Mike Noon Makes The Best Of It, As Woodger Is Quiet. Still It’s Only 8points Going In Buckmore.
A beautiful sunny, still morning greeted the competitors for the penultimate round of the series which saw all the Championships, apart from the EssexFlatPack Super Heavyweights, all finely balanced. No pun intended. Whilton International is a great layout offering multiple overtaking opportunities and unlike some circuits almost all the corners are named. After the start and finish straight the first left hander is called Oblivion, then it’s into a right hander, Crook, before accelerating hard through the Fine Lady kink and on towards the uphill right hander at Christmas which is also the highest point of the circuit. The track then drops away through a left hander and into the fast right at Inkermans before dropping down to the right handed Ashby hairpin. Ashby is followed by the Kenney Straight which runs into the left hander at Parkers followed by the run down into the off camber left right at Chapman’s before the run along the back straight into the left right right of the Boot. A short downhill straight follows before the flat out right hander, Pits bend, takes the drivers over the finish line to complete the lap. It’s fast and was once described by one ex F1 driver as dangerous. Well, every circuit’s dangerous if you don’t drive it properly!
Into the afternoon races then and the weather remained gloriously sunny and calm. Near perfect conditions for the Lightweights, Heavyweights and the EssexFlatPack sponsored Super Heavyweights. And fantastic grid sizes too promised an exciting afternoon.
In group 1 Andrew Ward’s 53.315 lap just edged out Championship contender James Venning by 0.084. Third spot went to Sam Nash whilst Birelart regular Richard Evans was fourth quickest ahead of Matt Jones.
Championship leader Mike Noon looked to have taken this group 2 but Peter Hobbs dug deep and on his final flying lap posted a 53.501 edging out Noon by just 0.083. Thanassi Barnicoat was next up from Howard Kayman and Mike Townley.
Pre B Final
Stephen Westwood on pole from Pez Taraj with Jon Gooch and Rob Adlam on row two. Row three saw George Redstone alongside James Fitchew. Row four, Ben Hitch, another Birelart regular having his first taste of Club 100 alongside Bailey Morgan with Reece Pope and Billy Robson completing the first five rows. Westwood got off to a flyer to lead from Taraj and Gooch but Adlam spun out of fourth as the field exited Crook. Hitch was another to get a good start moving up to fourth. Down the order things got a little messy with Alessandro Carloni and Loic Ditchburn both spinning to a halt. Westwood continued to lead from Taraj but Hitch got ahead of Gooch for third at the Boot which quickly became second as he swept by Taraj. Gooch also nipped by Taraj into Chapman’s. Taraj ran a little wide allowing Redstone to close up but as Taraj took his line for the Boot Redstone spun out. Cue much arm waving but I think he only had himself to blame. Hitch rapidly closed in on Westwood and took the lead into Chapman’s but both he and Westwood ran wide allowing Gooch into the lead. Taraj remained fourth but Morgan was right on his bumper.
And Fitchew was in the mix too. Gooch led Hitch who then managed to outbrake himself into the Boot and spun to a halt. Worse, for him, he didn’t realise the Club 100 etiquette and remained on the grass waiting to be pushed off. When the penny dropped he was back running a lap down but he did set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour. So Westwood moved back up to second ahead of Taraj and Morgan whilst Fitchew was involved in a battle for fifth with Robson and Gregg Crawford. A battle that was only a couple of lengths behind Morgan. He desperately needed to get by Taraj to give himself a cushion. Penultimate lap and everything got very feisty but still the top four remained the same. Last lap and Morgan went up the inside of Taraj at Christmas. Taraj ran wide and as he came back on he appeared to run Morgan wide. Morgan spun, Taraj lost momentum and both Crawford and Robson nipped by to take the final qualifying places with Fitchew fifth from Taraj. A hard fought race.
Pre A Final
Andrew Ward on pole from James Venning and Sam Nash with Richard Evans on row two. Peter Hobbs and Matt Jones shared row three with Championship leader Mike Noon and Adam Wheeldon on four. Guy Holliday and Rob Langthorp completed the first five rows. Ward got a poor start and Venning led the field up the hill. Wheeldon and Holliday both ran wide and lost valuable ground. Noon also lost out as he ran over the grass on the approach to Inkermans. End of the lap and Venning led from Evans, Jones, Nash, Ward, Hobbs and Ben Atkinson who flew round the first lap up from grid twelve. Second lap and Evans lost out to both Nash and Jones before battling back through to remain second. Nash though had a penalty for pushing Jones wide. It was all action. Blink and you missed something. Venning though continued to pull clear at the front but it was Nash now up to second with Atkinson third ahead of Evans and Langthorp fifth ahead of Jones. Noon was back down to eleventh with Woodger two places ahead in ninth.
Once into clear air Nash immediately set about closing down the gap to the leader, finally catching him at two thirds distance. Venning defended hard but Nash got a run down into Ashby and took over at the front. Once in front he began to pull away but he was still going to be penalised post race. Venning remained second but it was Evans running third ahead of Atkinson and Jones. Last lap and Evans went up the inside of Venning in the Boot. They touched and Venning ran wide allowing both Atkinson and Jones to get a run on him into the final corner. Atkinson forced Venning wide and Jones nipped by both of them crossing the line just 0.019 ahead of Atkinson with Venning fifth. But the drama wasn’t done. Nash was penalised down to fourth whilst Evans also received a penalty for his move on Venning and dropped to fifth which handed the win to Jones with Atkinson an incredible second although I thought him a touch fortunate to get away with forcing Venning wide. But that’s not to detract from a great drive. Venning placed third with Langthorp fifth from Barnicoat. Woodger would have been next but a cone penalty dropped him a spot and promoted Tom Matron to eighth after a fine drive up from grid seventeen. Ward took tenth with Noon eleventh. Vital points lost.
James Fitchew on pole from Pez Taraj with Scott Kelman and James Rose on row two. Loic Ditchburn and Ben Jones on three from Reece Pope and Rob Adlam on four. Martin Auger and Dylan Kayman completed the top ten. Just two to qualify for the A Final. Fitchew got a great start and was leading by several Kart lengths as the field climbed the hill. Kelman too got good traction and was into second with Taraj third and Ditchburn fourth. Down into Ashby for the second time and Taraj had a look at Kelman for second but as he backed out of it he and Ditchburn touched spinning them both to a halt and promoting Adlam into third with Jones fourth from Kayman and Ben Hitch who had climbed up from grid sixteen. Hitch took Jones for fourth in the Boot but felt he had made contact and immediately gave the place back. Next lap he tried again into Ashby but had to give way briefly allowing Rogers to move ahead. But only for a corner as he swept back on the run to Chapman’s and then eased his way by Jones. Next up would be Adlam but was he too far back as the leading trio were the length of the pit straight ahead? He could and he did setting the fastest lap of the race and being the only driver to break fifty four seconds for the lap. Adlam was first to succumb, losing out at Christmas. Next up Kelman. He tried into Christmas but Kelman shut the door and Hitch let him go. But not for long. Round Ashby Kelman was still ahead but into Parkers Hitch went up the inside and into second. A good clean move. Kelman ran wide, lost time on the grass and Adlam moved into third. Fitchew was well clear at the front and sure to qualify but Hitch was enjoying himself and immediately began to close the gap. Last lap and he caught Fitchew as they headed up the hill into Christmas, moved to the right and into first. Fitchew chased him to the flag but as they entered the Boot for the final time Hitch clipped a cone. One small error handed the win to Fitchew and the trophy but it was an extraordinary drive nevertheless.
Matt Jones on pole from Ben Atkinson with James Venning and Sam Nash on row two. Richard Evans and Rob Langthorp shared row three with Thanassi Barnicoat and Tom Maton on four and Chris Woodger alongside Andrew Ward on row five. Jones led the pack away with Atkinson second from Venning, Nash, Evans and Langthorp. Barnicoat got very wide out of Crook and was raising the dust on the outside of the track. And losing places. Into the Boot for the second time and Atkinson was late on the brakes and lost control. Woodger and Ward both went off in avoidance and Evans and Langthorp tripped over each other as they tried to get by. All of which left Jones clear at the front from Venning, Nash and Jon Gooch who scythed his way through the pack from grid fourteen. Hobbs was fifth with Lancaster sixth, up from grid thirteen. Noon ran seventh from Barker, Robson and Wheeldon. Jones continued to lead but it was Nash up to second courtesy of a move on Venning into Christmas corner. He then homed in on the leader who got a little out of shape exiting Chapman’s, lost momentum and was immediately taken by both Nash and Venning.
Gooch remained fourth with Lancaster fifth having got ahead of Hobbs. He then chased down Gooch slipping by into the Boot. Two laps later and he was into third, taking Jones at Christmas. Nash was pulling clear at the front and looking safe for the win. Venning was still second but Lancaster was getting ever closer. Gooch meanwhile was back into fourth demoting Jones back to fifth. Lancaster was soon onto the back of Venning and wasted no time in getting by. Gooch was now having to defend from Gooch whilst Jones had his mind on Noon who took a chance on the final lap down into Chapman’s. Contact was made and Noon sportingly gave the place back. But his gesture allowed a following Wheeldon and Barnicoat to sail past as well! Two vital places lost but he did manage to finally get Jones in the Boot. As did Wheeldon and Barnicoat. Nash took the win by over five seconds. One can only wonder where he would have been in the standings had he done the full season. Lancaster was a superb second with Venning third. Valuable points but it could have been so much better. Gooch took fourth. Another great drive after a poor qualifying had seen him down in the Pre B Final. Wheeldon was fifth after starting on grid seventeen. He got a good start but then hung around in tenth before coming alive in the latter stages chased all the way by Barnicoat who had a very eventful run. A great recovery after dropping to twenty second at the start. Noon crossed the line seventh but was penalised down to eleventh for a bump and pass. Fortunately for him his rival Woodger could only finish twenty second after his spin. So Jones was back to seventh with Robson, Hobbs and Barker completing the top ten. Nash set the fastest lap on the penultimate tour.
Despite finishing outside the top ten Mike Noon remains at the top of the order in the Lightweights. He’s not won an A Final since Round one but he’s been consistently at the sharp end all season. Mike has an eight point advantage over Chris Woodger who led the Championship for much of the season has suddenly lost form. The momentum is against Chris at the moment but he knows what he has to do. James Venning isn’t out of the running but he is very much the outsider. He’ll be looking for a good finish before his move into cars. Matt Jones is fourth and likely to stay there whilst Ben Atkinson is fifth but Rob Langthorp, Andrew Ward and Adam Wheeldon could all pip him for the spot.
Well that was an entertaining day wasn’t it? Great weather too. Thanks as always to all the hard working Club 100 staff and marshals’ who do such a great job. And I’m told the live coverage was brilliant. I shall be viewing it tomorrow. Thanks to Dartford Karting and G3 Professional Car Care and Detailing Products for their support. Apart from the great racing it was noticeable that on too many occasions Jel Dart was having to call out for pushers in the pit lane. When you end your race, if you don’t have to get weighed, step across and help push out. If you need to have a moan about a penalty do it after you’ve pushed out. You might find that if you give yourself a little bit of time to give your head a wobble any complaint might be better viewed if you present your case in a calm manner rather that blowing a fuse at the wrong people. Just saying.
See you all at Buckmore for the Championship showdowns. It’s going to be greeaatt!!
Words: Steve Gray
Library Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography