Sheffield – April 12th 2010 Meeting Report

The decision to run a meeting at Sheffield on a non Bank Holiday Monday night had raised a few eyebrows when it was first announced, but it turned out to be probably the best meeting to have been staged at the track for quite a few years. Enough cars for five decent races, a full car park, big queues to get in, and plenty of on-track action, were a reminder of just how good Sheffield used to be in years gone by. Top performances on the night came from white top Gary Fox, with two wins, and Mal Brown, who seemed to be trying to hit anything that moved.

Photo Colin Casserely

The first heat fielded 18 cars, half of which were red or superstar grade, and when the green dropped at about 7.15pm, Garry Fox (48) drove off into the sunset. Nigel Whalley (198) and Mark Woodhull (335) were soon into second and third, but some way behind Fox. From the back of the grid, Tom Harris (84) was rapidly moving up the order, and was fourth by half way. Rare Sheffield visitor Paul Harrison (2) bumpered Mat Newson (16) wide, before Woodhull moved Whalley aside. Whalley immediately went in hard on Woodhull on the next bend, but to no avail. Further back, Craig Finnikin (55) was starting to pull away from Andy Smith (1), with Harris gaining ground on the leaders. But with a few laps to run, the 84 car suddenly slowed and coasted to a stop. Entering the last bend, Finnikin made a big lunge at Whalley, putting the 198 car into a half spin, with Chris Brocksopp (338), John Lund (53), Danny Wainman (212) all piling in, with Murray Harrison (97) managing to dive across the infield to avoid them. Fox took the win by some margin.

A smaller grid for Heat Two, and with no white tops it was Tony Smith (91) into an immediate lead. Andy Ford (13) and Dan Johnson (4) both made a cracking start, passing a load of cars down the home straight and moving into second and third after just half a lap. Mal Brown (34) wasted no time in putting his bumper to use, firing Joe Booth (446) into Graham Wagstaff (330), with Wagstaff bouncing off the wires. Ford took the lead when he planted Smith (91) into the fence, with Smith (1) then smacking Frankie Wainman (515) wide as they went into turn one. Wainman got it sideways going around the turn, and Smith cut across the infield to avoid him. But he didn’t avoid one of the big marker tyres, which launched the World Champion skywards. The number 1 car landed heavily and sideways across the track, and was lucky not to be collected by the passing traffic. The waved yellows came out to remove the marker tyre from the racing line, and as they restarted it was Ford leading, from Johnson and Wainman. The latter moved into second as soon as the green dropped, while further back, Smith (1) was trying to make up for lost time but was having trouble finding a way past the stubborn Brown. Smith twice gave the 34 car a decent smack, and each time just bounced off. Booth then gave Smith a hand, and fired Smith into Brown, and passed both. Smith then planted Brown hard into a turn three fence post. Ford took the win, with Neil Shenton (35) delivering a big last bend hit on Smith (91) for ninth place.

Photo Colin Casserely

An enlarged grid for Heat Three, as it included some cars that had missed Heat 2 due to damage. The track had been watered just before the off, leading to a slippery surface which caught out a lot of the yellow and blue tops at the start of the race. Scott Davids (462) clattered the fence, and then slowly circulated the track, apparently waiting for the right moment to pull off. He probably chose the wrong moment, as he dived across the front of Brocksopp and race leader Lee Smith (76). Both took avoiding action, but Brocksopp hit a couple of the infield marker tyres, getting beached on one and sending the other onto the track. This necessitated the waved yellows, and when they got underway again it was still Smith (76) leading, from Fox, Ford, Finnikin, Johnson, and Wainman. Fox moved Smith wide to take the lead, but Ford then piled both of them into the fence, with Finnikin passing them all for the lead and Wainman moving past Johnson for second. Further back, Harrison (97) was finding it difficult to pass Brown, and it was these two that brought the race to a premature end with just a couple of laps left. Harrison got inside Brown coming out of turn two, but Brown wasn’t having this and blocked him. The two cars collided and were turned sideways and veered onto the infield. Brown hit a marker tyre, and performed one of the most spectacular rollovers for many a year, going side over side and the end over end, before coming to rest at the entry to turn three. Brown climbed out smiling, and got the car back out for the Final.

Of the 18 cars still raceworthy for the Final, 12 of them were red or superstar. Whalley led them away, but a big push from the back of the pack saw the 198 car wide and down the order, with Woodhull running out of track and coming to a dead stop in the fence. Whalley span and was collected by Mark Gilbank (21). Ford had now taken up the lead, with Geoff Nickolls (215) second. Johnson was quickly through the field and deposed Nickolls with only about half a dozen laps run, and then gained the lead when Ford retired to the infield. Booth was another to clatter the fence, and he bounced out of the wires and was hit by several cars. Further back, Lund had followed Smith (1) through the pack, before nudging Smith aside. As the race passed halfway, the track was starting to become dry, and Finnikin appeared to be the quickest man on track. But however quick the 55 car was, Finnikin couldn’t seem to get passed second placed Tom Harris (84). Just before the lap boards came out, Johnson was forced to retire when the outside front tyre blew, having been fouled by the bent front bumper. This left Harris in the lead, but Finnikin was sat on his back bumper, and Gilbank was about 8 lengths behind. As they went down the back straight for the last time, Harris found himself behind backmarker Brown. As they neared the last turn, Harris seemed to hang back for a moment before driving into the back of Brown, and Finnikin then went in hard. All three went wide, with Brown hitting the fence, and Harris maintaining his momentum and line, emerging from turn four in front of Finnikin and taking the win in fine style.

Photo Colin Casserley

After some frantic work on the Dan Johnson car to get it back out, the GN fielded 19, including lone white top Fox, who had missed the Final due to damage incurred in Heat 3. Poole and Wainman (212) piled into the turn two fence, with Wainman (515) firing Finnikin, Johnson, and Brown in with one massive hit. Wainman nudged Whalley into a half spin, with Smith (1) then hitting Wainman wide. Whalley was knocked sideways and into the fence, with Wainman closed the door and squeezed Smith into the marker tyres. Wainman steadily worked his way up the order and was in the top four by the halfway. Johnson, Lund, and Harrison traded a few blows before the chequered, with Fox taking his second win of the night.

Carl Hesketh

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