Belle Vue 22nd March 2015 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

It was with great anticipation from many that the first F1 meeting of the season had finally arrived at Belle Vue on Sunday 22nd March, after the dreaded 5-month dry season (except, of course, the Startrax Christmas Cracker meeting).

In the pits, prior to the meeting, was a great chance to catch up on any new cars and winter refurbishments. The Silsden clan were both racing older but fully re-painted cars. Frankie Wainman Junior was rumoured to be building a new shale car but has been too busy. The car may have been last year’s, but it had a new shade of blue.

Danny’s car is the 2013 tarmac car that saw a fair bit of action in the 2013 season, which has been stripped right back to the chassis and re-built again with a new paint finish. Mat Newson’s car looked like a new build, but is in fact last year’s yellow car fully re-built and re-painted in blue. A new car from Mat was on show, the 462 Scott Davids’ car, which Scott is going to be using this season, supplied by Newson.

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Mat Newson goes from yellow to blue for the 2015 season.

Ollie Ives’ new acquisition was also on show; looking very impressive in new paint colours. It is the ex-Paul Ford / Tom Harris car that Ollie is going to be using. Karl Roberts (313) was also showing a new and impressive paint scheme; this being the little-raced ex-Lee Mellor (181) car.

Most of the interest seemed to be around the car of 84, Tom Harris, which is last year’s car but re-worked with new suspension/bar mountings set high on the sides of the car, as tested by Tom late in last season. Harris’ car also wore an interesting, sprint car style side panel on the off side of the cab – to either cut down on shale thrown into the cab or to detract from the new style suspension set up!  At the very least, it has made for some entertaining discussions on the forum/social media pages, if nothing else.

New paintwork and winter work were also on show from Nigel Harrhy (45), Will Hunter (220), Dylan Wiliams-Maynard (51) in the ex-Ian Bickley (246 car) and 94 John Dowson in the old Dan Squire car, now fitted with a Chevvy instead of the old Buick engine. This array of re-painted cars was a credit to the teams and an eye-opener to the fans on just how much work goes into keeping up with these F1 cars.

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Will Hunter (220) showing off his new paint scheme.

Before the meeting, new driver Neil Clark did his required 5 practice laps in the all-white, heavy duty motor that he has bought from P J Lemons at the end of last year; Paul having a new car built for the 2015 season.

The racing was done on a fine sunny day – unusual for so early in the season. The track was dry for nearly all the afternoon’s racing, with no watering needed. An increase in predicted driver numbers to 33 led to a 2/3rds format being run on the 3 heats.

Heat 1 had a grid of 22 cars, with the 311 car staring at the back. The dry conditions saw few spinners but, on Lap 3, a coming together on turns 3 & 4 saw 321 Ed Neachell, 462 Scott Davids and 313 Karl Roberts all collecting together, but managing to re-start under their own steam. Ben Hurdman (207) had made an impressive start and, by Lap 6, was leading from 335 Mark Woodhull with Lee Fairhurst (217) in third, followed by North East traveller John Dowson.

With 4 laps to go, Woodhull retired, which left Craig Finnikin (55) in 4th spot but Craig’s car had sounded flat for most of the race. Eventually, he retired with 3 to go, suffering from fuel starvation issues. Fairhurst passed Hurdman on the last lap, but it all came down to some last corner action, with 94 coming out on top. Paul Harrison (2) crossed the line second, with Frankie Wainman Junior in 3rd and Fairhurst  losing out, only finishing 6th.

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Dowson claimed Heat 1 after a last lap battle.

Heat 2 saw a grid of 19 cars and, with the track unwatered, it was not long before things got dusty. Tom Harris (84), Mat Newson (16) and Dowson all had a coming together on turn 3. With a dry track, Dylan Williams-Maynard – being under-graded at yellow – soon hit the front and looked very comfortable, even with Dowson, Harris, Harrison and Newson in pursuit. With 5 to go, the yellows were out for the 207 car but, on the re-start, Dylan remained unchallenged.

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Dylan Wiliams-Maynard (51) in the ex-Ian Bickley car, battling here with Lee Fairhurst.

Heat 3 saw 293 Elliot Smith who become the early leader, before the fast-moving Maynard hit the front again. Finnikin was on a charge and made rapid progress in the first 3 laps, until spinning on turn 3 and having to retire. The same fate befell Harris, again on lap 3. Ed Neachell (321) appeared to be flying, as was the 217 machine. By Lap 7, it was 51 leading from Neachell and Fairhurst.

With 5 laps to go the 51 car, who had been delayed slightly by 463 James Morris on the back straight, was bumpered wide by Neachell, planting him firmly into Nigel Whalley, who was stranded on turn 3. Neachell took up the lead, with Fairhurst in pursuit.  As the last lap board came out, it looked like a Neachell win, but he was delayed by 45 Nigel Harrhy on the back straight. With the inevitable last bend lunge and both cars ending up in a drag race to the line, it was a close finish, with Fairhurst claiming first but then tangling and being spun by Neachell.

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Fairhurst made his way to the front in Heat 3…

The ‘all in’ final saw a grid of 27 cars start off, with the 293 car of Elliot Smith taking the lead. As with the previous races, it was 51 Dylan Williams-Maynard who took up the lead on Lap 6, with Lee Fairhurst in second. Amongst the star men, 84 Harris tangled with Newson and Dan Johnson (4), the 84 car retiring to the centre. A couple of laps later, the yellows were out for 463 James Morris, who had tangled on the centre and did one of the slowest and gentlest rollovers seen for a long while, the aerofoil folding over and requiring the car to be righted before commencing the racing.

At the restart, Dylan was the leader but with lap-down cars of Newson, Hurdman and Dowson between him and Lee Fairhurst. Dylan held the lead until, with 3 to go, Fairhurst bumpered the 51 car aside.  The 51 reclaimed the lead on the next lap but, once again, Fairhurst fought for the top spot, reaching the chequered with a fair lead over Dylan. With back-markers all over the place, third was finally given to Finnikin.

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…and then went on to win the meeting Final.

The Grand National saw a familiar return to the previous races of the afternoon with a dominant, almost flag to flag lead by Dylan Williams-Maynard from John Dowson and Paul Harrison in third. A fine afternoon and early evenings racing at Belle Vue and judging by the form and pace of Dylan an early move up through the gradings looks to be in order much to the probable relief of the chasing pack behind.

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An impressive start to the season for Dylan Williams-Maynard saw him leave Belle Vue at the top of the National Points table.

Words: Andy Armer

Photos: Colin Casserley

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