Belle Vue – May 3rd 2010 Meeting Report

Bank Holiday Monday can only mean Belle Vue, and once again the tight and tricky Manchester oval produced high drama and a bumper crop of stock car action. The Final looked like it was a going to a be two-horse race between Frankie Wainman (on course for his 250th feature race win) and Dan Johnson, but both were denied by a ruthless last lap sort out in which Andy Smith well and truly put them both away to take the win.

Photo Colin Casserley

The first heat fielded 17 cars, of which six were superstar grade. Mike Williamson (111) led them away, but he was immediately under pressure from Mike Heywood (424). Tom Harris (84) set off with a rapid charge up the order, but he came unstuck when he tried to pass John Frost (351). Both cars got hooked up and went into the fence, where they stayed. Stu Smith (390) looked to be having handling problems, with an unforced spin in turn two. He rejoined in front of race leader Williamson, but the car appeared to be out of sorts and lacking power, leaving Williamson not much choice but to push Smith down the back straight and wide into the third turn. Smith took exception to this, hitting the 111 car on the nerf rail and putting it in the wires, and then driving straight at Williamson and holding the power on for a few seconds. With Williamson out, this left Nigel Whalley (198) in the lead, but a hard charging Mat Newson (16) wasn’t far behind, and Whalley’s lead lasted four laps before Newson was ahead. Some big hits in this race, with recent Vue Final winners being on the receiving end. Dishing it out were Paul Harrison (2), who put backmarker James Morris (463) firmly into the pit bend fence, and Mark Poole, who performed a similar manoeuvre on James Clement. Rare visitor Harrison (2) was now flying around the track and up to third place, but he couldn’t make up much ground on second placeman Whalley, who then regained the lead when Newson was baulked by a backmarker. There was more carnage in the closing stages, when Scott Davids (462) attempted to pass Morris on the inside down the home straight, and probably unintentionally nudged Morris into the parked 111 car. Morris bounced off, taking Davids out with him.

Photo Colin Casserley

The second heat featured an array of weather conditions, starting with light drizzle, to heavy rain, hailstones around half distance, and then clear skies by the time the race finished. The ever varying conditions made for a tricky racing surface. Neil Holcroft (496) and Scott Chambers (457) led a few laps before Joe Booth (446) took over, and he led to the flag. Newson, Andy Smith (1), and Tom Harris (84) were some distance behind at the halfway, with Harris gaining a place when the lap boards came out with a big hit that sent Smith out towards the fence.

Photo Colin Casserley

The weather had settled down to being chilly but clear for the third heat, and it was Heywood that led them away. New driver Holcroft appeared to be getting quicker with each lap, until either over-confidence or brain fade led him to a big shot on James Neachell (322), which put Neachell into the fence, with Holcroft then impacting the fence just in front of him, and coming to a stop near the racing line on the exit of turn two. Up front, Chambers attacked Heywood, but span himself out in the process. Dan Johnson (4) and Smith (1) moved through the field in tandem, with Johnson spinning Heywood out to take the lead. But Smith (1) wasn’t far behind, and he took over when he shoved Johnson wide and forced him to take the long way around the stranded 496 car. This also moved Wainman (515) up to second, with Finnikin gaining a place when he moved Josh Smith (191) with a big hit that put the 191 car backwards into the wires. Wainman was now a few lengths behind Smith, but although the number 1 car’s inside front wheel was locking up under braking, it didn’t seem to be a causing a problem and Wainman couldn’t make up any ground over Smith. The fence took another pounding a few laps before the end, when Morris got it all wrong approaching turn one and snapped a fence post on impact. Down the back straight for the last time, Smith was in the middle of a bunch of backmarkers that delayed him slightly, but Wainman was also held up a little, and Smith held on to take the win.

Photo Colin Casserley

The track was lightly watered before the Final, which made the outside line slippery, as Tony Smith (91), Harris, and Harrison (2) found out as they span out at the start, with Ford, Frost, and Neachell all tripping each other up under the starter. From the back of the pack, Wainman made a lightning start and was quickly past the other red tops, and was in the top six after only half a dozen or so laps. Williamson led the first four laps before Booth nudged him out wide into the loose shale, but this also let Holcroft through. The 496 car lasted only a lap at the front before Smith (191) took over, but he didn’t last much longer as Wainman fired him backwards into the fence. Wainman was now in the lead, with less than half the race already run. As the Union Flag was shown, it was Wainman leading, from Johnson, Lund, and Smith (1). What followed was a display of Frankie Wainman at his spectacular best, as the threw the car wildly into the bends and dived into gaps that didn’t appear to be there, and anyone who got in his way got the full force of the 515 front bumper. But perhaps more impressive was Dan Johnson, who with just a fraction of Wainman’s experience, wasn’t letting Wainman increase his lead. Behind them, Smith (1) was gradually gaining speed, easing past Lund, and slowly getting closer to Johnson, with Chambers being launched into the fence off the World Champions’s front bumper. As the lap boards came out, Wainman was still about two to three lengths ahead of Johnson, and it began to look like it would take a kamikaze shot or a disaster to deny Wainman his 250th Final win. Lund had problems when he couldn’t avoid piling into the spun Mark Poole (276), with Smith (390) then crashing into them. With two laps left, Wainman was baulked by a spinning backmarker, and Johnson closed right up. With the number 4 car sat on his back bumper, Wainman didn’t seem to fancy a fast line into turn three, going down the back straight at somewhat less than full race speed, with Johnson pushing. This let Smith get a lot closer, but as they went past the starter for the Last Lap board, Johnson was inside the length of the Wainman car, and all eyes were on these two as they approached turn one. As Wainman got to the turn, Johnson had the inside line, and Smith reached out and delivered the killer blow with clinical precision. Johnson was caught on Wainman’s nerf rail, and both cars were propelled fencewards at full speed, before Wainman came to a dead stop against the parked Poole car, which was then wedged into the fence as a result of the impact. Smith took the flag, with Wainman and Johnson both recovering for lower places.

Photo Colin Casserley

After the drama of the Final, the GN seemed rather tame by comparison, with Whalley taking the lead early on and having a relatively problem free run to the flag. Wainman went out in an unforced spin early on, but rejoined and caught Johnson, firing the number 4 car into Lund and then on into the fence. Up front, Whalley was out on his own, but there was a three way battle for second place between Booth, Neachell, and Finnikin. Neachell eventually dumped Booth into the fence, but he had to settle for a third place finish behind Finnikin.

Photo Colin Casserley

Carl Hesketh

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