Sheffield – 6th May 2013 Meeting Report

The May Day session at Sheffield saw a decent amount of cars turn up at what is generally regarded as being BriSCA’s most fearsome track. The visitors came from far and wide, but it was left to local boys Mark Gilbank and Paul Harrison to take the lion’s share of the points. With a heat second, a final win, and 8th in the GN, Gilbank netted a massive 54 point score to put him at the top of the 2013 World Championship qualifying points.

Unfortunately, the weather had a part to play in the proceedings; blisteringly hot sunshine all day made it impossible to get a decent racing surface, with dust becoming an issue after the first few laps of every race.

Mark Gilbank. Photo Colin Casserley

Mark Gilbank. Photo Colin Casserley

The meeting got off to a lively start with the red and blue tops jostling for position around turn four, and Mal Brown ran out of room and hit a fence post flat out. Cool as you like, Mal simply reversed the undamaged 34 car out and rejoined the grid. With the post now at 45 degrees and two of the wires no longer attached, there was some delay while the fence crew sorted it out, although not even the biggest tractor could pull the post back straight. Perhaps they should have got Mal to hit it from the other side…

An impressive drive from newcomer Jamie Jackson saw the 377 car lead the early laps before bouncing off the turn one wires. Ryan Harrison was soon at the front, with Gilbank chasing him. Paul Harrison (2) neatly bumpered Frankie Wainman and Tony Smith aside on the way to a third place finish.

The second heat saw an early race battle for the lead between Joe Thompson (386) and Ben Hurdman (207), with Scott Davids (462) then catching. Thompson was too fast into turn three and failed to get round the bend, instead bouncing out of the wires and collecting Hurdman, who in turn span across the track and took Davids out.

Billy Johnson and Lee Fairhurst. Photo Colin Casserley

Billy Johnson and Lee Fairhurst. Photo Colin Casserley

Also having problems were Dan Johnson and Danny Wainman; the 4 and 212 cars getting hooked up and crashing heavily into the pit gate. Johnson recovered to finish sixth, but Wainman was tractored off and did not race again. The gold and silver enjoyed a battle for position for much of the race, with seemingly not much seperating Lee Fairhurst and Tom Harris. Mat Newson eventually squeezed past Joe Booth (446) for the lead with two laps remaining. A lap later Harris put the bumper in on Booth, but both tangled up and ended on the infield.

The Consolation saw a superb drive from white top Russell Cooper, who led until the lap boards came out. Not faring so well was fellow white top Steve Fisher (256), who ran out of room while bunched up in traffic on the back straight, and came to a dead stop against a fence post. Harris methodically worked his way up the field, passing the impressive Carl Swift (245) for second place as the ‘5’ lap board was shown, and taking the lead from Cooper a lap later. Cooper was relegated to third by John Dowson (94), whose second place is his career best finish to date.

Josh Smith and John Dowson Jnr. Photo Colin Casserley

Josh Smith and John Dowson Jnr. Photo Colin Casserley

The Final gridded 23 of the 24 qualifiers; the absentee being Craig Finnikin, who had loaded up with engine damage. The race was just a few laps old when Newson got it sideways approaching turn three, and was picked up by the chasing pack and unceremoniously dumped into, and through, the turn three wires.

They were lined up down the back straight for the restart, and Ryan Harrison set off as soon as the nearest flag marshall dropped the yellow. Crucially, this was a second or two before the starter waved the green, by which time Harrison had already passed Geoff Nickolls and Mark Woodhull.

Ryan Harrison. Photo Colin Casserley

Ryan Harrison. Photo Colin Casserley

Booth was now at the front, but behind him a group of cars were all getting in each other’s way, the upshot being Billy Johnson being shunted into the back straight fence. The 169 car came off the fence and was hit at some speed by a couple of other cars, including race leader Joe Booth.

With both Billy and the fence requiring attention, there was a bit of a delay. Perhaps worrying that the large crowd might get bored, Ryan Harrison did his best to keep everyone entertained with a one-man show of perpendicular parking, climbing up and down the ladder to the steward’s box, and a display on the infield that might have been morris dancing. It went down very well, judging by the massive cheer from the terraces.

Ryan Harrison at the steward's box. Photo Colin Casserley

Ryan Harrison at the steward’s box. Photo Colin Casserley

On a serious note, there is no suggestion that Ryan had any part in the Billy Johnson incident, and at the time of writing there has been no official statement on why he was excluded from the race.

On the restart it was Booth leading, from Dowson, then Gilbank, with the latter shifting the 94 car on the first bend. Booth lasted until about halfway, when Gilbank managed to connect with the back bumper. Booth almost held it, until the fence reached out and grabbed him.

the fence claims Joe Booth 446. Photo Colin Casserley

the fence claims Joe Booth 446. Photo Colin Casserley

The top four were now Gilbank, from Paul Hines, Paul Harrison, and Dan Johnson, and they were practically bumper to bumper around the circuit. With the lap boards out, Harrison weighed in on Hines and smacked the 259 car wide, which also let Johnson through.

That’s the order they finished, with Gilbank taking a well deserved victory.

The water bowser was empty by the GN, which meant the race was run in a dust storm and very difficult to see. Paul Harrison won, with Gilbank a creditable eighth from the lap handicap.

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