Round 7 of the National Points Championship Shootout sponsored by Neil Fitton Racing drew an entry of 37 cars to a rather wet Birmingham Wheels Raceway. A two-thirds format ensured plenty of cars on track but with the first half of the meeting blighted by the rain, fans had to wait for the Final and Grand National races for the action on track to be as hard and intense as the earlier rain showers.
23 for Heat one. White tops 284 Sam Wass and Jon Horne in the 19 car slithered off into the lead. Of the big names, Harris (84) looked to have more pace than his rivals but his charge to the front expired when he tangled with the 512 car of Michael Steward. The race settled down as cars struggled for grip, Horne retired leaving 183 Steve Whittle chasing the 284 car.
By half way Mick Sworder had managed to make his way into third and then passed 183 for second on the penultimate lap. Last lap and Sworder closed in and delivered a precise and decisive last bend hit on 284 to take the victory. Wass locked up and went straight on into the Armco. It’s of great credit to the inexperienced Wass that he still managed to drag his ailing car to the line to secure fourth place but a bent front axle and other chassis damage ended his racing. With brother Alex Wass also having to load up his car after mechanical problems during practice, it was not a great night for the Wass family but one feels sure they will be back better and stronger next season. In fact both have the talent to succeed and could still have the opportunity for some 2016 success at Birmingham as both with be eligible for the Under 25s Championship which takes place at the season ending Gala meeting at Birmingham on 12th November.
Another 23 for heat two including the top 3 in the point title chase: Nigel Green, Rob Speak and Frankie Wainman Jnr. Ex-Saloon Stock Car superstar 48 Shaun Webster has way too much skill and experience for a yellow grade start and led pretty much from flag to flag. Of the trio leading the points chase, Green had a steady race keeping out of any trouble and made it into second place with five laps to go. Wainman started fast but got a little out of shape in turn four and this error was all that Dan Johnson required to give Frank that little extra push that turned oversteer into a full blown spin. Wainman gathered himself and continued at a rapid pace given the conditions but the time lost meant eighth place was his only reward.
Meanwhile Speak was doing his best to confirm the impression given at previous rounds that he has little interest in winning the silver roof. The 318 car went looking for contact with as many cars as possible especially Danny Wainman. On a wet track this aggressive approach was bound to lead to delays in progress and the best Speak could manage was a fifth place.
21 for heat three and, with the rain now slowing down, a little portion of dry racing line began to emerge. 48 Webster built another lead while at the back Green, Speak and Mick Sworder had a polite exchange of hits. Webster led until halfway when a flying Hitman Harris went past for a comfy win. Speak made it all the way to third place, Green held fourth and on the last lap had the 318 car in range for a terminal hit but the 445 pilot kept his powder dry.
A bigger field of cars for the final, and a track now damp on the outside and dry on the inner led to a substantial increase in on-track action. Horne took the lead in the 19 car while Harris (84) broke away from the other Shootout drivers and began a rapid charge through the field. For the first seven or eight laps the action exploded on every bend with the Shootout drivers hitting each other on a regular basis. With Horne departing, in the lead we now had Matt Rogers in the 213 car. Rogers is in his first season of F1 racing and showed remarkable pace and control on a difficult track. Still it was too much to expect that his lead would last and Harris went past for an unchallenged victory. Harris led home F2 racer Ashley England and current holder of the silver roof Dan Johnson. With England then penalised for a jump start Johnson took second and perhaps just enough points to keep his faint hope of title retention alive. Rogers 213 completed the podium places with his second third place of the night. It would not surprise me if the 213 car became a regular visitor to the podium in 2017.
Of the key runners in the points chase, Speak and Green sparred rather than fought with Green saying no to several opportunities to put the 318 car in the fence. As points leader, this is probably a sensible approach even it leaves the fans a little disappointed. Wainman Jnr had another race to forget; finishing out of the points which left him well adrift of Green and Speak in the race for silver.
28 for the Grand National and more speed on a drying track, and more argy bargy at the back of the pack with 16 Mat Newson and Dan Johnson bashing the Armco in turn 3. Rogers led Webster but had to give way and the 48 car then pulled away. Speak had finally got his racing head on and was in second before halfway. Speak took the lead but yellow flags halted the field. On the restart, Speak led Wainman and Green. Speak soon pulled away leaving Green to scrap with Wainman. Last lap and the 445 car did go for a fairly big lunge at the Wainman car and did indeed make some contact, but it was insufficient to dispose of his rival.
Speak took his lap of honour but glory turned to grief just 20 minutes later when the 318 car failed post race inspection; blaming a tyre change for his failure to pass the checks on ride height. With Speak disqualified, Wainman Jnr inherited the win and just enough points to keep his faint hopes of silver alive. The removal of Speak also moved the 84 car of Hitman Harris into fourth and with the final winner’s double points haul Harris scooped enough points to make some fans think it may be more than a two horse race for the title!
Words: Damian Noblett
Photos: Colin Casserley