Northampton – 21st August 2010 Meeting Report

Visitors to NIR on a warm but overcast evening, with rain threatening , were greeted with the news that the engine of the 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr car had suffered damage during pre-meeting practice, and was unlikely to feature in the meeting.

Further interest in the pits came in the form of the stunning new car of 258 Rob Harrad, the Scott Joblin NZ52 car making it’s second UK public appearance and the much anticipated debut of the beautifully restored and updated ‘Ellwell’ car in the hands of 65 Iain Stirk – all three cars an absolute credit to their respective teams. The unexpected presence of World Champion Andy Smith also added to pre-meeting anticipation.

The New Rob Harrad Car. Photo Colin Casserley.

The Linton built car driven by Scott Joblin NZ#52. Photo Colin Casserley.

The event included the annual Harrington Rigby Trophy race, which would form the first of the three ‘2/3rds format’ heats.

With 16 cars on the grid, including the new 258 machine and 197 Ryan Harrison running the ex Mark Peters tar car, 325 Richard Davies lead the field away. Almost immediately, 8 Mick Harris had problems and came to a halt tangled with 41 Robert Broom before the first lap was completed. One driver with no such problems was a flying 464 Luke Davidson, who simply stormed through the field to take 4th spot by the end of lap two, 2nd by lap five and the lead by lap seven. Craig Finnikin (55) chased hard after Davidson and was soon through to second spot, closely followed by 84 Tom Harris, and the race ended in that order, with Colin Goodswen (372) taking 4th spot, Dylan Williams- Maynard (51) in 5th and Ryan Harrison planting a hard hit on 60 Ian Venebles to grab 6th spot on the last bend.

Luke Davidson on a tarmac roll. Photo Colin Casserley.

Heat 2 fielded 19 cars, with the rain deciding to make its first appearance of the evening, with a short, sharp shower just as the rolling lap was underway. Richard Davies was the first victim of the rain, spinning on lap 1, with 195 Dean Whitwell moving into the lead only to be relegated by Dylan Williams Maynard almost immediately, the 51 driver looking impressive in the slippy conditions. Further back in the pack, once again 464 Davidson was on a charge, on this occasion being chased by 107 Lee Robinson, with the Super Stars 391 and 16 making little overall impression in the early laps, not helped by a highly entertaining tussle between the two of the them.

As the race moved past half distance, Williams- Maynard still held the lead from 464 and 107, and with the track drying quickly, Smith was now moving through the field, but some distance behind the leaders – 5th spot would be as far as he could progress before the laps ran out. Up front, Davison finally made it into the lead as the lap boards appeared, and whilst 107 Robinson and 84 Tom Harris looked to be slowly closing on the leader over the last few laps, neither could get close enough to challenge the car in front, and the race ended in that order, with Maynard-Williams taking 4 spot ahead of the World Champ.

Heat 3 saw the race debut of the 65 Iain Stirk space frame, after teething problems in practice, whilst news filtered through from the pits that attempts to repair the 515 Wainman car had failed, and the car loaded up.

Iain Stirk #65 in the 'space frame' car. Photo Colin Casserley.

With Davison missing from this one, who would take the win this time? It did not take long to find out. Adam Bamford (143) took the early lead and held it until Lap 6, when an absolutely flying Andy Smith in the 391 machine stormed to the front, and off into the distance on a now completely dry track.

Behind the runaway leader, a great battle developed in the latter stages between 55, 16, 107 and 259 Paul Hines, with Lee Robinson finally securing second spot at the expense of 259 on the very final lap.

Craig Finnikin. Photo Colin Casserely

Onto the Final – the Ken Rigby Memorial Trophy – would 464 Davidson or 391 Smith add further to their earlier success? With 25 on the grid, the rain yet again decided to pay a visit just as 325 Davies led the field away. First victim of the slippery conditions was 60 Venables who again found himself fired into the turn three fence at alarming speed, before he had even crossed the line to start the race, being joined a lap later by Davies, and soon afterwards by 16 Newson. With the latter being stranded facing oncoming traffic in the middle of turns three and four, yellow flags were understandably then thrown to clear track.

Order on the lap 3 restart was 143, 488, 107, 258, with Smith already past Davidson and up into 5th spot, although Robinson was again looking fast on a damp track. Sure enough, the 107 car hit the front on lap 5, but with Smith ominously sat on his back bumper. Two laps later, Smith was through, and pulling away rapidly as the track again dried.

As the lap boards appeared, the World Champion was in a class of his own out in front, but 84 Harris was slowly but surely edging closer to the 107 car in second spot – would we see a last bend attack for the runner up slot? Sadly not, as Robinson made no mistakes, and kept the 84 car at a safe distance through to the flag.

F1 Stock Cars in action. Photo Colin Casserley

Full Result – 1 (391), 107, 84, 464, 55, 4, 390, 212, 488, 372.

The 17 car Grand National will be regarded by many as the race of the night, and yet again the rain decided to add to the fun just as the field was led away by final winner Smith in his ‘handicap’ position. The early pace of the controversial 391 machine was simply stunning, with Smith reducing his deficit by the full length of a straight after just a single lap.

With Whitwell (195) taking the early lead, all eyes were on the chasing pack as they charged towards turn 3 of lap three en masse. Something had to give, with Dan Johnson the first to go as he clashed heavily with 223 Gary Townsend, almost landing sideways across the front of the 223 car, with both cars then heading for the earth mound inside turn three at great speed. Fortunately, the tyres protecting the edge of the mound did their job extremely well, bouncing the number 4 car back across the track, instead of it being launched into an almost inevitable high speed roll, had the car made contact with the infield. At least two other cars were collected by the Johnson machine as it skidded across the track, but significantly, yellow flags were immediately needed to reposition the protective infield tyres. Remarkably, having untangled himself, Johnson rejoined the line up for the restart.

Whitwell led the field away from Goodswen and Rob Cowley (73), with Andy Smith now well in contention, thanks to the Yellow flag incident. The man taking the most progress, though, was the other half of Team Smith. Although tyre testing on this occasion, Stuart Smith Jnr in the 390 car was reminding everyone of his old form as he barged his way through the field in fine style, taking the lead on lap 10 and holding it comfortably to the flag ahead of 84 Harris. Behind, brother Andy came through the field for third place and another bag full of Grading points, from Davidson, Robinson and Goodswen, after one of those races with incidents and tussles throughout the field, throughout the race. A fitting end to an enjoyable meeting

Stu Smith. Photo Colin Casserley

Unfortunately, post race checks revealed problems with the ride height of the 390 car, with Smith Jnr subsequently being excluded from the results, handing the win to Harris.

Chris Turnbull

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