Rainmeister Master Class From Mike Bodnar To Win, But Ridout Moves To Champs Lead
Back to Clay for the second time this season and the Championships are really beginning to heat up reports Steve Gray. Joe Holmes leads the way in the Elites but will a resurgent Steve Brown continue his return to form in the defence of his title. Or will Ian Blake upset them both? In the Lights will Darri Simms get back on the top step of the podium or will Liam Cochrane continue his run of form. And lets not forget Lydd winner Christopher Bell. Probably the driver under the least pressure and it may well work to his advantage. In the Clubman class can anyone stop Harry Neale? Pietro Pagano reckons the Championship is Harry’s to lose but Harry was missing from the entry list at Clay so it was up to Pietro to produce a good result and keep up the pressure. But there’s many a slip between cup and lips. And in the heavies James Browning was back after missing Lydd because of family commitments. Could he stave off the rapidly advancing challenge from Mark Ridout and Adam Wright? Having had a beautiful sunny Saturday for the Endurance round the Sprint series arrived to find the circuit awash and a very stiff wind blowing from south to north across the circuit. The rain was a fine drizzle which never stopped all through the event. Days like these often throw up surprise results as the heavier drivers gain better grip. Here’s how the day unfolded. Into the afternoon for the Lightweights and Heavyweights and Superheavyweights and still the rain continued to fall and the wind blow. The rain wasn’t heavy. It was just a fine drizzle but it never let up keeping everything well wet and the wind made everything so much worse.
For much of the Group 1 session it looked as though the two veterans, Andy Cowell and Tim Hill were going to be heading the times but despite improving their times over the final lap it was Adam Wright who just shaded it edging out Cowell by just 0.004. Championship leader James Browning was next up. Having missed the last round he admitted that he badly needed a good result to fend off the mounting threat from Mark Ridout who was in the second group. Andrew Clarke was the fastest SHW.
SHW Nick Trafford was an early front runner in Group 2 before Anthony Harrington topped the order. But not for long. Previous Clay winner Steve Bosley was languishing down the order before moving up to third but it was Mark Ridout who finally topped the order on his penultimate lap. He was the only driver to break the fifty five second barrier. Paul Williams was fourth quickest with Trafford the leading SHW.
Pre B Final
Mike Bodnar on pole from Paul Goddard with Lennie Wood and Gerard Moore on row two. Peter Hobbs and Craig Rankine shared row three from Alexander Lammin on four and Robert Stapleton and Jordan Salter on five. Top four to qualify for the Pre A final. Would we see the front runners settle into a rhythm and not challenge each other too hard? Not a chance. Bodnar led the pack away but Goddard lost out as Hobbs moved up to second from grid five. Wood remained third but Moore fared badly dropping back to seventh. Bodnar continued to lead but Wood was intent on second and slipped by Hobbs only for Hobbs to reclaim the place a lap later. Hobbs then managed to pull out a couple of lengths whilst Goddard remained fourth with Moore now back up to fifth.
Half distance and Hobbs took over at the front with Wood now beginning to fall further adrift but on his own as Goddard and Moore battled over the final qualifying place. Bodnar moved back in front of Hobbs with four to run and Hobbs wisely settled for second realising that he and Bodnar were now well clear of Wood in third and safely into the Pre A Final. Not so Goddard and Moore however who fought hard over fourth before Moore finally got ahead on the penultimate lap. Bodnar crossed the line just over half a second up on Hobbs with the two of them almost twelve seconds up on third placed Wood who was well clear of fourth placed Moore with Goddard just missing out.
Pre A Final
Ridout on pole from Harrington with Bosley and Wright on row two from Cowell and Williams on row three. Leading SHW Trafford on four with Hill and Cottle and Gurnett completing the top ten. Ridout led the field down to the first turn but as the field sped down the back straight it was Cowell into second from Williams with Harrington in fourth whilst Bosley spun away his chances of a good finish.
Trafford too fell back as Championship leader Browning attempted to move forward. The digi board though was showing a penalty for 46, Cowell. Most thought it for a jumped start but he had been adjudged to have tapped Harrington as he moved into second on the first corner. A little harsh perhaps but then he does have a reputation. I’ve not forgotten Fulbeck 2000. Ridout continued serenely at the front and was pulling clear of the Cowell, Williams and Harrington battle for second. Half distance and Williams had gone missing having spun out. He would later claim that it was down to Cowell slowing suddenly in front of him. All this promoted Hill up to third with Mark Turner fourth having started twelfth. Wright was hanging on in fifth just ahead of Browning who was trying all he knew to get by. Ridout continued to pull ever further away as Cowell remained in second over a second clear of third placed Hill whilst Wright got back ahead of Turner who fell briefly behind Browning before reclaiming the spot.
Ridout crossed the line over nine seconds to the good with Cowell next to finish on the road but penalised down to fifth thus handing the place to Hill who slipped ahead of Wright on the final lap. Turner was next with Stuart Jones in sixth. A really fine drive this coming up from grid twenty. Browning was a disappointed seventh with Bodnar eighth. Another performance worthy of note, the Pre B Final winner having fought his way up from grid twenty one. Harrington finished ninth with Michael Ballinger completing the top ten.
Just two qualifiers for the main event from the fourteen runners. Rankine on pole from Super Heavy Gillett with Stapleton and Clarke on row two. Goddard and Lammin on three from Green and Germon on four with Storey and Townsend completing the top ten. Again the field got away cleanly and by the end of the lap Rankine led from Gillett with Stapleton third. Clarke had lost out dropping to seventh behind Goddard, Green and Lammin.
A lap later and Green was into fourth chased by Lammin. With three laps run Stapleton made it up to second whilst Rankine continued to pull away at the front. Then Lammin got ahead of Green and began to pressure Gillet for third. Gillett then spun out and Lammin began to chase down Stapleton for second. Rankine was way up the road and would eventually take the win by almost seven seconds. With two to go Lammin was on Stapletons bumper and quickly by into second. He quickly pulled away too to take the second qualification place.
Mark Ridout on pole from Turner with Bodnar third from leading Superheavy Trafford. Row three, Cottle and Wright from Jennings and Hill on four with Wood and Ballinger completing the top ten. The final start of the day and once again the field got away cleanly. Bodnar made a superb start and was ahead as the field exited the chicane for the first time.
Poleman Ridout challenged hard but ran a little wide and Turner moved into second. Trafford lost out and slipped back to eighth allowing Cottle into fourth ahead of Jennings, Hill and Wright. Bodnar continued to set the pace and was pulling a gap from Turner who had Ridout close behind and Looking to move forward whilst Jennings moved into fourth with Hill and Wright behind as Cottle dropped to seventh. Down the order Championship leader Browning was making up ground moving inside the top ten. Ridout homed in on Turner and duly moved ahead with six laps run. Bodnar though looked comfortable at the front but coming down the back straight for the tenth time the yellows were being waved at the hairpin. Bodnar slowed but Ridout didn’t and the gap closed dramatically. But not by enough and Bodnar quickly responded to pull clear again by a few Kart lengths. Jennings was into third at the expense of Turner with Hill just behind in fourth and setting the fastest lap of the race.
Browning had got up to sixth but he was too far adrift to trouble the leaders over the final laps. Bodnar reeled off the remaining laps to take the win by just under a second from Ridout with Jennings taking the final podium spot. Hill took fourth just ahead of Turner with Browning a lonely sixth. Ballinger was seventh ahead of the leading Superheavy Trafford with Cottle and Cowell completing the top ten.
Podiums and Championship standings
According to JV the last time Mike Bodnar stood on the podium the former had hair. I suspect it was even further back in time. Nevertheless it was a great win and a hugely popular one too.
Mark Ridout’s second place moves him to the top of the standings ahead of James Browning who needs a sharp return to his early season form. Stephen Jennings third place was his second podium in a row. I wonder where he would have been had he raced all season. Adam Wright remains third in the standings ahead of Tim Hill and Anthony Harrington.
The weather at Clay was truly awful and played a big part in some of the results. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many smiling drivers. It may have been wet, windy and cold but the majority of drivers certainly enjoyed themselves. There was some very good driving too in the tricky conditions and surprisingly few penalties. As always the organisation was slick and the marshals did a great job. Not easy for them in the rubbish weather. Next on the calendar is Red Lodge. I’ve never been. Some drivers like it, some don’t so we shall see. You can’t beat a bit of variety though.
See you there!