Northampton, 20th September 2015 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

Rural Northamptonshire took on something of a continental flavour a couple of weeks ago. A large contingent of fans from the Netherlands were joined on track by a dozen or so racers from the mainland, with most campaigning cars more suited to the wild fields of Holland, but this did nothing to stop the drivers enjoying themselves with plenty of rubber burning, tyre spinning and connections with the unforgiving Brafield plating. It was probably just as well that the Dutch turned up in force as they were joined by a pretty paltry entry of UK-based racers for what is supposed to be a prestigious event.

Twenty-two starters for Heat One, including new World Champion, the legend Robert Speak, who had borrowed a wing from Tom Harris Motorsport, which carried the number 1 and was painted a strange shade of Antique Gold; in-keeping with the champion’s advancing years.

A clean start had Chris Cooke (460) and the 499 car of Dave Allen up front, doing some fast, untroubled laps. Further back, Speak picked a fight with Hitman Harris (84). The fight didn’t last long as Speak was soon suffering the curse of the golden roof; slipping down the field. This left Harris free to go and engage in more contact with Birthday boy Mat Newson (16), but this was a short-lived skirmish with the 84 car retiring to the infield with terminal mechanical trouble, which ended its racing for the day.

Up front, the 11 car of Neil Scriven and Paul Ford (388) had passed the 460 car and, with four laps to go, Ford attacked Scriven to take the lead. Having shaken off Harris, Newson made his way into second place with two laps to go but could not get close enough to Ford to put F1’s fastest Scotsman under pressure.

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New World Champion, Rob Speak, making his first appearance with the gold roof.

Late summer sunshine greeted the 21 starters for Heat Two. Veteran 73 Rob Cowley, who may soon gain parity between his age and car number, led the opening laps from Peter Hobbs in the 108 car, but proceedings were soon halted as a gaggle of cars, including Dutch veteran Martin Verhoef (H8) attacked the turn two plating. Verhoef first raced in the UK as long ago as 1992 and seemed to be enjoying throwing his shale car around the Northamptonshire Asphalt, but the clash with the plating regrettably ended his racing for the day.

On the restart, a rapid 321 Ed Neachell quickly moved from third to first and set about building a comfy lead. Mr Cool, Lee Fairhurst (217), scrapped with Mr Box Office, Mick Sworder (150), as they moved through the field. Fairhurst pushed his way past Sworder and, with five to go, looked all set to close down and pass the Neachell car. Well, that is how the script normally goes but on this occasion Neachell was in no mood to surrender and, with two laps to go, less speed into the bends provided more speed on exit and the Fairhurst car, despite its dominance at Northampton in 2015, could do nothing to prevent a Neachell victory.

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Mick Sworder and Lee Fairhurst battling in Heat 2.

23 for the consolation, including Frankie Wainman Jnr (515), who had missed his heat with an issue getting his seat belts to fasten correctly. Investigation proved this to be a technical fault rather than the effects of advancing middle age. With Murray Jones (196) and Carl Pickering (141) getting in a tangle on lap one, Peter Hobbs was left alone up front until after halfway, but he then came under pressure from 322 James Neachell, who was looking to emulate his brother’s victory in the preceding race. Micky Randell (172) attacked and passed Wainman (515), who was struggling with front brake problems while Neachell did indeed pass Hobbs to take the flag, but the taste of victory was fleeting as the 322 car failed to pass its post race visit to the scales and was disqualified.

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James became the second Neachell of the day to cross the finish line first.

Autumn returned for the meeting final, as grey clouds hinted at a possible threat of rain. 31 starters included World and National Points Champion Speak, with the number one car now equipped with an American Racer brand tyre on the inside rear instead of the usual rally tyre. Unfortunately for Speak, technical consultants for the day Mick and Tom Harris had failed to allow for the tyre’s extra width and it snagged on the rear shocker which prevented Speak from crowning his golden weekend with a victory. Plenty of action in this race though, as Neachell (321) and 36 Jordan Falding joined H113 and crunched the turn two plating. Then, in a show of solidarity, 445 Nigel Green, 267 Graeme Robson and 172 Micky Randell took the same route to oblivion in turn three.

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Nigel Green and Micky Randell tangle in the final.

499 Dave Allen led until just before halfway when a highly motivated Paul Ford (388) surged past and Ford then reeled off the remaining laps with little pressure in his mirrors for an easy victory. Allen retained second, so fans’ interest was drawn to a battle for the remaining podium place; between Sworder, Danny Wainman (212) and Fairhurst (217).

After a few hits, matters escalated with five laps to go, when the impatient 212 car went for a big lunge at Sworder in turn three. Unfortunately for Wainman, he received a helping hand from Mr Cool, with the Fairhurst car applying just enough extra contact to see Wainman go wide and Sworder clatter the fence. Ford stopped abruptly after the chequered flag and the car was unable to self-start after its visit to the scales.

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Final winner, Paul Ford.

27 for the Grand National, including 361 Steve Reedman having his first race of the day in a car which anyone requiring lessons in how to paint and sign write a race car should take a closer look. A lively race with a turn four pile up led by Scott Davids and Michael Steward (512) bringing out the yellows. On the restart, both Wainmans picked on Speak, then the 515 car broke away and joined another entertaining scrap with Fairhurst and Nigel Green.

Danny Wainman then took time out from fighting Speak to slam 183 Steve Whittle into the fence, which brought out more yellow flags to rescue a winded driver. Carl Pickering led the restart but he was soon swamped by a fast moving trio of 321, 150 and 217. Before these three could get serious about fighting for the lead, more yellow flags were required for Neil Scriven, who managed to tip the 11 car on its side on the home straight.

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Neil Scriven bringing out the yellow flags.

On the restart, Neachell, Sworder and Fairhurst renewed hostilities and Sworder attacked and took the lead. Neachell was not yet done and landed several hits on the 150 car but before he could reverse the places, he had to go defensive as the pressure from Fairhurst became more intense. As these two fought, Sworder was able to build a gap which he retained to the flag. Neachell gained scant reward, retiring before the end while Nigel Green went for a big last bend lunge at Carl Pickering but did not manage to squeeze past.

Ever the entertainer, Sworder celebrated his victory with a post race burnout up against the home straight fence but his frolics were cut short when the 150 car developed a small fire in the engine compartment.
Fans headed for the exits at a pleasantly early 4pm after what for many had been a marathon racing weekend.

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Grand National winner, Mick Sworder, taking the last win of the ‘World Final weekend’

Words: Damian Noblett
Photos: Colin Casserley and Steve Botham

 

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