With the European weekend in July and the World Final weekend in September also on the fixture list, Northampton staged the first of its big BriSCA F1 meetings in 2011 with the WCQR attracting a decent number of cars to the South Midlands venue. With neither The Smiths, Andy (1) and Stuart (390), nor Frankie Wainman Jnr (515) in attendance, it was left to the new order of Tom Harris (84) to claim another heat and final win with an all conquering display, laying down a marker that he can be considered a serious threat to any other pretenders to the Gold Roof come September.
Heat 1 welcomed 24 cars on track and amongst the entrants were Chad Evans (392) debuting the former Stu/George Heppenstall (189) car, who lined up at the rear with fellow novice Daniel Howell (317) in a Mat Newson (16) hire car. Taking his place in the red grade was rare visitor Mark Gilbank (21), making his third outing of the season all of which have been WCQR’s. As soon as the flag dropped, Will Yarrow (22), Iain Holden (85) and Colin Nairn (280) all hooked up and slammed into the armco on the far side bringing out the first caution of the evening. Fresh from his success at Skegness a week ago, Colin Goodswen (372) lead the restart from fellow rapid white grade drivers Neil Turner (126) and Dave Riley (422). Harris (84) was in no mood to hang around and helped Mike James (417) and Chris Cooke (460) into the fence on turn one, before Craig Utley (484) joined the pile.
Dean Whitwell (195) and Luke Davisdon (464) hooked up and scraped their way along the wall on the home straight, resulting in the current European Champion becoming stranded on the racing line, so the second bout of waved yellows were issued, to remove the stricken 464 machine to safety. Goodswen held the advantage on resumption, until the unstoppable Harris came marauding through on halfway. Howell (317) was looking more confident with every passing lap and attacked Nigel Harrhy (45) on turn three which saw the #45 car clobber the wall hard. Lee Fairhurst (217) and Newson (16) endeavoured to stay the pace with the #84 car and filled the podium places in the closing stages, but in truth neither looked like preventing Harris take another commanding win, which he did in fine style, Newson and Fairhurst accepting silver and bronze – Gilbank relegating Goodswen down to fifth position on the final turn.
18 cars on track for heat two including Dan Johnson (4) celebrating his 21st birthday and Craig Finnikin (55) in last season’s ‘non-tilt’ tarmac car. Dave Riley (422), who had been out in race one, claimed a flag to flag victory – his only minor concern occuring when Ed Neachell (321) pulled onto the infield directly in front of the race leader. Carl Pickering (141) got into a minor kerfuffle with the luckless Paul Hines (259) on turn two with a couple to run – the 141 car ending up t-boned by the British Champion, whilst Ed’s brother James Neachell (322) lost a couple of places on the final turn after being pushed out by Chris Cowley (37) and Lee Robinson (107).
Another 18 for the consolation with lone white grader Harrhy (45) away first from Dean Whitwell (195), as a shemozzle developed on the home straight when Colin Nairn (280) became t-boned by Rob Cowley (73) requiring a bout of yellows to remove the obstruction from the racing line. Harrhy and Whitwell were soon under pressure from behind on the restart, and failed to hold back the tide as Messers Yarrow (22) and Davidson (464) came piling passed. Hines (259) bad run of luck continued as he tangled onto the infield from the back straight with a seemingly out of control Harrhy (45), the latters race going from bad to worse as he connected with the fence hard on turn two. Yarrow continued to lead past half distance and into the lap boards with Davidson looking like he was planning a last bend assault, and no matter how much looming he did in #22’s rear view mirror – he simply couldn’t find the extra grip or power to have a crack at his back bumper. No such issues for Paul Carter (300) and Craig Utley (484) who waded into each other swapping paint on several occassions with relish. Whitwell dinked Mike James (417) wide on the final turn to capture fourth spot.
An oasis of calm befell the summer night sky with a perfectly observed minutes silence for Tony Roots who had sadly passed away, before the big audio dynamite of unlimited V8 engines filled the air. The primal scream of 29 BriSCA F1 stock cars attacked the senses as the clash got underway. Neachell (322), Gilbank (21), Ian Venables (60), Davidson (464) and Finnikin (55) were all fired into the fence on turn four before crossing the start line as the green flag flew – Neachell clearly unable to continue without assistance, so a race stoppage and complete restart was ordered, minus 322/60 and 21 Gilbank who had gone to great lengths to get a new tyre/wheel, but wasn’t given any time to effect repairs.
The mayhem continued at the second time of asking – Davidson in trouble again on turn four, Yarrow and Gary Townsend (223) had a look at the fence on turn two with Whitwell and Neil Scriven (11) being rifled into the wall on turn 4 bringing out the waved yellows. The trio of white hot white grade drivers, 372-126-422 were the top three, with Mick Sworder (150), displaying his usual ‘take no prisoners’ driving style, already up into sixth position.
On the restart, Sworder quickly scythed his way into third, with the flying Tom Harris (84) up into fifth. Yarrow (22) got into Robinson (107) as bumpers were exchanged mid order between Scriven (11) and Scott Davids (462). The #150 machine was passed Goodswen and into the box seat by halfway, but couldn’t relax as Harris (84), as at Skegness last week, was on a mission and stalked the ex F2 man before moving him aside with three laps to run. Try as he might, Mick simply couldn’t wring any more traction out of his machine and had to be content with second spot – Harris completing his second heat and final double in as many weekends, Fairhurst (217) finishing as he did in his heat, in third spot.
The 29 car GN under the awesome new NIR floodlights, which happily were working this time, seemed to take the speeds to another level, the illusion of the cars appearing 20mph faster under lights, coupled with the amount of cars on track ensuring a highly watchable and enthralling race. Harris (84) lined up in front of Riley (422), Turner (126) and Goodswen (372) who lead the field away into 16 racing laps. Holden (85) and Yarrow (22) tangled on the back straight and headed for the infield, whilst James (417) and Michael Scriven (12) tangled on turn two. Sworder (150) was spun away onto the infield from the far side by an aggessive Robinson (107), closely followed by James (417) and Mark Allen (161) who also collected Mickey Randell (172) as they made their way onto the infield and ended up in a heap. Whilst all this was occurring, Goodswen (372) had cleared the pack at the head of affairs and looked set to take a comfortable race win as Robinson (107) got stuck into Fairhurst (217) on turn one, the 217 machine eagerly returning the compliment on turn three with Turner (126) being caught up in the crossfire and connecting hard with the fence, necessitating a chequered flag immediately followed by the red flag to bring to a close a hard fought race and a hard fought meeting.
Several drivers would consider themselves amongst the pretenders to Andy Smith’s throne, but if recent results are any guide, Tom Harris has surely pushed himself forward to be one of the main threats that the current world champion will have to keep his beady eye on.