Northampton, British Championship, 30th May 2015 – Meeting Report and Gallery

The 60th Anniversary of the British Championship, this year a joint effort by the BSCDA and the BriSCA F1 promoters, staged at the spiritual home of stock car racing, as Dave Goddard would say, should have had everything going for it. Good weather, a good crowd and a good turnout of cars, though less than hoped (52 raced) ticked all the pre-meeting boxes but, whilst the words “foregone conclusion” cannot normally be applied to any stock car race that was pretty much the case in all three of the big races on offer.

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Lining up for the championship race

The F1 drivers raced in 3 out of seven heats, scoring points which would determine their grid position in the British Final and thoughts that this might become a similar wreck-fest to the previous Northampton meeting were raised when Josh Smith (191), hotfoot from the Coventry Motofest, was skittled around the plating on his side on the first lap of Heat One.

Seven cars retired to the centre during the stoppage, depleting the field somewhat for the restart, led away by Chad Evans (392). Tom Harris (84) was quickly up to second but oil or fluid around the pit bend made for cautious driving, allowing defending champion Paul Harrison (2) to pass the 84 car. Fairhurst, Wainman (515) and Sworder all joined the centre car park and it was Michael Scriven (12) who best handled the slippery tarmac, passing 84, 2 and 392 for the lead with five to go.

There is often one lower grader who shines at any British Championship event – Chad Evans had already staked his claim but he was eclipsed by Joff Gibson (249), racing from yellow in his shale car, no less, in the 19 car Heat Two. Gibson bumpered rare tarmac racer Craig Aston (440) wide on the first bend to take the lead, a position he held until the chequered flag flew sixteen laps later. Ollie Ives (237) ran second for a long while until hitting trouble on the pit bend. Micky Randell (172) drove a tidy race for second place with Stuart Smith (390) third.

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Yellow top Joff Gibson dominated Heat 2 – even though he was racing in his shale car!

Paul Poulter (174) debuted a new Harris Motorsports built car in Heat Three which saw Mark Gray (224) get turned sideways going into turn one before being bundled into the fence on the opening lap . Jordan Falding (36) led from Daniel van Spijker (231) and Brad Harrison (25) but Fairhurst was moving quickly through the field, pursued by Harris (84). With 5 to go, the Dutchman challenged Falding for the lead down the back straight but the youngster kept his cool, only relinquishing the lead to the 217 machine on the penultimate lap, then losing second place to Harris on the last bend.

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Paul Poulter in his new tarmac car

With some of the established star men failing to capitalise in the heats, it was left to the lower graders to show the way in Heat Four – enter Chad Evans and Joff Gibson, stage left. These two led the pack as Nigel Harrhy (45) did a few laps of the infield. Dan Johnson (4) and Junior Wainman (515) made progress through the field as the laps wound down but once Gibson passed Evans for the top spot the result was never in doubt.

Josh Smith (191) returned to the track for Heat Five, his car smoking and minus its aerofoil after the earlier acrobatics. Stuart Smith (390) and Tom Harris tangled on the fourth bend early on while Brad Harrison led from Jack Aldridge (421). Hunter (220) moved into second place while the 84 car retired, taking the lead down the back straight and staying out in front until the chequered flag.

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Heat 5 winner, Will Hunter

Harrison (25) and Evans (392) led away the eighteen car Heat Six which ran for only a couple of laps before the caution flags flew for Ed Neachell (321), who made a valiant attempt to climb the armco coming off turn four. Evans led again at the restart but Fairhurst was in no mood to hang about, dealing with Paul Ford (388) and Dan Johnson (4) in quick succession to move into second place with Wainman (515) grabbing third spot but then the race was stopped when Paul Carter was fired into the pit bend plating hard by Chris Cowley (37), the 300 car doing a Danny Wainman before crashing down onto its roof. The pace car did two rolling laps before the restart which caused a bit of confusion but Evans was unfazed, leading once again until drifting wide on the pit bend, clobbering the wall on the back straight and spinning on the third bend – damn shame. Fairhurst won, Wainman second and Johnson third.

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Paul Carter ended up on his roof after a hit from the 37 machine.

Twenty-one gridded for Heat Seven, the last of the qualifying races, with several drivers needing to improve on their prospective start positions in the big race. Falding led the early laps until Gibson slipped through, on his way to a third win and pole position in the British Championship. Craig Finnikin (55), after a pretty lean evening points-wise, made his presence felt, moving quickly up to fifth while Hunter (220) who had progressed to second, pulled off with a flat tyre, as did the cars of Webster (48) and Cowley (73). Gibson cruised to his third win, some way clear of the Gold Top 55 car.

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Joff Gibson claiming his third win and securing pole position for the championship race.

Pole position is not always the best place to start a closed grid race as Gibson found to his cost in the British Championship Final. With the pack pushing from behind and the pace car slow to clear, Gibson had no choice but to move right or face a big bill for bodywork repairs from Incarace, but in doing so he hooked up with fellow front row starter Johnson and they scraped down the home straight fence while Fairhurst took the initiative, the lead and the title.

Harris settled into second with FWJ third for much of this high speed event. The gap between 217 and 84 shortened as the half way approached, then the yellow flags flew for Jordan Falding who was helped into the pit bend fence by 249. Supercool Fairhurst coped with the restart superbly, only to face more yellow flags when Mark Woodhull (335) climbed the wall, backed off and carried on. Fairhurst again got the drop on Harris at the green while Wainman fell back into the clutches of Johnson with three to go.

Salute Lee Fairhurst, British Champion again – ice cool under pressure and he never put a wheel wrong – time to dust off the black and white chequered aerofoil from the back of the garage!

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Congratulations to the 2015 British Champion, Lee Fairhurst.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley and Steve Botham

 

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