Belle Vue, 1st May 2017 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

A slightly better turnout of F1s for this May Bank Holiday thrash around the Belle Vue shale in front of a larger than usual crowd, no doubt swelled by the promise of a caravan race, which, added to the F2, National Ministox and Banger races made for an interesting evening’s racing.

Twenty-seven Formula One cars arrived to do battle, late arrival Nigel Harrhy tipping the scales (no pun intended Nige) in favour of a two-thirds format, with 18 cars lining up for Heat One and what a good race it was.

Barely a lap had passed before the yellow flags flew, not entirely sure why, but at the restart James Morris (463) forced Izaac Beaumont (332) into the pit bend wires, collecting Harris (84), Riley (422) and Karl Roberts (313). Morris forged ahead, trying to repeat his win of the previous BV while FWJ spun himself out, again like the previous meeting, restarted and clobbered the dead 332 car.

Morris lead from Dan Johnson (4), Craig Finnikin (55) and Ben Riley while further back Wainman and Harris tried to recover lost ground, not easy on the slippery track. Johnson closed on Morris with four to run but lost out to Finnikin a lap later, while Harris took a dive at the number 1 car and spun Wainman on turn four. Johnson retired with a flat rear tyre and it all came down to the last bend – Finnikin went in with a big one on 463 sending Morris towards the wires. James recovered well, both cars racing to the line with the 55 car just in front when it mattered.

Craig Finnikin and Danny Wainman in Heat 1.

Sixteen for Heat Two led away by Robert Plant (364) in a 217/231 car and John Wright (348). Riley and Mat Newson (16) spun before crossing the line as the 364 became a mobile chicane down the back straight, the resultant shemozzle claiming several cars, Harris and Finnikin among them. France (216) and Roberts hooked up and piled into the stricken 84 car, bringing out the yellow flags. Wright led the restart until Stuart Smith (390) took over long before the half-way, shadowed by Nigel Green (445). Smith ran into a marker tyre on turn two, allowing Green to close within a car length, almost squeezing up the inside with four to run but the 445 machine was baulked by a returning Wright which ruled out another last-bender. Smith took the flag ahead of Green with Danny Wainman (212) chalking up his second third place of the evening.

John Wright followed Karl Roberts home in Heat 2 to claim 7th place.

Just 14 for Heat Three led by Wayne Marshall (483), then Plant but Smith was already making rapid progress. Marshall retook the lead until he attacked the back straight fence, letting Johnson into the hot spot, while Green and FWJ hit trouble. Newson closed down the 390 car (with a little assistance from Scott Davids (462)), Smith half-spinning on turn three. Newson shook off the attentions of 462 and set off after Johnson, getting just close enough on the last bend to deliver a hefty whack on the number 4 back bumper. Both cars went towards the wires but Newson found enough grip to power across the finish line ahead of Johnson.

Team Smith Motorsport’s travelling companions negotiate turn 3.

A twenty-four car grid for the Final and problems on lap one for 212 who spun, trapping Frankie JJ (555) and Johnson. Plant, Beaumont and Marshall had a coming together on the back straight, the 483 car collecting Bonner (105) who collected Gibson (249). Gibson then joined Riley and Mal Brown (34) in a home-straight get-together. All this coming and going allowed the top men a clear run to the front and following a caution to clear the track John Wright (348) found himself in the lead from 45 and 364 but Harris, Smith, Finnikin and FWJ filled the next four places on track. At the green, Smith made a challenge on Harris but both cars had to take evasive action to miss the spun 364 car, letting Finnikin through to chase Wright. Frankie JJ re-aquainted himself with the pit bend wires as Finnikin took the lead with Smith close behind and all this before the half-way stage.

FWJ lost ground on the lead cars as Finnikin pulled clear, Smith do doubt hoping that the 55 car would be delayed by back-markers while at the same time keeping one eye on Harris in third. Smith narrowed the gap as Finnikin dealt firmly with a lap down 212 car but there would be no last bend dives this time, the 2014 World Champion leading home the 2013, 2007 and 2016 holders of the gold roof to notch up his second Belle Vue final on the trot.

Final top 3: 1st Finnikin, 2nd Smith and 3rd Harris

Any hopes of Craig achieving the maximum (heat, final and GN) were dashed as the 55 car appeared on track but was pushed onto the centre with mechanical woes before the green flag flew for the 20 car Grand National. The track was visibly breaking up on turns three and four with very little shale and bedrock and brick ends showing through. Wright again made the early laps before spinning out, leaving Stuart Smith in command well before the half-way mark, with FWJ second and Danny Wainman taking his third third place of the evening.

Nigel Harrhy ‘let’ SSJ have the Grand National

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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