Saving The Best ’til Last. Browning Might Disagree, Hands Championship Lead To Mark Ridout


Chris Simpson
Heavyweight Sprint Championship 2017, Rd.5, Super-Heavyweight Sprint Championship 2017, Rd.5,

Hello from Ellough! Steve Gray reports on what a great facility this has evolved into over the years. Built on the site of Britain’s most easterly Second World War aerodrome it’s fast and twisty giving plenty of overtaking opportunities and has great on site facilities for both Karters and spectators. If you were at track level at the weekend the weather was fine and warm but get up higher on the spectator gantries and the wind was really whipping across the circuit. Didn’t affect the racing though!

Qualifying – Group 1

Second in the Championship Mark Ridout threw down the gauntlet early to Championship leader James Browning setting the fastest time on his second flying lap with a 51.843. Indeed he was the only driver to break the fifty two second mark. Browning tried hard but would ultimately finish just 0.168 adrift. Adam Wright was next up and he came mightily close to beating Browning missing out by just 0.060. Ben Bennyworth was fourth quickest a couple of tenths shy of Wright and just 0.058 ahead of Robert Stapleton who had Martin Gurnett just 0.014 behind. Seventh went to Rookie Nick Robinson who was having his first ever outing in Club 100. And he was only 0.051 adrift of the much more experienced Gurnett who is no slouch in a Kart. James Edwards, Chris James and Steve Bosley completed the top ten with Pete Gillett the fastest of the Super Heavies.

Group 2

No one managed to break the fifty two second mark. Eric Mignon, having a rare sprint outing was initially quickest setting his fastest time on his first flying lap before Michael Ballinger usurped him by just 0.011. But Anthony Harrington was really flying beating both their times and finally setting his best on his last lap. Mathew Forkes was next just 0.029 adrift whilst Paul Williams took fifth a mere 0.013 away from Forkes and just 0.006 ahead of David Storey who was himself only 0.007 ahead of Mike Bodnar. Jon Gooch was 0.019 behind in eighth and only 0.011 in front of ninth placed Adam Brown. Andrew Cherry completed the top ten with James Johnstone the fastest Super Heavy. But where would they all sit on the grid for the first of the finals?

Pre B Final

Townsley on pole from Burrows with Gillett and Cherry on two from Lammin and Salter. As the grid formed up Paul Goddard managed to spin but was quickly back up to speed catching the pack as they exited the long right hander before the start. To his delight there was a huge gap down the left hand side of the circuit and he exploited it to the full emerging from the first corner in eleventh! At the front Townsley got a great start as Burrows, Gillett and Cherry almost tripped each other up. By the end of the first lap Townsley was almost two seconds clear of the field. A huge margin.

Barring incident or malfunction this was clearly his race. Sadly for him coming down into the pit exit hairpin for the second time he lost control and spun to a halt. He resumed last and although he did have the satisfaction of setting the fastest lap of the race he would eventually finish down in thirteenth. Burrows took over at the front with Gillett second from Cherry and Salter fifth ahead of Lammin. Goddard was continuing to charge and was looking very aggressive through the very fast left hander opposite race control. With four laps run Cherry had taken over in second but as they went down to the tight hairpin at the bottom of the circuit Gillett made a move and as Cherry ran wide on the exit Lammin moved through as well. And coming up to them very quickly was Hollingsworth. Having started seventh he’d dropped a couple of places early on before finding his rhythm. Half distance and Burrows still led from Gillett, Lammin, Cherry, Hollingsworth and Goddard. Hollingsworth and Cherry were really going at it for the final qualifying position.

With Cherry defending hard Hollingsworth had a grassy moment before snatching fourth only for Cherry to grab the place back a lap later. Burrows continued to lead from Gillett and Lammin whilst Hollingsworth was back up to fourth after a lunge into turn two. Lammin was now coming under pressure from Hollingsworth and Cherry and as they came into the pit exit hairpin for the last time Hollingsworth dived to the inside for place. Lammin ran wide and Cherry was through as well! Burrows took the flag from Gillett who then found himself demoted to third for cone abuse. So Hollingsworth took second with Cherry fourth leaving the rest of the field to fight it out in the B final for the two extra A final slots.

Pre A final

Ridout on pole for this one with Browning alongside. Wright and Bennyworth on row two with Harrington and Stapleton on three from Gurnett and Robinson on four. Ballinger and Mignon occupied row five. Ridout led the field across the line and they all made it through the first turns without incident. By the end of the lap it was as you were for the leaders but Stapleton had moved ahead of Harrington for fifth. Gurnett and Robinson were next up. Ballinger, Mignon and Edwards all had a scruffy first lap but Chris James had a phenomenal start moving into the top ten before the end of the lap from grid sixteen. Sadly he didn’t make it to the end of the lap as Forkes tripped him up at the pit lane exit hairpin. Forkes would receive a six place penalty. The leaders continued to run line astern but with three laps run Browning sensed an opening and braked very late for the right hander at the pit lane entrance. He made it stick too. A good clean move. But there was a long way to go. Browning led for a couple of tours but only just as he had to defend from a very determined Ridout. And both Wright and Bennyworth were close at hand ready to profit if the leaders clashed.

Half distance and Browning just ran a touch wide out of the first turn. It was enough for Ridout who slipped by into the second turn taking Wright with him. Ridout eked out a couple of Kart lengths lead as Wright defended robustly from Browning. Over the last few laps Browning dropped back before coming back at Wright and setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap. It wasn’t enough though. Ridout took the win by just over half a second from Wright with Browning having to settle for third ahead of Bennyworth and Harrington. Gurnett was next with Robinson classified eighth after Forkes penalty. Mignon and Ballinger completed the top ten.

B Final

Just two places up for grabs for the A final. Townsley was on pole and hoping not to make the same error as in his last race. Super Heavyweight Johnstone was alongside him from Lewis and Stevens. Townsley led the field into the first turn and Johnstone settled in behind him. Lewis however lost out badly slipping back to sixth behind Stevens, Lammin and very fast starting Kemplen. The two leaders though were in a class of their own and rapidly built a cushion to the chasing pack. Johnstone held station in second setting fastest lap in the Super Heavies in the process whilst Townsley set the fastest lap of the race just after half distance. Johnstone never seriously threatened the leader. He had no need to, second being good enough to promote him to the A final later in the afternoon. By the flag the two leaders were over seven seconds clear. But those behind were still battling hard. Lots of pride at stake! Stevens, Lammin, Kemplen and Lewis were running line astern. Well at least across the line.

All round the lap there were overtaking attempts being made but across the line the order remained the same. And Salter was closing in. Lammin was already carrying a penalty after his rude shove on Lewis early in the race. For Lewis the day would get even worse as Salter assaulted him at the hairpin and spun him to a halt. The unfortunate Lewis would finish dead last whilst the subsequent six place deduction for Salter would see him classified second from last. Despite his lowly finish Ray Lewis made a good fist of it in his first Club 100 sprint. Clarke finished third after a fabulous final lap saw him make up three places. Lammin was next across the line but penalised down to sixth and promoting Stevens into fourth whilst Kemplen would have been fifth but was excluded after the race for being underweight! Cresdee took fifth. Goddard was seventh ahead of first timer Matt Goodyer. A good effort this too. He was certainly not overawed.

A Final

The final race of the day. Browning on pole from Ridout with Harrington and Bennyworth on row two. Forkes and Wright on three from Edwards and Mignon on four with Robinson and Ballinger on row five. Browning led the field across the line but it was Ridout who made the better start to lead into the first turn and up the back straight into turn two. Browning behind though was carrying unbelievable pace and drove round the outside to lead into turn three. So unsettled was Ridout that Bennyworth moved by into second. Mignon was up to fifth from grid eight whilst Forkes dropped back down to eighth. Wright and Edwards were running sixth and seventh. Browning led but wasn’t getting away.

Ridout meanwhile caught Bennyworth napping at the final hairpin and moved back up to second. For lap after lap the order remained static among the top ten save for Robinson moving ahead of Edwards mid race. But it was absorbing stuff as Ridout tried every which way to break down Brownings dogged defence. Time after time Ridout would try down the outside leading into the pit exit hairpin. Several times he was half a Kart in front but always on the wrong line and Browning was able to hold him off. And Bennyworth was right with them both. Every so often he would have a look a little peek at Ridout but always he was just too far back to take the risk. Forkes meanwhile, running in seventh, did get by Wright but not without contact. He too would immediately give the place back. Into the last lap and a few spots of rain began to fall. Browning led. In its own way this had been an epic race. Round the flat out left hander for the final time and the leader ran a fraction wide.

Was it the wet? Down into the pit lane entrance complex he defended hard and was off line and losing momentum. Down into to the pit lane exit hairpin and Ridout was ahead and on the inside. But he got in too deep and Browning was back in front. Into the final hairpin for the last time with Browning ahead but suddenly his machine snapped round and he was stationary. So Ridout crossed the line for a famous win to screams of delight from his watching girlfriend. Bennyworth took second with Wright third after taking Mignon on the penultimate lap. Forkes took fifth having also slipped by Mignon with Robinson a superb seventh in his first Club 100 meeting. He also set fastest lap. The only driver to break the fifty two second mark with a 51.906. Edwards was next with Gurnett and Brown completing the top ten. James Johnstone was the Super Heavyweight class winner.

The Championship

Despite his unfortunate end to the day James Browning remains at the top of the leader board. James was quite philosophical after the race and fully accepted that he had made a mistake. Mark Ridout remains second in the Championship. He was absolutely spent after the race and full of praise for the way James had defended first place. But he was so chuffed to have won. Adam Wright is third.

Reflections

What a great days racing. The weather might not have been outstanding but it didn’t detract from a great event. Some fine drives, great sportsmanship and it was good to see family members getting behind their drivers in a good way. I wasn’t able to speak with the lightweight newcomers but I did catch up with two of the heavyweights. Nick Robinson put in great performance and is hoping to be back as is Mat Goodyer whose family were cheering him on from the grandstand. Brother Dan tells me he’s quicker that Mat and is hoping to compete when he loses a kilo or two. Wonder if Mat agrees?
Our thanks to all the staff at Ellough Park for running a fine venue and supplying first class marshalls. And thanks too to all the Club 100 officials who do such a great job. And lets not forget the Kart technicians whose hard work and dedication we sometimes forget. Kart preparation is second to none.
Lastly our congratulations to Elite driver Ian Blake who gets married next weekend. All the very best wishes from everyone. Just don’t forget Ian that Club 100 comes first….

See you all at Clay !!