Chris Woodger Likes Shenington, Wet Or Dry, Leaves With Double Win & Championship Lead

Steve Gray
Lightweight Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.4,

Warm weather at last for the Club’s return to Shenington after more than ten years absence. Shenington is one of the oldest Kart circuits in the country and is sited on the old perimeter road of the former RAF Edgehill the scene of early testing of the first jet aircraft which only just shaded the power of a Club100 Kart. And it clearly didn’t sound as good as it was known as the flying fart! One of the original members of the Kart club was also responsible for the introduction of Karts for hire. It’s a quick circuit with the start and finish line situated on Park straight which leads into Park bend, a quick left hander before braking into the long hairpin Cafe corner. Accelerate hard out of the corner and the flat out pits bend follows before the run into the top hairpin braking zone. Out of the corner and then down into the Bruno chicane followed by the long Hangar straight with its flat out right hander Hangar corner. Then it’s hard on the brakes for the Wilkins complex, a tight right hand hairpin followed by a left hander back onto Park straight. It’s a corner that’s very easy to overdrive. Get it wrong and you’re badly compromised heading onto the start and finish straight. The weather remained overcast but warm for the Lights, Heavies and Super Heavies sponsored by EssexFlatPack in the afternoon. But the wind had picked up just a little and there were some heavy clouds on the horizon which had many drivers anxiously scanning their phones for the weather forecast.

Rob Langthorp topped Group 1 with a 52.318 over three tenths quicker than second placed Craig Rankine who just pipped Freddie Fincham by 0.032. Next up should have been Dominic Green but he was docked a place for cone abuse promoting James Venning into fourth. After winning at Rye James has got the bit between his teeth, interrupting a family holiday in Cornwall to race at Shenington. Great commitment!

The Group 2 session went to the flying Mike Noon who stopped the clocks on 51.911. A supreme effort this. He was the only driver to post a sub fifty two second lap time. Chris Woodger was next just over two tenths back with Lloyd Mcgeoch-Williams third quickest from Billy Robson and Andrew Green.

Lightweight Pre B Final
Pole for Oliver Rowlands with Daryl Snelling alongside. Jon Gooch and Terry Oliphant shared row two with Rye House runner up Adam Wheeldon on row three alongside Mathew Bell. Mathew Collier and Charles Jackson on row four and John Haddick and Kingsley Cummings on row five.
Alessandro Carloni and George Redstone completed the field. Rowlands made the most of pole but behind it was a mighty fight for second on just the first lap. Bell crossed the line second at the end of the lap but was almost a second down on the leader whilst Snelling was third from Wheeldon and Gooch. Rowlands continued to stretch his advantage at the front with Bell second. But he was effectively out of the running having been penalised for contact on the opening lap. Snelling’s third place was coming under threat from Wheeldon and Gooch and in the space of a lap they both made it through. Collier, in sixth, was closing in but never got quite close enough to challenge. Rowlands duly took the win followed by Bell who was then penalised down to sixth handing second to Gooch who had a healthy gap to Wheeldon at the flag. Snelling took the final qualifying spot.

Lightweight Pre A Final
Pole for Championship leader Noon with Woodger alongside. Langthorp and McGeoch-Williams on row two from Robson and Andrew Green. Oscar Lancaster and Ben Atkinson on row four and Jed Hicks alongside Joshua Sergeant on row five As the field began to form up we suddenly had a few spots of rain. Looking south it was clear that there was a storm brewing and sure enough as the field came round to take the start the heavens opened. There were going to be some very wet drivers by the end of the race as no one had donned a wet suit. Noon eased away from pole with Woodger tucked in behind but over the first few corners we had the inevitable spinners as drivers struggled to find grip. McGeoch-Williams, Robson and Lancaster all lost out as did Venning and Mackenzie lower down the order. Atkinson, Hicks and Dominic Green were big gainers. Atkinson was up to third with Hicks fifth behind Langthorp whilst Dominic Green had vaulted up from grid fourteen to sixth. It had not been without incident however as he had brought another driver to halt. The subsequent post race eight place deduction would drop him out of the top ten. Noon continued to lead as the rain came down heavier. Woodger was holding on to second but Atkinson was giving him a hard time, particularly in Cafe corner where he would go up the inside only for Woodger to find better grip round the outside. Sensibly he tucked in behind Woodger and they rapidly closed in on the leader with Langthorp and Hicks close enough to be a threat. With four laps run Woodger was in the lead having had a better exit from the Bruno chicane and taken Noon into Wilkins. A lap later and Both Atkinson and Langthorp had made it through. Woodger began to pull clear whilst Atkinson was coming under attack from Langthorp. Two thirds distance and he was through into second but Woodger was too far up the road to be caught and crossed the line almost four seconds up. Langthorp defended well over the remaining laps from both Atkinson and Noon and held on to take second with Atkinson third from Noon. Hicks took fifth with Hussain Rashid sixth after an accomplished drive. Dominic Green would have been next but for his penalty so the place went to Fincham with Andrew Ward eighth. A good drive this. He kept out of trouble on the opening laps and driven sensibly. Lancaster was next. Having dropped to eighteenth it was a good fight back whilst Venning completed the top ten. Another good drive through the field having been stationary at the Bruno chicane on the first lap. He also set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.

Lightweight B Final
Just eight runners with two to qualify. The rain had gone but the track was still damp and despite the weather remaining warm the track was taking an age to dry out. Matthew Collier had pole from Matthew Bell with Terry Oliphant and Kingsley Cummins on row two. Allesandro Carloni and Charles Jackson on row three and John Haddick and George Redstone completing the field. Collier got away well from pole with Bell tucking in behind whilst Cummins slipped into third from Oliphant. Two laps down and Bell was into the lead. Thereafter he simply drove away from the field taking the win by over fourteen seconds. Cummings took a few laps to get by Collier but once by he too quickly pulled clear taking second some five seconds clear of Carloni, Collier, Redstone and Jackson who circulated nose to tail over the final laps. Bell set the fastest lap on his final tour.

Lightweight A Final
Woodger on pole from Langthorp with Atkinson and Noon behind. Hicks and Rashid on three from Fincham and Ward. Lancaster and Venning completing the first five rows. Woodger got away cleanly at the front but Atkinson was immediately putting pressure on Langthorp for second with Noon tucked in behind. Hicks lost out badly getting shuffled down to twelfth whilst Rashid and Fincham both made up a place. Woodger continued to lead from Atkinson with the latter having a look almost every lap on the run into the top hairpin but never quite able to be close enough to make a move. Langthorp and Noon meanwhile were swapping places almost every lap whilst Rashid kept a watching brief in fifth with Fincham still just in touch but over a second behind. These six though were in a class of their own pulling clear of the pack. Mid race and with Noon running third Langthorp made a move into Wilkins. Rashid fancied his chances and went down the inside making contact with Noon. He immediately gave the place back but in doing so allowed Langthorp to pull clear. An unfortunate error but you could understand why he took the chance and he was sporting enough to give the place back. Atkinson then finally got close enough to get down the inside of Woodger at the top hairpin. Woodger squeezed him, fairly, held his line and got better traction out of the corner to hang on to the lead. But this allowed Langthorp to close up onto Atkinson’s bumper. Noon was holding off Rashid. It was going to be an exciting finale. Three from the end and Rashid finally found away by Noon for fourth. Down into Wilkins for the penultimate time and Atkinson tried to go down the inside of the leader but had to back out. Final lap and he tried the same move. This time contact was made and the leader ran wide. But Atkinson too lost momentum. As they exited the corner Woodger had the better traction and led on the run to the line. Langthorp saw a gap and went for it climbing across the kerb as the circuit swung left as did Rashid. Woodger crossed the line three tenths up after a fantastic drive with Langthorp hanging on to second by just 0.009 from Rashid with the unfortunate, and angry, Atkinson fourth. Fincham took sixth with Hicks well back in seventh from Jon Gooch who came alive in the second part of the race. Next across the line was Dominic Green but multiple penalties after some appalling driving dropped him deservedly to the back of the field. Ward and Venning completed the top ten with Langthorp being credited with the fastest lap and a new record. A great win though for Woodger. A very cool performance as he was under pressure the whole race. An opportunistic second for Langhtorp after a solid drive and from Rashid. A podium in his first ever Sprint race. Let’s hope he comes back for more.

Championship Round Up

Chris Woodger’s double win sees him take over at the top of the standings from Mike Noon by just one point. Freddie Fincham is third followed by James Venning. But watch out for Rob Langhtorp. He was very quick at Shenny. Running into form at just the right time?

I don’t watch the film of the races until after I have written the reports but I then settle down to check how accurate I’ve been. Great coverage it is too. I was appalled to see in the Lightweight A Final one driver deliberately turn into another driver on the run down into Wilkins. It was move which was rightly criticised by the commentator. What on earth possesses a driver to deliberately attempt to drive a fellow competitor off the road? And this wasn’t an isolated incident despite JV’s warnings in the briefings regarding driving standards. This behaviour is infantile. It’s dangerous. It’s disrespectful to other drivers and to Club100. Thankfully the huge majority of drivers in the Club compete for enjoyment and respect each other both on and off the track. But there are a minority who just can’t bear to be beaten. Winners know how to win. But they also know how to lose. Anyone who thinks it’s OK to use a Kart as a weapon is seriously mentally deficient. They should seek help. There is no place for it within the Club. Similarly I just don’t get the mentality of people who think Karting is a contact sport. Yes, there will always be a certain amount of rubbing and sometimes drivers will make genuine errors of judgment but deliberately punting a fellow competitor off the track? Seriously? Club100 is a brilliant entity. I just hope that the idiot minority don’t spoil it for the majority. Let’s have some respect and behave like adults not spoilt children.
On a happier note wasn’t it great to see Michael Ballinger take his first win after eleven years of trying? After 582 races he finally gets to stand on the top step. Thoroughly deserved. He works so hard at his Karting. He tests; he competes in Endurance races and gets tuition from the Niki Richardson all with the aim of winning in the Sprints. And he’s a thoroughly nice bloke!
Ben Cottle too deserves a mention as he got his first ever podium. Another driver who rarely troubles the stewards but races hard and fair.
A great day at Shenington despite the antics of a few. On now to Glan-y-gors for Round five. If you’ve never been you’ve missed a treat. It’s a spectacular circuit with great facilities set in stunning scenery. Don’t miss out!

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography