The Day Belongs To Michael Ballinger, With A First Win In Club100


Steve Gray
Heavyweight Sprint Championship 2018, Rd.4,

Warm weather at last for the Club’s return to Shenington after more than ten years absence. Shenington is one of the oldest Kart circuits in the country and is sited on the old perimeter road of the former RAF Edgehill the scene of early testing of the first jet aircraft which only just shaded the power of a Club100 Kart. And it clearly didn’t sound as good as it was known as the flying fart! One of the original members of the Kart club was also responsible for the introduction of Karts for hire. It’s a quick circuit with the start and finish line situated on Park straight which leads into Park bend, a quick left hander before braking into the long hairpin Cafe corner. Accelerate hard out of the corner and the flat out pits bend follows before the run into the top hairpin braking zone. Out of the corner and then down into the Bruno chicane followed by the long Hangar straight with its flat out right hander Hangar corner. Then it’s hard on the brakes for the Wilkins complex, a tight right hand hairpin followed by a left hander back onto Park straight. It’s a corner that’s very easy to overdrive. Get it wrong and you’re badly compromised heading onto the start and finish straight. The weather remained overcast but warm for the Lights, Heavies and Super Heavies sponsored by EssexFlatPack in the afternoon. But the wind had picked up just a little and there were some heavy clouds on the horizon which had many drivers anxiously scanning their phones for the weather forecast.

Qualifying
Dan Taylor set the bar on his first flying lap in Group 1 with a 53.057 but a lap later Miguel Hall stopped the clock on 52.999. But neither of them could go any faster and it was left to Mark Turner to set the quickest time with a 52.931. Trevor Randall was fourth and fastest SHW with a 53.084. Certainly back on form after his poor showing at Rye.

A faster Group 2 this one with Michael Ballinger the star of the show. His 52.424 was almost three tenths up on Martin Gurnett and gave him his first pole. Stuart Jones took third from Lennie Wood with Mike Bodnar next. All the top five posted sub fifty two second laps. Championship leader Nick Trafford was only ninth quickest and only just made it into the pre A Final. SHW sponsor Stuart Germon, resplendent in new eye catching white overalls and new helmet, was second from last. But still smiling.

HW/SHW Pre B Final

Keith Evans on pole from Ben Benneyworth with Wayne Dunham and Alexander Lammin on row two. Stephen Netting and Philip Charman on three from the first of the SHW’S Andrew Clarke on row four with Nima Oparver alongside. Second SHW Paul Goddard and Richard Burrows completed the first five rows. Four to move up to Pre A Final
Evans led the field away with Bennyeworth tucking in behind from Dunham whilst Netting got the better of Lammin to run fourth. Charman settled into sixth but down the pack it got a little feisty as the pack bunched up around the first few turns. Chris Scivier hauled himself up from grid fifteen to run seventh after two laps. But two laps later he was down to thirteenth. Germon made progress over the first couple of laps too only to drop a couple of spots before climbing into the top ten. The front five though were already pulling clear of the chasing pack. Evans still led but Dunham was into second at the expense of Benneyworth whilst Netting and Lammin continued to trade places for the final qualifying spot. Dunham felt the safest place for him was at the front and he slipped by Evans for the lead just before half distance. He steadily built a gap as Evans defended from Benneyworth whilst Netting and Lammin continued to battle it out. Benneyworth continued to attack Evans but it was slowing them both and Netting was closing having finally got the better of Lammin who wisely settled down and followed Netting for a few laps. It was a move which paid dividends. Benneyworth was now having to defend from Netting and duly succumbed. Fourth was good enough but he continued to try and win the place back when it might have been wiser to stay put. Lammin sensed an opportunity and slipped by on the penultimate lap to claim the final qualifying spot. Some seven seconds back Ben Johnson crossed the line sixth only to be penalised eight places after spinning Andrew Clarke to a halt. Chris Scivier was next after a topsy turvey race but he too was penalised four places this handing sixth to Germon. A strong race from him after starting near the back of the grid. He led home three other SHW’S, Paul Williams, Paul Goddard and Kieran Chidgzey.

HW/SHW Pre A Final

Ballinger on pole from Gurnett with Jones and Wood on row two. Bodnar and Turner on three from Hall and Taylor on four whilst Randall and Ben Cottle completed the first five rows. Ballinger failed to make the most of pole and by the end of the first lap he was down to third behind Jones and Gurnett with Bodnar fourth and dispelling the perception that he only comes alive when it’s wet. Wood ran fifth from Turner and Hall. Jones continued to lead pulling a couple of tenths on Gurnett with Ballinger half a second back and running in defensive mode from Bodnar, Wood and Turner. Hall was not out of the equation with Randall close behind. The two leaders were running just a few tenths clear of the battle for third and just beyond half distance we had a change. Bodnar challenged Ballinger but they both ran a little wide. Wood also got compromised and Turner was through into third. Randall too took advantage and was into sixth but only for a lap. Meanwhile Jones made a mistake at the chicane getting in just a little too deep. Gurnett moved up and took over three tenths out of the leader in one lap and took the lead. But Jones gathered himself together and slipped back into the lead a lap later. Two quicker laps saw him pull clear but Gurnett wasn’t done and came back at him. But it wasn’t enough. Jones crossed the line just 0.087 clear of Gurnett with Turner a few tenths back in third. He had Bodnar right on his tail over the last few laps but defended his position well. Ballinger came home fifth, well clear of sixth placed Hall. Wood was next. He’d come under attack from Seb Algieri and Steve Bosley in the latter stages both of whom had driven hard races up from lowly grid positions. Algieri set the fastest lap of the race and established a class record. Randall came home tenth and first SHW runner.

HW/SHW B Final

Pole for Benneyworth with Germon alongside followed by Paul Williams and Paul Goddard. Chidgzey and Scivier on row three from David Stirling and Jonathan McLeod whilst Charman Johnson completed the first five rows. Just two to qualify for the main event. Benneyworth led the field away on the still wet track but it was no longer raining. Germon lost out at the start dropping to fourth by the end of the first lap with Chidgzey up to second ahead of Williams. Goddard was fifth but over a second adrift of fourth placed Germon as he adjusted to the still wet track. Germon too was struggling for pace his inexperience in the wet showing. Benneyworth kept his head down at the front and began to pull steadily clear. Williams moved into second at the hairpin but Chidgzey was not going to give up the place without a fight. The front three were rapidly dropping Germon who was now being hunted down by Goddard. Charman too was closing in. Benneyworth continued to increase the gap at the front with Williams second but with Chidgzey still on his bumper and still in contention. Germon meanwhile lost out to Goddard at two thirds distance. He would drop another place to Charman on the final lap. Benneyworth took the win by nearly five seconds with Williams hanging on to second to take the final qualifying spot and guaranteeing himself at least third in the EssexFlatPack SHW class. Chidgzey just missed out but was some twelve seconds clear of fourth placed Goddard and set the fastest SHW time. Charman took fifth ahead of Germon with Oparver seventh. James, Johnson and Scivier completed the top ten.

HW/SHW A Final

Stuart Jones on pole from Martin Gurnett with Mark Turner and Mike Bodnar on row two. Michael Ballinger and Miguel Hall on row three from Lennie Wood and Seb Algieri on row four. Steve Bosley and leading SHW Trevor Randall on row five. The track was still damp but a dry line had appeared. Get off it though and the damp patches could be a factor. Jones got away cleanly from pole to lead unopposed round the first few corners but it was Ballinger who caught the eye. He was super aggressive over the opening lap to slot into second. Turner ran third with Gurnett dropping to fourth having run wide out of Cafe corner. Bodnar got compromised coming out of the top hairpin and lost momentum dropping back to ninth whilst Ben Cottle starting from grid twelve kept everything tidy to move up to fifth by the end of the first lap. Hall and Wood both slipped down the order as the field sorted itself out. Jones continued to lead from Ballinger with Turner third. But not for long as Cottle swept by on lap three. Gurnett remained fourth from Hall, Algieri and a rapidly recovering Bodnar. Jones was still hanging on at the front but just before half distance Ballinger set him up into the top hairpin. Jones defended but lost a little momentum on the tighter line and Ballinger swept by as they headed down into the Bruno chicane. Cottle remained third from Gurnett with Bodnar back up to fifth whilst Turner was hanging on to sixth from Algieri and Randall. Ballinger continued to lead but you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between him and the following Jones who kept pecking away trying desperately to find a way by. Cottle remained third but Gurnett was dropping away slightly and defending from Bodnar. Hall was back up to sixth as Turner fell away. Randall got ahead of Algieri and Bosley had moved himself up to join the fight. The day belonged to Ballinger though as he crossed the line to take his first ever win after eleven years of trying. The margin? A mere 0.086 from Jones. But both men had driven superbly. Cottle took third less than half a second behind the leaders. A great drive from him. Gurnett held off Bodnar for fourth and then a near seven second gap back to Hall with Randall seventh and taking the SHW honours. Algieri took eighth with Netting and Bosley completing the top ten. Bodnar set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour. Williams took the second podium position in the SHW division ahead of Jordan Salter.

Championship Round Up.
In the heavies Nick Trafford still leads the way despite a bad day at Shenington. He never seemed to get to grips with track and recorded his worst result of the season. Stuart Jones’s points haul did his chances no harm and was a welcome return to form whilst Seb Algieri couldn’t replicate his Rye form but remains well in touch in third. And neither Steve Bosley or Lennie Wood had great days but remain a factor.
In the EssexFlatPack.co.uk Super Heavies Trevor Randall remains top from Paul Williams and Jordan Salter.

Reflections
I don’t watch the film of the races until after I have written the reports but I then settle down to check how accurate I’ve been. Great coverage it is too. I was appalled to see in the Lightweight A Final one driver deliberately turn into another driver on the run down into Wilkins. It was move which was rightly criticised by the commentator. What on earth possesses a driver to deliberately attempt to drive a fellow competitor off the road? And this wasn’t an isolated incident despite JV’s warnings in the briefings regarding driving standards. This behaviour is infantile. It’s dangerous. It’s disrespectful to other drivers and to Club100. Thankfully the huge majority of drivers in the Club compete for enjoyment and respect each other both on and off the track. But there are a minority who just can’t bear to be beaten. Winners know how to win. But they also know how to lose. Anyone who thinks it’s OK to use a Kart as a weapon is seriously mentally deficient. They should seek help. There is no place for it within the Club. Similarly I just don’t get the mentality of people who think Karting is a contact sport. Yes, there will always be a certain amount of rubbing and sometimes drivers will make genuine errors of judgment but deliberately punting a fellow competitor off the track? Seriously? Club100 is a brilliant entity. I just hope that the idiot minority don’t spoil it for the majority. Let’s have some respect and behave like adults not spoilt children.
On a happier note wasn’t it great to see Michael Ballinger take his first win after eleven years of trying? After 582 races he finally gets to stand on the top step. Thoroughly deserved. He works so hard at his Karting. He tests; he competes in Endurance races and gets tuition from the Niki Richardson all with the aim of winning in the Sprints. And he’s a thoroughly nice bloke!
Ben Cottle too deserves a mention as he got his first ever podium. Another driver who rarely troubles the stewards but races hard and fair.
A great day at Shenington despite the antics of a few. On now to Glan-y-gors for Round five. If you’ve never been you’ve missed a treat. It’s a spectacular circuit with great facilities set in stunning scenery. Don’t miss out!

Words: Steve Gray

Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography