Win for Sam Nash, Bigger News – Mike Noon Returns To Top Of Championship. Just 4 Finals To Go.
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.
Andrew Ward set the pace early in the group 1 session before Billy Robson topped the times. And there he stayed. Ward made a supreme effort on his final flying lap but it wasn’t enough. He finished just 0.028 shy of Robson. Ben Atkinson was next up. For a time he’d been second but behind Robson but missed out by 0.074. James Venning and Daryl Snelling completed the top five.
Group 2 turned out to be the quicker of the two groups with first James Appleton and then Sam Nash setting the pace. But it was Mike Noon who eventually topped the times and clinched pole with a stunning 40.970 lap. He was the only driver to set a time under forty one seconds. Nash was second from Appleton with Championship leader Chris Woodger fourth from Matt Jones.
Lightweight Pre B Final
George Redstone on pole from Josh Adams with Lloyd McGeoch-Williams on the second alongside Jon Gooch. A real surprise this after Gooch’s fine win at Rye House. Keith Segal and Craig Rankine shared row three with Peter Hobbs and Charles Jackson on row four. Martin Auger and Reece Pope completed the top ten runners. Four to qualify from a field of fourteen. Redstone led the pack down into the first turn with McGeoch-Williams up to second from Adams. Hobbs had a great start moving into fourth ahead of Segal and Gooch. Rankine’s hopes of progression ended with a spin. Redstone continued to lead but Adams was now into second with McGeoch-Williams dropping down the order to sixth. Gooch was up to third with Hobbs fourth from Segal. McGeoch-Williams spent a lap trying to get by Segal who was dropping away from fourth placed Hobbs. Once by he immediately began to close in on Hobbs. With four to qualify you might have thought that the front four would hold station but no, they all wanted a win. In the space of a lap Redstone dropped from first to fourth with Adams leading from Gooch and Hobbs. McGeoch-Williams was just a few lengths back and still in with a shout whilst Segal was being cast adrift. Adams and Gooch began to pull clear of Hobbs and Redstone who were having a mighty battle over third and risking taking each other off but it was entertaining to watch. With four to run Gooch took over at the front and Adams was content to follow him home whilst Hobbs won the battle with Redstone and set the fastest lap of the race. McGeoch-Williams finished fifth but was deducted a place for cone abuse handing the place, and pole for the B Final to Segal.
Lightweight Pre A Final
Noon on pole from Nash with Appleton and Woodger on row two. Matt Jones and Billy Robson occupied row three with Ward and Atkinson on four from Townley and Venning on five. Noon got away swiftly from pole but Nash on the outside was easy prey for Appleton as they rounded the first turn. Woodger got forced very wide and lost a huge amount of momentum as the field went through the Essess and onto the back straight. He would end the lap back in nineteenth and then he made a mistake under braking for Billy’s and spun to a halt. A rare mistake from the Championship leader which put something of a dent in his Championship aspirations. Noon continued to lead and was pulling out a gap as Appleton and Nash disputed second.
Nash got by but had done so under a yellow. Despite Appleton taking the spot back later in the lap Nash still took a penalty. Then Nash got ahead only for Appleton to fight back and retake the place. But he too had passed under a yellow and would be penalised. Nash immediately fought back and was up to second again. This time he managed to break clear as Appleton went defensive against a following Jones with Venning next from Atkinson, Townley and Hussain Rashid who had worked his way up from grid eleven. And that was pretty much it save for Townley getting by Atkinson and Ward taking Rashid. Noon took the win just tenth clear of Nash who had tried everything he knew to find away by the leader He was just a tenth adrift at the flag but penalised down to a disgruntled fifth. Appleton crossed the line next just clear of Jones but he too dropped four places for overtaking under yellow and dropped to sixth promoting Jones to second, Venning to third for valuable Championship points and Townley into fourth. Atkinson took sixth with Ward eighth from Mackenzie with Snelling tenth. Adams set the fastest lap on the final tour but finished twentieth and the last runner on the lead lap.
Lightweight B Final
Pole for the veteran Segal with McGeoch-Williams alongside. Jack Hounsham and Reece Pope on the second row with Alessandro Carloni and Craig Rankine on row three. Charles Jackson and Nick Riddiford shared the penultimate row with Richard Bamford and Martin Auger on the final row. Just two to qualify for the A Final. Segal led the field away with McGeoch-Williams tucking in behind. Hounsham ran a little wide allowing Pope to move into third but only for a lap as second time around he went into Billy’s too tight and ran wide allowing Rankine into third from Hounsham in fourth ahead of Pope. Segal led for a couple of laps before McGeoch-Williams slipped by into a lead he would never lose. Segal kept him honest but never mounted a serious attack as he concentrated on keeping himself clear of third placed Rankine. Over the final few laps he did close in to within a tenth but McGeoch-Williams had everything covered and took the win and the trophy by a couple of lengths with Rankine third but outside the qualifying spots. Pope was a lonely fourth but from his lines he was clearly learning and finished over twelve seconds clear of Hounsham in fifth.
Lightweight A Final
Noon on pole from Jones with Venning and Townley on row two. Nash and Appleton on three from Atkinson and Ward on four and Mackenzie and Snelling completing the first five rows. Championship leader Woodger was back on the penultimate row and facing a tough challenge. Noon got off to a flyer and was a couple of lengths clear by the time the pack reached Billy’s. Jones remained second but the field got very bunched into the Esses and Venning, on the outside was left with nowhere to go and shot across the grass missing the second part of the corner. He dropped to ninth as a result of losing momentum whilst Atkinson jumped up to third with Nash fourth from Ward. Peter Hobbs kept out of trouble and picked off places with some aplomb to move up from grid eleven to sixth over the course of the first lap. Noon completed the lap almost a second up on Jones with Nash now into third after moving by Atkinson in the Esses. He quickly homed in on Jones and with five laps run he was up into second courtesy of another move into the Esses. Nash was flying at this point, gradually decreasing the gap to the leader. Noon clearly began to feel the pressure and got a little out of shape into the Horseshoe. Nash was instantly on his bumper crossing the line separated from the leader by just 0.072. He moved to the right but Noon covered him off only to get too deep into Billy’s and allow Nash to cut back to the inside and claim the line into the chicane. Thereafter he steadily edged away from Noon setting the fastest lap on the penultimate tour and taking the win by just over a second. Noon was never threatened by Jones who came home third with Ward fourth ahead of Hobbs. Hobbs however was penalised down to seventh for cone abuse promoting Atkinson to fifth and Venning into sixth for valuable Championship points. Josh Adams was next. A great performance this after qualifying via the Pre B Final and starting from grid twenty. Snelling and Townley completed the top ten.
Mike Noons second place sees him take over at the top of the Lightweight standings after Chris Woodgers disastrous day. The margin is a mere two points with two rounds to go. James Venning lies third from Matt Jones and Ben Atkinson.
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
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography