Birmingham – November 19th 2011 Meeting Report

The annual Gala Meeting has become a fixture on the calendar, marking, as it does, the beginning of the sports’ off-season. One week after the thrilling climax to the Shootout series at Belle Vue, the meeting provided an opportunity to contemplate the season just gone, discuss winter plans and enjoy the sights and sounds of BriSCA F1 stock cars in action for one last time.

Talk of the Shootout finale was rife and, present in the pits, fresh from his Belle Vue triumph and proudly sporting his newly-sprayed silver roof, was the newly-crowned Shootout Champion, Craig Finnikin. Still grinning.

BriSCA F1 stock car champion Craig Finnikin 55 sporting his new silver roof. Photo Colin Casserley

BriSCA F1 stock car Stuart Baker 106 in the Dave Berresford tar car. Photo Steve Botham

Also lining up on the grid were the Gala Meeting’s usual mix of car swaps and debutant drivers, notable among which was George Turiccki, making the step up from F2 in Matt Newson’s shale car and racing under number 186.

BriSCA F1 stock car drivers Matt Newson 16 and George Turiccki 186. Photo Colin Casserley

The meeting itself was dominated by two drivers – James Neachell, making an all-too-rare appearance in 2011, with two heat wins and Mick Harris, father of this years runaway winner of the National Points table, and making his first appearance since last year’s Gala Meeting, who won the other heat and simply walked away with the final.

The meeting was run as a two-thirds format; all-in for the final and no Grand National.

ex-BriSCA F1 stock car driver Nick Smith (now 151) tries out Dylan Williams Maynard 51's car. Photo Steve Botham

Mickey Randall (172) was the first blue grader to make forward progress into the yellows, with Chris Cowley (37) hot on his heels, and using his bumper to good effect. Mick Harris (8) was soon into his stride however, looking for all the world like he’d never been away as he caught and passed the 172 car. Further back, debutante George Turiccki (186) was mixing it with Junior Wainman (515), both making their way through the field, the F2 driver’s impressive showing coming to an end when he hooked up with Richard Regan (428) and, with help from Mark Allen (161), rode over the 428 car’s bonnet on the infield, fortunately coming to rest back on all fours.

F1 stock car drivers Richard Regan 428 and George Turiccki 186 in action. Photo Steve Botham

By this time, Mick Harris had moved into the lead and simply drove away from the field, taking the chequered flag to the applause of the sizeable crowd.
Result: 8-172-37-55-197-16-51-488-462-422

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Mick Harris 8 in son Tom's 84 tarmac machine. Photo Steve Botham

The first attempt at getting the second heat underway was red-flagged after debutante Shaun Blakemore (221) – also making the step up from F2 – stalled on the entrance to turn 1 during the rolling lap. Despite frantically waved yellows, the pack arrived at full racing pace and though the majority managed to skip around the stranded car, Chris Cowley had no time to react as cars parted in front of him and hit the stationary car head-on. Both 37 and 221 were out of the restart, with Chris requiring some medical attention on the infield. He was fortunately able to reappear later in the evening.

BriSCA F1 stock car yellow grades Nigel Harrhy 45 and Tim Farrell 467. Photo Colin Casserley

Rich Masterson (103) raced out to an early lead once the green had dropped, with Mickey Randall once again showing the first from the blue grades. Further back, Mick Sworder was using his bumper to great effect and scything through the pack, closely followed by the 515 car of Junior Wainman.

By now, Dave Hopkins (447) had taken the lead, only to be passed at half distance by James Neachell, making a welcome appearance on the ovals. As the star grades continued to move up through the field, the 322 car carefully picked its way through what backmarkers there were, eventually taking an untroubled victory. In a race low on incident, the sprint to the line between Mick Harris and Dave Hopkins gave the crowd something to cheer, with the 447 car winning the race to 4th place by inches.
Result: 322-515-172-447-8-150-53-212-11-103

BriSCA F1 stock driver James Neachell 322 in action. Photo Steve Botham

A much bigger field took the start in heat 3 with a corresponding increase in action; plenty of fighting within grades was the feature of the race. Chad Evans (392) pulled out an early lead, with James Neachell once again making good progress from blue, and like the previous heat, taking the lead around the halfway mark.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Chad Evans 392. Photo Colin Casserley

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Mick Sworder 150 tails Frankie Wainman jnr 515. Photo Steve Botham

Matt Newson was making solid progress through the field, as were the tandem of Mick Sworder and Frankie Wainman. The busier track saw plenty of contact, with Jon Clare (294) climbing up the back of John Lund out of turn 4.

BriSCA F1 driver Jonathan Clare 294 goes over John Lund 53. Photo Steve Botham

The yellows were out with three to run, to retrieve a stranded Keith Goodswen (312), allowing Neil Scriven (11) and Matt Newson onto the tail of the 322 car; however James ran away to a consecutive heat win, heading the 16 car across the line, after a last bend effort from Neil Scriven had failed to recover the position from Newson.
Result: 322-16-11-150-422-515-53-197-488-212

BriSCA F1 stock car drivers Craig Finnikin 55 and Matt Newson 16 , Photo Steve Botham

Another big field was bunched into a closed grid format for the Gala Final, providing incident from the off. Scott Davids (462) found himself in the wall on turn 2 first time around, with Mark Allen also spinning to a halt. The rear of the grid were not hanging about and a train of cars comprising 53-515-212-150 were moving quickly through the field, hauling in the leaders as soon as lap 3, when the yellow flags were deployed, to allow the 161 car to be removed to safety from its position on turn 2.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Mick Harris 8 on his way to the final win. Photo Colin Casserley

By now, the John Lund challenge was over, thanks to a visit to the wall in turn 3. At the restart, it was Mick Harris leading the field, followed by a clutch of white and yellows, with Danny Wainman and Mick Sworder lurking menacingly. These two swapped position shortly after the green and gave chase to the flying Harris car, though when the lap boards came out, the lead was over a quarter of a lap and Mick showed no signs of being reeled in. That lead evaporated with the second yellow flags incident of the race, for recovery of the Robert Tyas (140) and 447 cars from turn 3.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Robert Tyas 140 pops a wheelie. Photo Colin Casserley

And so the last final of 2011 (Christmas meeting notwithstanding) came down to a 4-lap sprint, with Mick Harris slowly leading round the pack, led by Mick Sworder and Danny Wainman, on a pedestrian rolling lap. When the green fell, the 8 car simply drove away into the distance again, assisted by Danny’s failed attempt to move the 150 car aside.

BriSCA F1 drivers Danny Wainman 212 alongside Will Yarrow 22. Photo Steve Botham

BriSCA F1 stock car brothers Frankie 515 and Danny 212 in action. Photo Steve Botham

Brother Frankie soon relegated Danny to fourth place, where he soon came under attack from Will Yarrow (22) and Matt Newson. Two laps later, the chequered fell on Mick Harris’ remarkable comeback night, ahead of a tyre-smoking Mick Sworder, who thrilled the crowd with two laps’ worth of sideways, tyre-spinning excitement to cap the night off perfectly.
Result: 8-150-515-22-16-212-37-55-11-186.

BriSCA F1 stock car driver Mick Sworder 150 smokes his tyres. Photo Colin Casserley

Mick Harris 8 takes the win, alongside Mick Sworder 150 and Frankie Wainman jnr 515. Photo Steve Botham

Mark Knowles

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