Tremendous Win For James Taylor As David Whitehouse Can’t Hang On To A First Win


Steve Gray
Clubman 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.

Heat 1
Jon Watkins led the field away from pole but by the end of the lap Andrew Dawson was up into second as front row starter Stuart Jones fell back to fourth behind a quick starting Stephen Jennings, up from fifth. Simon Lloyd and Mark Ridout both lost out dropping to ninth and tenth from fourth and sixth on the grid. Christopher Powell was an early spinner. Tim Hill was into sixth. The heavyweight front runner had elected to race in Clubman’s for one round as the afternoons racing clashed with a prior engagement. The driver who really caught the eye was David Whitehouse. Very aggressive over the first laps and looking to build on his Whilton success he was into fifth by the end of the lap having started on grid ten. Watkins, Dawson and Jennings quickly settled into a rhythm but Osborn was coming under increasing pressure from Whitehouse who had Hill right on his bumper ready to capitalise on any errors. Half distance and Whitehouse was up to fourth with Hill taking a further lap to usurp Osborn. Watkins was hanging on at the front but it seemed only a matter of time before Dawson would grab the lead. And so it proved, Dawson hitting the front with three to go. In the space of a lap Watkins was down to fourth as both Whitehouse and Hill swept by him and Jennings. Whitehouse’s second place lasted but a lap as he left Hill too much room into the top hairpin. Hill defended the position on the exit and set off in pursuit of the leader. But he couldn’t quite make up the ground. Dawson took the win by just 0.058 from the flying Hill with Whitehouse a few tenths back in third. Watkins came fourth, having dropped to fifth on the penultimate lap before fighting back, with Jennings fifth. Ridout took sixth. He was with the leading the pack but could never quite get on terms. Lloyd was next from Martin Theodorou who set the fastest lap of the race and established a class record. Henry Jackson and Stuart Osborn completed the top ten with the top nine covered by less than two seconds.

Heat 2
Powell and Frankie Hedges on the front row from Luke Hornsby and Jackson. Hedges got a bit too eager as the field crossed the line but his two place penalty was quickly negated as he was a first lap spinner relegating him to the rear of the rear of the field. Powell was quickly into his stride with Hornsby up to second. Jackson slipped back with William Topp up to third from James Taylor and Stefan Scully. Powell and Hornsby continued to hang on at the front but Taylor and Scully were quickly by Topp for third and fourth with Mike Townley running fifth ahead of Topp. Scully was flying at this point and soon moved up to second ahead of Hornsby as Taylor dropped to fifth behind a recovering Topp. Jennings moved into sixth having started from grid fourteen whilst Whitehouse was also on the move. Having started on grid eighteen he made steady progress up to eighth and set the fastest lap of the race on the seventh tour. It also established a class record. Meanwhile at the front Powell was coming under pressure from Scully the latter diving ahead at the hairpin and into a lead he would never relinquish. Behind these two Taylor was staging a comeback and was into third at the start of the final lap with Jennings into fourth ahead of Hornsby. Scully crossed the line first whilst Taylor grabbed second on the run to the flag. But Scully was found to be underweight and excluded from the results handing the win to Taylor and moving everyone up a place. Powell took third with Jennings next after a storming drive from grid fourteen. Hornsby was classified fourth from Topp with a clearly on form Whitehouse next. Lloyd, Townley, Hill and Ridout completed the top ten.

Heat 3
Whitehouse in pole position for the final heat with Scully alongside from James Martin and Taylor. Whitehouse made the most of pole to lead into the first corner but Scully was having to defend from Martin whilst Taylor lost out badly. By the end of the lap he was down to seventh. As Scully defended his position Whitehouse steadily began to open a gap. Theodorou was now into third as Martin dropped to fourth ahead of Ridout and Hill. Theodorou finally broke Scully’s robust defence and set off after the leader who was several Kart lengths up the road. Within a lap Theodorou had cut the gap from almost a second to less than four tenths. Coming down the Hangar straight the following lap he was alongside and through into the braking zone for Wilkins. Whitehouse would later say he just didn’t have the power to defend. But he stayed with the leader lapping almost as quick until the final two laps. Theodorou took the win by just over seven tenths and set the fastest lap of the race. The two of them were almost four seconds up the road from third placed Martin whilst Scully had to settle for fourth from a rapidly closing Ridout in fifth. Jackson was next after a strong run from grid twelve. Townley took seventh with Hill just behind but penalised down to twelfth promoting Hornsby to eighth from Topp and a disappointed Taylor.

Final
A first non computer generated pole for Whitehouse with Ridout alongside. Jennings and Theodorou on the second row from Hill and Hornsby. Martin and Taylor on row four with Topp and Dawson completing the top ten. Whitehouse made an excellent start to lead through the first two turns but it was a real dogfight for second as the pack sorted itself out. By the end of the lap the leader was a pulling clear with Theodorou into second but almost a second adrift with Ridout on his bumper. Jennings was fourth with Taylor fifth from Hornsby. Next time around and Whitehouse had the gap out to over one and a half seconds from Ridout with Taylor now into third whilst Theodorou had dropped to fourth and now over two seconds adrift of the leader. Three laps gone and Taylor was up to second but one point nine behind the flying Whitehouse. With four laps gone Whitehouse increased his lead by just a few hundredths. But then the gap began to erode. Hedges spun at the hairpin. The leader rightly raised his arm to warn the following pack. But he was very early with his signal. Perhaps he lost a little concentration but Taylor behind was suddenly visibly closer. Within a couple of laps the gap had shrunk to three tenths but then looked to stabilise. But Taylor closed by a tenth with four to go. A lap later and he hit the front. Could Whitehouse respond? Yes and no. He closed by almost a tenth with three to go then lost out by a tenth on the penultimate lap before closing by a few hundredths over the final lap. He could and perhaps should have won but lets not take anything away from Taylor who drove a tremendous race. Not just with his right foot but with his head using all his experience to take full advantage of the yellow flag situations. He did nothing wrong, just dealt with them better than Whitehouse. Dawson took what turned out to be a lonely third after a hard fought drive from grid ten. Ridout was next. A good result for the 2017 Heavyweight runner up. A podium beckons. Martin crossed the line fifth but was penalised down to ninth promoting Hornsby into the position. Watkins took seventh to keep himself well in the Championship hunt with Theodorou next from Powell. Then came the penalised Martin with Townley completing the top ten. Taylor set the fastest lap and established a class record.

Championship Round Up.
In the Clubman’s Stephen Jennings remains at the top of the order despite not having the best of days at Shenington. Jon Watkins and Andrew Dawson are next in what is shaping up to be a very close battle for the honours. And watch out for James Taylor. He’s only raced twice this season and won both times.

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? Club 100 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