Rob Newman On A Roll As Reigning Champion Joe Holmes Feels The Pressure


Steve Gray
Elite Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.10,

A cold day again at Clay with a stiff wind blowing from the west. But at least the rain held off. As the Championships get to the sharp end of the season the tension is beginning to ratchet up nicely. Clay always produces great racing and Sunday was no exception. The cooler weather played its part too with drivers complaining about a lap of grip, a factor which did help to cause a few incidents as drivers became a little over ambitious at times on the short but quick track. The long right handed Billy’s Blind at the end of the long curving start and finish straight proved yet again that being on the outside isn’t the greatest of places to start. As Billy’s unwinds it leads into the Esses chicane, a quick right left before heading down the back straight into the into Hann’s Hairpin followed by a short run into another hairpin, The Horseshoe. After this a right hander, Buttons, a short straight and then into the right-handed Top Bend which opens out onto the long start and finish straight.

Heat 1

Jack Bolton on pole from Steve Hicks with David Longman and Harry Neale on row two. Jay Elliott and Daz Teal shared row three from Rob Newman and Dan Truman whilst Lightweight O’Plate Champion Pete O’Connor and heavyweight O’Plate winner Jack Harding, running with OO plates, completed the first five rows. Bolton led the field down to first corner but Hicks got pushed wide and would emerge in fourth from the Esses behind a fast starting Elliott and Longman. Neale was an early spinner whilst Teal, Truman and Harding, all starting from the even side of the grid dropped back. At the front Elliott was pressing Bolton hard and by the end of lap two was through into the lead chased by Longman. Newman was moving up and was ahead of Hicks after four laps. Elliott steadily began to pull clear at the front with Longman second from Bolton who had Newman pressing him hard and Hicks was only a couple of lengths back waiting to profit from any errors. O’Connor too was in the mix.

Newman finally made it by Bolton for third and quickly began to close in on second placed Longman. In the space of a couple of laps Bolton dropped from third to sixth and was coming under pressure from a recovering Teal who took a lunge down the inside at the Horseshoe spinning the unfortunate Bolton to a stop. Luckily for Teal the move went un-spotted and he would apologise post race to the luckless Bolton. Elliott took the win with Newman second having taken the spot on the penultimate lap. Longman held onto third from a closing O’Connor with Hicks next across the line but penalised a spot for cone abuse thus promoting the very fortunate Teal to fifth. Hicks did have the satisfaction of setting the fastest lap and establishing a class record. Truman was next from Harding who drove well to recover after dropping to thirteenth early in the race. Tom Dix was ninth from Neale with Rob Moore and Steve Crutchley next up the latter making a welcome return to Club 100.

Heat 2

Harding on pole from Dix with Moore and Ed Barrs on the second row. Row three had Holmes and Healey alongside each other with Crutchley and Pete Harris on row four and Chris Dixon and Jack Bolton on row five. Harding got off to a flyer whilst Dix was another to lose out from a front row spot as the field rounded the first turn. He would end the lap in fifth. Moore followed Harding through the first turns to run in second ahead of Holmes with Barrs and Healey both stating out of trouble in fourth and fifth. Behind these though it all got a bit chaotic. Crutchley, Bolton and Dixon all got badly delayed with the latter colliding with Longman as he tried to retain his place. Longman came to a halt and Dixon would suffer the inevitable exclusion post race. Neale, Dan Truman, Teal, Newman and O’Connor all made up places as the field sorted itself out.

With two laps run Harding led from Moore, Holmes and Dix whilst Barrs dropped to sixth behind Healey. Neale was next from Teal, Hicks and Newman. Harding led, a few lengths clear of the pack but Holmes was intent on second. He dived to the inside of Moore as they entered the top bend but his move was just a little over ambitious and he made contact with Moore forcing him wide. Dix and Healey both went by the unfortunate Moore who did well to hold everything together, regaining the track fifth. A lap later and Holmes went by the leader but Harding had noted the penalty for Holmes on the Digi-Board at the start/finish gantry and didn’t try to hard to defend. Holmes immediately began to pull clear and would break the lap record with two to run. But after his penalty he had to be content with fifth. Behind him the order remained static but Newman was closing in. With three to go he was up to fifth and on the penultimate lap he made it third. A great drive after starting on the penultimate row. Harding was too far clear in second though which became first after Holmes penalty with Newman promoted to second ahead of Dix and Moore, both drivers benefitting from Holmes demotion. Barrs was sixth with Neale seventh after demoting Healey down to eighth on the final lap. O’Connor and Teal completed the top ten.

Heat 3

Pole for O’Connor from Dixon with Truman and Harris sharing row two. Newman and Crutchley on three from Teal and Healey on four and Elliott and Holmes on five. O’Connor led the field away with Dixon tucked in behind but Truman was sideways as the pack bunched up heading into the Esses. Crutchley took evasive action and dropped back. Healey too got knocked sideways and an unsighted Holmes ran over the front of Healey’s Kart and spun to a halt. O’Connor crossed the line at the end of the lap a few lengths clear of Dixon who had Newman closing in. Harris remained fourth but was coming under pressure from Teal with Elliott next from Barrs, Moore and Dix. O’Connor continued to lead and was pulling clear by a few lengths as Dixon defended from Newman. Behind these Harris and Teal were hard at it with Elliott waiting to profit from any error. Newman took a couple of laps to find his way by Dixon but once he did he quickly homed in on the leader. Harris and Teal swapped places a couple of times but as they squabbled Elliott moved in and took them both.

And Barrs, running seventh, was closing in. O’Connor at the front now had Newman on his bumper and wisely didn’t defend the place too hard as Newman took the lead. Newman immediately began to pull clear and would set the fastest lap of the race two from home and establish a new class record. O’Connor kept his head down and kept in touch but was never going to get close enough to challenge the flying Newman. Both were well clear of Dixon who now had Barrs closing in whilst Elliott and Teal disputed fifth. Newman took the win to set himself up on pole for the final with O’Connor second. Dixon took third from Barrs with Elliott next from Teal. Next up was Moore who was well clear of Dix in eighth. Hicks should have been ninth but had been penalised early in the race and dropped four places promoting Harding to ninth and Bolton to tenth.

Final

Newman on pole from O’Connor with Elliott and Harding on row two. Row three, Dix and Teal with Moore and Barrs on four. Hicks and Neale completed the first five rows. Newman led the field down into the first turn but O’Connor suffered the curse of the outside starting slot getting forced wide round the corner and into the Esses. With nowhere to go he ran across the grass emerging in eighth. Elliott slotted into second ahead of Dix and Harding with Holmes next. Having started on grid twelve it was a phenomenal first lap but sadly not without incident as he had hit Longman on the way by and was penalised. Moore had kept out of trouble to run sixth ahead of Hicks and O’Connor. Newman continued to pull clear and set the fastest lap of the race on the sixth tour. Elliott was running in a lonely third. Just off the pace of the leader but well clear of the battle for third. Dix headed a line of Karts a few lengths clear of Holmes and Harding who were separated by inches each time they crossed the line with O’Connor just out of touch in sixth.

Dix had had something of a respite from the Holmes/Harding battle but once Holmes broke free he immediately closed in on Dix finally taking him three from home. But again it wasn’t a clean pass resulting in another four place penalty. Not his best race. Newman took the win just over three seconds up on Elliott who was in turn over three seconds clear of Holmes. But Holmes double penalty dropped him to eleventh and handed third to Harding who had got by Dix on the penultimate lap. Hicks was next across the line having taken both Dix and O’Connor on the final lap but it was not without contact on Dix and he was penalised down the order to eighth. Moore was next over the line but penalised a couple of spots for track limits dropping him to seventh behind Longman who also benefited from a two place deduction to Neale who was classified ninth ahead of Bolton.

Round Up

A bad day for Championship leader Joe Holmes in the Elites. His lead in the standings is now down to nine points after Rob Newman took his third Final win in a row. A good time to run into a rich vane of form. Its going to be a very intense final two rounds. Jay Elliott is third from Ian Blake with Daz Teal fifth but a long way back.

Reflections

There was some very hard racing at Clay and the Observers had much to occupy them. It’s a tough job but as always they handled the pressure superbly well. I was a little taken aback though by the attitude of some spectators who think it’s acceptable to abuse and gesticulate at officials if they think a decision hasn’t gone the way they think it should. It’s infantile and pointless.
Three out of the four Championship leaders had bad days at Clay which has left the Championships finely poised as we head for the final two rounds of the season. Hang on to your hats because it’s going to be a very exciting run in.
See you at Whilton!

Words: Steve Gray

Library Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography