Birmingham, 16th April 2016 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

Fifty six cars arrived at Birmingham Wheels Raceway in search of those all important World Championship qualifying points. Earlier rain had left the track a little damp for pre-meeting practice but down in the pits it was bright sunshine, competing with a brisk wind.

Various drivers had chosen this meeting to have their first on-track blast of the season. Joff Gibson (249) had use of the former Dylan Williams-Maynard car, while ex-Saloon stock car superstar Steve Webster (401) debuted a very well presented car. Of course for many fans only one ‘new’ driver was of interest, as this meeting saw the return of Ryan ‘The Boss’ Harrison (197), after an enforced sabbatical last season. Many fans had missed Ryan’s forceful style around the raceways.

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Ryan Harrison (197) makes his return to racing. Pictured here with Nigel Green.

Ryan was also joined on track by former number one driver Tom Harris, whose commitments to racing Sprint Cars in the USA have reduced his UK appearances to occasional outings on tarmac circuits. New cars were somewhat thin on the ground but Team Huntapac had managed to throw a few more shekels in the direction of Peter Falding, who had provided them with yet another tarmac special for use by younger brother, Henry (202).

Many fans believe that 56 cars is not really sufficient for a three heat format at Birmingham, but the rules currently prevent the promoter putting customers first, so the meeting format was tweaked to allow C-grade drivers to race in two out of the three heats. 23 for Heat One and a quiet race with no yellow flags allowed Alex Wass and Todd Jones to sail away at the front. The star men progressed through the rest of the field led by 16 Mat Newson but the leading duo were well clear when the flag came down.

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Heat 1 winner, Alex Wass

21 for Heat Two and more lower grade domination as the 24 car of Mark Adkins led the ever-smiling veteran 460 Chris Cooke. A little more action further back in the pack eventually brought out yellow flags with early season sensation 28 Tom Bowyer having a big impact with the turn four fence. Adkins cleared off on the restart for an untroubled ride to victory. Cooke (460) was not so fortunate, being swallowed up by Points Champion Dan Johnson and Luke Davidson but still recorded an excellent fourth place.

Ironically, the thinnest field in the heats produced a much better race in Heat Three, with the 18 starters fighting and crashing at regular intervals. Harris took a swipe at Speak (318) in turn two while 445 Nigel Green welcomed Ryan (197) back to the scary side of the fence. Up front, it was Bradley Harrison from Colin Goodswen but a second bout of yellows was required as Speak and Harris tangled and smacked the home straight Armco. Speak required assistance from his car while Harris retired to the infield – the 84 car did not return trackside for the rest of the evening.

The race restarted and action continued with Nigel Green and Stuart Smith Jnr (390) getting together and exchanging several bouts of bumper. Normally when things get rough, 390 comes out on top but Green refused to be intimidated and gave Stuart a little bit more than he received. They tangled with the infield banking which lost them several places with Green managing tenth while the 390 car failed to finish. Up front Ed Neachell (321) had taken the lead around halfway and managed to keep enough space between himself and Michael Scriven to avoid any last bend lunge.

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Wheels woe for Smith and Green

27 for the Consolation but a similar pattern to earlier races with lower grade domination of the podium places. Todd Jones (196) went one better than brother Murray taking the win from Sean Willis (287). Fans were hopeful of a renewal of hostilities between Green (445) and Smith (390) but the dual surface car of Green retired with a flat tyre when closing in on 390.

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The Jones brothers on track at Birmingham.

Final time and entertainment all round the raceway. Notable early victims included Ryan Harrison, who got involved in a big crash entering turn 3 and slammed the fence backwards. Elsewhere Scott Davids and Daniel van Spijker attacked the infield banking. Stuart Shevill Jnr led but his lead evaporated when yellow flags came out to rescue a stranded Bradley Harrison. On the restart, Shevill retired to the infield leaving teenage hero Frankie Wainman Jnr Jnr in the lead. Wainman has made exceptional progress in his short F1 career but he had no answer when chased down and passed by a superfast Dan Johnson.

The National Points Champion can often be inconsistent on tarmac circuits but was on good form and built a huge lead, which allowed him to ease off in the last five laps and still win by the length of a straight from Craig Finnikin (55), who recorded his best result on tar since the introduction of American Racer tyres. Elsewhere Wainman (515), Newson (16) and Lee Fairhurst (217) kept the patrons entertained fighting over places five to seven. 515 went for a big last bend attack on 217 but received similar treatment from Newson; who then held a tighter line and beat both Wainman and Fairhurst to the flag.

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Final top 3: Dan Johnson, Craig Finnikin and Luke Davidson

There were 30 survivors for the Grand National. Perhaps many drivers were trying to protect their cars for Sunday’s events at Hednesford Raceway but little action and no yellow flags made for another lower grade benefit with C-grader Elwell (501) leading Wainman 555 and 196 Jones. Elwell held on until halfway when he was passed by Wainman, who took the win and shared his celebrations post-race with proud dad Frankie Jnr.

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Frankie JJ celebrating his first F1 victory

Words: Damian Noblett
Photos: Colin Casserley and Steve Botham

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