It’s an O’Neill whitewash at Whilton
Andrew O’Neill stands in while Owen Jenman suns himself in Spain. This leads to some productive sibling rivalry.
Round 8 of the lightweight sprint 60 championship saw Club100 make its second visit of the year to the popular Whilton Mill circuit. A full blow field of 35 drivers entered this race. Owen Jenman was notable by his absence this weekend; the title contender was on holiday in Spain. Shocking. Surely karting is more important than sunning one’s self on the beach in 40 degree heat, watching scantily clad, bronzed Spanish women rubbing sun cream over… never mind.
Andrew O’Neill made one of his rare appearances and took pole position. Lydd winner Greg Barnard had raced in the morning’s endurance event and put his fresh track knowledge to good use by taking second. Eddie Hall was a fraction behind in third with championship leader Jack O’Neill fourth.
Hall’s kart failed to fire up at the start which caused a delay in proceedings. Jumping into a spare kart, he resumed his grid slot ready to take the start. As the front row sped away, third place Hall’s fresh kart didn’t have any pickup and he was swallowed up by the field.
Andrew O’Neill led Greg Barnard and brother Jack for the opening few laps. Barnard snatched the lead on lap four and Jack cleverly snuck through as well. The trio easily pulled out a gap to the runners behind them which was now led by Jonah Barker. He had Evan Hopkins, Kyle Sager, Geoff Saunderson and the recovering Hall right behind him.
Roles were reversed at the front on lap seven when Jack O’Neill made a move on Barnard for the lead and Andrew got past, demoting Barnard to third. The O’Neill brothers then proceeded to work together, drafting each other in an attempt to break away from the on-form Barnard.
By lap 8 Hall had worked his way back up to fifth, having displaced Kyle Sager, Saunderson and Barker. He then set after Evan Hopkins. Hopkins conceded the place into the left hander before the boot but then tried to put his kart down a literally 2cm gap. The pointless move cost them both positions.
Behind this battle, Chris Brown was busy fending off Ryan Sandall. Three seconds further back and Thomas Barrett was likewise fending off an attack from Tim Ellis. Claudio la Rosa, Jack Vincent, John Regan, Iain McGregor and Martin Theodorou were right in the midfield mix as well.
By half distance the O’Neill brothers had successfully broken away from Greg Barnard. Hall managed to get back past Barker and Hopkins for fourth. He was some way off Barnard and running at around the same pace.
Over the last few laps, the running order remained largely unchanged. Two laps from the end saw Andrew O’Neill dive past Jack for the lead but Jack took the position back a few corners later. So it was an O’Neill 1-2 with Jack leading home Andrew. Greg Barnard was in a lonely third place ahead of Hall. Jonah Barker completed the top five.
So it was an all O’Neill front row with Jack on pole and brother Andy alongside. Row two comprised Greg Barnard and Eddie Hall. Jonah Barker and Kyle Sager made up row three. Geoff Saunderson was way back in 19th courtesy of an incident involving Club100’s answer to Pastor Maldonado, Chris Brown. A number of penalties for dubious driving ability as well as an incident in race 1 for dubious driving ability saw Evan Hopkins down in 24th.
The top four maintained their positions round lap one. Hall struggled from the outset with a slight lack of grunt exiting the low speed corners and fell away slightly from the top three. This allowed the flying Kyle Sager to get past on lap two. He was looking extremely rapid and quickly pulled out a gap.
In a repeat of race one, the O’Neill brothers ran one and two with Greg Barnard chasing. By lap ten the duelling brothers had opened up a two second gap over third place Barnard. Kyle Sager was right on the tail of Barnard and looked like he had the pace to make a move. Behind this battle, Hall was struggling to hold off Jonah Barker and finally succumbed on lap 13. Chris Maldonado Brown was nearly two seconds back and being hounded by Ryan Sandall and the recovering Geoff Saunderson. He had come up extremely well from 19th to 9th.
Sager pulled a great move on Barnard to take third. Barnard continued to harry him but Sager appeared to have more than enough in hand to keep the charging Barnard at bay. Likewise at the front, Andrew was all over the back of Jack but couldn’t quite get past.
Once again there were a number of penalties and cautions throughout this race and, unfortunately, an incident at the final corner would curtail the race with six and a half minutes remaining. I don’t actually know who was involved because I was racing and had Pastor Maldonado right up my arse. So when the red flag came out he comically nearly crashed into the back of me and Jonah Barker before taking to the grass. It was awesome.
There were fortunately no injuries and all involved in the last corner pile up were given the all clear from the medics. Jack O’Neill was classified as the winner, making it a double. Brother Andrew made it an O’Neill whitewash. A brilliant drive saw Kyle Sager retain third from Greg Barnard.
A maths degree wasn’t necessary to establish that two wins handed the overall victory to Jack O’Neill. Likewise, two second places was never going to give Andy anything other than second overall. Greg Barnard continued his run of form by securing another podium finish. Kyle Sager’s great performance netted him fourth overall – a season best. He’s a potential star of the future. Veteran Eddie Hall completed the top five.
With a poor result at Buckmore and a non show here, Owen Jenman is now on the back foot. Jack O’Neill now has an eleven point lead with dropped scores counting. Barnard is now a clear third. Eddie Hall and Geoff Saunderson now tie for fourth place overall. With only three rounds remaining, there is still plenty up for grabs.