It’s Stocktober and what better way to start than with a sixty-nine car entry for Shootout Round 4 at Coventry and just like one month ago, persistent rain during the morning and yet more in the evening meant the going was soft to heavy or good to firm depending on which bit of the track you were on. Good to see some new, old faces having a go, including Allen Cooper (472) F2 and Robin Reliant expert, Andy Clarke (ex-169 now 493), Stuart Milnes (ex-390 now 49, in the Joff Gibson car) and F2 men Jay Tompkins (290) in the Newson downtube car and Michael Lund (95) in the Joe Booth machine. Sjaak Kentie (H179) made the long trip from the Netherlands to compete but had a luckless night. Don’t let that put you off, Sjaak, there’s still another Coventry meeting left this season.
On to the racing then and Heat One saw Mick Rogers (244) take the early initiative while Tom Harris (84) despatched Mick Sworder (150) into the slop on the outside. An out of control Frankie JJ (555) nearly gave the infield staff a change of underwear moment on the back straight as Harris pushed, leant and generally barged Rogers aside on the pit bend. Sworder closed on the 84 car going into the last bend but decided against a good, old fashioned bumper up the rear, opting instead to square the corner off and attack Harris’s inside back wheel – both cars locked together and spun on turn four, out of the race and out of the points. Paul Hines (259) came through from third to first with Rogers a good second and Ben Riley (422) third.
Cooper and Tompkins were both out in Heat Two led away by Steve Smith (40) and Aaron Cozens (76). Cozens led from Colin Nairn (280) but Dan Johnson (4) had the bit between his teeth and was closing fast with Mat Newson and Will Hunter (220) for company when the red flags flew for Tom Boyer (28) who had climbed the turn three fence and gracefully rolled onto his side. As the rain came down at the restart, Cozens and Newson spun leaving Johnson well in command and untroubled to the flag but the last corner saw a commendable attempt by Cooper (472) to remove both Danny Wainman (212) and Stuart Smith (390) in one go, crossing the line sideways for sixth, inches behind 212 and just ahead of 390. Great stuff.
Heat Three saw Shootout contenders Green (445), Speak (318) and Wainman (1) all involved early on as the rain continued. Green took Speaky wide then turned his attention to Wainman as Darren Clark spun on the pit bend, taking several cars with him. Next time around Wainman had passed Green while Speak went out again, Russell Cooper (415) meanwhile, was out in front from John Lund (53) and John Dowson Junior (94). As the lap boards appeared Wainman moved first 94, then 53 to take the lead as Speak tried in vain to recover lost ground, sliding wide into the slurry on the last bend. FWJ won from Dowson, with Green a useful third.
Five Shootout hopefuls had to contest the Consolation which saw Kentie hit the back straight fence very hard on lap one. Another pit bend pile up claimed a number of cars as Sworder sent Speak wide on the third bend. Amidst lots of comings and goings, with cars littered around the track, the caution flags flew – probably to return a marker tyre to its rightful place. Paul Spooner (104) led the restart until sent wide by Sworder, with Speak close behind. Sworder went around courtesy of the 318 bumper but Speak followed him into the muck allowing Lee Fairhurst (217) through into the lead. Sworder tore across the centre to rejoin the race, catching Speak on the last bend but failing to dislodge him. Fairhurst won with the other 4 SO contenders in line behind him (318, 150, 84 & 16).
A full thirty-six car field for the Neil Stuchbury Motors Final and Frankie Wainman Junior, going in as points leader, found himself a marked man early on, Speak sending him fencewards on turn three. Harris planted a big hit on Hunter, taking both 220 and 2 out while Lund was mid track on the back straight facing the traffic – not a good place to be. Speak took the race by the scruff of the neck and stormed on while Sworder propelled Hunter into the fence. FWJ got caught up in a schemozzle and clobbered the fence then went again on the pit bend. Sworder retired just before a caution was called for debris on the track.
Rogers led them away at the green, 212 and 2 hooked up and Speak took the lead as Woodhull (335) tried to overhaul the 244 car. As the track dried, Green went second while Stuart Smith saw his chance to bury the Gold Top. Speaky lapped the ailing Wainman car on his way to victory with Green second and Harris taking third.
Another big field (thirty-seven I made it, would have been one more if Mal Brown hadn’t returned to the pits) for the Grand National, one of those chaotic races where you need a caution to tell who’s leading. As it happened, a caution was needed to sort out a gaggle of tangled cars on turn four, so we surmised that Richard Bryan (238) was leading from Paul Spooner with FWJ already up to third. Frankie lost places at the restart hooking up with a backmarker, letting Johnson through.
Smith then challenged the Gold Top, taking a place off him before Harris fired the number one car very hard into the stranded Nigel Harrhy machine on turn three, bringing out another caution to help Nige from his damaged car. Johnson got the drop at the restart and powered off into the distance to win comfortably from Smith and Harris but the 84 driver was docked two places for jumping the gun, elevating Mr Speak to third, capitalising on the cautions to grab another helmet full of points in his quest to regain the silver roof.
Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley