Belle Vue – April 25th 2011 Meeting Report

Bank Holiday Monday is synonymous with Belle Vue, and in front of a large crowd, the Manchester track again showed why there is literally nothing better on a Bank Holiday than F1 stock car racing. James Morris took the main event, being one of the few drivers to keep his cool in what was a very chaotic race.

The freshly watered track was slippery for the first heat, and over the first couple of laps a pile up developed on the pit turn before the waved yellows came out when the track was almost blocked. Mike Williamson (111) led the restart, with John Weldon (235), Dave Willis (337), and Craig Finnikin (55) right behind him. On the green, Finnikin piled Willis into Weldon, and a lap later the 55 car was in the lead with Tom Harris (84) not far behind. Andy Smith (1) moved up to second place shortly after when he fired Williamson into Harris. Mal Brown (34), in his usual take-no-prisoners style, put Willis and himself into the fence with a characteristic big hit, while Mark Poole (276) fired Dave Riley (422) into Weldon, who was then left sideways across the track at the entrance to the turn. Harris saw his chance and planted Smith straight into the 235 car; Smith then retiring with front end damage.

Andy Smith 1 waits for a lift. Photo Carl Hesketh

By the halfway, Finnikin still led, but Harris was now right on his back bumper. Further back, Mat Newson (16) was on a charge after losing time in the opening laps pile up, and sent Nigel Harrhy (45) wide around turns one and two. But Harrhy over-corrected and turned into the path of Newson, clipping the rear end of the number 16 car, with Newson doing well to keep it out of the fence. A lap later, and Harrhy was on the receiving end again, this time a big shot from Ricky Wilson (502). This put Harrhy backwards into the fence, and Wilson span on impact. The chasing pack then collected the 502 car, with Finnikin and Harris left with nowhere to go. The upshot was Finnikin being bundled into the parked 422 car on turn three, leaving Harris to take the lead, and ultimately the win.

Heat 1 winner young gun Tom Harris 84. Photo Colin Casserley

Heat Two started with Harrhy tangling with fellow white top Dave Campbell (388) as they came out of turn two, which resulted in the 45 car being shoved sideways the length of the back straight, with about half the field getting caught up in the resulting pile-up, including John Lund (53), whose radical new aerofoil took a hit.

John Lund 53 minus his wing. Photo Colin Casserley

John Lund 53 minus his wing from the front. Photo Carl Hesketh

A lap or two later, it came off the car completely, with the waved yellows coming out to remove it from the track. Riley led the restart, while further back Stu Smith Junior (390) shoved Frankie Wainman Junior (515) wide, with Wainman retaking the position shortly afterwards.

Frankie Wainman jnr 515 and St Smith jnr 390. Photo Carl Hesketh

The two then engaged in a great battle while Joe Booth (446) took over at the front. Smith then delivered a much bigger hit that put the 515 car out towards the wires. Over the next half a dozen or so laps, Wainman charged through the field and slowly but surely reeled in the 390 car, only to then mis-time a massive lunge and go backwards into the fence.

Heat 2 winner Joe Booth 446. Photo Colin Casserley

Just 11 cars contested the Consolation event, with John Frost (351) the early leader, and James Clement (158) dishing out a massive hit that span Josh Smith (191). Willis took second place by planting Harrhy into the turn two fence, but Willis’ race ended on the same fence post a few laps later courtesy of the somewhat over-enthusiastic Clement. Smith (1) was now through the field, and took the lead at about half distance after an unforced error from Frost had the 351 car spinning out.

Dave Willis 337 on the receiving end of James Clement's 158 bumper. Photo Colin Casserley

The Final began with Campbell and Weldon coming to an abrupt stop against the fence on the first bend, with a lot of the red grade drivers also coming to grief. Harrhy led the first lap, Phil Whitaker (88) the second, with Neil Shenton (35) trying to pass on the outside and both cars going to the fence. However, the waved yellows had just come out for reasons that weren’t clear, and the field was lined up as per the last completed lap. This meant Shenton was re-instated as leader, with Whitaker second, and when the green dropped Campbell was battered from pillar to post before getting smacked firmly into the fence.

Craig Finnikin 55 and Ricky Wilson 502. Photo Colin Casserley

The leading trio of Shenton, Morris, and Whitaker were now clear from the rest of the pack, but Whitaker then span out leaving Shenton and Morris out on their own. But it didn’t last, as Shenton drove straight into a heap of cars in turn three, the result of which was the 35 car facing the wrong way and being pushed backwards down the home straight by Harris. This left Morris with a big lead over Smith (390), with Wainman rapidly closing up.

Final winner James Morris 463. Photo Colin Casserley

After their battle in the second heat, another round was anticipated when Wainman was within striking distance, but instead of any dramatics, Wainman simply nudged Smith wide and then drove away. However, as fast as the 515 car was lapping the track, he had no chance of catching runaway leader Morris, who went on to take victory by some margin. Smith (1) moved into fourth place as the lap board came out by firing Finnikin into Newson; the 16 car then spinning out of contention.

Norfolk's Matt Newson 16 had a long journey for little reward. Photo Colin Casserley

The Grand National saw the red tops four abreast around turn four, and Newson ran out of room and hit the fence. Williamson lead for the opening few laps before Frost took over. At the opposite end of the grid, the top drivers were having their own private battle, with Wainman, Harris, Finnikin and Johnson circulating the track nose to tail, with Finnikin coming out in front. By the halfway, Frost was clear at the front, and racing with levels of pace and composure not previously seen from the 351 driver. However, Frost ran wide coming out of turn two and lost time, which allowed Riley (422) to close the gap. Riley edged in front, and led for three laps before Finnikin barged past.

The 'take no prisoners' Mal Brown 34 in action. Photo Colin Casserley

As the lap boards came out, Wainman was sitting on Finnikin’s back bumper, with Johnson and Smith (390) just a length or two behind. It looked like a four way shootout might be in prospect, but as the laps ticked by Finnikin pulled away from Wainman, and took the chequered without any drama. But there was a last bend sort out, when Smith (1), from some way back, reached out and punted brother Stu into Johnson, relegating the number 4 car to fifth place at the flag.

Andy Smith 1, John Lund and Dan Johnson 4 do battle. Photo Colin Casserley

Carl Hesketh

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