After the season opener at Belle Vue in, shall we say, ‘damp conditions’, it was down to King’s Lynn for the next shale meeting on Saturday 25th March in fine, dry and, ‘til the sun went down, warm weather. A total of 44 cars turned up – double the previous weekend’s numbers.
In the pits, the main talking point was Mat Newson in the recently acquired Billy-Tom O’Conner machine. A car built by Billy-Tom himself and, not an exactly guarded secret (the subject being a record breaker total page number holder on Stoxnet!), the vehicle has been acquired by Mat. A change in circumstances has resulted in Billy-Tom selling the car to Mat to add to the Newson fleet but with the intention of Billy-Tom driving the car in the future.
The car was originally to be run with a huge big block motor but this has been now sold on to a drag racer, so the car was out with a small block of Mat’s and some weight added here and there to make up for the reduced weight of the engine. Billy-Tom’s unusual rear end suspension set-up has been put back to more normal settings by Mat to use.
It’s certainly, shall we say, an unusual looking car (ok, a complete Marmite motor!) with a completely different pointed front and rear end, the cab opening is very small on the o/s but Mat can get in and out with a helmet so has passed ok the race. It’s also in a striking `pink` on the chassis rails/bars. Personally I do not mind it; it’s different certainly, but from my own mind would be far better with a black chassis/bars and baby blue paint akin to the 390 original colour, but then again I like Marmite.
Brake and power steering (no pas) plagued the car all night but considering it was untried and out of the box went very well indeed and it will be interesting to see how it goes – Mat is intending using the car until his new shale car is ready so we shall wait to see the improvements. Many thanks to Anita (Mat’s mum) for the information as well.
One other car of note was 84 Tom Harris. With Rob Speak now hopping over the fence for a career change as Skegness owner and promotor, Tom has taken the pilot’s role in the Jamie Davidson team seat. The usual stunning paint job and style from Tom on the car which is last year’s 318 car but heavily re-worked. A chat with the team by Marvin Hall confirmed the car is the re-worked, Cecil admitting eventually that it would have been easier to have just built a new one from scratch!
The rear suspension is a hybrid of Cecil and Tom, most of the re-work has been done by Cecil, with Tom having had a broken hand – in fact is was touch and go if he would make the meeting. Tom has a new car build on the go himself and will race this car till then. The car will then go to Luke Davidson to race.
A welcome return (although for only this meeting) was 271 Wayne Helliwell of WHR racing/fabrications. Wayne is well-known as a car re-furbisher/wheel-maker and welder and also raced himself some time ago. He built the ex-John Cayzer car that P J Lemons raced a couple of seasons ago with gusto.
Wayne has had the Keith Murdoch car (Keith now resident in the Netherlands) at the Rochdale workshop for a re-build and the car was going on the ferry on Sunday, Keith offering Wayne the chance to drive the car at Lynn before it went over. Wayne jumped at the opportunity for one (?) last blast in the Big League, Mrs Helliwell was none too keen by all accounts and it nearly went to pot when Wayne forgot his licence had expired, but all went well in the end.
Finally, on to the new cars on show at the meeting. There was the 166 car of Bobby Griffin, a brand new car built by Daz Kitson who was also racing at the meeting and also a new motor for 422 Ben Riley, a stunner from the Tom Harris Motorsport workshop.
The first race of the night was the Whites & Yellows Championship race from 2016; a race traditionally held as the first of the following season, with an impressive prize fund on offer by the promoter. Twenty-one cars gridded up for the race including 3 racers from the Netherlands H54 Sierd de Vries, H112 Arjan Ligthard and H295 Willem Zwerver.
An early pile up on turns 3/4 led to the yellows for three cars stranded, with 263 Chris Worrall needing attention and at the restart it was 307 Tim Warwick from 326 Mark Sargent, 36 Jordan Falding and 45 Nigel Harrhy. Soon after the restart Sargent hit the front, from Harrhy in second. This remained the same till the flag with 192 Luke Dennis finishing third.
Res – 326 45 192 H295 207 118 307 348 372 331
With the meeting format being Whites & Yellows, Heat 2 and then the consolation; Heat 2 was more like a final race at most meetings being packed with star graders. Early on Mick Sworder put the bumper in on Paul Hines (259) on turn one with the Hines car clattering the car of 55 Craig Finnikin into the fence, and leaving Sworder carrying that much speed that he went into the side and half way over the car of Finnikin.
With this happening, it left Frankie Wainman (#1) through – who was on a charge. Not to be outdone by the antics of 150/259/55, Ben Riley decided to test out the strength of the new Harris car, hitting the marker tyre on turn 3 sending the car skywards before coming back down and retiring.
At halfway it was the new Bobby Griffin car leading from #1 (515) Wainman, 169 Billy Johnson and Dan Johnson in fourth (Sworder had retired). Wainman soon got past the car of Griffin who held on for second till one to go, when Dan Johnson put the bumper in on turn 1 for second place, Mark Woodhull also getting past the Griffin car for third.
Res – 1 (515) 4 335 166 84 445 161 212 H40 220 259 55.
The consolation gridded 19 cars still to qualify for the final. From the start, Mick Sworder was again on a charge and soon got past the 55 car of Finnikin with a well-timed side-swipe on turn 2. The yellows were soon out for 216 Jack France stranded on the turn 3 fence.
At the restart it was 32 Chris Farnell, from Sworder, James Morris (463) and Finnikin. Morris pulled off to the centre on the rolling lap and Sworder was soon at the front and pulled away from the Finnikin car to take the chequered flag for the win.
Res – 150 55 259 H54 462 32 532 364 313 263 36 483.
The final had a 31-car grid. Tom Harris was an early spinner on turns 3/4 whilst Dan Johnson hooked up with 192 Luke Dennis on turns 1/ 2, both managing to get going. Finnikin and Sworder were on a charge with the 150 car taking some very wide angles into the bends in a spectacular fashion and got past the 55 car. Meanwhile 207 Ben Hurdman had become stranded in his brand new Wainman built car on the exit of turn 4 bringing out the yellows.
At the restart, behind the now customary water bowser, it was 348 John Wright up front, from Chris Farnell and H295 Willem Zwerver in third and Sworder by now in fourth spot.
Very soon 84 Tom Harris hooked up and span on the main straight having to retire with the front axle loose. By this time, Sworder had a very healthy lead which he held to the finish (by half a lap) from Frankie Wainman and Craig Finnikin.
Res – 150 1(515) 55 259 32 335 326 348 4 331 364 nof.
The Grand National had was what was left of the pack, amounting to 26 cars starting, with Sworder taking the lap handicap. Early on, Tom Harris and Dan Johnson were both determined out to make up for the final by setting off hell for leather from the back in pursuit of the Frankie Wainman car, which was flying.
Mark Sargent had hit the front with Mark Woodhull behind. Craig Finnikin hooked up with a pack of cars on turns 3/4 whilst Dan Johnson did the same on turn 4, managing to get going but letting through Wainman, who set off in pursuit of Sargent and Woodhull at a blistering pace, but not for long – the Silsden car slowing badly and having to retire with a blown diff.
Sworder retired to the infield and it was then Woodhull from Johnson and Tom Harris. Woodhull had a good lead with one to go and Harris had a good pot at the Dan Johnson car on the last bend. Dan, realising what was coming, took a wide line out the last corner, and managed to out-drag Harris to the flag for second spot.
Res – 335 4 84 326 445 16 212 166 207 32 462 169.
Another great night’s racing at the super smooth King’s Lynn track with a master class from Mick Sworder and his usual ‘all or nothing’ approach. Unfortunatelyit was later found out that Mick had pulled up in the National with what turns out to be major engine problems, which look to have ruled out the 150 car from shale racing for the season (information released from Team Sworder). This is a great loss to the shale racing fans as regardless of whether you boo or cheer Mick’s antics on track, the spectacle of seeing the ex-391 car on the limits in Mick’s hand will be sorely missed.
Words: Andy Armer
Photos: Colin Casserley