Belle Vue – April 29th 2012 Meeting Report

A World Qualifying Round at Belle Vue attracted quite a few visitors to the track, but it was BV regular Mal Brown that took the Final with an uncharacteristically reserved performance. Despite heavy rain falling around Manchester most of the weekend, the track surface was spot on and not one drop of rain fell on the stadium during the meeting, leading some to wonder if promoter Steve Rees had done some sort of deal with the devil. It was, however, bitterly cold and extremely windy, meaning deserted terraces and standing room only in the grandstand.

Overseas visitor Bouwe Arjan Hiddinga H17. Photo Carl Hesketh

The current top 5 drivers were all in attendance, but taking all the headlines was the one-off appearance of former F1 & F2 World Champion Rob Speak (318), as part of a fund raising event by the Aspire charity.

Rob Speak 318. Photo Carl Hesketh

After some hectic opening laps, James Morris (463) emerged as race leader in Heat 1. Morris lasted about half a dozen laps before climbing all over backmarker Paul Harrison (2) and almost rolling onto the fence. This left Adam Slater leading, and he got some breathing space when John Weldon (235) hit a fence post, damaged his steering, then bounced off another fence post into the path of second placed Mark Gilbank. Tom Harris (84) was held at bay for a number of laps by lap-down Dave Russo (49), while Craig Finnikin (55) homed in on leader Slater, but ran out of laps before he could challenge.

The second heat saw a thrilling near race-long battle for the lead between Daves Willis and Russo, before Frankie Wainman (515) bumpered them both wide with a few laps to go. Russo was then squeezed onto the home straight fence, leaving Willis to fight off Ryan Harrison (197), with Harrison sneaking through on the last bend.

Dave Willis 337. Photo Carl Hesketh

Mike Heywood (424) led a handful of laps in Heat 3 before Geoff Nickolls (215) stormed past, and went on to win. Willis held second place to the flag, holding off a few challenges from Wainman on the way. Willis got some respite when he closed the door on Wainman and sent the 515 car into a half spin, which let Finnikin in.

A big field of 27 cars for the Final, including Matt Newson who had done some rapid gearbox repairs after the second heat. Also on the grid was Ian Higgins, but as the 29 car was sidelined with a broken propshaft, Ian lined up in son Joe’s Stox Kart. Unfortunately for Ian, the eagle-eyed marshalls spotted him (admittedly after being tipped off by the commentator), and after much waving of the black flag, Ian parked the Stox Kart on the infield and had a pantomime strop. All good fun!

Ian Higgins 29 in a stoxkart. Photo Carl Hesketh

A lot of the red and superstar drivers piled into each other when the green dropped, with Lee Warner (290) first away before Garry Townsend (223) went past, with Neil Shenton (35) then leading. The first half of the race was a frantic affair, with the bumpers flying in every bend and plenty of position changes. Mal Brown (34) charged past Shenton for the lead, just before Morris had another attempt at getting over the turn three fence, this time by driving over the front end of Warner’s car.

The waved yellows came out to rescue Morris, who was in a precarious position, and by this time there were just 12 cars of the original line up still running. With the grid now closed, it was Brown leading, from Danny Wainman, Geoff Nickolls, and John Lund. They were only a lap or two into the restart when Finnikin thumped Slater wide, taking Lund with him, but within a lap the 53 car was back in front.

Mark Gilbank 21. Photo Carl Hesketh

Rob Speak was going well and into the higher places when Scott Davids smacked him wide. Speak’s repsonse was both predictable and immediate, with the 462 car on the receiving end of a big one. Not as big the one that Mark Gilbank got though, which had the 21 car rattling the wires. With the lap boards out, Harris went past Nickolls for second place, but Harris appeared to be struggling for grip and ran wide, and Finnikin went past. That’s the order the top three finished, with Harrison (2) firmly putting Speak wide to take fifth on the last bend.

The GN started with Finnikin tangling with Wainman (515), and both coming to stop in the pit bend fence, with a few cars crashing into them on the next lap. Heywood and Russo were at the front for the first half of the race, before Davids pushed past Russo, with Lund not far behind. Just after halfway, Harris pulled onto the infield with ominous looking smoke emanating from under the bonnet. Davids held on for the win with Lund a strong second, his best result to date in the new car.

Carl Hesketh

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