and Oscar Lancaster.

Mike Noon was quickest topping Group 2 the timing screen with a 54.467 on his third flying lap with Harry Darby next but over four tenths adrift. Guy Holliday was third quickest, a tenth up on Adam Wheeldon with James Venning completing the top five.

Pre B Final

Joshua Sergeant and Lee Norris on the front row from Oliver Rowlands and Christopher Foster. Craig Rankine and Jed Hicks on three from George Redstone and Kingsley Cummins. Pej Teraj and Keith Segal completing the top ten. Just four to qualify for the Pre A Final. Would wise heads prevail or would we see a dogfight as the first spots of rain began to dampen the track? Sergeant and Norris both got away cleanly from the front row but Rowlands and Foster both got caught out by the slightly slippery track and spun to the rear of the field.

It was nowhere near streaming wet but it was just damp enough in places to catch out the unwary. Rankine and Hicks moved into third and fourth and in terms of qualifying for the pre A that was it. Sergeant ran out the winner with Norris close behind, the two of them over ten seconds up on third place. Sergeant however had picked up a couple of penalties for cone abuse and dropped to third in the results behind Rankine with Hicks taking the final spot.

Pre A Final

Fincham on pole from Noon followed by Gooch and Maton. Next up Darby and Woodger with Lancaster and Holliday on row four from Atkinson and Green. Fincham, Noon and Gooch all got away cleanly but Woodger slotted into fourth whilst Maton dropped to fifth. Darby got the worst of the first lap shuffle dropping to tenth. The front three gradually began to pull away with Woodger leading the following pack. But with four laps run he’d slipped back to ninth with Lancaster taking over in fourth followed by Maton. Green was up to sixth as Holliday and McKenzie squabbled over seventh.

Fincham and Noon began to steadily increase the gap back to Gooch who had Lancaster edging closer whilst Maton dropped from fifth to tenth in the course of the lap. It became a torrid race for Maton as he ran tenth for a couple of laps before getting by Green for ninth and then dropping to fourteenth a lap later. He would eventually be classified twenty third after multiple penalties for exceeding track limits. Over the final laps Noon continued to keep the leader in his sights but Fincham had enough in hand to take the win whilst Gooch took third ahead of a rapidly closing Lancaster. Holliday was next across the line but lost a couple of spots after a penalty promoting Woodger who kept himself ahead of
Mackenzie. Langthorp, Atkinson and Green completed the top ten with the winner also taking the fastest lap.

B Final

With the rain having stopped but the track still wet the drivers lined up for the B final knowing that only two would qualify for the A final. Mathew Bell had Pole with George Redstone alongside with Oliver Rowlands and Keith Segal on row two. Row three, Dane Christison and Oliver Henwood. Bell led the field away pursued by Redstone and Segal whilst Rowlands found himself slipping back down the order. By the end of the lap Segal was into the lead courtesy of a brave move into the final corner. His lead didn’t last as he ran wide at the bottom of the hill allowing Bell back into the lead with Redstone third ahead of Henwood, Christison and Rowlands. Bell pulled away from Segal who looked comfortable in second with Henwood adrift in third place and not making any headway.

Redstone too was falling away and then managed to spin under a yellow ending his chances. Rowlands meanwhile was beginning to get on top of the conditions and homing in on Henwood for third. With Bell well up the road and seemingly safe all eyes turned to the battle for the second qualification place. Segal still looked to have enough in hand but with two to go Rowlands slipped by Henwood for third and began to eat into Segals lead. He took the place on the penultimate lap only for Segal to fight back and start the final lap still in second. But again he ran wide at the first corner allowing Rowlands to get by. Bell took the win almost seven seconds up the road whilst Rowlands claimed second over a second clear of the luckless Segal.

A Final

The final race of the day saw Freddie Fincham on pole from Mike Noon with Jon Gooch and Oscar Lancaster on row two. Chris Woodger and Tom Mackenzie shared row three with Guy Holliday and Rob Langthorp on four and Ben Atkinson and Andrew Green completing the first five rows. Fincham led the field away from the line but Noon was a little tawdry whilst Lancaster got a flyer and was up to second by the end of the lap behind the flying Fincham. Gooch remained third with Woodger up to fourth ahead of Noon.

Already out of contention were Mackenzie and Holliday, both spinning away their chances. Oliver Knighton and Adam Wheeldon were also early spinners. With three laps run Fincham still led but was coming under pressure from Lancaster with Woodger now up to third. Noon had made it back to fourth but was already some distance adrift of the leading trio on the still wet track. Atkinson was up to fifth with Green behind ahead of Gooch. Fincham and Lancaster were pulling clear of Woodger by half distance and Lancaster then put in the fastest lap of the race sixth time around taking Fincham for the lead in the process. He was also the only driver to break the one minute thirteen second mark.

At this stage he looked the likely winner but heading down into Ashby for the eighth time the yellow flags were being waved. Lancaster lost control and spun to a halt losing the race and picking up a four place penalty.  some thirteen seconds adrift of the winner. Atkinson was next having harried Noon all the way to the flag. Green took fifth with Gooch sixth ahead of Venning and Rankine with Langthorp and Norris completing the top ten.

Championship Standings

Freddie Fincham’s win gives him the lead in the standings with Mike Noon dropping to second. Chris Woodger picked up some much needed points to move into third with Ben Atkinson fourth and Matt Jones fifth.

Reflections

Will the weather ever warm up? Won’t it be great if the next round at Rye is blessed with warm dry conditions? Unless your Mike Bodnar of course. What a stunning performance in the wet. Just ponder for a moment where he might have finished had he not taken out himself and Paul Williams in the early heats. A sure fire winner. But he doesn’t take my very unofficial award for driver of the day largely because of his error. That award goes to Tim Hill. Pole and two Final wins. It doesn’t get any better. And he becomes the oldest ever driver at sixty to stand at the top of a Club 100 podium. We think. I actually think he may have broken his own record here having won at Red Lodge in 2015. Inspirational. In the Elites Steve Brown looked back to his more relaxed self in the seat than in the latter part of last year when he appeared to have slightly altered his driving style. Reigning Champion Joe Holmes didn’t have the greatest of days but he’ll bounce back I’m sure.

Thanks as usual to all the marshals and staff at Whilton Mill and of course the Club 100 staff who work so hard to make everything run smoothly. And our grateful thanks to all the sponsors, Dartford Karting, G3Pro and EssexFlatPack.co.uk.

As I arrived at the circuit on Sunday news broke that Andy Cowell, aka Mutley, had finally decided to call it day after nigh on twenty years of competition citing the amount of time it takes to recover after each event (old age ). He has been suffering with a sore neck after racing for sometime (it does have to support a lot of weight) and consequently his enjoyment and commitment has suffered to the extent that he is no longer enjoying driving. At that’s as good a reason as any to stop. He’s had a good career in Club 100 the highlight probably being a Final win some seasons ago in the Elite class as well as several Endurance wins. There is I don’t believe any truth in the rumour that he has accrued the most penalties of any driver in the history of Club 100 although I well remember him getting away with one at Fulbeck many seasons ago when he eased a ‘’young’’ Rookie driver off the circuit and into a corn field causing severe damage to the Rookie’s Kart. Or the time at Rye when the same Rookie was about to move into the lead after a pile up at the first hairpin only to be rudely T boned. The race was stopped. I believe the words were ‘’just couldn’t let you lead, you might have won’. Such fond memories. His advice to many a young driver and newcomer to the Club though has been invaluable and appreciated by many particularly over the last few years. A far cry from his words to me when I first started. ‘’Keep out of my way or I’ll have you off’’. Despite this though I am proud to call him my friend and his sunny countenance will certainly be missed around the paddock. God bless you Andy!

See you all at Rye!