Belle Vue, 1st July 2018 – Meeting Report and Photos

On paper this looked very much like your standard Belle Vue fare. The car turn-out was similar to normal and the drivers racing were, by and large, those who support every Kirky Lane F1 event. So was it a bog standard Belle Vue – was it eckerslike?

Just 39 competitors for an event classed as second only to the World Final did not inspire confidence but all that changed after the 20 car opening heat.

Hunter (220) and Johnson (169) hooked up before crossing the line as Warwick (307) took the initiative, leading from Cozens (76) and Roberts (313). Smith (390) was on a charge from the back, leaving FWJ (515) to take an ever-wider line around the bends. A caution for the stricken Bryan (238) car saw Fairhurst (217) retire to the infield as did Hunter with yet another flat rear tyre – he really should petition the BSCDA for the introduction of solid tyres!

Wilson (502) challenged Warwick for the lead, taking over just before the 307 car found the pit bend fence with Griffin (166) second at the half-way stage but Smith was closing fast, taking over with five to run then immediately getting into trouble to a great cheer from the grandstand patrons. Wainman closed on Smith, got baulked by Griffin then took the lead with the 390 car scraping his back bumper. The inevitable wallop saw FWJ heading for the fence but he recovered well to take the challenge back to Smith, repaying the earlier hit to send 390 to the wires to take victory.

Defending champion, FWJ, takes the chequered flag in Heat 1

Nairn (280) and Plant (364) led away the 19-car second heat but it was not a good start for some of the top men. Dowson (94) hooked up with Wainman (212), gathering Harrison (25) and Johnson (4) into a quorum while Harris (84) and Newson (16) slipped through. Plant took the lead and forged ahead, closing on the luckless 212 car as Newson, in the Sargent (326) machine, made solid progress.

Plant still led, lapping Dowson as he went a half lap clear of Newson in second, but with around two to go the 364 car half-spun and Newson was there. Plant wasn’t giving in easily though, coming back at the 16 car on turn four but going wide on the last bend to hand second spot to Harris. Robert Plant’s attentions went down like a lead zeppelin with Newson who complained about it in his post-race interview but come on Mat, this is BriSCA F1 not F1 GP.

Mat Newson took his first win of the afternoon in Heat 2

Just 15 for heat three, led for a while by Spooner (104) (who missed his earlier scheduled heat) until a challenge by Rogers (244) put them both out. France (216) took over the hot seat with Hunter closing but he spent so much time getting past the 216 car that Smith was able to hit the front unchallenged.

Stuart Smith Junior took the win in Heat 3

Seventeen for heat four on a damp but dusty track (how does that work?). Danny Wainman’s woes continued, hitting the home straight fence before taking the green flag and almost taking out FWJ into the bargain. Harris hit the fence as leader Nairn chopped Plant into the tyres on turn three, the 364 car re-joining in front of the red top charge. Nairn lost out to Howarth (495) who tangled with Griffin letting 280 back in front ahead of Newson and FWJ. Nairn fought bravely but paid the price as Newson put him out on the pit bend. An earlier challenge by Wainman came to nought and Newson chalked up another win – maximum points so far for the Norwich man.

After a slight delay to replace a broken fence post (stand in the corner Danny and think about what you did) eighteen gridded for heat five – could Newson make it three out of three? Plant again led the pack but a caution for Phoebe Wainman (211) brought things to a brief halt. Wilson (502) challenged 364 for the lead ahead of Brown (34) and Brocksopp (338), but Johnson had sorted out his gremlins and was on the pace, despite spirited attempts by Brocksopp to dislodge him on successive bends. Newson and Fairhurst lost time on the tote (or pit) bend and it was left to Johnson to overhaul Wilson with three to run with Hines (259) taking second from 502. Newson finished fourth to top up his points tally, secure in the knowledge that only Smith or FWJ could out-score him.

A third place finish for early leader Ricky Wilson (502) in Heat 5

Heat six, the last chance to put points on the board, saw the aforementioned 390 and 515 cars on track along with sixteen other hopefuls. Nairn again set the pace, then Howarth took over before Luke Dennis (192) clipped Danny’s fence post and almost rolled, bringing out the yellow flags. The restart saw Harris tangle with Heywood (424), Morris (463) and the fence resulting in rear end damage and retirement for the 84 car while Smith passed Howarth for the lead. FWJ went second, some way behind Smith with Gilbank in third but Wainman eased off on the final lap, letting the 21 car through. Frankie was playing the numbers game – second place would have given him outside pole for the final, third place gave him the much preferred inside second row starting slot!

515 and 390 battle for position in Heat 6

So to the 2018 British Final and the anticipated big heave-ho on the first bend just didn’t happen. While Smith, on pole, slowed the field to a crawl on the rolling lap, Newson took off several car lengths ahead. A pile up on turn two claimed as many as 12 cars at one stage and defending champ Wainman, having done everything right in the heats got it badly wrong in the big race, spinning into another car on the greasy track and popping a tyre.

Newson led, from Smith and Gilbank but just who was fourth on back was anyone’s guess as most cars had visited the turn two car park at some point. A caution gave the field the chance to regroup but at the green Newson showed Smith a clean pair of back tyres, driving a tidy, composed race on the drying track. Mat was soon in amongst the backmarkers but while Smith closed slightly, Newson was moving cars aside cleanly to maintain a good lead.

The line up for the championship race

Smith clattered hard into the back of Sam Makim entering turn three, sending the 93 car into the parked 25 car and bringing out another caution – just what Mat didn’t need. With the 16 (326) car starting to smoke a little, Mat again got the drop on Smith but made a hash of one bend and allowed the 390 car to close right up. Smith seemed to be playing a waiting game, checking out different lines as the five to go board came out. The Rochdale man seemed quicker around the bends but lost out on the straights and the status quo was maintained, Newson actually increasing his lead with two to run and looking on course for his first major title.

The final lap and Newson had one hand on the coveted trophy. Down the back straight for the last time, Smith began his final approach, pushing the 390 car to its limits but surely Newson was too far ahead? As Mat rounded turn three Smith touched down, taking both cars into the wires before scraping around the back of the 16 car to take the flag.

An incredible finish and, writing this some time after the event, I still cannot believe (a) how Mat let this one slip through his fingers and (b) how Smith connected with the Newson car from so far back. One thing is for sure, had Stuart not used the 16 car for brakes he would have been through the wires and across the dog track on his way to the pits!

Congratulations to Stuart Smith, 2018 British Champion. Mark Gilbank finished in second place with Dan Johnson third. A steward’s enquiry over the remaining places saw Frankie JJ (555) dropped from fourth to sixth place and Newson seventh, docked two places for that over-enthusiastic start.

Stuart Smith becomes 2018 British Champion, with Mark Gilbank in second place and Dan Johnson third.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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