James Venning Tops Qualifying, Wins Pre A & A Final From Pole. Full House!


Steve Gray
Lightweight 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. Into the afternoon for the Lights, Heavyweights and EssexFlatPack Super Heavyweights the skies remained overcast with the breeze still gusting from the west. But it had stopped raining and the circuit was beginning to dry out just in time for the qualifying runs.

James Venning was quickly on the pace in Group 1 with a 52.643 on his second flying lap. And no one bettered it. Championship leader Chris Woodger came closest but was still two tenths adrift with Toby Baldry third quickest from Matt Jones and Adam Wheeldon.

Sadly, by the time the second group came out the rain had returned which would mean the grids forming up with the quickest from group one on the right side of the grid and the group two runners on the left side. Tom Mackenzie was quickest from Andrew Farmer, Stephen Westwood, Andrew Ward and Jed Hicks.

Lightweights Pre A Final

James Venning on pole from Tom Mackenzie with Championship leader Chris Woodger and Andrew Farmer on row two. Next up Toby Baldry and Stephen Westwood ahead of Matt Jones and Andrew Ward with Adam Wheeldon and Jed Hicks completing the first five rows. Venning led the pack away and it was good clean start too for the rest of the field. Almost. Simon Field was an early spinner at the rear of the field and then Freddie Fincham spun all on his own at the pit lane exit hairpin. As the track continued to dry the lap times began to fall. Venning was beginning to stretch his advantage at the front chased by Mackenzie and Woodger.

Westwood and Jones were next from Farmer and Baldry followed by Ward and Wheeldon who were running line astern. Down the order Keith Segal spun at the ultra quick left handed turn five. Craig Rankine spun backwards into the tyres in avoidance. Sadly some drivers failed to heed the yellow flags. Ewen Bennet slammed into the stationary Segal and then knocked Rankine off his feet fortunately without injury. Three more drivers, Adam Norris, Martin Alger and Pej Taraj all ran into the stationary Karts having failed to heed the warning flags. Fortunately no one was injured but Rankine was out whilst Segal and Bennett completed another lap before pulling in. Bizarrely, Segal’s visor had been ripped off. He was very fortunate to escape uninjured as Bennet hit him very hard. At the front Venning continued to pull away. Andy Cowell, observing down at turn four, reported that the leader was grinning dementedly every time he went past. And why not? He was enjoying himself. As the turn five incident was being cleared up the front runners closed up to the back markers which caused no end of confusion. Mackenzie picked up a penalty for overtaking a backmarker under a yellow whilst some of the back markers tried to race with the front runners, fortunately without serious incident. To be fair to the back markers blue flags were not in evidence which must have made it difficult to judge who was where. Amongst it all Jones got by Woodger for second as Mackenzie dropped to fourth. Venning took the win almost four seconds clear of Jones with Woodger third and setting the fastest lap of the race on the final tour. Mackenzie was next but penalised down to eighth. Ward out dragged Baldry to the line to take fourth by just 0.063 with Westwood next just a tenth up on Hicks. Wheeldon and Snelling completed the top ten.

Lightweight A Final

Venning on pole with Jones alongside. Woodger and Ward on two from Baldry and Westwood. Hicks and Mackenzie on row four from Wheeldon and Snelling on row five. Venning led the field away but Jones ran a little wide in the first turn allowing Woodger up into second. Jones hung onto third from Baldry and Ward. Venning crossed the line at the end of the lap a few Kart lengths clear of Woodger. The order at the front remained static for a few laps but it was clear that Woodger was having problems out of the slow corners forcing him to defend hard from Jones and the rest of the pack. Jones managed to get ahead at turn one only to run wide and let Woodger remain in second. As they went into the pit lane chicane for the fifth time Jones suddenly darted to the right and through into second. Woodger almost spun and lost valuable momentum allowing Baldry to get by as well. A lap later and Woodger was down to seventh. Venning meanwhile was still grinning happily and pulling away from the field. Jones still ran third ahead of Baldry, Mackenzie, Ward, Hicks, Woodger, Wheeldon and Snelling. Lap after lap they crossed the line in order but in reality there were several place changes over the lap only for parity to be restored as they crossed the line. Baldry closed in on Jones with Mackenzie right behind. Then Jones spun out of contention as did Mackenzie leaving Baldry second but now having to defend from Ward. Venning took the win, his second of the day to take maximum points whilst Baldry just managed to hold off Ward for second. Hicks took a hard earned fourth just holding off Wheeldon by 0.056 at the flag. Snelling took sixth with Woodger next. Rob Langthorp, Guy Holliday and Billy Robson completed the top ten with Ward setting the fastest lap of the race.

Round up

Despite a couple of underwhelming rounds of late Chris Woodger remains at the head of the Lightweight standings with the absent Mike Noon still second. But James Venning is closing in. He’s been unbeaten over the last three finals (one pre A and two A’s). The championship is really heating up. Freddie Fincham remains fourth but he’s without a podium since round two. Matt Jones is fifth.

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