Sheffield – October 25th 2009 Meeting Report

After several lacklustre meetings earlier in the year, Sheffield finally produced the kind of meeting that it used to be renowned for in seasons past. With a decent turnout of cars, several of the sports top drivers battling for National Series Shoot Out points, the Final and GN being run under floodlights, and the fence crew being kept busy all day, this was a good example of what stock car racing at Sheffield should really be like.

Photo Paul Tully.

Photo Paul Tully.

Rain before the meeting meant that the track was rather slippery for the opening race, which was the finale of the Startrax White & Yellow Series. The grid was formed based on points scored at Sheffield and Belle Vue during the season, which gave Joe Booth (446), fresh from a Final win at Scunthorpe the night before, an inside row 3 start. Based on current form and his starting position, Booth was clearly the pre-race favourite, but the combination of a slippery surface and youthful over-exuberance with the loud pedal resulted in the 446 car paying a heavy visit to the fence in the early stages, before bouncing back onto the racing line and taking a few other cars out with him. Andy Ford (13) took over from Ricky Wilson (502), and had no problems in leading to the flag.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Heat 1 fielded 24 cars, although two of them probably got more of the crowd’s attention than the other 22 put together. We refer of course to Frankie Wainman (515) and Andy Smith (1), who were the main contenders for the Shoot Out. Of the two, Smith got away first but Wainman was quickly past, before running wide. Craig Utley (484) had a few laps in the lead before Neil Shenton (35) took over, but making the most progress was Paul Hines (259). Utley was baulked by Wilson, with Panton then firing Whalley wide. Hines then bumpered Panton aside, but got momentarily hooked up with Wilson as he went past. This worked to his advantage, as the out of shape 502 car turned into the chasing Smith and slowed him down briefly. Hines then set his sights on Utley, and a decent smack put the 484 car wide around turn four. Utley almost kept it out of the wires, but caught a fence post at the start of the home straight and bounced out into the traffic and was collected by Wilson. The yellows came out to remove the stricken cars, and Hines lost an advantage of about 4 lengths over Smith. Shenton still led from Williamson as they lined up for the restart, and on the green, Wainman fired backmarker Cooper into Panton, but Panton held his position. Smith performed a similar manoeuvre into turn three, putting Hines wide and Williamson in the fence. Wainman then made another challenge on Panton, which ended with the 288 car firmly in the turn one fence. Into the last lap, the leading trio of Shenton, Smith, and Hines were almost bumper to bumper, and as they approached the final turn, Hines went flat out into the 391 back bumper. Smith was knocked off line, and Hines eased up the inside to take second place at the flag.

Photo Colin Casserley.

Photo Colin Casserley.

The second heat gridded 18, with Mike Andrew (220) leading for a couple of laps before James Clement (158) took over, although Shenton was never far behind. Hines was the first of the Shoot Out contestants to show, and was quickly up the order. The waved yellows were out early on, when Scott Davids (462) clattered the home straight fence and was then hit by Andrew. Davids reversed out of the fence and rejoined the line up. On the green, Stu Smith (390) bumpered Paul Harrison (2) wide to move into eighth place, but then went too fast into turn two and ran wide, allowing Harrison and Tom Harris (84) to pass. Shenton had now taken over at the front, but Ford thumped the 35 car aside to take the lead. Shenton then dropped back, with Hines then hitting Nigel Whalley (198) wide to take second. It didn’t take Hines long to reel Ford in, and he too got a large helping of the 259 car’s front bumper. Hines went on to take a comfortable win, while Harrison held off a big last bend challenge from Smith.

The third heat saw 25 cars line up, with Mike Williamson (111) and Clement spinning out at the start, with Wilson taking an early lead. At the other end of the grid, Mark Gilbank (21) and Wainman (515) made rapid starts, while after his pace in Heat 1, Smith (1) appeared to be struggling. Dave Willis in particular didn’t want to let the number 1 car pass, but the two briefly hooked up coming off turn four, with Willis spinning into the fence at full speed. With the 337 car sideways across the track and wedged firmly in the fence, the yellows came out. Wilson led them away for the restart, but before the race was much older, Tony Smith (91) went into the turn one fence in a big way, taking Clement with him. This gave Smith (1) the opportunity to lean on John Lund (53) and force the 53 car wide and into the stranded 91 machine, brining out another bout of yellows. Wilson still led, but he now had Gilbank and Wainman right behind him. These two moved ahead almost as soon as the race restarted, with Wainman then taking a wild dive at Gilbank’s back bumper as they entered turn one. Wainman missed completely and went wide, which let Smith (390) through. Wilson’s race then ended with a heavy impact into the turn one fence. Wainman had a big lunge at Smith, but bounced off and went into the stricken 502 car. The yellows came out for attention to Wilson, and with positions being taken from the last completed lap, Wainman was reinstated into third place behind Gilbank and Smith. On the restart, Gilbank, Smith (390), Wainman, and Paul Harrison (2) were bumper to bumper down the home straight, with Wainman easing up the inside of Smtih into turn one. Smith held his place, but on the next bend Wainman went past as they started the penultimate lap. Smith promptly planted the 515 car into the wires a lap later, and with most eyes on the 390/515 battle, Lund’s big last bend hit on Craig Finnikin (55) and Ford went almost unnoticed.

Just 18 of the eligible cars were still raceworthy for the Final, which was the BriSCA Supreme Trophy. With no white grade drivers making it through the qualifying heats, Ford lined up on pole position and took an immediate lead. Gilbank seemed to have problems at the start and made a slow start, while Smith (1) shoved Wainman wide, which also let the other Smith (390) through. Hines made another storming start, but got caught up with Finnikin and Ryan Harrison (197), who had tangled in turn 4. Ford had now opened up a sizeable lead from Mark Woodhull (335), but it was almost a repeat performance of Heat 3 for Smith (390) and Wainman. Wainman forced the 390 car wide, which also let Gilbank through, and Smith then planted the 515 car fencewards. After a flying start, Ford seemed to lose a bit of pace, and Woodhull gradually reeled in the 13 car, taking the lead after nudging Ford into a half-spin. It was now Woodhull from Hines, with Smith (1) a few lengths in arrears, with Johnson and Smith (390) a few further lengths behind. Smith (390) then launched Johnson hard into the turn three fence, which brought out the yellows and closed the grid up. For the restart, race order read 335, 259, 1, 390, and 21, with Smith (390) trying to get up the inside of Smith (1) as soon as the green dropped. Hines made a big effort that Woodhull did well to hold, but then the Smith brothers forced their way past the 259 car. Smith (390) then edged Smith (1) aside to take second place, with the number 1 then coming under attack from Hines. Smith resisted this, but Hines was then bumpered wide by Gilbank. With a couple of laps remaining, Smith (390) reached out and fired Woodhull into the turn two wires. In doing so, Smith ran slightly wide, and was collected by the 335 car as it bounced off the fence, which let Smith (1) through for the lead. Tom Harris (84) went into the turn one fence in a big way as Smith (390) set off after his brother down the back straight for the last time. He didn’t look to be close enough for a realistic challenge, but he went for it anyway, and failed to connect, leaving Andy Smith to take the chequered.

Photo Paul Tully.

Photo Paul Tully.

Mike Andrew (220) was the early leader in the GN before Ford took over, while Lund set a cracking pace and was quickly through the field. There were waved yellows after Wainman launched Adam Slater (214) hard into the turn one fence. It was Ford from Lund on the restart, with Wainman hitting Smith (390) as soon as the green dropped, and Andrew getting squeezed off the racing line and into the home straight fence. Lund took over from Ford, but soon had Finnikin on his back bumper before he was replaced with Smith (390). As the race reached half distance, it was Lund, Smith (390), Finnikin, and Wainman (515), with not much between them. After a few taps on Lund’s back bumper, Smith (390) found a way past, while Wainman seemed to bungle a challenge on Finnikin and T-boned the 55 car into the fence. Wainman backed off and rejoined, before Smith (391) went hard into the 55 car. This brought out the yellows, and with the 55 and 391 cars stuck together, and the Finnikin car wedged in the fence, there was a slight delay while they were seperated and the fence repaired. Race order was now 390, 53, 259, 21, and 515, but during the delay Lund seemed to have lost his pace and slowly dropped back as the race went on. This left Smith (390) to take the win and the important Shoot Out points.

Carl Hesketh

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