Belle Vue – August 29th 2011 Semi-Final Report

Close up of the BriSCA F1 stock car Semi-Final line up. Photo Paul Tully

The second of the World Championship Semi-Finals was staged at Belle Vue on Monday 29th August, and it was popular driver Paul Hines who took a surprise but thoroughly deserved victory. The only non-starter was Mick Sworder (150), who had damaged his own car and been unable to borrow a car that he could fit in. In his place was second reserve Neil Turner (126), as first reserve Rob Cowley was already pencilled in due to the withdrawal of Iain Holden.

BriSCA F1 stock car Semi Final 'Gentlemen start your engines'. Photo Paul Tully

When the green dropped, Dan Johnson seized the initiative and was away first, followed over the line by Tom Harris and Matt Newson. Ian Venables was the first to encounter problems, being pushed wide around the turn.

BriSCA F1 stock car stars lead the grid away. Photo Paul Tully

BriSCA F1 stock car stars lead the grid away. Photo Colin Casserley

BriSCA F1 stock cars at the rear of the grid make their way to the front. Photo Paul Tully

Lee Fairhurst collided with Paul Hines around turn two, and with steering problems the 217 car failed to make the next turn. Up front, Harris bumpered Johnson wide for the lead at the end of the first lap, which also let Newson through for second. Newson then nudged Harris wide into turn 3, making it three leaders in two laps.

A sideways BriSCA F1 stock car driver Lee Fairhurst 217. Photo Colin Casserley

Danny Wainman (212) managed to put Neil Scriven (11) and himself into the Venables car, which was parked in the turn three fence, with John Lawn (441) then crashing into them as well, before an over-enthusiastic Rob Cowley (73) fired Dylan Williams-Maynard (in the 457 Scott Chambers car) into the number 60 machine.

BriSCA F1 stock car Semi-Finalist John Lawn 441 finds the fence. Photo Paul Tully

Up front, Newson’s lead lasted just two laps before Johnson planted the 16 car firmly into the fence, just before the waved yellows came out to rescue Ian Venables.

On the restart, it was Johnson, from Harris, and Finnikin, and when the green dropped Wainman (212) dived past a load of cars on the back straight. Harris looked to run wide, which let Finnikin into second, and Tom then lost a further place to Paul Hines when he dived around the outside of Dave Willis and Ivan Pritchard, who had had a coming together in the middle of turn 3.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Craig Finnikin 55 getting the better of Tom Harris 84. Photo Colin Casserley

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Paul Hines 259 alongside Dave Willis 337. Photo Paul Tully

Both restarted, and a fired-up Pritchard then planted Tony Smith (91) straight into the pit bend wires. This brought out another set of yellow flags, and before the race resumed, backmarkers 253, 337, and 434 were put back into race position behind leader Johnson.

BriSCA F1 stock car drivers Tony Smith 91 and Rob Cowley 73 do battle. Photo Colin Casserley

As the race passed the half-distance, Johnson had a decent lead, but making a lot of progress was Hines, who worked his way up to second place.

The track was now dry, which appeared to help some drivers and hinder others. Johnson and Finnikin both appeared to be losing some pace, with the latter relinquishing fourth place to Mark Gilbank.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Mark Gilbank 21 overhauls Craig Finnikin 55. Photo Paul Tully

With the lap boards coming out, Hines was rapidly closing in on Johnson, and as soon as he was close enough, the bumper came into play and the number 4 car was thumped wide, with Harris also getting by. With just three laps to run, the first three were briefly bumper to bumper, but with Hines now visibly quicker, the 259 car pulled clear.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Paul Hines 259 thumps Dan Johnson 4 wide. Photo Paul Tully

As the last lap board was shown, Hines found himself behind backmarker Rob Cowley, and gingerly sneaked past around turn one. But his caution had cost him speed, and down the back straight for the final time, the 84 car’s front bumper suddenly looked ominously close. Harris did in fact manage a slight nudge, but ran out as runner up to the jubilant Paul Hines.

BriSCA F1 stock car Semi-Final winner Paul Hines 259. Photo Paul Tully

BriSCA F1 stock car Semi-Final top three of Paul Hines 259, Tom Harris 84 and Dan Johnson 4. Photo Paul Tully

Post-race interview with winner Paul Hines (259).

Paul hasn’t had the greatest of seasons to date so far. We began by asking how confident he was before the race.

I don’t normally feel confident before any race. I’ve never won a race at Belle Vue, and I didn’t expect my first win to be a Semi-Final, to be honest. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it around the first bend.

You got hooked up with Lee Fairhurst on the first bend – what happened there?

Craig was a bit slow to start which held me up, and Will Yarrow pushed me into Lee and our bumpers got caught up like they sometimes do on stock cars. He basically dragged me down the straight and quite a few cars went past, and when we separated I was about eighth or ninth. Not a great start!

Did Dan slow down towards the end or did you start to speed up? Had you saved your tyres?

I’m not sure. On the second waved yellows, Dan had a couple of backmarkers behind him, and I thought he would be gone. Maybe his tyres had gone off, he went for it early on. I wasn’t thinking about saving my tyres. There was no time for being cautious, I just had to go for it from being so far back.

On the last lap, you slowed down to pass Rob Cowley. What was going through your mind at that point, knowing that Tom wasn’t far behind?

Rob gave me room, then the closed the gap a little bit and there wasn’t enough room for me to chuck it into the bends like you have to do at Belle Vue. I didn’t think Tom would have a go, it wasn’t worth the risk. But he probably could have. If it had been an ordinary Final, then I think I’d have been in the fence and he’d have won. But it was a Semi, it would have been a massive gamble.

So what did Simone put in your Weetabix on Monday morning?

(Laughs) I don’t think it was that…. I was a lot more focussed. I put two new tyres on the outside, which made a big difference, but I was a lot more determined because really it was make or break for my season.

You’re starting the World Final on the front row. How does that feel?

It’s a dream come true. Every driver wants to lead out the World Final. I think the race is difficult to predict, if I can get around the first bend.

Carl Hesketh

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