Coventry – April 2nd 2011 Meeting Report

Coventry’s April opener saw the 2011 Gold Rush continue, as qualifying points were up for grabs towards this seasons World Championship event. Dan Johnson (4) laid down an early marker by taking the grand final in style, leaving some of the sports headline makers in his wake.

John Weldon 235. Photo Colin Casserley

Perfect conditions for racing saw 21 cars enter the Whites/Yellows opening heat, which had local driver Nigel Harrhy (45) spinning away as early as turn one on lap one whilst Richard Regan (428) built up a healthy lead. Steve Smith (40) and Gary Townsend (223) tangled away onto the infield from the home straight and James Potter (146) sent John Weldon (235) spinning away to the infield from the far side. Regan was coping well in traffic and at half distance had a comfortable lead from Rob Cowley (73) and Graham Wagstaff (330). Cowley retired in the closing stages before the race was red flagged with a lap or so to run after Harrhy had been helped into a parked car on turn one via Les Spencer (98) and required assistance. Regan being awarded the victory from Richard Bryan (238) and Spencer.

Heat winner Richard Regan 428. Photo Colin Casserley

John Lund 53 tests out the aerodynamics of his new wing. Photo Colin Casserley

Heat 2 featured 20 cars including 8 time World Champion John Lund (53) sporting a radical new lightweight offset shale wing. As the flag dropped Tony Smith (91) spun Joe Booth (446) and Ed Neachell (321) went in hard on the yellow grade drivers early on making up several places as a result. Neachell was rapidly into 2nd behind race leader John Weldon (235) and attacked the white grade driver into turn three shoving him wide around a spun car – but in executing this manouvre, Ed let Steve Cayzer (380) through into lead position. Mat Newson (16) was also well through the pack into third place with less than 8 laps completed.

Mal Brown 34 causes an inconvenience to Andy Smith 1. Photo Colin Casserley

A good battle developed between World Champion Andrew Smith (1) and Dan Johnson (4) as the lap boards were shown, with a lap down Mal Brown (34) also providing an inconvenience to the Gold roof machine. Up front, Neachell found a way passed the 380 car with a couple to run and took the victory, Johnson planting a well timed hit on the rear bumper of the No1 machine on the final turn to take 4th place.

Heat 2 winner Ed Neachell 321. Photo Colin Casserley

Another 20 car field for heat three saw several drivers caught out by the watered track conditions, chiefly Frankie Wainman Jnr (515) and Colin Nairn (280) who came to grief on the pit turn, race leader Mike Williamson (111) also finding the stricken 515 motor a lap later. Cowley inherited the lead which he held until well into the closing stages, when Paul Harrison (2), Tom Harris (84) and Dan Squire (291) found a way ahead of the veteran B grade racer. Stuart Smith Jnr (390) landed a decent hit on Potter on the final turn for seventh spot.

Nigel Harrhy 45 takes to the track. Photo Carl Hesketh

Just 17 for the consolation which saw late arrival Ivan Pritchard (434) make his first appearance. Harrhy, Townsend and Williamson all spun around on turns one and two handing the lead to Weldon, who in turn lost out to Tim Warwick (307). James Clement (158) spun into turn three and became stranded which brought about a caution – race leader Warwick was sent into a spin just as the yellows were thrown and had steering issues which meant he couldn’t take place in the restart. Brown (34) headed the field on the rerun from Chris Bonner (105) and Mark Woodhull (335) debuting his new FWJ built shale car. Bonner seemed to miss his gear as the flag dropped which saw 34-335 and 515 in hot pursuit. Wainman found his way into second and knocked Brown wide into turn three at half distance to lead – but was experiencing handling issues which allowed Brown to regain the lead momentarily before Frank swiftly retook the lead. Woodhull decided to liven things up by wading in with the bumper on Brown who in turn cannoned into Wainman, all this achieved however, was the 335 car losing ground as Brown found himself in the lead again. Frankie managed to force his way through on the final lap to claim a win which may have looked inevitable before hand – but proved anything but in reality.

2 non starters left 34 drivers on track to contest the final for the Roger Squire Memorial Trophy. As soon as Tony Osborne waved the green flag Danny Wainman (212) and Newson (16) tangled exiting turn four as Cayzer t-boned Smith Jnr into turn three, Woodhull doing likewise to Smith a lap later. An absolutely cracking pace was set around the raceway with most of the field flying akin to winged behemoths. Wagstaff had assumed lead position before the yellow flags were introduced to remove the stranded cars of Neil Holcroft (496) and Barry Heath (343). On the restart the 330 car had a lap down Will Yarrow (22) and James Neachell (322) in his rear view mirror. Neachell and Wagstaff tangled exiting turn two as Lund spun Craig Finnikin (55) on the pit turn, Lund’s outside front decided it didn’t want to have any air in anymore and promptly blew out curtailing the Lancashire legend’s race.

Flying Final winner Dan Johnson 4 alongside Will Yarrow 22. Photo Colin Casserley

Whilst all this was going on, Neil Shenton (35) managed to find himself in lead position with Dan Johnson (4) flying in a bid to catch the Cheshire based driver. Shenton had a quarter lap or so lead over Johnson and Wainman as Brown (34) landed a fierce hit on Scriven (12) and Bonner (105) into turn three. Shenton’s engine began smoking badly in the closing stages and Johnson took up the lead with just 4 laps remaining. Wainman and Smith also finding a way past the ailing 35 car to complete the podium positions.

The Coventry Roger Squire memorial final podium. Photo Colin Casserley

The GN saw a 25 car field headed by Dan Johnson (4) as final winner. Lund made another good start before the yellows were called for as Heath (343) had clobbered the back straight fence and rolled over. Spencer (98) lead the restart from Bonner and Tony Smith (91). Spencer went on to record a straight forward victory from Murray Harrison (97) and Smith Jnr (390).

Barry Heath 343's night ended with rollcage damage following his roll. Photo Colin Casserley

Barry Heath 343's rollcage damage. Photo Paul Tully

So after 3 straight shale meetings, attention turns to tarmac with the next 5 meetings being staged on tar, 3 of which are WCQR’s which may give some early indication as to who will be featuring highly in the semi finals later on in the season.

Andre Zang

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