Steve Brown Back On Top Of Blake & Holmes Again, Joe Makes Way For Ed Barrs Podium


Chris Simpson
Elite Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.2,

After the lengthy early season break everyone was looking forward to getting back on track at the great Northamptonshire venue. Full grids too, unlike some series which are apparently struggling for numbers this year. Just goes to show what great value for money Club 100 is and how drivers love big grids and plenty of opportunities to race wheel to wheel. After Saturdays warm weather the expectation was for a warm Sunday but the awful spring weather had returned. Solid grey overcast, cold, and a stiff breeze snapping the flags from the south. Still, at least the morning was dry for the Elites and Clubman’s.

Heat 1

A full grid of the crème-de-crème of Karting with Jonathan Lisseter on pole from Jack Bolton with Steve Brown and Peter Harris on row two. Adam Wright and Dan Healey on row three the former having his first race of the season having moved up after winning the Heavyweight division in 2017. Ed Barrs and David Longman occupied row four with Chris Dixon and Robert Newman completing the top ten. Lisseter led the field away from the line with Bolton alongside and Brown looking to go down the inside into the first left hander. But suddenly Bolton was sideways on the grass. From my vantage point it was impossible to see what happened but the front row man was spinning towards the tyres on the wet grass and a long way off the circuit. He would eventually get going but finished a frustrated lap down whilst Lisseter was adjudged the aggressor and would suffer exclusion at the end of the race. He did of course carry on racing. Penalties do sometimes get overturned but this would not be one of those occasions. He accepted the decision with his usual good grace.

Lisseter led over the line at the end of the first lap with Brown in his wheel tracks from Wright, Barrs and Tom Dix who had moved up from grid eleven whilst Harris dropped to sixth ahead of Healey. With two run Brown was up to first but Lisseter wasn’t going to give up and a lap later was back at the front after slicing by the leader at the hairpin. Wright followed him through with Dix now into fourth ahead of Barrs. Lisseter continued to lead but it was far from processional with both Wright and Brown getting their noses briefly in front only for the status quo to remain at the end of the lap. With three to run though Brown was up to second on the road. He took the lead on the final lap round the outside of Christmas to lead Lisseter across the line with Dix third but promoted into second with Lisseter’s exclusion. Barrs was next just a couple of tenths adrift with Ian Blake fourth after a strong run up from grid fifteen. Fifth fell to Wright. A good result despite his race rust with Jay Elliott sixth. He too put in a strong drive from grid seventeen. Dixon was next after an eventful run. Newman crossed the line the line next having set the fastest lap of the race on the fourth tour. But he too took a penalty dropping him out of the top ten and promoting Healey into eighth ahead of 2018 Champion Joe Holmes. A fairly uneventful run from the Champion. Having started on grid twelve he’d remained twelfth for a couple of laps before slipping down to fourteenth. He picked up a few places mid race before getting bogged down in the pack. Ben Yarwood completed the top ten. Heat 2

Heat 2

Pole for Sam Spinnael with Rob Moore alongside and Ian Blake and Dan Truman on row two. Jay Elliott and Jack Harding on three, Stephen Hicks and Ben Yarwood on four and Daz Teal and Harrison Darvill completing the first five rows. Spinnael led the field across the line but as the field ran up towards Christmas corner Blake was already into second whilst Moore was getting shuffled down the order. By the end of the lap Blake was at the front and already pulling clear of Spinnael with Elliott up to third from Hicks, Truman, Teal and Moore who had suffered a torrid first lap. He would later comment just how hard it was in the Elites but he’s enjoying the challenge.

Immediately behind him was Steve Brown, up from grid fifteen, Harding, and Ed Barrs, up from grid nineteen. Yarwood had spun to the rear of the field. Blake continued to edge away at the front but Elliott was into second now with Hicks in attendance as Spinnael dropped to fourth. Teal’s fifth place was coming under serious threat from Brown with Truman next from a recovering Harding and Newman. Blake continued to lead but Hicks was putting serious pressure on Elliott and slipped by with four to go whilst Brown slipped by both Teal and Spinnael in the course of a lap, the latter also losing out to Teal although he would recover the place on the penultimate lap. Blake took the win by almost a second from Hicks with Elliott third. Brown took fourth and fastest lap. Spinnael was fifth from Teal with Newman next after a fine drive through the field from grid twenty two. Truman was next from Barrs with Harding rounding out the top ten.

Heat 3

Defending Champion Joe Holmes on pole with Pete O’Connor alongside. Tom Dix and 2017 Clubman’s Champion Harry Neale on row two and glad to be back in a Kart after missing the first round. Newman and Darvill next from Dixon and Teal with Longman and Yarwood completing the first five rows. Holmes and O’Connor got away cleanly with Holmes at the front but Dix spun away his chances in the first turn resuming at the rear of the field. The two leaders began to edge away with Neale third from Darvill and Teal whilst down the order Barrs and Elliott were making rapid progress. Then Teal got spun out of fifth, the victim of an over aggressive move from Newman which earned the latter a penalty. He would continue to race though and then picked up another penalty as he moved past Barrs, Darvill and Neale into third place! Holmes was coming under increasing pressure from O’Connor and had to cede the lead at Christmas corner on lap two. But he wasn’t about to give in easily and as they sped down to the off camber Ashby hairpin for the third time he dived to the inside. It looked a bit ambitious from where I was stood.

Contact was made and O’Connor was onto the grass. He kept it going though despite struggling to do so on the very wet and muddy infield. In fact, in so doing he did the reigning Champion a huge favour. Had he stopped Holmes four place penalty would have been upgraded to exclusion. All this allowed Newman into the lead with Holmes second and Barrs third. Neale was running fourth but Elliot’s fine run to fifth ended as he dropped back to fifteenth feeling that he had been impeded by Neale. The officials didn’t call it though. With two to go Newman still led but both Holmes and Barrs were with him. With one to go Holmes was at the front with Barrs next from Newman who fought back over the final tour to take second behind Holmes. Both though had penalties. Holmes took a four place deduction, his second of the day, for his clash with O’Connor whilst Newman was excluded. So Barrs took the win with Neale second. Blake was next having fought his way up from grid twenty with Darvill fourth ahead of the penalised Holmes. Dixon and Healey took the next two spots with Hicks eighth and setting the fastest lap two from home. Wright and Spinnael completed the top ten.

Final

Blake on pole from Barrs. Brown and Elliott on the second row from Healey and Hicks on three. Dixon and Wright next and Spinnael and Neale completing the first five rows. Blake made no mistake to lead from pole with Barrs, Brown, Elliott ,Healey and Hicks running line astern behind. Dixon, Wright and Spinnael all lost ground whilst Holmes moved up from grid eleven to seventh. But the man really on the move was Rob Newman climbing up from grid nineteen to eighth by the end of the first lap.

With two run it was as you were at the front but both Hicks and Holmes had got by Healey for fifth and sixth respectively. One quarter distance and a change at the front as Barrs took over the lead and Blake dropped to third behind Brown with Hicks fourth ahead of Elliott who had Holmes in close company and clearly intent on moving forward. Healey too was close at hand having fought back past Newman. Two thirds distance and Brown was through into the lead courtesy of a move round Barrs at Christmas. Blake too took advantage to move closer and was up into second a lap later with Hicks now running third ahead of Barrs and Holmes. Brown though wasn’t going to be denied the win despite pressure from Blake. He duly crossed the line just over six tenths ahead to take his first win of the year and his first in over a year. Barrs came home an excellent third for his best result in awhile with Holmes fourth.

With one to go Healey had been running fifth but a last lap shuffle saw him pushed down to tenth with Hicks into a much deserved fifth. Elliot took sixth with Spinnael seventh, and taking the Rookie honours, whilst Newman came home eighth and Wright a very happy ninth. Lisseter set the fastest lap.

Championship Standings

Its early days of course but with Rye next up and only two weeks away a quarter of the season will soon have slipped by. In the Elites Steve Brown takes over at the top with Joe Holmes next from Ian Blake. Jay Elliott and Stephen Hicks are fourth and fifth in what is shaping up to be an epic Championship battle.

Reflections

Will the weather ever warm up? Won’t it be great if the next round at Rye is blessed with warm dry conditions? Unless your Mike Bodnar of course. What a stunning performance in the wet. Just ponder for a moment where he might have finished had he not taken out himself and Paul Williams in the early heats. A sure fire winner. But he doesn’t take my very unofficial award for driver of the day largely because of his error. That award goes to Tim Hill. Pole and two Final wins. It doesn’t get any better. And he becomes the oldest ever driver at sixty to stand at the top of a Club 100 podium. We think. I actually think he may have broken his own record here having won at Red Lodge in 2015. Inspirational. In the Elites Steve Brown looked back to his more relaxed self in the seat than in the latter part of last year when he appeared to have slightly altered his driving style. Reigning Champion Joe Holmes didn’t have the greatest of days but he’ll bounce back I’m sure.

Thanks as usual to all the marshals and staff at Whilton Mill and of course the Club 100 staff who work so hard to make everything run smoothly. And our grateful thanks to all the sponsors, Dartford Karting, G3Pro and EssexFlatPack.co.uk.

As I arrived at the circuit on Sunday news broke that Andy Cowell, aka Mutley, had finally decided to call it day after nigh on twenty years of competition citing the amount of time it takes to recover after each event (old age ). He has been suffering with a sore neck after racing for sometime (it does have to support a lot of weight) and consequently his enjoyment and commitment has suffered to the extent that he is no longer enjoying driving. At that’s as good a reason as any to stop. He’s had a good career in Club 100 the highlight probably being a Final win some seasons ago in the Elite class as well as several Endurance wins. There is I don’t believe any truth in the rumour that he has accrued the most penalties of any driver in the history of Club 100 although I well remember him getting away with one at Fulbeck many seasons ago when he eased a ‘’young’’ Rookie driver off the circuit and into a corn field causing severe damage to the Rookie’s Kart. Or the time at Rye when the same Rookie was about to move into the lead after a pile up at the first hairpin only to be rudely T boned. The race was stopped. I believe the words were ‘’just couldn’t let you lead, you might have won’. Such fond memories. His advice to many a young driver and newcomer to the Club though has been invaluable and appreciated by many particularly over the last few years. A far cry from his words to me when I first started. ‘’Keep out of my way or I’ll have you off’’. Despite this though I am proud to call him my friend and his sunny countenance will certainly be missed around the paddock. God bless you Andy!

See you all at Rye!