Craig Finnikin wins the 2014 World Championship Final

Fans and drivers descended upon Coventry Stadium in great numbers to witness the penultimate world final at this iconic venue. After some quality support races for Saloon stock cars and F1s there was a short interlude for track preparation before the gladiators emerged into the arena. Most received a warm welcome from the massed ranks of supporters with extra loud cheers for legend John Lund 53 and Nigel Harrhy 45, although the defending champion entered the arena last to something of a mixed reaction from the back straight terraces.

Eventually drivers got strapped in and the crowd mustered itself and prepared for that all important instruction “Gentlemen, start your engines”. After two rolling laps the green went down and just for once in this type of race we looked to be heading for a clean start as Harrison 2 seemed comfortable to let Newson 16 take the lead from outside pole. These two and 4 Dan Johnson were off at a sensible pace but behind them it was carnage time as rows 3 to 9 threw themselves into turn 1 at a hysterical place which piled most of them into the armco.

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Rob Speak only made it as far as the first corner. The 318 car suffered heavy damage to the front axle and the roll cage and did not reappear again all evening.

 

Main victim of the carnage was Rob Speak 318 whose car snagged the fence and was then battered by several cars. Speak failed to make the restart as did 434 Ivan Pritchard, 220 Will Hunter, and the top two Dutch entries, H47 Danny van Wamelan and H61 Koen Maris. Sworder 150, whose car had been the closest to Speak when it went in the fence, needed lots of emergency repairs but just about made the restart.

It was the same three protagonists up front on the restart with Johnson attacking Harrison and getting passed just before another race suspension for a rollover on the back straight for Peter Bengston NZ58.

Newson continued to lead on the restart but was under lots of pressure from an aggressive Johnson. Paul Harrison 2 faded and slipped down the field, leaving Wainman jnr 515 and Sworder 150 to scrap for third place. Aggression was put on hold as more yellow flags for USA1 Eric Pollard, who executed a most artistic roll in turn 4 coming to rest perched on top of the fence.

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Mat Newson awaits to lead them away on the restart. At this point, Craig Finnikin is way down the order.

Newson got away on the restart and looked to be in a commanding position but Johnson roused himself closed down the leader and a after a brief skirmish he was past and soon pulling away from the 16 car. Meanwhile 55 Craig Finnikin who was a lowly 8th on the restart began to pick up pace. 150 Sworder edged past Newson but soon had to give way to a flying 55 car and to make matters worse Sworder then became a target for a fast moving 390 Stuart Smith Jnr who had spent the first half of the race getting into all manner of trouble and strife but was now surging through the field and into third place.

At this point anyone with a spare fiver in their pocket would have put it on Johnson who had the length of a straight lead but as the laps ticked down Finnikin maintained his pace while the Johnson car became increasingly erratic.

All too quickly for Johnson the 55 car was all over his back bumper and after a couple of shoves failed to make a difference Johnson was clattered wide in turn 3 and connected with a stalled car which delayed him long enough to forget any thoughts of launching the 55 car on the next bend.

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New Zealander Peter Bengston was the first of two drivers to roll during the World Final.

As world finals go it was quite easy for Finnikin from here on in, as he reeled of the remaining laps to take the golden glory. Johnson would have hoped to scrape home second but had to contend with an on fire 390 car on the last lap and Stuart Jnr would not be denied forcing his way past on the last lap.

So after a season of indifferent performances on shale and no form at all on tarmac Finnikin recaptured his very best form when it mattered most to take the big prize. Of the rest one, would have thought Stuart Smith Jnr would have been delighted with second from his lowly starting grid, but his body language on the lap of honour had that look of “second is first of the losers”.

One has too feel a little for Johnson who has been so close to gold a number of times and on this occasion should really have made his lead count, maybe a cooler head under pressure is required.

Fairhurst 217 and Wainman Jnr 515 came in fourth and fifth, and while both had solid races neither looked at any stage like they were going to threaten the podium and will need to find something extra for next season. Sixth place was taken by the defending champion Tom Harris and having started dead last this has to be one of the best performances of the season from a driver who despite suffering some bad luck and aggressive opponents in some of this seasons big races has without doubt done justice to the #1 on the wing.

Words: Damian Noblett
Photos: Colin Casserley

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The first restart, with Mat Newson at the front.

 

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Sworder gets sandwiched between Van Wamelen and Harmen Zwerver.

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The turn one carnage.

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The rest of the pack were drawn to the stricken Rob Speak car like moths to a flame.

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Mick Sworder was the last to rejoin the line up after some frantic repairs.

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Making progress – Dan Johnson goes past Paul Harrison.

 

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Van Wamelen is about to collide with Speak, but Sworder gets the most damage that can be repaired.

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Moment of impact – Rob Speak makes contact with the fence.

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No doubt Paul Harrison will consider that he had the best view in the house!

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