O’Neill on a roll


Eddie Hall
Lightweight Sprint 60 Championship 2019, Rd.2,

Jack O’Neill makes it two wins out of two but he had to fight for it. O’Connor returns for a one-off and points his finger a bit.

The thing about being the resident journalist is one has to remain impartial. Of course when the resident journalist is also actively competing in the events they are writing about, it can be quite difficult to do so from time to time.

For example, I personally find it difficult not to name and shame drivers who, having overtaken you, then do that really annoying pointy finger “follow me” gesture. It’s as though they think that, by overtaking you, it is somehow your duty to follow them for the rest of the race and do exactly as they say. Pete O’Connor is a repeat offender and did this to me on Saturday. About three times he outbraked me into the last hairpin, went in too deep and I got back past. He seemed quite miffed that I kept overtaking him again and was able to stay in front for the remainder of the lap, and his increasingly angry gesticulations were comical.

The same happened in race two. Not content with only being able to overtake me under yellow flags, some guy (I think Mitchell Althasen) kept shaking his fist every time I re-passed him because he clearly doesn’t understand what the term “racing” means. I ended up fifth, he was thirty-third with multiple penalties.

I’ve said before I think Club100 need to introduce a penalty for gesticulating, preferably involving removing the offending finger with a pair of secateurs (disclaimer: These views are my own and do not represent the views of any member of the Club100 team).

Qualifying

Anyway, no amount of pointing fingers at people who point fingers will take away from the fact it was a great day’s racing. The karts were running well, the sun broke through the clouds and it was a fine day to do a bit of karting.

Jack O’Neill once again stole the show in qualifying, setting a lap time over two tenths quicker than anyone else. Axel Slijepcevic was impressive in second with regular front-runners Darri Simms, Owen Jenman and Chris Brown next up. Pete O’Connor, making a one-off appearance, was sixth. It was a slightly disappointing run for the likes of Eddie Hall, Greg Barnard and Geoff Saunderson who managed only tenth, eleventh and fourteenth respectively and had their work cut out for them to get good results in the race.

It was sure to be a close race with the top eighteen drivers covered by less than a second on a circuit where even the smallest disparity in the karts can make or break your day. With a full grid of thirty-five karts, the performance was epic.

Race 1

The leaders all got away in grid order. Chris Brown suffered dramas on the opening lap and dropped from fifth to tenth. Greg Barnard, Eddie Hall and Nuno Costa all made good starts and made up places.

Over the next few laps, Jack O’Neill quickly started building up a healthy lead. This left Owen Jenman, Axel Slijepcevic, Richard Evans, Darri Simms, Eddie Hall and Mr finger wagger himself, Pete O’Connor all battling for second place. Jenman, Simms and Slijepcevic were battling hard in the early laps and swapping places lap after lap. Once O’Connor got past Hall, he joined the party and got past first Slijepcevic and then Simms. However, a failed lunge from Slijepcevic at the first hairpin spun O’Connor round, eliciting more gesticulation from the normally jocular O’Connor. Having never raced these clutched karts before, he evidently forgot you could restart the engine and lost a few places.

A few laps later and Slijepcevic and Simms went into the chicane side by side. That never works and Simms came off worse – going head first into the tyre wall. This left the three way battle for second between Jenman, Slijepcevic and Hall. Geoff Saunderson was now fifth having made good progress from a poor qualifying. Daryl Snelling and Mitchell Athasen were behind, with the recovering O’Connor closing fast.

Further down the order and Chris Brown was running a lap down having been handed a black flag for punting Pat Nicholls off the road. Back at the front, however, O’Neill was in a commanding position, having buoilt up a gap of over twenty seconds. Behind him, Slijepcevic and Jenman rubbed bumpers, which allowed Hall into third and Jenman down to fourth. However, cocking up his braking into the chicane on the penultimate lap cost Hall a certain third and allowed Jenman back past.

O’Neill came home nearly half a lap ahead of Slijepcevic. Jenman was third with Hall fourth. O’Connor did a good job to recover to fifth. It was a slightly disappointing race for the likes of Yasser Haneef and Mike Philippou, who finished in the mid field but there was still one more race to go and anything could happen.

Race 2

O’Neill once again made a good start from pole and led the field round the opening lap. Having found his feet in the first race, O’Connor made a good start to take fourth at the first corner, then despatching Slijepcevic and Jenman for second before the end of the first lap.

Tim Ellis was a first lap casualty but, at the front, the leading three immediately started pulling out a gap over the rest of the field. Slijepcevic was fourth and Hall fifth with the rest of the field falling gradually back.

O’Connor dived into the lead on lap twelve but O’Neill got it back two laps later, Jenman following him through into second. This battle raged on for most of the race. There were other great battles going on up and down the field too. Ben Hitch and Greg Barnard were duelling for eighth, Yasser Haneef and Sebastian Chodyko were having a tense battle for tenth. There was a good three-way battle between Mike Philippou, Ryan Sandall and Niall Tuohy.

Back with the leaders and Jenman got into the lead at half distance in what was turning into a thrilling battle between these three great drivers. Running within a couple of tenths of each other for the whole race, they continued to jostle for position. Over the last six laps, the lead changed several times as the three of them fought hard. Going into the last lap, O’Neill had the lead but O’Connor made a move stick and took the win by a mere tenth of a second from Jenman who had sneaked through. O’Neill came home a very close third in what was a thrilling battle. Axel Slijepcevic came home a distant fourth with Eddie Hall a couple of seconds further back in fifth but nearly ten seconds clear of the rest of the field.

Darri Simms and Chris Brown both did well to make up places from lowly grid positions. There were some notable performances by Yasser haneef, Sebastian Chodyko and Iain Mcgregor. Mitchell Althasen, Aymen Salih and Richard Evans all had a race to forget.

Final Result

Still, his win and third place gave the win yet again to Jack O’Neill. Pete O’Connor unsurprisingly was right up there and finished a credible second and Owen Jenman came home with the bronze. Frankly, it’s going to be hard to beat O’Neill and Jenman this year unless they start wagging their fingers to encourage rivals to follow them, in which case I’ll turn up at Whilton with some secateurs.