The first of the 2012 World Championship Semi-Finals was staged at King’s Lynn on Saturday 21st July, and it will certainly go down as one of the more interesting semi-final races.
All 24 semi-finalists arrived, so there were no reserves required. That might not have been the case, as Nigel Harrhy (45) and Mike James (417) both entered the Whites & Yellows race which was on before the Semi-Final. Both cars were tractored off at the end, but fortunately the damage to both was nothing serious.
After the track was prepared to King’s Lynn’s inimitable standards, and the stadium filled with the sounds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s finest few minutes, the event was underway.
When the green dropped, it was Finnikin that was first away, but Wainman was up the inside of him into turn one and emerged from the second turn in the lead. The freshly prepared track had a lot of shale on the outside in the opening stages and most of the field took a wide line around the bends.
Smith (390) made a quick start and was passed Will Yarrow and Paul Harrison almost as soon as the race started.
With the race just a few laps old, Wainman and Finnikin were already pulling away from pack, while Smith continued his advance up the field when he fired Dan Johnson (4) wide. The number 4 car bounced off the armco and rejoined a few places adrift.
With about half a dozen laps completed, it was still Wainman, from Finnikin, Smith, Harrison, and Johnson, with Paul Hines (259) moving up into sixth place.
Harrison then passed Smith, with Smith retaking the place a couple of laps later.
Up front, Wainman had pulled a few lengths clear and was now amongst the backmarkers, and Paul Carter (300) and Micky Randell (172) were both shoved wide going into turn one.
Dave Riley (422) got hooked up with Geoff Nickolls (215) , with Luke Davidson (464) piling in and coming to a stop on the racing line, just as the 515 car entered the turn. Wainman was hard on the brakes, and with a quick right turn avoided the melee, but this cost time and Finnikin closed right in.
Finnikin eased his way into the lead, with Wainman landing a hit on the 55 car on the next bend but to no avail.
One of the large infield marker tyres was knocked into the centre of the track at the start of turn 3, and 515 car hit it side on before the rest of the pack piled in. The upshot was Randell going hard into the fence and landing upside down, with a few other cars crashing out.
After the waved yellows, the field lined up for the restart and it became apparent that the outside rear wheel of the 515 car was in a sorry state. It didn’t seem to be slowing him down though, as when the green dropped Wainman leaned on Finnikin around turn two before moving into the lead in the next bend.
With the packed terraces now getting more vocal, Finnikin came back at Wainman on the next bend, with Smith now rapidly closing on the leading duo. Further back, Johnson put the bumper in hard on Harrison; both cars bounced off the plating with Johnson ahead.
The noise of the V8s was now almost inaudible above the noise of the fans, as Wainman, Finnikin, and Smith were now circulating bumper to bumper, and behind them, and Harrison was going in on Johnson on every bend.
As the lap boards came out, what could have been a turning point of the race came when Wainman came up to an out of shape Josh Smith (191). Wainman went past on the outside approaching turn 3, and without hesitation Finnikin reached out and smacked the 191 car hard. Possibly to shift him, or possibly he was trying to hit put Smith into Wainman?
The impact slowed Finnikin a bit, and Smith (191) missed Wainman and went hard into the fence. Wainman was a few lengths clear when the waved yellows came out for the dazed Josh Smith to be helped from his car.
When the race resumed Wainman seemed slow to restart with Finnikin pushing him into bend, but within a lap had opened up a slight gap. Smith (390) moved past Finnikin with three laps to go, but by now Wainman was about three or four lengths clear and had a relatively clear track in front of him.
Starting the last lap with Finnikin right behind him, Smith went too fast into turn one, with Finnikin taking a tighter line and going past, and Harrison tucking in behind Smith. Down the back straight for the last time, there wasn’t much room between the 55, 390, and the number 2 car.
Finnikin was fast into the last turn, and with just a slight nudge Harrison knocked Smith off line and stole third place just before the flag.
And so Frankie Wainman took the win, and with it the 12th World Final front row start of his career. We had a few words with him after the race.