Liam Cochrane Drops Into Clubmans & Wins, As Championship Chasers Take A Break


Steve Gray
Clubman Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.8,

A great circuit this for both drivers and spectators and yet another facility that is undergoing a revamp. When it’s completed the new race control block will give an uninterrupted view of the whole circuit. At least from the race control booth. Lydd is certainly the longest circuit in terms of distance from north to south so that when the pack is at the north end of the circuit there is an almost eerie quiet in the pit lane area. With lakes on both sides of the circuit and its skinny dimensions I’m always reminded of Montreal. I do have a vivid imagination! From the Start and Finish line it’s a short run into the first chicane, a very quick right followed by a left and then a right hander which opens out onto a short straight. Turn two is almost a copy of turn one save for the huge kerbs which for this year were protected by a tyre wall. Turn three is the corner at the top end of the circuit and furthest away from the paddock area. It’s a right hander which leads onto another short straight before turn four. There is a wicked bump just before the braking zone for the right handed turn four which then leads into the long left handed turn five which ends in a flat out right handed turn six leading onto the back straight. Turns seven and eight leading onto the start and finish straight are almost taken as one corner. Karts were getting a good tow down the back straight on Sunday leading to some good overtaking moves into and out of the final turns. The windy weather played its part too. In the midst of one of the hottest summers on record it was again a chilly day with some dark clouds in the west offering a threat of rain. Thankfully, save for a few drops, it stayed dry.

First out for the days racing the Elites and Clubman’s with the latter getting the first bite out of the tarmac.

Heat 1

The big question on everyone’s minds was could Championship leader James Taylor make it six wins from six starts? Frankie Hedges sat on pole with David Whitehouse alongside. James Martin and newcomer Tom Szwed shared the second row. Darrel Lowe and Luke Hornsby on three from Martin Theodorou and Mark Ridout on row four with Sammy Venables and Jon Watkins completing the first five rows. Hedges seized the inititive at the start to lead into the first turn with Whitehouse half a kart lengths back. They both gave each other respect through the turn with Hedges emerging still in the lead. Behind, as usually happens here, it all got a bit tight, through, and out of the turn and on the run down to turn two. By the end of the lap Hedges led from Whitehouse with Lowe up to third from a quick starting Theodorou. Martin dropped to sixth behind Szwed with Ridout seventh. Mike Townley had a great first lap moving up from grid thirteen to eighth whilst Hornsby dropped from sixth to twelfth. Stefan Scully moved up a couple of places whilst Venables dropped back. Hedges continued to lead from Whitehouse but Theodorou was now into third from Szwed and Martin as Lowe dropped back to sixth with Ridout right on his tail.

For several laps the order remained static but Szwed in fourth was looking very racy getting by Theodorou at the second chicane and closing in on Whitehouse for second. Whitehouse had no answer and Szwed moved into second with a carbon copy of his move on Theodorou. Hedges and Szwed immediately began to pull clear of the race rusty Whitehouse who was coming under pressure from Theodorou and Martin. Scully too was not far adrift chased by Ridout and Lowe. Hedges and Szwed continued to run clear at the front with the latter edging ever closer to the leader. Whitehouse couldn’t hold off the pursuing pack and Theodorou and Martin slipped by on the penultimate lap. Hedges took the win several lengths clear of the impressive Szwed the two of them several seconds up the road from third placed Theodorou with Martin fourth. Scully would have been next but he took a four place penalty after a bump and pass on Lowe handing the latter fifth after an eventful run. Whitehouse was next holding off Ridout on the run to the lone by just 0.006 with Championship leader Taylor less than a tenth adrift in eight. He also set the fastest lap. Scully and Venables completed the top ten.

Heat 2

Scully on pole from Jon Watkins for this one with Stephen Jennings and Townley on row two. Taylor and Stuart Osborn on three with Stuart Osborn and Christopher Powell on four and Liam Cochrane and first heat winner Hedges completing the top ten. Watkins led the field up to the start but Scully to his left looked to have better traction and was just ahead as they turned right at the first turn. He had just a little too much momentum though and climbed the kerb, losing pace as he swung left and allowing Watkins to exit the corner first. Jennings tucked in behind whilst Taylor was up to fourth after deposing Townley. Osborn dropped back as did Hedges whilst Cochrane moved up three places to sixth. Whitehouse too was on the move, climbing from grid eleven to eighth.

Whilst the front three began to pull clear there was a real dogfight developing for fourth with Taylor running at the head of tight group consisting of Cochrane, Dawson, Whitehouse and Townley. Taylor was clearly struggling for pace but was defending well and hanging on to fourth. It couldn’t last however and Cochrane went by under braking at the end of the straight. The following lap and Whitehouse made it through to fifth. Taylor was still hanging on but unfortunately for him he got a bit too aggressive in his defence of sixth forcing Dawson wide. At the front Watkins continued to lead but Scully was almost on his bumper, pulling out on the back straight but never quite close enough to make a move into the final turns. Jennings was in touch in third but not a serious threat. Lap eight and Watkins was going very defensive compromising his line over the bump into the long right left right leading onto the back straight. Scully kept his line and the momentum and pulled ahead on the back straight. Thereafter he kept everything neat and tidy, reeling off the final laps to take the victory by just over a tenth from Watkins. Jennings was third ahead of Cochrane and Whitehouse with the latter setting the fastest lap of the race two from home. Taylor would have been next but was penalised down to tenth promoting Dawson to sixth with Theodorou seventh, Osborn eighth and Martin ninth.

Heat 3

Sammy Venables on pole from Liam Cochrane with Mark Ridout and Christopher Powell sharing row two. Theodorou and Dawson on three from Luke Hornsby and Osborn on four and Darrell Lowe and James Taylor on five. Venables led the field away with Cochrane tucked in behind from Ridout whilst Powell lost out to Theodorou. Dawson, Hornsby and Osborn were running line astern tailed by Szwed who made up a couple of places at the expense of Lowe and Taylor. Taylor ran eleventh for a couple of laps before dropping to fourteenth in what was a subdued performance by his standards. At the front Cochrane took over from Venables and immediately began to pull clear whilst Venables fell back into the clutches of Ridout who moved quickly ahead. Theodorou remained fourth but was coming under pressure from Dawson who moved ahead at half distance.

A lap later and Powell too moved ahead of Theodorou. Cochrane continued to stretch his advantage at the front from Ridout with Venables a tenth or so back in third but well clear of the battle for fourth still headed by Dawson. Down the order Lowe was putting in a feisty drive clawing his way up to seventh and closing in on the battle for fourth. Cochrane took the win by over two seconds from Ridout who then found himself demoted to fourth after exceeding track limits once too often thus handing second to Venables with Powell third after fighting his way past Dawson on the final lap. Lowe took sixth with Hornsby seventh, both drivers getting the better of Theodorou on the final tour. The latter held onto eighth from a flying Szwed who also set the fastest lap on the penultimate tour. Osborn completed the top ten

Final

With all the points totalled up Liam Cochrane had secured pole with Martin Theodorou alongside. Row two saw Stefan Scully alongside Mark Ridout with David Whitehouse and Andrew Dawson on row three. James Martin and Sammy Venables shared row four with Darrell Lowe and Tom Szwed completing the top ten runners. Cochrane led the field away with Theodorou getting slightly out of shape in the first turn but hanging on to second from Scully.

Whitehouse got ahead of Ridout for fourth with Martin next from Lowe and Taylor who had moved up from grid eleven. He had a lot of work to do though if he was going to keep his one hundred per cent winning record. Dawson and Venables both lost ground, the former dropping to twelfth whilst Venables fared even worse dropping to thirteenth. Neither driver had one of their better days at Lydd. Cochrane continued to lead but having opened up a gap Theodorou gradually whittled it away. Sadly, as soon as he got close he would make a small error and drop back. Scully still ran third but Whitehouse was coming under increased pressure from Ridout who finally found a way by at half distance and began to close in on Scully. Cochrane continued to lead but having dropped away Theodorou was now closing in again. But whilst he got close he was never close enough to mount a serious challenge. Remarkably he was quicker than the leader on ten of the fourteen laps but he trailed Cochrane by just under half a second at the flag. Scully and Ridout meanwhile were having a great fight for third with the position changing several times over the closing laps. Ridout finally made the place his on the penultimate lap. Lowe took fifth and was closing in on fourth placed Scully towards the end.

Jennings took sixth after arguably the drive of the race. Having started on grid thirteen he languished down the order in the early stages before steadily working his way forward. Whitehouse lost out on sixth on the penultimate lap but he’d put in a good days work. Martin was closing in on Whitehouse at the flag but had to content with eighth whilst ninth went to Taylor, thus ending his winning streak but still retaining his Championship lead. Watkins completed the top ten with Szwed setting the fastest lap on the final tour. Despite finishing sixteenth, he clearly has the pace.

Round up

Despite his one hundred per cent winning record coming to an end at Lydd James Taylor remains at the top of the order. Everyone has a bad day now and again and so it was for James. As he says, he’ll be back. Stefan Scully remains second with Jon Watkins third, the latter another driver to have a fairly lacklustre day at Lydd. Liam Cochrane is fifth. It was his first win in Clubman’s and sadly he’s not doing enough rounds to win the Championship but he could have a say in where the crown ends up. Last year Liam missed out on the Lightweight Championship because he didn’t do enough rounds. It’s a shame because I reckon when he does do a full a season in Sprints, whatever class he is in, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Reflections

Another great days racing at Lydd. Yet again however there were several instances of drivers not heeding yellow flags. The rule is simple. When you see a yellow, raise your arm and back off. To not do so could have dangerous consequences not just for drivers but for the officials as well. I witnessed this on the approach into the first turn. It’s a quick corner and from a kart you have no idea what’s round it. And we still saw drivers weaving ferociously before the start. It actually caused a delay as a couple of drivers couldn’t get through quick enough to take up their grid positions. It’s in the regulations and one day the rule might just get applied. There was also a suggestion that a driver was adjusting the jets on his machines carb. And it appears to have some merit as it wasn’t just one driver complaining. It’s against the rules and the spirit of the Club and is something which is going to be watched for at the next round. You have been warned.

All the Championships are nicely poised as we enter the latter stages of the season.
Se you all at Rye in a couple of weeks and don’t forget to enter the O plate round at Bayford in September. A celebration of twenty five years of the greatest arrive and drive Championship in the country.

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography