Lets hear it for The Silverback. Tim Hill wins at Red Lodge
Tim Hill’s new fitness regime coupled with a wealth of experience on so many circuits, may have breathed new life into the old dog, it made him best equipped to adapt to the new circuit of Red Lodge under threatening skies in the last race of the morning session to come through late and hard from grid 5, grabbing the lead with a lap to go and on to a popular win in the main A final. “What a great race, it’s been a long time (since the last win), it’s the first of many…”. Darrell Lowe and Daniel French joined him on the podium. After 4 straight wins a seemingly unhappy Jonathan Elliott had finished only 4th so no trophy this time but perhaps after starting the day with a 28point lead over Lowe and leaving Red Lodge with a 25point one it begged the question what’s really not to like Jonny? While Josh Pettitt remains 3rd overall, a dreadful start to the main A, after winning the pre A final in some style but the poison pill of grid 2 left him with justifiable cause for a long face, 55points off the lead he only heads the chasing pack in the championship going into Whilton Mill.
Julian Clist, another championship contender/pretender to the throne at Ellough must have been concerned to be on the front of the Pre B Final. Although to be fair, Red Lodge more than most left ample opportunity to ruin a good lap time or have it voluntarily or involuntarily ruined by a competitor, described as tricky to learn as well, lots of combinations, lots of nuance and compromise to obtaining a fast time (someone needs to do a track guide for our website).
At the second time of asking poleman Nick Pollicott had the lead momentarily from grid 3 man Laurence Venskus who pushed through to pull clear of Pollicott failing to hold back to Clist, Andy Katsantonis and Ben Daly but it gave Laurence a 10 kart length start for the remaining 11.5 laps. James Attfield moved into 5th and set off after Daly, and the field strung out behind them in short order. It’s four to qualify to the back of the Pre A final and up front it split into 3 groups of 3 to decide it. Clist not unexpectedly moved through Katsantonis at the end of lap 5 not the prettiest manoeurve into the last corner, mostly from Andy getting out of shape, not knowing when he was passed and should give it up. That just helped Attfield now heading the next group to be a lot closer to 3rd place. Two laps later after some resistance Julian moved inside into turn 7 and through in the long left hander, Laurence was going to have to let Julian have the lead into the hairpin. And that really ought to have been that but Julian remarkably binned himself driving straight on in the last corner on the very next lap. I had to ask, “To be honest I had quite a spongey brake pedal, I didn’t think too much of it though since I was confident of making the cut for the Pre-A. With that being said I drove far too hard despite being a fair way in the lead and just ended up in the barrier, so a little of column A and little of column B”. And those karts are damned heavy to drag to the circuit aren’t they… Venskus drove on to win from Katsantonis, Attfield held off Pollicott but Lennie Wood ran through Daly, Pollicott and Attfield towards the finish in a group that had expanded to include Nick Breadner and Lee Henderson in the closing stages. But James wasn’t letting go of 4th place. Trouble was he along with Daly had picked up penalties promoting Breadner to the top 4.
A great start for the fastest qualifiers off the front row of the Pre A Final for Josh Pettitt and James Hattersley saw them lead comfortably into turn 1, Tim Hill pulled down in front of grid 3 Rob Adlam who was left with Jonny Elliott, Eric Mignon and Roger Davis all looking for a way by behind him into turn 2. It was Davis emerging from turn 3 in 4th. Elliott needing the drag up to turn 7 to get by. Katsantonis missed out the infield, not his fault, but his lap 1 wouldn’t count, and then he sort of did, but certainly didn’t let himself fall back to his correct position and managed to spoil (in the nicest possible way) the battle for the lead as the leaders got around him. Hattersley moved on to leader Pettitt’s bumper and took a shot into turn 2, parried by Josh, Hill took his chance and moved into his Saturday endurance team mates 2nd place. Davis watching on, the quartet comfortably clear of Stephen Docker holding off and possibly holding up a little championship leader Jonny Elliott, Katsantonis, Martin Gurnett, Adlam and Mignon in the 2nd looser group. And thats largely how it stayed, no fireworks, just good solid hard driving, you know what I mean – one for the purist not your average touring car fan. Mignon moved to the head of the second group to finish 7th, Docker and Elliott were nearly 4secs up the road at half way, Jonny eventually getting Stephen turning into the turn 8 hairpin, Davis beginning to get dropped in 4th place another 2secs ahead of them. Gurnett fell out of 8th on lap 8 after trying to pass Katsantonis who closed the door on Martin into the tyres in the hairpin opposite the pits. Hill spent 4 or 5 laps on Josh’s bumper and I figured a move for the lead must come. With 3 laps to go Hill moved by off turn 9, Josh not fighting too hard, but Tim ran wide in turn 2 and Josh was never headed again as Hattersley unsuccessfully stuck his oar in, Roger Davis onboard his boat but it was Hattersley pushed to the stern (keeping this dodgy metaphor going) and that was Pettitt out to 5-6 kart lengths and off to victory even with 2 laps to go. Davis left a door open between turns 1 and 2 and that was too inviting to James to pass up on so he moved into 3rd. That left only 2nd place to be decided. Hattersley looked inside at turn 1, but as Tim remarked later, “Lovely, polite young man and quick”. But too polite to divebomb. Respect, but looking for the clean pass around Red Lodge you could look a long time. Tim finished 2nd.
24 drivers in the B Final were shooting for 2 remaining qualifying berths for the main A final grid. Clist had been here before on grid 2 he would not make the same mistake again, but it was trying to rain, and the track was iffy. Poleman Nick Butler held off Clist but lost out to Lee Henderson off to flyer from grid 3. Clist got into 2nd on the run back to the pits. James English, Tim William, James Attfield and Roger Mullen have been around and were soon circling Butler. And that was great for Henderson and Clist 3secs up the road, with the drizzle was easing off and the tyres coming up to temperature. English, Attfield and Williams got by and started making ground on the leaders, Clist got wind of it and moved into the lead in turn 1. Then sensing a shot at the main A, Attfield and Williams, neither shrinking violets kicked off to get by English, James won first dibs and before Tim could get by Butler, Mullen and Ben Daly complicated matters. Williams getting through before English clashed Mullen turning in to the hairpin at turn 8, Roger straightened him up in the process but James ground to halt anyway. No penalty for Roger. Butler held off Daly, Paul Williams (a very quiet day) was fighting Karolis Koncikas hard for 8th. 4 laps to go Attfield caught and passed Henderson but Lee need not worry, James had picked up another 4 place penalty earlier that would see him demoted to 6th. Clist won by 4.2secs from Attfield, Williams missed out on qualification in what became 3rd from Mullen and Daly.
Dan French secured pole position for the A Final with his fastest race lap from the Pre A Final Josh Pettitt on the front row and while Dan got the drop on him off the start he was able to hold 2nd ahead of Eric Mignon and James Hattersley on row 2 into the fast kink of turn 1. So the front 4 were single file, then it was two by two, by three, by four, by around she goes as Daren Townsley, Mike Townley, Lee Henderson and Rob Adlam starting in the mid to low teens ground to an unsatisfactory halt in the first complex. Re-grid.
The second start was cleaner (that’s a relative term), everyone got through the first complex more or less, I can’t say cleanly. French got the hole shot again but Mignon was better prepared so Pettitt was pushed wide into turn 2 which is not somewhere to be. Darrell Lowe was at the apex with James Hattersley off grid 6 on his right after squeezing through inside leaving Josh nowhere else but wide and he was still hung him out there as Jonny Elliott and Tim Hill together, Stephen Docker, Michael Ballinger, John Foulds all scraped passed him in the shuffle that exited a turn 3 strewn with tyres. On to the back straight the leading 6 got their heads down and when they came back into sight of the pits, it was clear that barring any stupid wheel banging the most likely winner was coming from French, Mignon, Lowe, Hattersley, Elliott and Hill. Docker was trying to get back on Hill’s bumper while managing Ballinger but every time he went defensive Tim’s bumper edged away. Pettitt was desperately trying to get back in the game, trying to ease Martin Gurnett out of the way inside of the turn 8 hairpin but he was pinched between Martin and the kerb tyres, a technique Martin had probably learned from Katsantonis, which gave Roger Davis opportunity to straight line to the next apex, to demote Josh and then Simon Lloyd passed him on the run back to the pits. It really was going to be one of those races for Josh. While this trio effectively ended their chances making any further progress beyond 10th, as so often was the case, by getting involved with fighting for every apex with each other for a few laps it did allow Pettitt, Alistair Mason, Laurence Venskus, Stuart Kirk and Josh Walsh to come back to them and it was soon a group of seven. All the while John Foulds got smaller up the road.
Coming on to lap 4, Eric Mignon’s distinctly narrow line into the last corner would be start to be his undoing. Struggling off the corner, Lowe was through before the start line, and Hattersley made a determined effort to keep Eric off the apex of turn 1. Nearly but not quite. Ballinger did much the same and made it work on Docker for a few corners before Stephen tipped in over the top of turn 6 and the pair lost touch with Hill again. Lowe was looking most likely and was lining up French for the lead, Mignon doing him a huge favour holding up the group behind with that line of his in the last corner again backing Elliott into Hill. Lowe rattled French into going narrow into turn 6, Dan held him off at the end of the back straight only to run deep into the hairpin and walk himself into an obvious trap as Darrell criss crossed behind him through turn 9 and “owned” Dan, squaring off the exit out of the corner. Hook, line and sinker. And to be honest I thought Lowe would run out a winner from there, but Elliott had waited long enough for Hattersley to take care of Mignon so pressed a move down the inside between turns 8 and 9 and changed the whole complexion of the race. After a little rubbing with James through the corner Tim Hill undercut the pair of them to go 4th by better momentum and the benefit of the long right curve back to the pits, Elliott looked to his right and a Meldrew thought bubble along the lines “I just don’t believe it” popped up above his head, or some other more colourful expletive deleted. So it was clearly possible to go through that bend three wide which makes the following tail end trio of Rob Adlam (right), Andy Katsantonis (centre) and Lee Henderson’s (tyre barrier bound) ugly incident all the more disappointing and not what we want to see repeated. Mutual respect, room to race, a group responsibility for each other’s safety. You know. That sort thing please going forward. Some of tyres that Lee replaced ended up on the track opposite admirably doing their job for, and fair play to, Lee getting to his feet which probably saved us from a red flag.
Hill wasted no time nailing turn 6 again on to the back straight to be inside into turn 7 to pass Mignon for 3rd. I still thought Lowe had French and the win under control. Elliott could see the way it was going though and threw one down inside of Mignon into turn 2, giving Docker an easy pass on Eric for 5th on the exit of turn 3. Hattersley was absent after mysteriously falling away into Ballinger, Davis, Gurnett and Foulds. Hill out dragged French into turn 1. And okay it was time to take took notice of Hill, “on it”, and he’d only narrowly missed out on the win in the pre A final to Pettitt, so it was real. Five laps to go, a little drizzle, an unfamiliar track, Lowe had shown he could not pull away from French. It was perhaps a perfect set of circumstances for the old maestro.
On to the penultimate lap Hill moved on Lowe’s bumper while French, who had slipped out of the fight for the win, could look over his shoulder and see he had seen off any late Jonny Elliott challenge. Hattersley had slipped passed Mignon and was trying to chase down Docker for 5th, Ballinger was heading for an excellent 7th, Mignon faded and was busy trying to stem the bleed of positions ahead of Gurnett, Foulds, Davis and Lloyd. Once again Tim aced turn 6, or was he driving what is colloquially known as a “Wafty Growler”? Great top end – wafty, great bottom end – growler, oft referred to as “The Staff Kart”. But I’m not buying that, going instead with the former proposition, nail it baby in turn 6, draft up and alongside into turn 7. Job done. Darrell didn’t roll over for a tummy tickle but over start finish he took a look over his shoulder for French holding off Elliott, and that, along with a couple of kart lengths to the good into turn 1 was that for Tim. I don’t think he knew or dared look back, but it was in the bag. I can’t remember his last win, he can’t remember his first, but he returned to the chequered flag a very happy bunny and a very popular winner. Stuart Kirk would finish 15th overall and win the Super Heavweight Class.
Pictures by Alex Roache Photography