Matthew Forkes Crushes Heavies, But Wright’s 2nd Place Takes Points Lead Into Finale
Back to Bayford for the first time in several years for the penultimate round of the 2017 Sprint Championships. What a great circuit it is too, both for drivers and spectators with its combination of fast straights and technical areas, otherwise known as the twisty bits, giving plenty of overtaking opportunities. With the forecast for a dry day but with a stiff, cold wind snapping the flags everyone was looking forward to an exciting days racing. You could feel the tension in the air too as the Championship contenders readied themselves for battle. Could Joe Holmes clinch the Elites to make it back to back Championships having won the Heavies in 2016? Would Harry Neale clinch the Clubman crown with one round to go? Would Darri Simms fend off the challenge from Liam Cochrane and Chris Bell in the Lights? And finally, in what is the tightest fight of the year, how would Mark Ridout, James Browning and Adam Wright fare with Ridout just a point ahead of Browning and Wright hovering behind, a handful of points adrift? After a cloud covered morning the sun finally broke through for the afternoon session and we had news of a new sponsor for the Super Heavyweights as Stuart Germon had decided through his company EssexFlatPack.co.uk. to put up trophy’s for the first three at each event commencing at Bayford and running through next year. A great initiative this. I remember when we ran a rookie Championship within the Lightweights. It was always hard fought too giving drivers who were not quite amongst the best the opportunity to race and win a trophy. Perhaps not quite good enough is not the right way to describe the Rookie Championship as Daz Teal won it once and now he’s an Elite. The driver he beat went the other way and eventually retired.
Two groups of twenty three drivers to battle it out for the top twenty spots in the Pre A Final. Tim Hill topped the times in the first Group posting his best time on his final lap. And not for the first time this season either. He reckoned he’d backed off on his last lap but realised that he’d actually driven a lot smoother and gone quicker. Just shows you’re never too old to learn. Andrew Dawson was next up just 0.029 adrift of Hill with James Shield 0.073 away from Hill. Fourth and fifth were Championship leader Mark Ridout and SHW frontrunner Nick Trafford who both set identical times whilst Championship contender Adam Wright was sixth.
Mathew Forkes has only raced a couple of times this year but he was really on form at Bayford setting the fastest time in the second Group and beating Hill to the pole by a mere 0.009. Fifteen set the grid from the first group with just five making out of Group two. Andy Cowell was second quickest but it was only good enough for seventh on the overall grid.
Pre B Final
Four to qualify for the Pre A final from twenty five starters. Pole for Mark Turner from Paul Williams with Clay winner Mike Bodnar third alongside Andrew Cherry fourth. Fastest SHW was Stuart Germon down in seventh. Turner led the field away with Williams slotting in behind from Bodnar and Cherry whilst down the order Townsleys hope of progression all but disappeared as he spun to the back of the field. Josh Pettit was on a charge moving up from Grid nine to sixth. He would be up to fifth by the end of lap two. At the front Turner was already beginning to stretch his advantage whilst Williams was keeping a wary eye on Bodnar with Cherry still running fourth but being hassled by Stevens who had at one point dropped to seventh before fighting back. Turner was still easing away from the fight for second whilst the scrap for the final qualifying spot was beginning to intensify.
Stevens slipped ahead of Cherry only to lose the spot a lap later and then regain it the following lap. Meanwhile Bodnar had moved up to second. Stevens’s fourth place was now coming under threat from Ben Cottle who had made steady progress up from Grid ten. Turner and Bodnar were running clear at the front whilst Williams dropped back with Cottle closing in and dropping Cherry. Further back Germons impressive run as the leading SHW came to an end as he spun out of eighth on the final lap. Turner took the win over two seconds clear of Bodnar from Williams and Cottle with Pettit taking fifth from Stevens on the final lap. Pettit set fastest lap with Germon the fastest SHW.
Pre A Final
Forkes on pole from Hill with Dawson and Shield on row two. Next up Championship leader Ridout from SHW Trafford. Cowell and Wright on row four with Bosley and Wood completing the top ten. Down into the first hairpin and Forkes was already a few kart lengths ahead of Hill and the rest of the pack but further back Cowell got knocked into a spin.
Second in the Championship Browning was left with nowhere to go and also spun to a halt putting a big dent into his Championship aspirations. Cowells demise saw Wright move up a couple of spots to fifth as Ridout got shuffled down the order dropping to eighth immediately behind Wood and Trafford. Forkes was flying at the front and pulling away from Hill who was at the head of a pack consisting of Shield, Dawson, Wright, Trafford, Ridout and Ben Bennyworth who had risen smartly up from Grid fourteen. Wood meanwhile had dropped to ninth with Lammin tenth from Grid nineteen. Behind these was Jon Gooch who spun out at turn one. Getting out of the Kart he went to the front to lift it back into place and then realised he was actually facing the right way! The order at the front stabilised but Forkes was inching away from the chasing Hill who was in turn edging away from Shield in third. Shield was coming under increasing pressure from the pack behind and with four to go he found himself demoted to sixth as Wright pulled a brilliant move out of the first hairpin to take both Shield and Dawson in one fell swoop. Trafford too took advantage to move himself ahead of Shield for fifth. Whilst Forkes and Hill continued in first and second Wright ran third but he wasn’t getting away from Dawson who was nibbling away at almost every turn. Down into the first hairpin for the penultimate time and Dawson threw caution to wind and dived down the inside forcing Wright wide but not without contact. A clearly angry Wright had no chance to get back on terms but the Marshalls had noted the incident and Dawson was demoted down to sixth post race giving Wright much needed Championship points for his third place.
Forkes took the win well clear of Hill in second with Trafford a hugely impressive fourth from Shield and the demoted Dawson. Ridout was next ahead of Bennyworth with Wood and Lammin completing the top ten. Lammin also set the fastest lap.
Top two to qualify for the main event and a trophy for the winner. But also at stake were the SHW honours. Whilst Nick Trafford was favourite to take first place in the category on the day by virtue of being already in the A final second and third place trophies were still to be fought over. Pettit was on pole from Stevens with Germon third and first SHW.
Now if he could get to the final? Pettit led the field away but it was a fast starting Brammner who moved into second ahead of Stevens whilst Germon dropped to fifth. Pettit’s lead didn’t last for long as Brammer moved into first chased now by Stevens with Pettit down to third. Stevens though had clipped a cone and was carrying a one place penalty. There could be no cruising around in second and progressing, he had to win. Lap after lap he ran right behind Brammer and set fastest lap along the way. But he couldn’t get by missing out by just over a tenth and letting Pettit into the A final. Brown was next with Germon the leading SHW with Paul Goddard right behind at the flag. Still, they would both be taking a trophy home courtesy of EssexFlatPack.co.uk.
The final race of the day. Forkes on pole from Hill with Dawson and shield on row two. Ridout on three and the only SHW on the grid, Trafford, alongside. Lammin and Cowell on row four with Townsend and Wright completing the top ten. On the run down to the first hairpin and Forkes was yet again a few kart lengths up on Hill.
As the pack rounded the corner Dawson and Shield were both forced wide allowing Trafford and Ridout to get ahead but it was Cowell who caught the eye using all his experience to keep to the inside on the run to the second hairpin and position his machine in just the right place to move from eighth to third. Wright also took advantage to move up to sixth. Forkes continued to extend his leads at the front with Hill and Cowell second and third ahead of Ridout whilst Wright moved into fifth at the expense of Trafford. Wright immediately began to close in on the fight for second still led by Hill. Half distance and Forkes was way up the road and barring mistakes or a mechanical looking at his second win of the day. Wright meanwhile caught Ridout and nipped by into the third hairpin. And he wasn’t finished. A lap later and he was ahead of Cowell who had dropped away from Hill. With Forkes leading by a huge margin Hill looked safe in second but once Wright got by Cowell he quickly closed the gap. Hill had no answer and on the penultimate lap he was through into second. A fine drive which also netted him fastest lap.
But Forkes was well clear taking the flag over eight seconds up on Wright with Hill a very fine third. Shield was next with Ridout next but penalised down to seventh promoting Cowell and Bosley into fifth and sixth. Lammin took eighth ahead of Trafford who faded towards the end whilst Turner complete the top ten having fought his way up from Grid twenty one.
Podiums and Championship
Matt Forkes win in the HW’s was as dominant as we have seen all season. He just never looked like losing. Adam Wright’s second place was arguably his best drive of the season and takes him to the top of the standings for the first time this season. A fine third place too for Tim Hill. His visit to the podium was long overdue. He will finish fourth in the Championship.
It’s a nervy time now for Mark Ridout and James Browning. These two have led the way all season in the Heavies. Can they recover their form for the final round?
In the SHW’S Nick Trafford takes the Championship honours for 2017. It’s richly deserved. Stuart Germons second place was his best result of the season whilst Paul Goddard’s third place finish was a great result after a strong drive. And they all took home trophy’s courtesy of EssexFlatPack.co.uk !
A great days racing at Bayford and two Championships settled with Joe Holmes taking the Elite honours and Harry Neale the Clubman’s. They can both relax a bit at the final round.
The Lightweights and Heavyweight Championships are both going right down to the wire. An exciting end to the season and I wonder how much Lady Luck will play her part. Liam Cochrane has had some fortune this season. But he has driven brilliantly and having already missed three round every point has had to count. In contrast Darri Simms has had the luxury of being able to drop scores. But his luck has been awful. What goes around they say comes around. Will Liam’s luck run out and Darri’s return?
In the Heavyweights I don’t think luck has played any part. Adam Wright has hung on right through the season racking up the points as his title rivals have made errors or simply not had the pace. Still, whether it’s Adam, Mark Ridout or James Browning who takes the honours it will have been hard earned and thoroughly deserved. At least we won’t have long to wait. It’s also worth reminding everyone racing in the afternoon at Buckmore that the final races of the day will be run under the floodlights so don’t forget to bring clear visors.
Finally, former Premier Champion Chris Powell was entered for Bayford but had to withdraw after his mother sadly past away. I’m sure everyone connected with Club 100 sends their condolences and deepest sympathy to Chris and all the family. Be strong for each other.