Northampton, 16th September 2018 – European Championship Race Report

The first race up for the F1s on World Masters day at Northampton Shaleway was the postponed European Championship. After torrential rain overnight ruined the track conditions at the usual European Championship weekend in July, the drivers’ committee and organisers decided to postpone the championship race.

The grid for the delayed European Championship race was decided based on points scored on the Saturday in July, so Dan Johnson (4) and Mat Newson (16) found themselves on the front row. Behind them were Neil Scriven (11) and new World Champion Stuart Smith Junior (390). Ten drivers from the Netherlands, including recent Belle Vue final winner Jelle Tesselaar (H410), made the trip back over to compete in the rearranged race.

Newson and Johnson line up on the front row of the European grid

Almost as soon as the green flag dropped, Stuart Smith, fresh from his World Final win the previous evening, hit the front. Johnson took Smith into the wall but not hard enough to slow him down. It was only a lap before the 390 machine retook the lead; just before the caution flags flew for the stranded H345 car of Boy Tesselaar.

The order at the restart was 390, 4, 16, 220, 532; with Wainman (515), Harris (84) and Green (445) still a way behind. Smith was away and  gone at the restart as, further back, Nigel Green bounced off the wall.

Soon the yellow flags were needed again; this time to clear a blockage on turn three. Mark Tesselaar (H40), Scriven (12) , Wainman (515), Valk (H27), de Kock (H525), Potveer (H62), Green (445), Jelle Tesselaar (H410) and Greidanus (H29) were all stuck on the third bend, but the leaders were able to force their way through before the caution came out.

At the restart it was still Smith from Johnson, with Newson lying wait in third. Harris had made his way up to fifth, with Fairhurst and Green behind him. Wendy Koopmans pulled off before the restart; joining the already sizeable number of cars on the centre green.

Stuart Smith Junior seemed totally in control of the race in the early stages

Smith immediately pulled out a couple of car lengths ahead of Johnson, while 220 almost lost it. With Hunter out of the way, Harris wasted no time taking third spot away from Newson; punting the 16 machine into the tyres.  As the dust began to rise, 84 was definitely closing on 4 and it wasn’t long before a big hit sent Johnson into the wall.

More yellow flags bought everything to a halt again; this time for H410 who’d parked up on back straight against the fence. After another quick track watering, Smith led the field around again for the restart. The green flag dropped and Johnson went around, losing any chance he had of regaining second spot. Harris almost lost it as well but recovered.

It still looked like Smith was pulling away from Harris, but the 84 machine was taking a tighter line on the dry and dusty track. At the halfway stage, there were only 14 cars left running. Within seconds there were even fewer, as Fairhurst retired and Nigel Green pulled off with a flat tyre.

Harris was now definitely gaining on Smith, but it was not going to be easy to pass the new World Champ. Smith drifted wide and Harris drew level, but the 84 driver faltered, losing the advantage.  Smith came up behind 244, who moved wide to let him through. The 84 car was right with the leader again. This time it looked as if Harris was biding his time.

Harris went in with the bumper, punting Smith into the fence but it just wasn’t hard enough. Smith recovered from the hit and sideswiped Harris to retake the lead. With 5 laps to go, Smith was once again out front.

As the laps wound down, Harris caught up to the leader again, putting the 390 car into the wall again. Smith was still going but could not catch Harris. With 2 to run, it looked like Harris had finally won the battle and the title.

Harris putting the hits in on Smith over the last few laps

On to the final lap and Harris was clear in the lead, while 390 had to fend off 220. The last bend move came, but Hunter only really managed to put himself wide. Danny Wainman gained a lot of ground in the second half of the race, finishing fourth ahead of Neil Scriven and the highest overseas finisher Rutger Valk.

Tom Harris takes a second European Championship title

Words: Rhosanna Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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