Sheffield, 4th June 2017 – Meeting Report and Photos

Forty-four F1s attended the 2017 British Championship on what started out as a warm and sunny afternoon. There were a few no-shows and a couple of extras and in all honesty, the Sheffield pits probably couldn’t have coped with any more cars.

Surprise starter at the back of Heat One was Jake Walker 368 (F2 298) in the John Wright (348) car, which immediately scuppered my prediction that Wright would be the lower grade star of the meeting! I understand that Jake had not even sat in the car until Sunday morning which makes his performance on the day noteworthy in the extreme.

The format for the British makes it imperative that drivers score well in every heat to bag that all-important grid position but defending champion Frankie Wainman Junior (1) had said he would be happy with a third or fourth row start. He set about his defence of the title in the best possible way, racing into second place before the halfway mark and closing on leader Karl Hawkins (175) with five to run. Downgraded to yellow for June, Hawkins drove a brilliant race to withstand a last bend challenge from Wainman to take victory. Danny Wainman (212) came out best in a battle with Gilbank (21) and Fairhurst (217) for third while Walker finished his first F1 race in twelfth spot.

Heat 1 winner, Karl Hawkins

Heat Two saw Richard Woods (268) lead the way as pre-race favourites Tom Harris (84) and Stuart Smith (390) traded paint and places on the way to the front. Ricky Wilson (502) stuffed his car into the home straight fence, losing a wheel and bringing out the yellow flags. Woods was still in front at the restart with Hunter second but Dan Johnson (4) was capitalising on his red grade start and ran out a clear winner from Harris and Smith. Woods held on for a fine tenth place.

Early leader Richard Woods managed a 10th place finish in Heat 2; right behind Paul Hines

Heat Three raised the biggest field of cars so far with 23 on track, swelled by late arrival of cars 16, 462 and 463. Team Newson had broken down en-route from the Far East. Hawkins, from the back of the yellows, was looking for a repeat performance but the race came under caution early on. A 4-car scrimmage on the back straight claimed 34, 169, 462 and 463. At the same time Smith (390) climbed over Fairhurst on the home straight, leaving 217 sideways and 390 out with a flat tyre. Brocksopp (338) did his car no good at all, piling into the fence on turn one, while Jason Eaton (448) also clobbered the fence and needed medical attention. All this on one lap!

Hawkins wasted no time in hitting the front at the restart but Mat Newson was in no mood to hang about – he wasted no time in hitting any car in front and was soon up to third when another caution, this time for Luke Dennis (192) who was in a dodgy position between turns 3 and 4. Hawkins “anticipated” the restart but second-placed Neil Scothern (152) put in a challenge, taking over on turn four with Newson behind. Mat took the lead before the half-way with Gilbank and Wainman (212) trailing behind, chased by 217 and 463. With a handful of laps left Hawkins blew his outside rear tyre and pulled off, then returned to the track to salvage a place before deciding that ploughing up the Owlerton shale was not a good idea and retired to the infield. Frankie JJ finally came down off the fence, as it were, to record a good sixth place.

Chris Brocksopp hit the turn 1 fence in Heat 3, damaging a fence post

The wet track caught a few out in Heat Four, not least FWJ who backed it into turn one all on his own. Johnson and Harris made no such mistakes, the 84 car hitting the front before the union flag flew after disposing of Johnson, letting Will Hunter (220) into second. Harris proceeded to fence a wayward Frankie JJ on turn one, the 555 pilot eliciting a collective gasp from the first bend patrons as he drove across Harris’s bow with two to run, the 84 car missing him by inches. Harris won to maintain an excellent average from Hunter while Johnson backed up his heat two win with a third place finish.

Despite problems, both Frankie Wainmans finished in the top 12 in Heat 4

Harris was also out in the 17 car Heat Five along with Newson, an early caution for Smith (293), parked across the back straight bringing things to a stop. Woods led the restart from John Brown (134) until Hawkins took over. The 175 car entered the first bend backwards, a victim of the wet track, handing the lead back to Woods with Newson incredibly already up to second. Another caution, this time for Fairhurst and Dan Clifford (363) on the home straight gave the rain a chance to do its stuff before the restart with Woods still holding the lead. Harris applied the bumper to Newson but just couldn’t get the better of the Norwich man who was in front before the half-way distance. Danny Wainman, Mr. Consistent, took his third, third place of the afternoon.    

The rain set in for Heat Six with Russell Cooper going well out in front.  Stuart Smith spun himself on turn three and 364 and 483 went hard into the wires on turn one, joined by Harrison (25) and Riley. A bout of waved yellows followed, Cooper still ahead at the 12 car restart. The track conditions made the race a bit of a lottery, a cheer erupting as Woodhull half spun, trapping FWJ. Cooper spun, handing the lead to Johnson, Finnikin put himself in the fence and then Johnson also about-faced with no help whatsoever, putting Woodhull in front. Wainman passed the 335 car for the lead only to back it into the fence on turn three under pressure from Johnson with three to run. Johnson kept it pointing in the right direction over the remaining laps to take the win from Smith and Wainman who almost threw it away again on turn one near the end.

Craig Finnikin and Stuart Smith Junior battling in Heat 6

When the smoke had cleared from the BSCDA abacus, Johnson found himself on pole for the British Championship Final alongside Newson with Harris and Wainman (212) on row two. Row three comprised FWJ and Finnikin ahead of Hunter and Smith. The rain had stopped, the sun was shining and after a lap behind the water cart the race was on. The soggy outside line saw Newson lose several spots before he had even crossed the start-line as Johnson led the charge into the first bend, chased by Harris and FWJ. Harris leaned on 4 coming off turn two to take the lead down the back straight while Smith repeated his spinning out routine.

The line up for the Championship race

Harris pulled out a massive lead, tapping back-markers wide to maintain his half-lap lead over Wainman until he came up behind a lap down Johnson. Dan was clearly after a place in Team GB and decided to show Guy Parker his blocking skills around turns one and two. Harris continued to push the number 4 car down the back straight, Wainman closed up and joined in before Harris again made the break. A caution then brought things to a climax.

Harris led the restart with FWJ on his back bumper, followed by Gilbank, with Smith not so very far behind. Gilbank drove into the pit bend fence as Wainman chased Harris down, the returning 21 car delaying Harris enough for FWJ to line up the 84 rear bumper and send him flying into the turn one wires. Harris somehow bounced out and continued but Wainman was in control although we had only reached halfway.

Newson ran second but Smith was catching him. FWJ was delayed by Dennis (192) allowing Smith to narrow the gap but he had the Johnson car as a cushion and crossed the line to claim his ninth British title. Smith came home second from Newson who must have been cursing his outside line start position.

It was certainly a race to get the fans talking with emotions running high long after the chequered flag had fallen.

FWJ wins his 9th British Championship title

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

 

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