Belle Vue – May 30th 2011 Meeting Report

The Spring Bank Holiday Monday meeting at Belle Vue was a tribute to pioneer promoter Mike Parker, without whom stock car racing in the north west of England would have been very different. Parker ran numerous tracks in the area for nearly twenty years, beginning with the opening of the seminal Nelson Stadium in 1967, and can be credited with introducing the sport to literally hundreds of drivers and thousands of fans, this scribe included. All of the Mike Parker Promotions tracks are now history, and Mike himself passed away in 1987, but his legacy continues to this day.

The winner of the prestigious Mike Parker Memorial Trophy was Frankie Wainman Junior, who wasn’t even born when his dad was taking his tentative first steps in stock cars at Parker’s Nelson track back in 1970. It marked a return to form for both Wainman and Stu Smith, and between them they won all five races. Both drivers were quite simply in a class above the opposition.

BriSCA F1 stockcar Final winner Frankie Wainman jnr 515. Photo Colin Casserley

BriSCA F1 stockcar drivers Dave Willis 337 and John Lund 53. Photo Colin Casserley

The first heat saw Mike Williamson (111) lead for half a dozen or so laps until he got caught up with backmarker Mike Heywood (424), leaving Richard Bryan (238) in front. But Bryan lasted only a couple of laps before the very rapid Stu Smith (390) hit the front before the halfway stage, with a decent hit on the 238 car’s nerf rail. Also throwing the bumper about in this one was Nigel Whalley (198) on only his second race appearance of the season, although the biggest hit of the race came on the last bend, when James Morris (463) planted Tony Smith (91) straight into the turn three fence, presumably in retaliation for Smith fencing Morris at the start of the race.

Smith wasted no time in exacting revenge on Morris, and as soon as the green dropped on Heat 2, he latched onto the back of the 463 car and drove it straight into the same fence post. The unfortunate Scott Davids found himself caught up in the middle, and it was the previously immaculate and brand new 462 car that took the bulk of the damage. After waved yellows and a bit of a delay while the fence was put back together, the race resumed with Williamson leading and Dave Willis (337) not far behind. Willis lunged at Williamson into the pit bend turn and put both cars out wide; Williamson held on with Willis then retiring to the infield.

BriSCA F1 stockcar driver Mike Williamson 111 runs into Ed Neachell 321. Photo Colin Casserley

Matt Newson (16) then went in hard on Frankie Wainman (515), but Wainman’s response was to pull away and then punt James Clement (158) into the fence to take second place. With the 515 car now looming large in his mirror, Williamson ran wide around turn one, allowing Wainman to come on the inside. They raced the length of the straight side by side, with Wainman taking the lead as they entered the turn. The light drizzle that had started during the race stoppage now turned into a heavy shower, and the remaining laps passed without incident.

BriSCA F1 stockcars James Clement 158 and Mark Poole 276. Photo Colin Casserley

The third heat had Smith (390) set off like a man possessed, and was up to fourth place after just one lap, and in the lead after six. Craig Finnikin (55) also looked quick, but that was until he came to pass Bryan, who resolutely refused to let him through. Bryan’s blocking tactics led to the 55 car’s outside front wheel riding over the 238 car’s nerf rail at one point, with Finnikin eventually getting past when they separated. Completely unfazed by this, Bryan then delivered a hefty blow to Finnikin’s back bumper, and retook the place. Finnikin then passed Bryan again, this time knocking him off line, and out of control, the 238 clipped the turn two fence and span across the track.

BriSCA F1 stockcar driver Craig Finnikin 55 tries to pass Richard Bryan 238. Photo Colin Casserley

Waved yellows to remove the stranded Bryan motor from the track, before Smith made a blistering start and was quickly away from second placed Ed Neachell (321). Further back, Williamson went backwards into the fence, where he was joined by James Neachell (322) and Ricky Wilson (502). All three restarted, with the latter two engaging in an enthralling tit-for-tat battle that lasted the rest of the race. Leader Smith was visibly hesitant about getting between them, and hung back for a couple of laps before he could be sure of passing without getting caught up. A bigger shot from Neachell put both cars into the fence a couple of laps from the end; Neachell managed to continue, while the stricken 502 car was hit by Newson, who had been sent fencewards by John Lund (53).

BriSCA F1 stockcars of Ricky Wilson 502 and James Neachell 322 side by side. Photo Colin Casserley

The final was lined up as a closed grid, and began with the immortal announcement “Gentlemen, start your engines!”, and the rolling lap commenced to the accompaniment of Fanfare For The Common Man. Mike Parker would have approved.

Phil Whittaker (88) was on pole position, and when the green dropped he was first away. Behind him, carnage ensued for a couple of laps, with cars going in all directions. Wainman (515) closed up to Smith (390) and went past without any drama, although they were closed up again when the yellows came out for Garry Townsend (223), stranded on the racing line. Davids inadvertently passed Smith on the yellows, with Smith quite clearly making his views known with some use of the bumper.

the BriSCA F1 stockcar of Stu Smith Jnr 390. Photo Colin Casserley

Whittaker led the restart, but he was swallowed up by the chasing pack, with the ever improving Williamson taking over, with Ed and James Neachell not far behind. But the 111 car ran wide around the pit turn, brushing the wires, and the following lap he did it again, this time making a proper impact with the fence. This left Neachell (321) leading, with Neachell (322) not far behind.

Finnikin shoved Smith (390) wide for fourth place, but Smith was quick to return the compliment. Neachell (322) span brother Ed out of contention on the exit of turn four, and took up the running. As they passed the halfway mark, the race order read Neachell, from Wainman, Smith, and Finnikin. As the laps passed, little if any progress was made by Wainman, and he remained a few lengths in arrears of the flying 322 car.

BriSCA F1 stock car red grades do battle. Photo Colin Casserley

The track was now down to the bedrock, and Wainman noticeably slowed down, whereas Neachell continued at the same breakneck speed. But as the lap boards came out, the all-important outside rear tyre of the 322 car was smoking heavily, and within a lap or two the tyre had let go. This left Wainman to lead the last couple of laps to take the win; whether it was fortuitous or tactical is a matter of opinion.

None of the white grade drivers had survived past the Final, so it was straight into the lead for Nigel Whalley in the GN. Smith (390) and Finnikin (55) were both quick to pass most of the field, and were second and third respectively after just a handful of laps. Finnikin edged Smith wide to take second, but Smith immediately came back to put the 55 car wide on the next bend, with Finnikin then getting attacked by Lund.

BriSCA F1 stockcars Craig Finnikin 55 and Stu Smith Jnr 390 tear up the back straight. Photo Colin Casserley

Neachell (321) and Smith (191) took each other to the fence, before Smith bumpered Whalley wide for the lead. Whalley came back with a massive lunge at Smith, missed completely, and then made up for it with a thundering shot that planted Newson hard into Lund. Wainman (515), from the lap handicap and without any waved yellows to close the field, had been in last place and out of the points for the entire race, only catching the rest of the pack at the start of the last lap. The 515 car moved past brother Danny for tenth place around the pit turn, and then a determined effort down the back straight had Wainman in fifth place by the chequered.

The final score had Stu with 3 wins to Frankie’s 2, although Frankie scored 64 points to Stu’s 52. An incredible performance from both drivers.

Carl Hesketh

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