Ian Blake Ends On A Win, Joe Holmes Retains Title From Rookie Champion Rob Newman


Steve Gray
Elite Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.12,

Vade ad victors spoila. To the victors the spoils. The final round of a long season with all four Championships finely balanced. A two horse race for the Elite crown between the two flying Yorkshiremen, reigning Champion Joe Holmes and Rob Newman with Holmes twelve points ahead. In the Clubman’s, five time A Final winner James Taylor against Stefan Scully who had yet to win a race but arrived at Buckmore with an eleven point advantage. In the lights Mike Noon leading the way from Chris Woodger by just eight points. And finally the Heavyweights with the oldest winner in Club 100 Sprints level on points with the youngest winner Seb Algieri. Here’s how a dramatic day unfolded.

Heat 1

Dan Healey on pole from Dan Truman with Tom Dix and Rob Moore on row two. Row three had the first of the Championship contenders Rob Newman alongside the returning former Champion Steve Brown. Next up, Ed Barrs and Championship leader and reigning Champion Joe Holmes with David Longman and Pete O’Connor completing the first five rows. Healey led the field away but both Truman and Moore fell foul of the conditions and spun to the rear of the field giving Newman a clear run on Healey for the lead. By the end of the lap Newman was almost a second clear and looking well in control with Dix next from Healey and Barrs. Running fifth was Jay Elliott who had driven an astonishing first lap to move himself up from grid sixteen whilst Brown remained sixth.

Jack Harding was up to seventh from grid eleven with Holmes in his wheel tracks followed closely by Ian Blake and Daz Teal. Newman continued to stretch his advantage at the front running clear of Dix by over two seconds with Healey still third a few lengths clear of Barrs, Elliot and Brown. Blake briefly took over in seventh from Harding but the latter wasn’t going to give up the place without a fight. Sadly he tapped Blake into a spin leading to the inevitable post race exclusion. Brown too got delayed and Holmes took full advantage to move himself up to sixth. Newman continued to run clear at the front with Dix second and well clear of Healey but on the penultimate lap Barrs and Elliott almost tripped each other up fighting over fourth which allowed Holmes to slip by them both. Newman took the win by over five seconds and set the fastest lap of the race to keep the pressure on Holmes who crossed the line fourth behind Dix and Healey.

Heat 2

Both Championship protagonists were in the back third of the field for this one with Newman on grid fourteen and Holmes on seventeen. Harding was on pole from Teal with Neale and Blake on row two. Steve Hicks and Elliott shared row three with Chris Dixon and Jack Bolton on four. Harrison Darvill and Healey completed the first five rows. Teal got the better start to lead with Blake slotting into second ahead of Harding. Neale got shuffled down the order as did Dixon whilst Darvill and Healey were early spinners. Newman and Holmes kept out of trouble and moved up the order. But the big gainer was O’Connor from grid nineteen. Up to seventh by the end of the first lap! Teal led over the line at the end of the lap but Blake was pressing hard and duly took over at the front whilst Harding remained third with Elliott fourth and closing in. O’Connor was up to fifth but almost two seconds back. Once ahead Blake began to ease away whilst Elliott moved ahead of Harding for third with O’Connor still fifth and gradually beginning to close the gap to Harding. Newman was seventh and closing in on Bolton for sixth whilst Holmes was back in tenth.

Blake continued to stretch his advantage at the front with Teal second from Elliott. Harding was still holding O’Connor at bay whilst Newman was up to sixth. By the penultimate lap Blake looked home and hosed with Teal having upped his pace and moved clear of Elliott. O’Connor had moved up to fourth ahead of Harding with Newman closing in on them both. Holmes meanwhile had moved into ninth. Blake duly took the win over four seconds clear of Teal who only just held off Elliott over the final lap with Harding next having taken O’Connor on the final tour. Newman came home sixth. He had Brown closing in over the final stages with the latter setting the fastest lap on the penultimate tour. Hicks was next from Holmes with Moore tenth. The Championship momentum was steadily shifting towards Newman.

Heat 3

O’Connor on pole for the final heat from Darvill with Longman and Bolton sharing row two. Holmes and Dixon on three from Barrs and Elliott with Brown and Hicks completing the first five rows. Newman would start eleventh. O’Connor led the pack away but Darvill lost out, spinning to the rear of the field. Longman too lost ground and would be down in tenth by the end of the lap. Dixon and Barrs both dropped back whilst Elliott powered his way up to second. Holmes moved up a couple of places to third whilst Newman and Blake both drove epic first laps to run fourth and fifth. Elliott rapidly cut into O’Connor’s lead with Holmes third but almost three seconds adrift whilst Blake had got ahead of Newman.

O’Connor quickly stabilised the gap back to Elliott whilst Blake began to put pressure on Holmes for third with Newman some three tenths back but over a second clear of sixth placed Hicks. O’Connor began to pull clear of Elliott with Blake putting distance between himself and Holmes whilst Newman ran on his own half a second back. It was all shaping up nicely for the Championship shootout in the final race. Over the line to start the last lap and O’Connor still led with Elliott a safe third from Blake who had Holmes closing whilst Newman was a second adrift in fifth. Over the line and O’Connor took the win from Elliott and Blake with Holmes fourth. But what of Newman. With a valuable finish in his grasp and a place at the front of the grid he spun out and would finish sixteenth. A cruel blow leaving Holmes almost certain to retain his Championship.

Final

O’Connor on pole from Elliott with Champion elect Holmes sharing row two with Teal. Blake and Dix on row three from Newman and Hicks whilst Barrs and Bolton completed the first five rows. O’Connor led away whilst Blake was quickly into second ahead of Elliott, Holmes and Teal. Hicks got the better of Newman away from the line whilst Dix dropped to ninth. Brown was an early spinner. Blake didn’t hang around in second for long, taking O’Connor on lap two and pulling out a one and a half second gap as they crossed the line to start the third lap. Thereafter the gap stabilised in what became a procession. With Blake over a second clear of the battle for second, still headed by O’Connor from Elliott, Holmes concentrated on keeping his lines clean and out of any trouble whilst Newman gradually began to fall back.

By half distance he was over three seconds adrift. And that was how the top fourteen ran all the way to the flag with the only overtake being made by Dix on Hicks on the final lap! Blake crossed the line first over two seconds clear of O’Connor with Elliott third from Holmes. Newman was a lonely fifth ahead of Teal with Barrs next some five seconds clear of Dix whilst Hicks and Harding completed the top ten. But then came an astonishing ruck of penalties for exceeding track limits. There were a total of twenty six place deductions in all doled out to the crème de le crème of Karting. I guess the cream turned a little sour. Blake kept the win but it was Champion Holmes on the second step with Elite Rookie Champion Newman third. How close he came to a unique double but it was not to be. O’Connor dropped to fourth with Elliott fifth from Barrs and Dix whilst Teal dropped to eighth ahead of Hicks and Harding.

Round up

Joe Holmes, a three time Club 100 Champion. Retaining the Championship was never going to be easy despite winning two at of the first three rounds. Then Rob Newman began to find some form and really began to put the pressure on over the final few rounds. But Joe dug deep, as Champions do, rediscovered his form, took the win at Whilton in the penultimate round and then stayed ahead of Rob to take the title by sixteen points. A very worthy Champion. And Rob should be very proud of taking the runner up spot and taking the Rookie honours by a country mile. Two proud Yorkshiremen doing their county proud. Jay Elliott took third, the highlight of his season being a win at Shenington. Ian Blake placed fourth but I reckon he would have been much closer to Joe and Rob had he not missed three rounds. Whenever he raced he was always a factor and he does have the satisfaction of taking the final win of the TKM era at the final round. Pete O’Connor took fifth, just squeaking ahead of Daz Teal at the final round. I know how it feels Daz to have a trophy taken away at the last round! Karma.. Harry Neale took second in the Elite Rookies with Rob Moore and Jack Bolton tied on points for third. But Moore takes the trophy as his best result was better than Jack’s.

Reflections

As I intend to write up a season review in December I’ll keep this brief. I just want to say a huge thank you to all the marshals, the medical team, the mechanics, observers and our Clerk of the Course Niki Richardson who all do such a great job all season although I do think Carson’s statement ‘’ and… we’re….sexy..’’ might just stretch the imagination a touch. And not forgetting JV and everyone connected with Club 100 who make everything run so smoothly. Thanks also to the sponsors G3Pro, Dartford Karting and EssexFlatPack.co.uk for their generous support. It’s the end of the TKM direct drive era with the switch to Rotax engines. Exciting times ahead. And no longer will we hear the call ‘’We need pushers!!’’

Words: Steve Gray

Library Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography