Sheffield, 31st July 2016 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

A bright, breezy day saw fans descend on Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield for the first of the World Championship semi-finals in a meeting shared with the V8 Hotstox formula.

Sixteen cars gridded for Heat One, led away by Luke Dennis (192) and Joe Thompson (386) on a freshly watered track. Dennis led briefly before Ben Hurdman (207) took over. A schemozzle on the back straight claimed 34, 94, 166 and 231 brought an “ooh!” from the crowd. Dennis retook the lead as the caution came out with just four laps run, Frankie Wainman Junior (515) already up to fifth spot. Frankie assisted in moving a marker tyre from turns three and four, the cause of the stoppage, before the green flag flew again.

Hurdman regained the lead and set a fast pace, keeping ahead of FWJ and third-placed Fairhurst (217). Hurdman’s speed necessitated a wide line around the bends while FWJ kept it tight, gradually reeling the 207 car in and taking the lead with a couple of laps to spare.

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Heat 1 winner, Frankie Wainman Junior

The Semi-final race doubled as Heat Two. With Davidson (464), Hunter (202) and Jones (186) withdrawing from the event, reserves Roberts (313), Atkins (24) and Brocksopp (338) took their places on the grid, Brocksopp driving the borrowed 335 car.

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The grid for World Championship Semi-Final #1

Two rolling laps, one behind the water cart, a la King’s Lynn, then the race was on. Newson led the chase into turn one trailed by Johnson (4), Speak (318) and Finnikin (55). Sworder (150) was pushed to the outside, then 318, Harrison (25) and 55 tangled briefly on the back straight. Another back straight tangle, more serious this time, involved Bromiley (14), Whittle (183) and Neachell (321), bringing out the yellow flags. The 321 car was crocked, facing the wrong way with its front axle pushed back under the sump guard and going nowhere but the centre green.

The restart order was 16, 4, 318, 390, 150, 11, 12, 22, 249, 220, 422, 313, 53, 372, 14, 338, 24, 196, 300, 25, 36, 55 and 183. Newson kept a slow pace on the roller then took off at the apex of turns three and four. Johnson was taken by surprise, delaying the baying pack behind him and receiving a whack from Speak on the next corner. Newson maintained his lead ahead of Johnson and Speak; these three clear of the field as the cars circulated in a fast, single file order, the only change being Sworder edging ahead of Smith. Finnikin blew an outside rear tyre and pulled off just before another “ooh!” from the crowd – the back straight had claimed another victim, this time Gibson (249).

The restart behind the water cart was an unpopular move, especially with Newson and Smith, resulting in much arm waving and I dare say, choice words but, to be fair (as Mat might have said) the track was drying quickly and dust was becoming a problem. Lundy was around eleventh, close but not close enough yet and the restart saw Johnson more awake this time. Sworder had a nibble at Speak but changes in order were few and far between until the final few laps, when the Gold Top had a stab at Johnson.

The 4 car fought back as Lund challenged Yarrow (22). Yarrow retaliated and probably lost a lot of fans when he put the 53 car into the wires. Speak, meanwhile, had passed Johnson and began to close on the leader who was several car lengths clear. A groan from the crowd signalled Lund’s exit on the dreaded back straight but he came back on track as Smith took third off Johnson. With two to run, Speak applied the bumper to Newson on turn three and slipped by for the lead, The Norwich man made a half-hearted lunge on the final bend but, in all honesty, he seemed quite happy with second place. Smith picked up the final podium spot – unfortunately the post-race interviews over a distinctly dodgy radio mike proved as intelligible as the lyrics of “Into the Valley” by the Skids, so what the top three said went largely unheard.

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2015 World Champion Rob Speak will line up on the front row of the 2016 World Final after winning his Semi Final, with Newson second and Smith third.

Just fourteen cars for the Consolation, won in fine style by Luke Dennis despite the close attentions of Bobby Griffin (166). Not even a caution for Carter in the home straight fence with three to run fazed Dennis, the white top taking the flag in confident style. Being a fellow Rugbeian, I won’t embarrass Luke by saying what happened next – suffice to say the damage ruled him out the Final, which gridded 27 cars.

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Consolation winner Luke Dennis gets caught up in the back straight fence.

Dave Willis (337) led the opening laps but FWJ’s race was short-lived, clashing with Smith on the home straight, spinning onto the infield and popping a front tyre in the process. Adkins held second in what was another fast and furious race, with Griffin moving into the picture. Newson retired with a flat as Griffin took second, then first, yellow tops filling the first three places. Willis was dropping down the places when Yarrow launched himself over the front of Adkins on turn one and Roberts just launched himself over on the back straight, bringing out both red and yellow flags. The 313 car had rolled, detaching front and back axles and crushing the wing – not a pretty sight.

Griffin remained calm and collected, though not necessarily cool, at the restart. Second placed man Adkins never got going, giving Griffin a healthy lead over the last five laps to record his second Sheffield final win of the season. Mal Brown (34) took second ahead of Speak, the World Champion dishing out the bumper in the closing stages.

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Bobby Griffin took his second Sheffield Final of the season, with Mal Brown second and Rob Speak third.

Nineteen cars for the Grand National, a race which gave us a thrilling finish, although Lee Fairhurst would probably disagree. Eliot Smith (293) led the early laps before a caution for Will Hunter (220) who hit the home straight fence and stopped dead, brought things to a halt. The severely damaged 220 car was shovelled onto the centre, whereupon racing began.

Fairhurst hit the front around halfway with Gibson second, Smith (390) vying for fourth with Wainman (515). Into the last bend and Gibson seemed too far back to land a blow but when did that ever stop him? The 249 car caught 217 amidships, climbed over the front end of the red top and took both cars into the fence. Fairhurst stayed put but Gibson somehow kept going, scraping along the fence only to be passed by Smith within sight of the flag, the 249 car grinding to a halt at the end of the home straight. FWJ finished third ahead of Speak and Newson with Danny Wainman rounding out the top six.

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Hunter falls foul of the Sheffield fencing.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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