Belle Vue, 2nd May 2016 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

After a dreadful run of luck, it was a return to form for 94 John Dowson at the May Day Bank Holiday meeting at Belle Vue on the 2nd of May.

With it being the start of the new grading period, it was also time for the new roof colours to be introduced. This is normally a first Saturday of the month job at Coventry, but as this was the first May meeting, it was out with the new colours, with several also needing a bit of work after the previous King’s Lynn meeting on the Saturday. The main movers were 28 Thomas Boyer, 555 Frankie Wainman JJ, 231 Daniel van Spijker and 446 Joe Booth up to red grade and John Dowson down to blue (although in theory it should have been yellow but for graders’ discretion).

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Tom Boyer makes it up to red for May

With 33 cars turning up for the delayed start (4pm; put back from 1pm due to the Speedway meeting next door running earlier, which was then cancelled anyway), the meeting was run on a two thirds format. The weather forecast had been all over the place prior to the meeting but, on the day, the weather proved to be great for shale, with the preceding heavy rain making the track just right.

Twenty cars gridded for Heat 1 and it wasn’t long before the fence gained its first victim, with 337 Dave Willis hitting the back straight fence very hard and coming to a halt. It appeared to be one of those ‘loading up for the day’ hits but the 337 car and pilot are made of sterner stuff and, once the car fired up, Dave just re-joined the race. Rob Speak fired Mat Newson into 202 Henry Hunter and 216 Jack France on turns 1/2. They all hooked up, leading to the yellows for them and for the 127 Austin Moore car that had come to a halt on the main straight.

At the restart it was 424 Mike Heywood in the lead from Nigel Harrhy, Willis (a lap down), 293 Eliot Smith and 446 Joe Booth. Early on, 231 Daniel van Spijker spun on turn 1 (helped by Speak) and at halfway it was Harrhy leading from Speak and Joe Booth.  The 76 car of Aaron Cozens headed to the turn 1 fence in a cloud of oil smoke. A chat with the team afterwards confirmed major engine damage for the budget racer. Speak soon passed Harrhy for the lead, which he held to the end, crossing the line ahead of Joe Booth and John Lund.

 Heat 1 Results: 318, 446, 53, 445, 34, 293, 231, 555, 424, 45

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World Champion, Rob Speak, took the win in Heat 1.

Heat Two had a similar sized grid of 19 cars and it was 127 Austin Moore who was the early leader with 276 Mark Poole and Dave Willis also in the mix. Willis retired after lap 6. It was  94 John Dowson that was on a charge and at halfway was in the lead but with 445 Nigel Green in second and Danny Wainman third.

Dowson was holding onto the lead, with Green making little inroads on the 94 car. The 445 car eventually pulled up on turn 4 with four laps to go; a sheared gearbox shaft ruled Nigel out for the rest of the meeting. 94 then had a clear run to the chequered, from Danny Wainman in second. A great win for John, who has had a dreadful run of luck recently with just about every mechanical gremlin going – and a good confidence booster for the pilot and team.

Heat 2 results: 94, 212, 515, 55, 276, 127, 313, 53, 220, 34, 75, 555.

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John Dowson takes his first win of the day

Heat 3 had a slightly depleted grid of 18 cars but, as is the case with Belle Vue, you don’t need a huge amount of cars on the tight track to see some great stock car racing.  An early retirement was 515 Frankie Wainman Junior, who pulled up to the centre after a nerfing by Rob Speak on turns 1/2 .

By lap 4, 276 Mark Poole was the leader from 94 Dowson, Danny Wainman and Joe Booth and, two laps later, the Dowson car was in the lead. Further back, Speak had to retire with a flat tyre after a trip to the turn 3 fence courtesy of 55 Craig Finnikin’s front bumper. At halfway it was Dowson from Danny Wainman and Mat Newson with Booth and Finnikin in the mix. The bumpers were going in on each corner from all 5, with some firm and fair hits going on. Mat Newson eventually hit the front.

Dowson got spun out – helped by Finnikin and Booth on turns 3/4 – the car remaining where it was. Meanwhile up front Danny fired the Newson car aside for the lead. Two laps later, Mat paid back the compliment; firing the Wainman car wide for the lead again. The Finnikin car appeared to slow on the main straight before getting going again with two to go but it was Newson who was to hold onto the lead until the chequered.

 Heat 3 results: 16, 212, 220, 55, 463, 446, 293, 313, 75, 424, NOF.

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Danny Wainman making his way up to second in Heat 3.

The Final proved to be a race to remember, with 26 of the cars now left in the grid. Early on, it proved to be a race that was very difficult to follow; after an almighty pile up occurring on the turns 3 and 4 on the first lap left it tricky to know who was where. The main gainers were Dowson and 515 Frankie Wainman, making their way safely through. Speak and Finnikin were forced to retire and the 231 van Spijker car came to a halt on turn 4.

Up front, Mark Poole, John Lund and John Dowson all span backwards on the watered track into the turn 1 fence (they were battling for the lead) but all  managed to get going again quickly and Joe Booth fired the 28 Tom Boyer car into the turn 1 fence a lap later. However it was again the Dowson car with a good lead at the front, although Frankie Wainman, in the Wedge, was on a charge and up to second. It looked unlikely that he’d catch the Dowson car.

However,  with five laps to go, the yellows were brought out for the stranded car of Daniel van Spijker on turn 4, which had been clouted by another car and pushed forward and hence needing removing. The lead of the 94 car was evaporated and on the restart, Wainman took little time firing the 94 car aside on turn one. Dowson, perhaps fearing the new shale special of Wainman getting any sort of a lead, then launched the 94 car from miles back on the back straight; nerfing and spinning the 515 car into the fence for the lead. Wainman however righted the car and a lap later did the same to Dowson, the 94 car appearing to snag the wires but get going again on turn 3.

The 515 was now into overdrive mode and shot into the distance. With two to go, he was slowing with a deflating inside rear tyre and, down the back straight on the last lap, Dowson put the bumper in on the Wainman car pushing him to the fence. The Wainman car got going again, but span in front of Eliot Smith.

Another great win for Dowson with a grandstand last lap finish which certainly got the crowd buzzing. Unfortunately Eliot Smith was excluded from the results as he did not go to the scales afterwards for weighing.

Final Results: 94, 446, 34, 202, 276, 515, 16, 212, 53, 28.

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94 and 515 battling in the Final. Dowson emerged victorious.

The Grand National  gridded 19 cars with the 94 Dowson car taking the customary lap handicap.  Early casualties were Thomas Stephenson, Eliot Smith, Henry Hunter and Danny Wainman all collecting into the turn 1 fence – only Hunter re-joining, the others having to retire. Rob Speak T-boned the James Morris 463 car into turn 4. This also let the fast moving 55 car of Finnikin through.

At halfway, it was Mark Poole leading from 313 Karl Roberts, 34 Mal Brown and Finnikin in fourth spot at the same time that the 515 car of Frankie Wainman retired to the centre. The places soon changed with Mal Brown leading from Roberts and Finnikin. 313 re-took the lead for a lap from Brown, but in a typical Mal move, the Liversedge driver fired the 313 car into turn 1. He also drifted wide, letting Finnikin through for the lead.

On the last lap, down the back straight, the 16 car of Mat Newson was on the back bumper of Rob Speak and, with Mat remembering the move done on him at King’s Lynn’s Saturday meeting, planted a big hit on the 318 back bumper; firing Speak into a parked car to come home third.

GN Results: 55, 34, 16, 53, 446, 94, 276, 318, 127, 463.

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Grand National winner: Craig Finnikin

Words: Andy Armer
Photos: Colin Casserley

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