Coventry, 6th September – meeting report and photo gallery

Something of an international flavour for this, the last Coventry before the Big One, with drivers from the Netherlands, New Zealand and a lone American amongst the line up. From Holland we had Willem Zwerver (H295), a white top qualifier for the World Final courtesy of a win in the last chance race at Emmen, elder brother Harmen (H195), Koen Maris (H61) and, of course, the ever present and always welcome Daniel van Spijker (H231) clocking up yet more ferry-miles. From down under we welcomed Peter Bengston (NZ58) and Graeme Barr (NZ3) while a surprise visitor was American Eric Pollard, using a Mat Newson hire car numbered 216.

Twenty-one cars for Heat One, led away by the aforementioned H295, with Shoot Out contenders Harrison (2), Sworder (150) and Wainman (515) bringing up the rear. James Morris (463) dropped back early on and Steve Harrison (118) gnashed the fence but carried on regardless, while the shoot out drivers seemed locked together.

The caution was called for when Billy Johnson (169) clobbered the fence hard on turn 3 and it was clear that Stuart Smith Junior (390) had made the most progress through the field. Zwerver led them away at the restart with Smith quickly up to third behind Mark Adkins (24). Adkins passed Zwerver for the lead, then lost out to Smith but tried hard to stay on the red top’s back bumper. As the lap boards came out the superstars moved into contention but were never going to catch the 390 car. Adkins dropped down the field but was rewarded for his efforts with a tenth at the flag and a place in the Final.

Mick Sworder and FWJ line up for the opening heat.

Mick Sworder and FWJ line up for the opening heat.

Twenty two for Heat Two including Maris, Barr in a brand new Falding-built car and Pollard in the Newson 216. Mark Sargent (326) led from the drop of the flag, while Paul Hines pulled off on the home straight, unfortunately hooking bumpers with the American driver as he did so and taking him out on the start line.

Sarge pressed on ahead of 415, 104 and 44 as Pollard rejoined and Woodhull spun. Dan Johnson put a big hit in on Fairhurst then received the same treatment from Finnikin but up front the order stayed the same, with Sargent now in amongst backmarkers. As the lap boards came out, Finnikin landed a massive attack on Johnson, sending him into the back straight fence with 415, but Mark Sargent stayed clear of trouble to record his first F1 win.

Mark Sargent (326) Lead Heat 2 from flag to flag

Mark Sargent (326) Lead Heat 2 from flag to flag

Twenty-one for Heat 3 including Peter Bengston using a car from the Scriven stable. John Brown (134) and Steve Smith (40) tangled as the Shoot Out drivers got stuck in early, Speak moving Newson aside as Roberts (313) and Wagstaff (330) disputed the lead. Speak quickly moved into second place behind Waggy, pursued by Harris (1) when the yellow flags flew and the race was brought to a halt.

James Neachell (322) led them off on the restart but was soon passed by Speaky, while Harrison (197) and Harris squabbled over third and fourth. With the lap boards shown, the steadily smoking Bengston car erupted in flames and took to the infield, the fire crew at first struggling to extinguish the conflagration. Speak crossed the line first ahead of 1, 197 and 16, with Neachell fifth, Danny Wainman sixth and Harmen Swerver seventh.

Heat 3 close action from Karl Roberts, Ryan Harrison, and Tom Harris.

Heat 3 close action from Karl Roberts, Ryan Harrison, and Tom Harris.

Twenty-six for the Consolation with cars 76 and 276 tangling on the home straight and Richard Regan (428) taking command at the sharp end. Steve Malkin Junior (208) spun on the City Bend followed by 40 and H295 and the caution flags flew, although quite why was a mystery. Paul Hines seemed stuck on the Pit Bend and the restart was led away by 428 as 259 rejoined after a brief excursion on the infield. NZ3 and H61 retired to the middle, leaving just USA 216 of the Overseas entrants left.

Regan extended his lead as Hines moved through the field and the order was 428, 463, 259 and 313. Waggy planted a big hit on Willis to put him wide while Pollard, after a visit to the pit bend fence, resumed forward motion, lapping the Brandon shale at quite a lick. Regan got in with backmarkers as the lap boards were shown and Hines attacked 428, easing him wide on the fourth turn on the penultimate lap to take the flag.

Paul Hines was the only red top in the consolation....he won it!

Paul Hines was the only red top in the consolation….he won it!

Hines was a no-show in the 36 car Final with 24 and 326 on the front. The early laps were chaotic and hard to follow but I did spot Stuart Smith Junior spin on the Pit Bend before an early caution was called for. Sarge led them away at the restart. Bonner (105) passed for the lead as the Shoot Out contenders traded bumper paint and the yellows flew again for Mark Adkins stuck in the fence.

When racing resumed, Wainman (515) moved into third as Harrison (97) spun while the combined might of Johnson and Finnikin moved Sworder aside. Neachell (321) now held sway, from 105 and 515. FWJ took the lead and looked odds on for the win until the caution flags came out again, this time for Danny Wainman (212) who had been followed into the City Bend fence by Ryan Harrison. The 212 car sat on top of the armco, severely damaged and it was a few minutes before Danny emerged, shaken but not stirred! 197 retired to the centre. 515 had a back-marking 335 between himself and his pursuers (Harris, Speak, Johnson, Finnikin, Smith) but Woodhull discreetly moved aside at the restart, leaving a clear run at the 515 car.

Frankie maintained his lead on a dusty, slippery track but one car was taking big bites out of his lead. Smith, after his early spin and no doubt helped by the three cautions, gained place after place, bumpering Wainman wide on the last but one lap to take an emphatic victory from 515 and 55. Johnson disposed of Harris on the last bend to claim fourth, ahead of Lundy and Will Yarrow (22). Frankie must be wondering what he has to do to win a Coventry Final – that’s the third one this year he has led until almost the end.

Mid race yellow flag and FWJ was in the lead, followed by Mark Woodhull (335) and (1) Tom but Stu Smith passed them all.

Mid race yellow flag and FWJ was in the lead, followed by Mark Woodhull (335) and (1) Tom but Stu Smith passed them all.

Smith (390) took up the challenge of the lap handicap in the 32 car Grand National and, in the words of Bruce Forsyth, didn’t he do well. First corner and 280, H295 and 208 piled into the pit bend fence. John Brown led from 428 as a big shemozzle developed on turns one and two, 428 hit the front while Speaky hit anything with a back bumper. Caution came out for 208 parked in the fence and Mark Poole led them away the restart. Koen Maris was the leading red top ahead of 515, 55 and 318.

Johnson and Harris clashed again, this time on the exit to turn 4, while Finnikin and Speak spun onto the infield, their cars locked together. 428 led the way as 515 disposed of the lap down 318 car, then Wainman annexed the lead as Johnson, also a lap down, pressured Regan wide. The yellow flags flew again, this time for two cars stuck on the pit bend, wiping out FWJ’s lead. Come the restart, it was like déjà vu all over again. As the laps wound down Smith began to reel in Wainman again, going for the maximum. A last bend lunge failed to connect and Wainman took the victory and more Shoot Out Points to put himself back in contention.

An interesting and entertaining meeting once again at Coventry, paving the way for the Big One.

Dan Johnson and Craig Finnikin were fast, but were making up the numbers in this race.

Dan Johnson and Craig Finnikin were fast, but were making up the numbers in this race.

Words: Mick Jenkins

Photos: Steve Botham

Stu Smith Jnr (390) was on a charge and was soon into the low graders

Stu Smith Jnr (390) was on a charge and was soon into the low graders

Mark Adkins (24) and Richard Reagan (428) Battle for the lead in the opening stages

Mark Adkins (24) and Richard Reagan (428) Battle for the lead in the opening stages

Smith goes past Adkins.

Smith goes past Adkins.

Eventual  winner Stu Smith  Jnr (390) took the lead but  Mark Adkins came back at him and gave him something to think about for a few laps

Eventual winner Stu Smith Jnr (390) took the lead but Mark Adkins came back at him and gave him something to think about for a few laps

The ever popular Nigel Harrhy (45) lines up with Paul Poulter (174) in heat 3

The ever popular Nigel Harrhy (45) lines up with Paul Poulter (174) in heat 3

Heat 3 and Rob Speak (318) was in dominant form and took the win, seen here passing Danny Wainman (212)

Heat 3 and Rob Speak (318) was in dominant form and took the win, seen here passing Danny Wainman (212)

New Zealand visitor Peter Bengston NZ58 disappeared in a cloud of smoke in Heat 3 the loaned Scriven motor had an oil leak.

New Zealand visitor Peter Bengston NZ58 disappeared in a cloud of smoke in Heat 3 the loaned Scriven motor had an oil leak.

Heavy red top traffic in the Final proved to be no problem to Stu Smith Jnr, at the back of this shot... he was not there for long, he was flying!

Heavy red top traffic in the Final proved to be no problem to Stu Smith Jnr, at the back of this shot… he was not there for long, he was flying!

Frankie Wainman Jnr (2nd), Stu Smith Junior (winner), and Craig Finnikin (3rd). Stu's mum Anna even got in the picture!

Frankie Wainman Jnr (2nd), Stu Smith Junior (winner), and Craig Finnikin (3rd). Stu’s mum Anna even got in the picture!

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