No Obvious Favourite. Yet Champion Steve Brown Takes Win. Funny That…
‘’I need pushers!’’ With the now legendary call to arms the 2017 Sprint Championships got underway at a damp and cool Buckmore. Unlike some Championships the entry was nigh on full with a smattering of newcomers and a few returnees anxious to do battle with the Club regulars. Something tells me this is going to be a vintage year, Steve Gray reports.
First out then the crème de la crème of karting, the Elites although judging from the amount of penalties dished out most were clearly rusty after the winter break. It must be said that the track was very damp at this time though. Joe Holmes made the most of his randomly selected pole to lead the field away chased hard by Ray Norris whilst Brandon Williams lost out to the fast starting Steve Hicks and Tyler Mays. Behind these though was mayhem as Ian Blake, Daniel Truman, Jay Elliott and David Walters all fell foul of each other and/or the track conditions to fall to the back of the field. Parmveer Nijjar put in a barnstorming first lap to leap from eighteenth to sixth. And Pete O’Connor ( looking decidedly grey these days ) was also on the move along with Daniel Healey who moved himself from the back row to mid grid by the end of lap one. Stirring stuff!
At the front Holmes continued to lead from Norris and Hicks whilst Williams began to recover and moved himself back into fourth at the expense of Mays. Further back Nijjar and Golding were enjoined in a fierce battle for sixth. With three gone Norris dived down the inside of Holmes into Garda for the lead. As Holmes ran a little wide Hicks and Mays closed, forcing Holmes to defend and allowing Norris to break. He used the clear air to good effect pulling out over three seconds by the time the flag was shown after eight frantic laps. Holmes held off Mays for second whilst Hicks took fourth having dropped off the pace a little as the race ran down. Williams took fifth whilst O’Connor placed sixth on the road but was demoted to seventh behind Nijjar after knocking over a cone. A penalty which would be repeated by several drivers throughout the day. Reigning Champion Steve Brown took eighth after a great drive up from twenty first whilst Golding and Stephen Docker rounded out the top ten. Ian Blake set fastest lap.
Nijjar led away from pole but it was James Hattersley who took the eye getting the better of the highly experienced Daz Teal off the line. Before the days racing James had been concerned that he might struggle a little. He need have no worries on that score. Truman lost out big time dropping from fourth to ninth. It would not be a good race for him as he dropped steadily down the order to fifteenth. Jonathan Lisseter, Golding and Norris were locked in a fierce battle for fourth with Golding forcing his way through into the position on the third lap. Unfortunately he had been a little too forceful and would find himself demoted four places at the flag.
By half distance the front ten had settled and the order remained the same all the way to the finishing line. The back half of the field though was supplying huge entertainment. Sadly some of the driving was just a bit too aggressive. Hicks and Holmes both picked up four place deductions for gaining a place through contact and then both drivers transgressed again leading to exclusion and zero points. Nijjar crossed the line for the win well clear of Hattersley who had Teal just behind and keeping him honest in third. Lisseter took fourth after Golding’s demotion with Norris fifth from Edward Barrs in sixth after a solid drive. Brown took seventh, a good points haul this after starting on grid fourteen. Golding was placed eighth with Brooks, who set fastest lap, and Blake ninth and tenth.
The final heat then and how frantic it got over the first few laps. Poleman Brown immediately fell behind Elliott and Jack Harding whilst Tom Dix got a terrible start and fell down to ninth. O’Connor was fifth ahead of Blake whilst Lisseter, Hicks and Holmes all made great starts to move themselves into the top ten. Good, hard, clean racing on the still damp track. With two laps run Harding forced his way to the front from Elliott, O’Connor and Brown but it was still anyone’s race. Down the order Brooks had driven a storming opening lap to move from grid seventeen into the top ten but a spin saw him drop to the rear of the field and a lonely run to finish dead last. Harding began to eke out a lead as Elliott was forced to defend from both O’Connor and Brown.
Half distance and O’Connor fell behind the flying Brown who then made it up to second with two to run. Harding could not be caught though and took a well deserved win from Brown, Elliott and O’Connor who were almost line astern at the flag but well clear of Holmes whose drive up from grid fourteen was one of the highlights of the race. Lisseter took sixth after battling hard with Holmes with Hicks seventh after an eventful race which saw him start on grid twelve, climb as high as fifth briefly before dropping back to ninth and then recovering to seventh. Healey was eighth on the road but was penalised for cone abuse, promoting Blake, with Nijjar in tenth and gaining enough points for pole in the final. Brandon Williams set fastest lap and although the track was still damp the times were beginning to fall.
The grid. Nijjar on pole from Brown with Lisseter and Harding on two. Norris and O’Connor on three with Healey and Hattersley on four. Golding and Barrs completed the top ten.
Nijjar led the field up to the line but it was Brown who made the better start to lead. Lisseter’s fine work in the heats came to nought as he spun to the rear of the field. Nijjar dropped to third behind Harding whilst Norris held on to fourth ahead of a fast starting Healey. O’Connor kept his head in sixth but Golding lost out to Hattersley, Barrs and Holmes, the latter ninth having started twelfth. Mays in eleventh was another to fall down the order. Brown continued to lead with Harding right on his tail but enable to force an error. Norris though was up into third having taken Nijjar in the top hairpin. One third distance and Harding finally found a way through at the first hairpin. Norris remained third with Healey fourth but falling back. Not by much but enough not to pose a threat to the leaders. Nijjar had fallen back to fifth with Hattersley just behind in sixth having put a move on O’Connor at the bottom of the hill. Holmes meanwhile was making steady progress, taking advantage of others squabbles, staying out of trouble and picking up places. Harding continued to lead but with a third of the race to go Brown made a move into hairpin one and made it stick. Norris closed up behind Harding but couldn’t follow the new leader through. Healey continued in fourth with Hattersley up to fifth but with Holmes closing quickly. He would take the place three laps from home. Brown took the flag some three tenths up on Harding, the two of them several kart lengths ahead of Norris. Sadly for Harding he had knocked over a cone demoting him to third. Healey took fourth after a very solid drive whilst Holmes opened his points account in fifth after a strong and sensible drive. Hattersley took sixth. A fine performance this from the young man. He’s certainly not overawed by his place in the elites. A young man to watch. Not that you can easily miss him being ten feet tall!
Nijjar took seventh. A disappointment this after a strong showing in the heats. Blake took eighth with Barrs and Williams completing the top ten. Waters set the fastest lap.
A great mornings racing then despite penalties reigning down like confetti with the rules being rigidly enforced. No bad thing. Good to see smiles all round on the podium and clearly everyone was glad to be back behind the wheel and racing hard. Steve Brown is clearly going to take some beating in the Elites this year. The reigning Champion judged the win to perfection. Who will pick up the gauntlet?
Round 2 will be at Whilton Mill on 19 March 2017.
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography