Northampton, 28th July 2018 – Meeting Report and Photos

The weekend of the year for Incarace and by far the most talked about and anticipated European Championship ever- the first time the title has been contested on the dirt since the inaugural running way back in 1978.

I said in my June meeting report that the track would suit the Netherlands drivers and anyone who has been to Blauwhuis couldn’t help but notice the similarity good old Brafield Stadium now held to the northern Holland venue. It didn’t take long for our overseas visitors, both F1 and F2, to get to grips with the clay surface and the prospect of a “proper” European title race was, initially at least, one to savour.

The F1 Trust Fund Trophy race doubled as heat one and gridded 26 red and blue graded cars. After a lap of wheel-packing the green flag was swiftly followed by yellow flags as cars piled into the pit bend fence. Griffin (166) led the restart from Woodhull (335) and Gilbank (21) with Johnson (4), Harrhy (45) and Fairhurst (217) not far behind. A botched attack on Woodhull saw Gilbank back to fifth as Johnson and Harrhy bounced by but not for long – the 21 front bumper taking him quickly back to second place as Griffin pressed on in the lead. Johnson moved into second but hooked bumpers with Wainman (211) entering turn three and lost out to Smith (390) with eight laps gone and eight to go. Gilbank’s challenge deflated as did his rear tyre while Harrison (197), after pulling off with front end damage, returned to the track, apparently to settle a score with Sargent (326), resulting in more damage for both and a load-up for the 2013 Euro champion.

Although Smith closed a little by the flag it was Bobby Griffin who added his name to the Trust Fund trophy, winning by a quarter of a lap with Newson (16) in third.

This could make the semi-final interesting

Heat two, for the Stephen Froggatt Memorial trophy raised an impressive thirty cars including 14 Dutch entries and a very smart effort from Joe Nicholls (242) in the C graders. Nairn (280) led the opening laps until the magnetic powers of the pit bend fence drew him in, handing the lead to Plant (364) who drove a brilliant race to stay out in front for the duration, even finding time to spin Oudhuis (H477) out and clobber the fence on his way. Netherlands drivers filled the next seven places with Greidanus (H29) second and Maris (H61) third.

14 Dutch entries for Heat 2, including Wendy Koopmans

Twenty-eight for the consolation. The bumpy track was proving to be a bit of a leveller, if that makes sense, in giving the lower orders the chance to shine. Late arrival Sam Jacklin (137) was away at the green as Gilbank made his intentions clear from if not before the start, hammering Dennis (192) wide before crossing the line, while Harris (84) clobbered the spun De Vries (54) car on the pit bend. Jacklin joined any number of Tesselaars in the first bend schemozzle handing the lead to Roberts (313), putting the ex-Neachell car to good use but Harrhy joined the pit bend party, ripping off a front wheel and the caution flags flew.

The green flag was waved and nobody went – very strange. Roberts then took off with Scriven (11) second and Potveer (H62) third, but Gilbank and a recovering Harris were coming through the pack fast, but not fast enough to catch the flying 313 car. Dust began to rise a little, mainly from excursions onto the infield but the track was holding up very well. Roberts won at a canter from Scriven with Gilbank third, Harris fourth and Potveer a fine fifth after half-spinning a few laps from home.

Potveer (H62) and Harrison (25) on track in the Consolation

A full thirty-two car field for the Allan Barker Memorial trophy led away by lone white top Plant but another big pile-up on the first lap delayed several contenders. Plant led from Kitson (532) and Kente (H179) until the former F2 gold-top took over at the front but Tom Maris (H161) was closing on the leaders and going well. After a dreadful heat, FWJ (515) seemed to have the track sussed, passing Smith with a deft tap and a side-swipe on the pit bend, to move up to around sixth or seventh but Kitson was still out in front, with Johnson (4), under the radar, into third.

A close finish was on the cards as Maris challenged for the lead with five to run, the Dutch driver taking the lead a lap later with Johnson easing past 532 for second. Two pointless attacks from Harris on Wainman took them both out of contention as Johnson took the lead with Hunter (220) now third but Kitson had other ideas, belting the 220 car wide on the last bend for third at the flag. In his post-race interview Dan commented that with a bit of work Northampton could become the new Coventry – if only it was that easy!

The final went the way of Dan Johnson

A fantastic thirty-five (possibly 36) cars for the Richie Ahern Memorial trophy grand national – it could have been 38 but Wainmans 515 and 555 were apparently locked out. The meeting was running ahead of time so no great need to lock the gates when they did but there were some ominous black clouds overhead so maybe it was justified.

Plant again led the way initially in a manic race, Smith tangling with Green (445) and taking Fairhurst with them but within a few laps I had no idea who was leading – it was one of those races. Roberts was being given the lap boards with Potveer second but a helping hand into the pit bend from 217 saw the 313 car wide and Potveer was through to record an excellent win ahead of Scriven (12) and Koen Maris (H61).

Potveer took an excellent win in the Grand National

A thoroughly enjoyable start to the European weekend with the early finish allowing plenty of time for those staying overnight to enjoy the post-meeting party. Only the weather could put a dampener on things – sadly the forecast for Sunday was not good.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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