Skegness, 11th May 2014 – meeting report

The top three in the UK Open Championship.

The top three in the UK Open Championship.

Sunday’s events at Skegness continued in the same vein as Saturday although with less wind around the intermittent rain showers tended to stick around a little longer and thus the track remained difficult for most of the afternoon.

With no pre-meeting practice session a late morning tour of the pits found most drivers in relaxed mood although one notable exception was Team Harrhy where the car was receiving no end of remedial treatment to the front end.

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After a destructive Saturday night, a massive effort from the Harrhy team to get the car back out for the Sunday meeting, but Nigel managed only a couple of laps before this happened.

Such was the level of damage to the 45 car that the driver had managed to enlist two extra helpers, both former BSCDA chairmen; Stuart Milnes and Ian Higgins.

It was most entertaining to watch these two veterans of the sport getting down and dirty in a muddy pits as they scoured the memory banks for the correct way to operate all the welding, and bending equipment required to get the 45 car fit to race.

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Daniel van Spijker was one of two Dutch visitors.

A two thirds format gave each driver two more chances to score points to improve their grid position for the Kaleta family sponsored UK Open Championship. 22 hopefuls for heat one led off by lone white top Simon Heath 87, although he was soon under pressure from 220 Will Hunter.

Back in the pack 390 Stuart Smith Jnr looked quick but he did delay himself taking time out to give Paul Ford 388 some aggressive attention.

Hunter took the lead from Heath 87 before hallway but he was himself coming under pressure from 41 Robert Broome and Scott Davids 462. These three had half a straight lead over rapid starmen Hines 259, Ford 388 and Speak 318.

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Frankie clipped the marker tyres while avoiding the spinning Daniel van Spijker.

With Hines closing Davids had no time to wait and he pushed past 41 with 3 to go, Hunter held on until the last lap turn two when a wider line and second place seemed more appealing than being fenced by the boisterous Davids.

Broome 41 seemed much more determined to hang on to third and held his line on the last lap but an aggressive shunt from 259 Paul Hines reversed the places.

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A big impact with the fence for Ivan Pritchard.

20 for Heat Two including the repaired 45 car of Nigel Harrhy ready to test the quality of welding carried out by his veteran mechanics. Hunter 220 led again with Alex Wass 283 and Chris Bonner 105 keeping him company. 45 commenced full repair testing on lap 2 when he and fellow blue graders Pritchard 434 and Dowson 94 tangled and barged into the fence in turn 2.

The 434 car had suffered from weight problems on Saturday and now seemed to go all lightweight at the rear as it flew up in the air only to come crashing back down on the front end of the 45 car. As more cars then joined the turn 2 parking lot, yellow flags were called for to separate the 45 and 434 cars who were caught in an embrace like a pair of mating dragonflies. Dan Johnson retired to the infield in the interlude with tyre and halfshaft issues.

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Steering problems for John Riley.

Hunter led the restart from Whitwell 195 and Davids 462, but these three now had a trio of superstars Wainman Jnr, Newson 16 and Hitman Harris right behind them. Wainman shunted 462 aside and went on to take the lead but Newson and Harris were also in attendance and these three produced an entertaining scrap swapping hits and place for several laps, Wainman scraped the Armco in turn two and lost ground leaving Newson to try and keep the Hitman in second.

No luck for Newson as a well timed last bend attack from Harris produced another trophy for the World Champion’s already overburdened mantelpiece.

A dry track greeted the 21 contestants for heat three and a clean start saw Rob Cowley 73 surge forward into a comfy lead while Paul Harrison seemed to have borrowed his namesake Ryan’s front bumper as he got dished out punishment to Chris Cowley 37 and Davidson 464 in turn 3.

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Joep Hendriks made the trip from The Netherlands to contest the UK Open.

By halfway it was Cowley 73 from Harrison 2 and Hines 259 but at this point the rain returned and on a soaking track the cars began to circulate without aggressive intent.

Harrison and then Hines passed Cowley but Hines remained too far drift of Harrison for any last bend heroics giving Harrison his first victory in his new THM car. Wainman Jnr retired from this race with two to go having trashed yet another gearbox and the 515 car was rushed back to the pits for some new gears before the big trophy final.

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Will Hunter led Heat 1.

A damp track greeted 28 contestants for the big trophy final with the Paul Harrison and Hines on the front row of the star grade being many fans pre-race favourite for victory.

Veteran Rob Cowley 73 soon pushed his way past Hunter 220 and began to build a lead while further back Waiman 515 got aggressive with Speak 318 in turn two and more significantly for the result Hines and Tom Harris tangled in turn 4 and were well adrift of the field by the time they resumed racing.

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Problems for Stu Smith.

Wainman 515 slowed in turn two and retired from the race while Cowley 73 also lost out has his front tyre lost inflation. At this point the other Cowley, 37 Chris clattered the fence in turn two and yellow flags came out to rescue the car and driver.

41 Robert Broome led the restart while Wainman 515 rejoined at the back behind Hitman Harris. Broome now had a whole bevy of drivers on his tail and soon had to give way to Matt Newson. At this point normal reality seemed to be suspended as instead of pulling away the 16 car of Newson was closed down by a flying 390 car of Stuart Smith Jnr.

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Mat Newson pushed wide by Stu Smith.

Now, Stuart had shown some reasonable pace in Saturday’s events but nothing to mark him out as a potential winner. Jaws continued to drop as with five to go 390 was all over the back of 16 and a well timed attack in turn two saw 390 take the lead and 16 lose time which left him just in front of third placed Speak and Hitman Harris.

As Smith reeled off the remaining laps Harris, Speak and Newson treated the fans to a few of those laps which make enduring all the rain and motorway miles worthwhile, hits went in on every bend and Newson soon found himself relegated to fourth but a perfectly timed last bend hit saw him recover to second place. Speak and Harris nerfed each other from turn four to the flag with Harris just doing enough to secure third.

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So a jubilant if perhaps a little surprised Stuart Jnr took the trophy, the champagne and the applause, while Harris used his time on the microphone to suggest that his early tangle had cost him dear as two or three more laps was all he needed for victory, although some in the crowd may well have expressed the view that catching 390 would have been an easier task than passing him.

A damp track greeted 16 survivors for the Grand National. With no white tops Cowley 73 led from Broome 41 while back in the pack things got all a little bit chaotic in turn 2, as cars pushed and shoved the congestion squeezed Tom Harris into the turn two Armco and he scuttled round the barrier coming to a stop in turn three. Harris needed assistance from the medics so yellow flags came out and it was some time before a fragile Harris was able to exit his car and walk to the infield.

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Cowley and Broome led the restart but they now had Paul Harrison and Rob Speak 318 right behind them. Speak smacked Harrison wide and moved into the lead. Second placed Harrison was now getting hassled by Wainman jnr who briefly passed the number 2 car before settlind down in third. The cars were now all well spaced for a quiet run to the flag with Speak taking the flag for what was surprisingly his first victory of the weekend.

Stuart Smith Jnr came through from the final winners lap handicap for fourth place leaving the fans in no doubt that the final win was no flash in the pan and the 390 car would be one to watch out for whenever major silverware is on offer.

Words: Damian Noblett

Photos: Colin Casserley

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