Birmingham, 12th April 2014 – meeting report and photo gallery

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A Heat and Final double for Rob Speak.

Following three weekends of racing on the dirty stuff the tarmac racing season opened its doors at Birmingham Wheels Raceway, with around 40 cars in the pits, all on a steep learning curve due to the winter rule changes for tyres, brakes and shock absorbers.

A pre meeting tour of the pits revealed lots of new and reworked cars on show. Former F1 superstar Ray Witts had produced an immaculate new car for 321 Ed Neachell while the Tom Harris Motorsport workshops had clearly been busy with new cars for Luke Davidson 464 and Rotherham superstar Paul Harrison. Various teething troubles kept Harrison out of the points all night, but a Grand National third for the 464 car suggested Luke was soon getting to grips with his new chariot.

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Other notable debuts were ex Spedeworth Superstox and Ascar star Paul Poulter 174 having his first F1 tar session in the ex team Davidson car piloted in 2013 by Rob Speak. While lone Scottish driver Paul Ford 388 was also present and ready for his first serious outing in the all conquering 2013 Tom Harris car. The Team Harris truck had also made it to the pits but there was no sign of a car until minutes before start time when a sparkling brand new car arrived on a trailer. Pristine paint and top class engineering are standard on Harris cars and this one was no exception, but a late arrival gave way to a difficult debut meeting, but more of that later.

18 cars rumbled on track for heat one. 287 Sean Willis and 496 Neil Holcroft contested the early lead while Micky Randell 172 gave the rear bumper of the 11 Michael Scriven car some attention. Rob Speak 318 looked significantly faster than his fellow stars and superstars and was closing in on the lower grades before the halfway stage. Holcroft managed to shake off Willis but then retired with a flat tyre on halfway. This left H231 Daniel Van Spyker to contest the lead with 11 Neil Scriven. H231 slowed leaving 318 behind 11 and all set for a last bend lunge. Last lap last bend and Speak charged only to find the 11 car had developed a sudden liking for a much wider outside line leaving Speak to sail up the inside for an easy victory.

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Another 18 for heat two although 94 John Dowson retired on the rolling lap. 174 Paul Poulter grabbed the lead followed by 45 Harrhy and Paul Ford 388, who had Ivan Pritchard 434 on his tail. Ford passed Poulter but was then delayed fighting a determined Pritchard which allowed a fast moving Lee Fairhurst 217 to close them down. Fairhurst muscled his way past with four laps to go for a comfortable run to the flag, while Ford managed to hang on to second from a subdued Ryan Harrison 197.

Consolation time and a first race of the night for both World Champion Harris and Mick Sworder 150 in yet another THM car, this one previously raced by Mark Allen 161. Holcroft 496 and Willis 287 contested the lead with the big guns at the back making little impression. Tom Harris had a little bit of trouble with Craig Finnikin 55 but soon pulled away and with five to go was closing on the leaders. 150 retired as the lap boards came out and as Willis slowed Holcroft was left unchallenged to take the victory with Harris in second place.

Post consolation race all was not well in the pits at Team Harris as the car failed post race inspection and was excluded from the result leaving Harris with nothing to do but load up the car and prepare the modifications required to make the car legal for Sunday at Hednesford.

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27 chargers for the final and some hopes that a fuller grid may produce a little more excitement. The Willis 287 and Holcroft 496 duo became a trio as 229 Derek Brown joined them and these three escaped the chaos back in the pack as most of the yellow grade including Harrhy 45 and Davies 327 chucked there cars at the turn two fence. After a few chaotic laps and some aggressive moves from 321 Ed Neachell things settled down and Speak 318 left the stars behing and closed in on the leaders. As 229 faded 318 passed leader Holcrfot with five to go to complete one of the easiest heat and final doubles seen in recent years.

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Just one short of 30 cars for the Grand National and finally a little more action for those who like a dose of brutality in amongst the motor racing. 220 Will Hunter broke the Holcroft Willis partnership at the front. In fact Hunter made light of his lack of experience retaining his lead until 5 laps to go. Hunter was chased by crowd favourite Nigel Harrhy 45 and Ford 388 who had 434 Ivan Pritchard in his shadow. Ford passed 45 before hallway but with five to go Harrhy had gathered himself up and attacked 388 on turn two. It was a brave attempt from the 45 car but all ended in disaster as 388 escaped and 434 tangled with 45 on the exit of turn 3 which left Harrhy admiring the horticulture half way up the infield banking. This left Ford well clear to stroll off and collect flag and trophy.

Words: Damian Noblett

Photos: Colin Casserley

 

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