The final tarmac meeting of the 2016 Shootout and sadly, the final tarmac meeting of the 2016 season, not counting the Gala night at Birmingham of course. Doesn’t time fly, but then so did Daniels Johnson and Wainman today, but more of that later.
Hot news for early morning internet users was the fact that Speak had been “Rob”ed of his win in the Birmingham Grand National the night before and so entered this round 27 points behind leader Nigel Green, with third-placed Frankie Wainman Junior 27 points behind Speak.
Twenty-four cars contested Heat One led by Sean Willis (287) until Shaun Webster (48) took over at the front, with the Shootout drivers not making much impression; unless you count the dents Fairhurst and Sworder were making on each other’s bumpers. Webster kept clear air between himself and second and third placed Scrivens (12 and 11) to record his second victory of the weekend.
Heat Two gridded the top three in the Shootout and Speak wasted no time in planting Tom Harris (84) into the plating, while Nigel Green’s race lasted barely two laps, retiring to the infield off the back straight. Frankie Wainman Junior (1) was struggling but up the road it was Willis, from Webster and Scriven but this time the white top held on for a deserved win.
An early caution in Heat Three failed to faze Matt Rogers (213) who led until Steve Webster (401) arrived to take over at the front. Again the top three in the “Chase for Silver” failed to make much impression by the flag – Speak managed a fifth, Green seventh and FWJ a disappointing eleventh as Webster cruised to the win.
A five car pile-up in the opening laps of the Teng Tools final saw defending Shootout champion Johnson launched into and nearly over the third bend fence with 217 wedged underneath him and Todd Jones (186) coming close to rolling over, requiring a lengthy caution. With seventeen laps to run Rogers led the restart until the 48 machine overhauled him. Harris (84) was flying through the field, already up to sixth chased by Speak. Green, involved in the third bend fracas earlier, restarted from the back and fought to make up ground as Murray Jones (196) got to within two car lengths of Webster. Jones led briefly before Harris moved him aside when a caution for Aaron Leach (70), mid-track on turn four, closed the grid up.
Green retired before the restart which saw Harris set a very slow rolling lap before heading off into the sunset. Jones was not so quick off the mark , delaying Speak and a good battle between the two saw the 196 car sent fencewards more than once but he kept coming back for more until another caution, this time for Webster (48) who had been fence-testing with Paul Hines, forced another restart with just four to run. Jones tangled with Wainman (212) moving Will Hunter (220) into third. Harris won his second final of the weekend from Speak, who crossed the line with four wheels but only three tyres when the inside rear let go. Good to see Speak and Jones shake hands on the centre in acknowledgement of some hard but fair racing.
Twenty-four cars for the Grand National and Green, from the back, made his intentions clear from the start, piling into the cars ahead of him in pursuit of Speak, then walloping the 212 car into 318 on the third turn. Danny Wainman turned his attention to Hunter, whacking him into the pit bend armco – Hunter kept on the gas, caught Wainman up down the back straight and gave the 212 car the hardest hit I have seen all season. Wainman smashed into the fence then rode around the plating, with all four wheels off the ground, before crashing down onto the track on his side. Danny emerged from his badly mangled machine with a punch of the air and a smile. Maybe Northampton should consider renaming the Horton Bend, the Wainman Bend or possibly the funfair bend given that Frankie JJ and now Danny have both done the “Wall of Death” around it and Frankie Junior is no stranger to that bit of fence either.
Getting back to the race, which we did after a bit of a delay to bag up the 212 car (bing bong – clean up on turn four!), Matt Rogers had been leading with Jones (196) in second place, but the Farnborough man took over top spot until an errant Elwell (501), returned to the track right in front of him, forcing him to take a wide line around the pit bend and letting Johnson through for the lead. Green took second, rehearsed his move on turn one on lap 16 with a punt at the number 4 car, then executed a perfect last bender to move Johnson aside and take the win.
Speak’s second place in the final had put him one point ahead of Green. Green’s win in the National addressed the balance, leaving him just 5 points ahead of the Manchester maestro, while Tom Harris moved into third place in the Shootout as a result of a good weekend’s work, one point ahead of Johnson. With two shale rounds left it’s all shaping up very nicely for an exciting conclusion to the 2016 series – let’s hope the weather isn’t the deciding factor.
Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley