Belle Vue – August 31st 2009 Meeting Report

Belle Vue – Monday 31st August 2009

A decent turnout of cars for Belle Vue’s August Bank Holiday Monday session was boosted with three visitors from New Zealand. They were Malcolm Ngatai (NZ1) in the Richard Earl (285) car, Dale Ewers (NZ2) in the former Chris Cowley and current FWJ Hire Car, and Scott Miers (NZ8) in the Mark Tittcomb (398) car. With short but heavy rain showers at random intervals throughout the meeting, and hence very varying track conditions, the results might have been unpredictable, but Andy Smith (391) coped better than most and won three of the four races he contested, with only a flat tyre denying him a chance in the Final.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

The meeting started with a race for White & Yellow grade drivers, and 17 of them lined up. This included the Kiwis, who now appear to be graded yellow. Mike Heywood (424) was the first away when the green dropped, but he ran wide around the first bend letting Tim Warwick (307) through. Warwick was soon under pressure from Ike Parkinson (254), throwing the car sideways to keep the lead after Parkinson put the bumper in. Colin Chambers (454) span in turn three, with Steve Jacklin (136) half spinning while avoiding him, and Dave Russo (49) piling into the side. The 136 and 49 cars were now hooked up in the middle of the track, but perhaps surprisingly, the rest of the race was run around them, with the Russo car getting clobbered quite a few times. Parkinson used the stricken cars to his advantage, and a well-timed hit forced Warwick to take the long way around the dead cars. Parkinson lasted a few laps before Job Booth (446) took the lead with a copycat manoeuvre. Booth had opened up a big lead by the halfway, while Dale Ewer (NZ2) was making a lot of progress from the back of the pack and was up to third place before the lap boards came out. Ewers then went past Steve Malkin (308) for second, with Malkin replying with a big lunge on the next bend. He missed, but Ewers then slowed with a flat tyre, with Malkin exiting a lap later. As the race drew to a close, Malcolm Ngatai (NZ1) started to come to terms with his car, and dumped Warwick and Heywood into the turn three fence, before joining them a lap later after going in far too fast. Booth took the win by some margin from Hayley Parkinson.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Heat One saw 19 cars line up, including F1 debutant Gary Fox (480) in the borrowed Graeme Robson (267) car. The race got off to an explosive start, as when the green dropped, Chambers failed to take the bend drove flat out into the turn one fence and span around twice, while amazingly the chasing pack all avoided him. Mike Williamson (111) pulled away from the rest of the field, with Parkinson (254), Ngatai, and Booth barging past second placeman Warwick. Also going up the order at a rate of knots was Joff Gibson (249), who fired James Clement (158) into the turn three fence. At this stage, apart from runaway leader Williamson, most of the field were circulating bumper to bumper. Stu Smith (390) and Frankie Wainman (515) were scything their way through the field and were in the top six after only half a dozen laps, but after exchanging places a few times the 390 car was shown the black flag due to the rear bumper hanging off. Up front, Williamson began to slow as he got caught up in traffic, and the 111 car ended up being bundled into the fence just before the halfway. Booth then took up the running, but Gibson wasn’t far behind, and as the lap boards came out these two were clear at the front. Behind them, Dan Johnson (4), Wainman, and Mark Gilbank (21), were battling amongst themselves, with Johnson struggling to pass backmarker Russo. With two laps to run, Gibson took the lead and the win when he sent Booth wide arond turn one with a perfectly timed, perfectly weighted hit – it wasn’t a typical Gibson move!

Gibson fired Steve Cayzer (380) wide at the start of Heat Two, but he came to a stop when he tangled with Dave Willis (337) a couple of laps into the race. Warwick led from the off, but he lost time with a badly timed hit on backmarker Spencer Taylor (498), which allowed Malkin to close. Another hit on Taylor and Warwick was past, and began to pull clear. The 307 car was flying around the track, and despite rain starting to fall around the halfway stage, it looked as though Warwick was on course for victory. But as the lapboards came out, so did the waved yellows, to remove the Tom Harris (84) car, which had come to a stop in a precarious position at the exit of turn two. It only took a couple of minutes to move the stranded car and line them back up, but during that time enough rain had fallen on the track to make a wet and slippery racing surface. It appeared that Andy Smith (391) had set his car up for a wet track, as after struggling for most of the race, when the green dropped on the restart he quickly smacked Wainman and Johnson wide and raced up the order. With the 391 car now looking like it was on rails, Smith caught Warwick on the last lap and eased past to take the win.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

The rain had stopped by the 23 car third heat, which was fast and furious. Chambers span around turn two at the start, and was battered by the rest of the pack, which brought out the waved yellows after a couple of laps. On the restart, Parkinson (254) was leading from Miers, Russo, James Neachell (322), and Smith (391), although the NZ8 car retired to the infield on the rolling lap. A big hit from Smith fired Neachell into Russo and elevated the 391 car a couple of places. Smith then took the lead when Parkinson (254) overcooked it coming out of turn two and wandered onto the infield. Willis was flying in this one, and bumpered Johnson wide to gain a place, but was then baulked by Jacklin. Well before the halfway, Smith had a clear lead, from Danny Wainman (212) and John Lund (53), with Smith (390) starting to close in after a slow start. As the lap boards came out, Smith felt he was close enough to attack, and a massive hit launched Lund into Wainman as they entered the pit turn. Lund kept it together while the 212 car bounced off the wires and dropped down the order. Smith (391) went on to win by some distance, with just 7 of the original field completing the distance.

Another light shower just as the Final started, and this time Kiwis Ewar and Miers had elected to start at the back of the pack. Wiliamson led the opening laps before Warwick went past. Williamson didn’t waste much time in dumping Warwick into the fence, but he ran wide himself, letting Scott Davids (462) through. Behind him, the entire length of the home straight was filled with cars bumper to bumper, and around the turn Fox was squeezed out of line and into the wires. Ewers and Miers managed to take each other out before the halfway stage, by which time Davids had already opened up a seemingly unassailable lead from Neachell (321). Wainman (515) and Smith (391) had both made typically quick starts to the race, with Smith chasing Wainman through the pack, before the 391 car retired with a flat tyre. A big hit from Wainman put Mark Gilbank (21) into Neachell (321), who dropped back, with Wainman then passing Gilbank for second place the following lap. Davids lost a big lead when the yellows came out for Ewers, and as they lined up for the restart Davids had backmarker Neachell (322) between him and Wainman (515). A textbook start by Davids saw the 462 car do the rolling lap at a snails pace with the field bunched up behind him, and the instant the green was waved Davids put his foot down and pulled three or four lengths clear before Neachell set off. Davids then had a trouble free run to the chequered and a career-third Final, while Wainman evidently didn’t know Neachell was a lap down and punted the 322 car wide on the last bend. Further back, Gibson went for a big last bend hit on Johnson and Cayzer, with Cayzer coming to an abrupt stop in the turn four fence.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Just 13 cars were still raceworthy for the GN, and as none of them were white tops it was Jackin who was in the lead when the green dropped. There were casualites immediately, as Miers crashed into the turn two fence and Mark Poole (276) span into the turn three fence. Neachell (322) forced his way past Jacklin for the lead after four laps, with Smith (391) again storming through the field. As the race reached half distance, Neachell had Smith behind him and getting closer, with big gap before Gilbank and wainman in third and fourth. The 391 car slowly but surely reeled in Neachell, and with two laps to run Smith made his move. Smith was still a couple of lengths behind at this point, but the element of surprise worked as Neachell clearly wasn’t expecting Smith to attack just yet. As Neachell braked for turn three, Smith held the power full on and planted the 322 car straight into a fence post. Gilbank on the other hand, was ready for a last bend hit from Wainman, but was unable to contain it, as just the slightest nudge put the 21 car off line and Wainman took second place on the final turn.

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