Five Starts, Five Wins – James Taylor On A Roll & Heading For The Championship?


Steve Gray
Clubman Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.7,

Ellough might be a long drive being the most easterly Kart Circuit in the country but it’s well worth it. It’s a fabulous circuit with its mix of slow and fast corners. The circuit has been steadily improved over the years as have the off track facilities. Coming off the start and finish straight which is very slightly downhill the first corner is a quick right hander which almost doubles back on itself before running up the back straight into turns two and three which are almost one corner. Then it’s down to turn four, a sharp left hander followed by a short straight running parallel to the start and finish straight. Turn five is a very fast left hander followed by a short straight and a quick right hander, over a bump and then into the right and left complex at the entrance to the pit lane. So easy to get this corner wrong and lose momentum down the pit straight making yourself vulnerable into the right handed pit lane exit hairpin. This is followed by a short straight and then a left handed hairpin which leads into the final corner on the circuit which is taken hard on the throttles as it unwinds onto the start and finish straight. It’s great. With several drivers missing from the entry JV had once again thrown the meeting open to allow drivers from the Lights and Heavies to race in the Elites and Clubman’s in the morning and for Elite and Clubman drivers to race in the afternoon with the Lights and Heavies. Here’s how the day unfolded.

Heat 1

Whilst the circuit had been damp for the Elites it was properly wet for the Clubman’s first race of the day raising the lap times by over twenty seconds. Mark Ridout had been handed pole from Stuart Osborn with Luke Hornsby and Freddie Fincham on row two. Stefan Scully and Jonathan McLeod occupied row three with Andrew Cherry and Wayne Dunham on four and Mathew Forkes and Simon Field completing the top ten. Ridout led the field away with Osborn behind. Scully got a good run and was quickly into second whilst down the order several drivers on different parts of the circuit were caught out by the very wet conditions. Cherry, Dunham and Field all dropped away as did Dan Crawley and Martin Theodorou. Ridout crossed the line at the end of the lap almost a second clear from Scully, Osborn, Hornsby, Fincham, Forkes and Ben Cottle. Next up was Championship leader James Taylor. Having started from grid fifteen he had made ominous progress. With two laps run Ridout remained in front from Scully but Hornsby was up to third. Taylor meanwhile had moved up to sixth. Ridout held a healthy lead but all eyes were on Taylor who was the fastest man on the track. It would be a shortened race though due to the rain. Would there be enough laps left?

With three to run the race looked almost settled with Ridout clear at the front from Scully, Taylor, Hornsby, Forkes, Osborn, Cottle, Fincham and Darrell Lowe who had come up from grid eighteen. Taylor though was still intent on moving forward setting the fastest lap on the fifth tour, a full second quicker than the leader. Penultimate lap and he was into second and chasing down Ridout. Last lap and he still looked to be too far back but into the quick left hander at the end of the short straight he dived up the inside of the leader to take the lead. It was an audacious move given the conditions. Ridout couldn’t respond and Taylor took a quite superb win from Ridout who wasn’t too disappointed with second. Scully came home third from Hornsby with Forkes next and setting third fastest lap. Osborn, Cottle, Fincham Theodorou and Watkins completed the top ten with Theodorou setting the second quickest lap time.

Heat 2

Pole for Stephen Westwood with first heat winner Taylor alongside. Adam Norris and Jon Watkins on row two from Lowe and Super Heavyweight guest Paul Williams on row three. Row four, Mark Appleton and another guest driver, Heavyweight Mike Bodnar who is one of the Clubs best wet weather drivers. Tom Mackenzie and Frankie Hedges completed the first five rows. Westwood led the field down into the first turn but Taylor ran wide and lost a little momentum. As they headed into turn two Bodnar, who had made a lightning, start was moving up the inside of Taylor and into second. Taylor ran wide and was momentarily down to fifth with Williams third from Lowe. Down into turn four Lowe made a move on Williams but both ran wide allowing Taylor to move into third. Lowe emerged fourth. Into the pit lane chicane for the first time and Taylor jinked to the right to go up the inside of Bodnar. Lowe behind got caught out by the sudden move and spun to a halt. Westwood led across the line but Taylor was closing rapidly and dived through into turn two, taking a lead which would never be threatened. Westwood now had Bodnar closing in the latter taking a wide line round the final turn and moving up to second. Williams too moved ahead at the first turn. Stefan Scully was up into fifth. Having started on grid seventeen he’d got into the top ten by the end of the first lap. Westwood was beginning struggle and Scully moved ahead into turn four. As Taylor ran clear the battle raged for second. Bodnar held the spot but only just as they crossed the line at the end of lap three. Into turn two William’s moved to the inside, boxed Scully in and moved ahead of Bodnar for second.

Scully followed him through and Westwood too took advantage as Bodnar ran wide. Having lost momentum he fell prey to James Martin and would be down in seventh by the end of the lap. Start of the penultimate lap and with Taylor barring incident going to win by a country mile it was all eyes on the battle for second. Williams held the place but Scully was putting him under increased pressure and slipped by into turn two. Watkins was fourth. Having started fourth he’d dropped to fifteenth by the end of the first lap before recovering through the field. But then he spun to a halt at turn four. Twenty first was poor reward after a strong recovery drive. Taylor backed off over the final lap but still took the win by almost six seconds with Scully next. Taylor also set the fastest lap. Martin held off Williams for third with Ridout next having made steady progress up from grid thirteen. Forkes took sixth with Bodnar seventh. Theodorou took eighth after a strong drive up from grid twenty five. Cottle and Hornsby completed the top ten.

Heat 3

Theodorou on pole for the final heat from Jackson. Row two, Crawley and Martin with Cottle and Hedges on three. Field and Mackenzie on four and Forkes and Bodnar on five. Theodorou led the field away but both Jackson and Crawley got away badly and dropped down the order as did Field. By the end of the lap Theodorou led from Martin, Hedges and Watkins whose progress up from grid eighteen had been almost Senna-esque. Theodorou continued to lead but Martin was putting him under increased pressure and as Theodorou ran wide in the chicane he swept by into the lead. Watkins took another scalp. This time it was Hedges who tried to get back on terms only to spin his chances away a lap later. Scully too spun out after putting two wheels off the circuit as he lined up for turn six before the pit lane chicane. Martin continued to lead but then he fell victim of the conditions spinning away what looked likely to be the win. Watkins was the beneficiary with Forkes next but several seconds adrift. Meanwhile Taylor was making his way steadily through the field. Having started on grid twenty two he was up to fourth by the start of the penultimate lap and pressuring Theodorou for third. Theodorou wasn’t about to give in easily though. Taylor got by into turn two and then led out of turns three and four. But Theodorou came back at him into the fast left hander opposite the start and finish line only to run wide at the pit lane chicane. This time Taylor made no mistake. He gave Theodorou room to recover but kept the momentum to move up to third. Watkins took the win over five seconds to the good from Forkes with Taylor next from Theodorou. Cottle was next over the line but he’d been penalised early in the race and was demoted to ninth. Mackenzie was placed fifth with Ridout next after a strong drive up from grid twenty five. Fincham took seventh with Hornsby eighth. Two strong drives from them both, up from grids nineteen and twenty one respectively. Williams completed the top ten.

Final

Taylor on pole from Forkes with Ridout and Theodorou on row two. Hornsby and Scully occupied row three from Cottle and Martin whilst Williams and Osborn completed the first five rows. Taylor led the field away with Forkes tucked in behind whilst Ridout and Theodorou fought over third. Hornsby got a really poor start and dropped down the order. His race would get even worse as he got tagged by Wayne Dunham at the pit lane chicane and spun to a halt. Dunham would be excluded from the results. Taylor continued to lead but Theodorou was up to second courtesy of a run down the inside of Forkes at turn one. A lap and a half later and Forkes race was run as he made an error at the pit lane chicane and came to a halt promoting Scully up to third. Forkes did get going dead last but did at least have the satisfaction of recording the fastest lap. Taylor continued to lead but Theodorou began to steadily cut the gap until he was right on his bumper. Taylor immediately began to defend. Out of the first turn the two came upon a backmarker. Taylor edged to the right but Theodorou was with him. They brushed and Taylor ran wide into turn two allowing Theodorou into the lead. It was adjudged a racing incident and in fairness there were no in Kart histrionics from Taylor. Theodorou kept his line through the next two turns but as they took the right hander before the pit lane chicane Taylor had closed up seemingly about to make a move into the pit lane chicane. But he didn’t have too. Theodorou got a little out of shape over the bump before the bend and went gracefully sideways coming to a halt on the outside of the corner with Taylor sailing by and into a huge lead over second placed Scully. Ridout was third but Martin was beginning to close in having moved himself clear of Watkins and Cottle. Into the last lap and Taylor was almost two seconds clear but closing in on a bunch of backmarkers. Round the last few corners he got badly held up allowing Scully to close in but as he came round the final turn onto the start and finish straight his arm was aloft to celebrate making it five wins from five starts. Scully came home second. Ridout looked to have third but Martin came at him over the last few turns and as they accelerated out of the last turn they were side by side. But Martin took the final podium spot. By just 0.005. Watkins took a well deserved fifth after battling up from grid thirteen with Cottle next from Fincham. Williams was next. A great performance from the Super Heavyweight front runner. Osborn and Lowe completed the top ten.

Round up

In the Clubman class can anyone stop James Taylor? For sure he’s not invincible and there are drivers who are capable of mounting a challenge. But he’s just so consistent. Stefan Scully remains second from Jon Watkins with Darrell Lowe and James Martin completing the top five.

Reflections

A very entertaining days racing despite the weather. We were pretty unfortunate to have a wet and windy day in the middle of a heatwave but I’m sure most drivers and spectators enjoyed the day. Sadly there were a couple of incidents which could have been very serious but thankfully no one got badly hurt. Whilst the weather certainly played its part it was sad to see a number of drivers not heeding the yellow flags. I would suggest that all drivers have a good look at the rules regarding waved and stationary yellow flags. In the incident involving the Lights one driver actually came upon the scene and weaved his way through the stationary Karts and drivers. With drivers out of their Karts and pusher karts on the scene a nasty situation could have been made much worse. Be aware drivers, raise an arm and back off a little.
Also, some of the races got a little delayed as the grids formed up with drivers weaving to supposedly warm the tyres. Unfortunately, in doing so, they were preventing drivers from taking up their grid slots necessitating another rolling up lap. I think it’s dangerous. Aside from that it wastes time and I don’t believe it actually does any good.
Finally thanks to all the officials and the staff at Ellough and to Double Dash Media who I’m told did a great job commentating and filming at Ellough. I’ve not watched it yet. It’s my Thursday treat after finishing the reports. Had to feel for the camera operators who were standing out in the rain and wind all day. At least the marshal’s have little huts!
See you all at Lydd !

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography