There was no surprise in the second World Championship Semi-Final as Frankie Wainman (515) took a near flag to flag win in what emerged as a very entertaining race. Although not quite on a par, the race had many parallels with the epic Birmingham 2006 Semi, with the chasing pack battling for the lower places behind the leader.
The only change to the expected line up was Lee Robinson (107) taking to the track in the borrowed Steve Hopkins (347) car, after having problems with his own in practice.
The green dropped as they were halfway around turns three and four, and Paul Harrison (2) got away first. Harrison led them down the home straight for the first time, with Wainman on his back bumper. Harrison’s lead lasted only as far as the first bend, when Stu Smith fired Wainman and Harrison wide. Wainman held his line, and down the back straight on the opening lap the 515, 390, and number 2 cars were bumper to bumper. Further down the order, they were maybe four or five abreast around turn three, but the Birmingham straights are a lot narrower than the bends and as they entered the home straight Tom Harris (84) ran out of room and was squashed against the armco, and David Squire (311) went skywards over the inside of the Harris car. With both cars in a sorry state and in a dangerous position, the race was red flagged.
After a short delay while the track was cleared and a few drivers carried out tyre changes and minor repairs on the infield, the grid was reformed, minus the 84, 311, and number 8 cars. This time, Harrison didn’t make such a quick start, and Harrison and Wainman raced side by side past the starter when the green dropped, with Smith easing past Harrison around the first turn, and Dan Johnson (4) then going past the number 2 car. Ivan Pritchard (434) was the first casualty, coming to a stop on the turn one fence on the first lap, with James Morris (463) and Simon Panton (288) crashing into the fence a lap later.
The yellows were out three laps into the race, after Neil Scriven (11) came around turn three with the tail well out and Steve Jacklin (136) tried to get up the inside but drove over Scriven’s inside front wheel and was flipped into the air before landing upside down and skidding along the track into the fence. Jacklin had appeared for the pre-race parade dressed in a giant inflatable Corona bottle; his exit from the race was even more spectacular than his entrance.
Race order for the restart read 515,390,4,2,249,107,498,73,464, and 321 in the top ten slots, followed by 459,34,12,60,380,11,288, and 463. Harrison bumpered Johnson aside as soon as the race restarted, while at the front Wainman and Smith were already starting to pull away from the pack. In his haste to get away from Smith, the 515 car brushed the back straight armco and produced a shower of sparks, but the two cars looked to be evenly matched.
The leading duo lost a little time when they caught up to the backmarkers, and Harrison closed up, such that at the halfway stage there was just one length between Wainman and Smith, and Smith and Harrison. Robinson moved past Gibson into fifth place, and although Gibson intially moved back in front, a more forceful move put Robinson back ahead a lap later.
As the laps ticked by, Smith seemed to be losing some of his initial pace and was gradually dropping back. Just before the lap boards came out, Wainman was in heavy traffic, and appeared to hesitate before passing backmarker Mal Brown (34). A lap later, and Panton tangled with Ian Venables (60), the out of shape 60 car briefly baulking Wainman. But it seemed nothing was going to stop Wainman. Certainly not Smith, who was now about five lengths in arrears and had Harrison on his back bumper.
The last couple of laps were a mere formality for Wainman, who duly won, but all eyes were on Harrison, who appeared to be biding his time before making a move. Down the back straight for the last time, everyone in the stadium, including Smith, must have known what was coming. A firm smack put the 390 car wide, but as Harrison went to go up the inside, Smith had it on opposite lock and powered around the turn. It was then a sprint to the finish line, with Harrison getting the verdict by inches.
Also having a dramatic end to the race was Spencer Taylor (498), who survived a last bend hit from Rob Cowley (73) with a bootful of power that saw the 498 car cross the finish line sideways.