Belle Vue, 8th October 2017 – Meeting Report and Photos

The mid-way point in the 2017 Mintex National Points Shootout but with a decidedly damp track and just 29 F1s in the pits this could have been a bit of a let-down. As it happened this “Covstox on Tour” session proved to be rather good, with excellent support from the V8 Hotstox (wish they could come up with a better name) and National Ministox – just a shame more people were not there to see it.

After Stephen Mallinson (310, F2 788) had done his five laps 10 cars lined up for the Whites and Yellows race which doubled as Heat One in this two-thirds format meeting. Sam Jacklin (137) made all the early running, leading until the lap boards were prepared and showing a healthy disregard for the condition of the track, getting very close to the fence on successive bends. Karl Roberts (313) kept a tighter line, closing on Jacklin and easing by the local man with laps to spare to take victory. Mallinson took a good fourth place behind Chris Brocksopp (338).

Top 3 in the Whites & Yellows Race

Nine shoot-out contenders lined up at the back of Heat Two, cars 4, 197 and 464 missing from the “Dynamic Dozen” chasing the National Points silverware. Jacklin again led the way, Danny Wainman (212) and Stuart Smith Junior (390) tangled before crossing the line, Mat Newson had trouble keeping the 16 car pointing in the right direction, John Wright (348) and Scott Davids (462) had a coming together and Craig Finnikin (55) spun.

Waved yellows soon after showed the top three as 137, 424, 45 but John Dowson Junior (94), making a welcome return to racing, was not far behind. FWJ seemed to be on a mission, dealing with Fairhurst, Green and Dowson to take the lead well before the halfway stage, while brother Danny played with a marker tyre on the pit bend. Although the track was drying, turn one seemed to be getting wetter, catching a few drivers out including Jacklin who found the fence and brought out another caution.

Frankie negotiated a number of back-markers after the restart to ease over the line in first place ahead of Fairhurst with Smith recovering for third. Newson sent Green fence-wards on the last bend for fourth.

A heat win and vital Shootout points for FWJ

Heat three raised 22, Ben Riley (422) the only “shooter” missing from the back of the grid. Jack France (216) set the pace as the “grateful eight” set about each other. FWJ found himself heading for the wires on turn three but a caution for Austin Moore (127), wedged in the back straight fence gave him a second chance. Leader France failed to make the restart, giving Dowson the premier place at the green flag.

FWJ threw away a good finish by taking Brocksopp into the pit bend wires as Dowson led, pursued by James Morris (463) but another caution, this time for Booth (446) played into the hands of the star men. Finnikin and Green squabbled over third place letting Smith through, the Rochdale man gaining second when Morris drifted wide but he was too far behind to do anything about John Dowson Junior. Smith’s runner-up position put him 55 points clear at the top of the table.

Stuart Smith Junior extends his Shootout lead with a second in Heat 3

The Richard Baldwin Motorhomes final gridded 23 with Riley back on track to give us nine shoot-out contenders again. Smith made another good start, not so 45, 338, 2 and 555 who tangled coming off turn four in sight of the green flag. Jack France led as FWJ struggled and 55 retired. Behind France Roberts held second on track but was a lap down, ahead of Booth, Riley and Dowson. FWJ slowed and pulled out, Dowson apparently launched Booth into Riley (as usual, I missed it!) and then into the pit bend fence, snapping a post and bringing out the inevitable yellow flags.

With one of Frank senior’s temporary fence posts in place the race resumed, with 216 leading 445, 217, 390, 463, 259, 16, 212, 462, 310, 483,169, 555 and 313. With that little lot behind him Jack can be forgiven for taking off a little early (had it been me I would have been heading for the toilets at that stage) but the big surprise was seeing Smith being passed by car after car, the 390 machine way off the pace.

Fairhurst made his move entering turn three, walloping Green into France, both cars scraping around the fence with race-ending damage. Lee extended his lead over Newson and Hines as Smith continued to circulate, desperate to salvage any points he could and almost running into the back of the 216 car. With the final win under his belt Fairhurst moved into second place in the National Series, some 45 points behind Smith with Wainman relegated to third.

Fairhurst’s final win took him up to 2nd place in the Shootout Points

Just 17 for the Grand National and all credit to the 422 and 446 teams for getting their cars out on track after that bender in the final. After a lap of side by side racing between himself and Smith the 515 car again slowed and retired, a bitter blow to his shoot-out aspirations. France again led from Jacklin and Mallinson, going great guns in the 310 car with Smith putting a bit hit in on 463 and 555 to move up two places.

The partisan crowd in the grandstand urged France on as the white top stretched his lead over Green, Finnikin, Riley and Smith. Bumpers flared between 55, 422 and 445 leaving France, despite a couple of late race scares, to come home in first place for a very popular, first time victory, congratulated on the start line by Joe Booth and Frankie Junior amongst others.

With no yellow flags Lee Fairhurst struggled to make up the lap handicap, finishing in eleventh place but his efforts on the night have consolidated his second place in the points standings, 47 behind Smith with Mat Newson now third, twenty points further back and FWJ relegated to fourth place on 179.

Five down and five to go. Round 6 up next over on the East Coast at Skegness. Who will take the fight to the 390 corner? Will the weather play its part? There’s a long way to go yet – and I don’t just mean to Skeggy!

France took a flag-to-flag victory in the Grand National

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Ant Jenkins

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