Belle Vue – August 29th 2011 Meeting Report

August Bank Holiday Monday saw Belle Vue stage it’s biggest meeting of the year, and in front of a massive crowd Paul Hines (259) made a dramatic return to form. Paul took a surprise but deserved victory on the World Championship Semi Final, followed with an emphatic victory in the meeting Final.

The first heat gridded 26 cars, including long distance visitor Peter Rees (NZ3) from Palmerston, New Zealand, driving the brand new Neil Scothern car. The darling of the internet Nigel Harrhy led them away, but Steve Harrison (118) and Mike Williamson (111) barged past, only to take each other out and leave Harrhy back in front. The packed track led to some carnage in the early laps, including a couple of spins for World Champion Andy Smith. Harrhy lasted just a couple of laps before his race ended in the back straight fence, where Neil Holcroft (496) and Nigel Whalley (198) piled in. This brought out the first bout of waved yellows of the meeting, and on the restart it was Phil Whitaker (88) in front.

Mike Williamson 11 and Steve Harrison 118 take each other out. Photo Colin Casserley

Joe Booth (446) planted Mark Poole (276) and Williamson into the turn three fence, with Whitaker spinning out of contention before the yellows came out to replace a broken fence post. Stu Smith (390) lined up at the front of the pack for the restart but he was immediately under pressure from Mark Woodhull (335), with the 390 car then swapping places with Frankie Wainman (515) a few times before Mal Brown (34) planted Smith wide. Smith worked his way back up the places, and with two laps remaining a big hit put Wainman wide and down the order. A last bend effort by Andy Smith had the 515 car out in the loose again, but Wainman held his nerve and the two dragged it out to the line, with Wainman just getting the verdict for fifth place.

Frankie Wainman jnr 515 and Andy Smith 1. Photo Colin Casserley

Next was the second of the World Championship Semi-Finals, won by Paul Hines. See separate report HERE.

The track was slippery at the start of the Consolation, and with 21 cars on track there wasn’t much room for error, meaning the first few laps were filled with cars colliding with each other and the fence. The inevitable waved yellows came after a few laps, when Lee Fairhurst (217) and Ricky Wilson (502) had a heavy impact into the back straight fence. There was a delay while the 502 car was extracted from the fence, and they lined up for the restart with Williamson leading from Harrhy.

Lee Fairhurst 217 finds the wires. Photo Colin Casserley

However, before the race resumed, Harrhy was disqualified for an apparently loose aerofoil, although as it still remained firmly attached to the car despite several officials pulling at it for a while, it seems unlikely that it would have fallen off during the race.

Tim Warwick (307) was dispatched to the fence by Nigel Whalley, while Matt Newson (16) was closing in on leader Williamson. The 111 car was baulked by backmarker Rob Braithwaite (253), which Williamson then fired into the parked 51 car. But with Newson now right behind him, Williamson misjudged a turn and Newson was through. The waved yellows then came out for attention to Williams-Maynard, and the result was declared with two laps still to run.

The Final was the prestigious Wilf Blundell Bowl, and the rolling lap was led off by the ‘Tip-Tip’ Wilf Blundell car, now fully restored by the BriSCA Heritage movement. A massive shove by what looked like most of the red tops on the second lap saw a whole bunch of cars crash out into the pit turn, with Finnikin and Smith (390) taking the brunt of the impact.

BriSCA F1 stock car stars come to grief at the start of the Final. Photo Colin Casserley

Most of the victims managed to either rejoin the race or limp to the infield, but there was a some delay to recover the 390 car, which was some considerable way through the fence. After two fence posts had been replaced, the race was back under way, and it was the ever improving Mike Williamson that led them away.

BriSCA F1 driver Stu Smith jnr 390 goes through the wires. Photo Colin Casserley

One of the few star grade drivers to have got through the massive pile up unscathed was Paul Hines, possibly still on a high after his stunning win in the Semi-Final, and with the race just a handful of laps old, the 259 car was already in the top six. Much further back, Andy Smith (1) was hitting Tom Harris (84) on every bend, eventually squeezing past, with Paul Harrison (2) seeming happy to just follow the number 1 car for the time being.

The line around turn three got a lot tighter when Phil Whitaker (88) crashed into the fence, and with the stricked cars of James Clement (158) and Richard Bryan (238) tangled together on the inside of the turn, there wasn’t much room for error.

After shadowing Smith for most of the race, Harrison (2) moved past and into fourth place just before the halfway, with Hines then taking over at the front. After a great drive for the first part of the race, Williamson then faded and fell down the order, but it is surely only a matter of time before the talented white grade driver takes a win.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Paul Hines 259 winning his first Belle Vue Final. Photo Colin Casserley

With the lap boards out, Hines was clear at the front, but second place Mal Brown had Harrison gradually closing the gap. It took until the last bend before Harrison made a move, but it was a perfectly timed dive that shunted the 34 car straight into a fence post. Typically unfazed, Brown simply reversed out into the traffic, and Johnson suddenly found himself with nowhere to go and hit the same fence post that Brown had just hit.

Having never previously won a race at Belle Vue, Hines made it two out of two.

Lone white top Harrison (118) led the big field of cars away for the GN, and the middle order all went for a big push going into the first turn. Rees was hit side-on by Brown and squashed against the pack of cars, and on impact the NZ3 tipped over and flipped the front of the Brown car upwards. For a moment, the 34 car was vertical and the NZ3 car on it’s side in mid-air, before remarkably both landed back on their wheels.

BriSCA F1 driver Mal Brown 34 and New Zealand visitor Peter Rees NZ3 go airborne. Photo Colin Casserley

Nigel Whalley (198) was in the lead after a couple of laps, with Neil Turner offering a great performance to stay in second place for about half a dozen laps in his first F1 shale meeting. From the lap handicap, Hines was going great guns and by the half distance had passed half the field, but it was Matt Newson who was heading the charge through the order. Johnson got up to second, but with Whalley having massive lead it seemed unlikely that Newson would catch him.

However, Whalley then retired with a flat inside rear tyre, leaving Newson at the front, with Johnson not far behind. Johnson did not appear to get any closer over the next three laps, but he got the lead by default when Newson passed backmarker Williams-Maynard, whose response was to launch the 16 car flat out into the turn three fence. Johnson’s lead lasted as far as the last bend, when Frankie Wainman dumped him into the parked Newson car to take the win.

The NZ style team race. Photo Colin Casserley

The final event was billed as “Old Hands vs Young Guns”, and with the programme not giving anything away, it was left to the fans to work out what it was all about. The Old Hands were Frankie Wainman Junior, Andy Smith, Paul Harrison, and Paul Hines, and the Young Guns were Dan Johnson, Matt Newson, Tom Harris, and Stu Smith Junior. The two teams were identified by flags attached to the aerofoil; the Oldies had bright orange and the Young Ones had bright yellow. There was no rolling lap, the green dropped, and they were away.

NZ style team race competitors Andy Smith 1 and Dan Johnson 4. Photo Colin Casserley

Well, some of them were, others simply rolled around at rolling lap pace. It soon became apparent that this was a team race in the New Zealand style – some cars were racing for the points, the others were acting as blockers to stop the other team’s racers. It did appear that neither team had worked out a strategy beforehand, as only Dan Johnson seemed to have realised that the idea was to finish the race; the rest seemed more intent on stopping each other. Dan Johnson was the first to complete the distance, with Paul Harrison the only other driver to do the whole race. The Young Guns won by 19 points to 16.

The NZ style team race competitors on the podium. Photo Colin Casserley

Full credit to promoter Steve Rees for trying something different, but on reflection it would have been a massive help for those on the terraces if there had been advance notice of what to expect. Ten lap £1,000 races are usually run at a much faster pace than this one!

But that aside, all five races of the F1 programme proper were exactly what yours truly considers to be proper stock car racing.

Carl Hesketh

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