Coventry, 5th September 2015 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

Back to three heats for the September Shoot Out session at Brandon. Ten no-shows brought the numbers down a bit but six extras were found to give us 59 cars on the night, 19 of which gridded for Heat One. Chris Farnell (32) led as far as the first bend, John Brown (134) led the next lap and then he too spun on the pit bend leaving Karl Hawkins (175) and Nigel Harrhy (45) to dispute the lead. Nigel must have harkened back to his speedway days, looking for the drive on the very outside of the track, any wider and he would have been passing the house he was born in!

Having got the lead, Nige settled into a rhythm, taking a tighter line and lapping consistently fast to take the most popular win of the night – not even a last bend lunge by a very bumper happy Mick Sworder (150) could stop Nigel taking the chequered flag, but the starter did, opting to wave the 45 car home with the Union flag instead of the traditional black and white – obviously he was as excited as Mr Harrhy was.

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Nigel Harrhy taking his first win on the Coventry shale.

Twenty cars rolled out for Heat Two and all of them got around the first bend unscathed, Tim Warwick (307) opening up a slight lead ahead of Eaton (448), Hurdman (207) and Neachell (321). The Shoot Out contenders (4, 16, 212 & 390) were making hard work of the race, none of which concerned Neachell as he took the lead, briefly, before tangling with Hunter (202), letting James Morris (463) into first place. The 321 car half spun, allowing Dan Johnson (4) to close up and deliver the inevitable wallop, then Morris fell foul of the errant 501 car on the pit bend but rejoined, still in the lead. Johnson tried a last bender but bounced of the white-topped 331 car instead, leaving Morris to take victory. Two races, two yellow top wins. Could the trend continue?

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Some of the Shootout contenders battling in Heat 2.

Well no, actually. Heat Three had some heavy hitters among its 20 cars, Mark Gilbank (21) being one of them. He was sending cars fencewards two or three at a time in his efforts to relieve Steve Smith (40) of the lead. Speak (318), Wainman (515) and Fairhurst (217) had their own thing going, until Speaky broke away and set off after Gilbank, but the Rotherham man clearly thought Saturday night is not alright for fighting, letting the Points Champ, or is it Shoot Out Champ – let’s just call him Sir Robert – by to chase down Smith. The 40 car half spun, Speaky closed him down and moved him aside with around 6 to run, going on for victory ahead of Wainman and Gilbank.

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The first superstar winner of the night: Rob Speak in Heat 3.

Having gone all unnecessary near the end of heat three, Smith (40) tried again in the Consolation, leading for several laps until a caution halted his progress, Mark Adkins (24) requiring assistance on turn one. With Adkins safely removed to the centre, it was, as they say on NASCAR, “Green flag back in the air” (that bit’s especially for V8-108) and Smith resumed his place ahead of the pack.

Not so much good fortune for lone red top Nigel Green (445), who, having spun a time or two, clashed with Hawkins then piled into a marker tyre on the home straight, pushing his front axle back. Second placed Joff Gibson (249) took to the home straight infield to close the gap but slid back on to the track still in second place until, with three to run Smith was baulked by Eaton (448) on the back straight. Gibson seized his chance and bumpered Smith wide on the third bend to take the victory with Smith holding on for second and Mark Woodhull (335) third.

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Smith (40) and Gibson (249) in the Consolation.

A full complement of 36 cars gridded for the Final which started in chaotic fashion with the 463 car turned around in sight of the green flag, Harrhy and Neachell tangling on the first corner and Brown (34) hitting the fence on the back straight. Warwick led while the Shoot Out drivers attacked each other. Sworder climbed over Newson on turn three then collected Speak, both cars quickly back in the fray until a caution was thrown for Gibson who had visited the scoreboard bend fence hard courtesy of Johnson (4).

Until the stoppage it was very hard to tell who was leading, but the restart made it clear that Karl Roberts (313) was in the hot seat with SSJ (390) right behind him but a lap down, leaving Davids (462) in second place. As the dust rose, bumpers went in hard, Wainman (515) spinning on the pit bend and retiring with damage, while Finnikin forged ahead after Davids who now had a short lead from Paul Harrison (2).

The Rotherham man reeled in Davids with around five to run to take victory by nearly half a lap, while Finnikin hammered into the side of the 462 car on the last bend, sending Davids into the fence and himself wide and allowing Speak, after a remarkable recovery, into second. Davids dragged his car home for fourth ahead of Fairhurst and Danny Wainman.

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Johnson using the bumper in the meeting final.

Thirty-seven gridded for the Grand National, one too many so last man out Gibson (249) was removed to the centre. The reds were into the blues before the flag dropped, the early laps seeing a pile-up on the pit bend and collisions down the back straight in another fast, furious and hard to follow race. Order was restored when the yellow flags flew for Aldridge (421) who had nosed his “50” car into the third bend armco, the restart giving Neachell the lead from possibly 422, with some big names a lap down. Neachell went way ahead, with Hunter (220) second while Roberts put FWJ away hard on turn three.

I must have dropped off at some point (well, it was getting late) as Hunter was given the win ahead of Neachell, with Riley (422) third. When the dust had settled, the Shoot Out top three read Fairhurst on 132, Speak on 122 and FWJ on 117. Paul Harrison’s points haul had moved him into fourth on 104 with Johnson fifth on 81.

I cannot leave this Coventry without mentioning Sam Jacklin’s (137) gutsy drive in the V8 final. He led for lap after lap, got overtaken, spun the new leader out to regain the top spot then did a “Wall of Death” down the back straight armco on the last lap battling with second-placed Sam Mee, never lifting off until his car cried enough, scraping around the fence at the start of the home straight, yards from an almost certain second place. Sam, your disappointment was clear to see from the grandstand but don’t give up, that race is the only one from September’s Coventry that has stuck in my memory.

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Paul Harrison is moving up in the shoot out standings. 

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley and Steve Botham

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