Skegness – 2010 Speedweekend; Sunday May 9th UK Open Meeting Report

After enduring the almost winter like conditions of Saturday on the windswept Skegness terraces it was a pleasure to arrive at a stadium bathed in sunshine, although some cloud cover gave a warning that the improvement in track conditions may be temporary. The majority of drivers had survived Saturdays “warm up” session and were ready for battle with each driver allocated two heats in which to score enough points to make the top 28 and thus entry to the big title showdown.

Photo Chris Clark

The call for heat one summoned 23 chariots from the pits onto a dry track. Craig Utley 484 made an early grab for the lead shadowed by 37 Chris Cowley both continuing their good form shown on Saturday. The higher grades seemed far too interested in attacking each other to consider closing the gap on the leaders, most notably Stuart Smith Jnr 390 who gave out hits to anyone in range and some that were not. As the race settled down 259 Paul Hines and the MVS Recovery sponsored Dan Johnson set off in pursuit of the leaders taking every opportunity to hit each other on the way. By halfway Cowley had squeezed passed Utley but the race was halted by yellow flags required for the stranded 191 car of Joshua Smith. Cowley saw his lead evaporate under the caution flag, but on the restart Hines and Johnson were too busy continuing there own battle and Cowley sealed the win with Utley holding on in second. The final few laps saw Tom Harris 84 and Stuart Smith Jnr do their best to entertain with an aggressive battle, 84 got the upper hand and a decisive hit saw 390 finish out of luck and out of the places.

Photo Colin Casserley

More action was anticipated in heat two as 24 cars filled the grid. With Hot Rod star Steve Thompson up front it was by now no surprise when he soon established a comfortable lead, his task was made somewhat easier by a good portion of the field throwing themselves at the turn two fence led by Colin Goodswen 372 and 73 Rob Cowley. By halfway the 385 hare was enjoying a comfortable advantage from the chasing hounds led by Scott Davids and Spencer Taylor. As the 5 laps to go board was shown H247 Gary Castell found an extra gear and passed Davids and Utley but was still half a lap adrift of the 385 car as the chequered was shown. A late charge from Andy Smith saw him grab third place but clearly the World Champion and his fellow superstars were left with some head scratching to do as nobody had an answer to the electric pace and skill in traffic shown by the 385 car.

Photo Colin Casserley

20 racers for heat 3 and a severe case of deja vu as 385 once again disappeared into the lead. Dan Johnson was an early casualty and the chase was left to H399 Jessy De Bruin, Scott Davids and Paul Hines. Hines eventually forced his way into second while Davids developed problems and slipped out of contention. As the laps counted down De Bruin and Chris Cowley kept everyone entertained with a bumper battle for third place but this distracted them long enough for Matt Newson 16 to slip by into third. Thompson maintained his pace all the way to the flag followed home by Hines. De Bruin found scant reward for his efforts as he was docked two places for jumping the start.

Photo Paul Tully

Clouds began to muster in earnest as 24 took to the track for heat four all hoping to make the grid without need of the last chance qualifier. Gareth Wildman 429 held the early advantage from the consistently quick Craig Utley while down the field Andy Smith left his fellow superstars trailing and set off in pursuit of the leaders. With 5 to go Utley passed the 429 Wildman car who now also had Spencer Taylor for company and with just two to go Taylor spun Wildman out of contention. Utley took the flag with the World Champion first superstar home in fourth. Thus all four heats were completed without a star or superstar grabbing a chequered flag, certainly a “Heineken moment”.

Photo Paul Tully

For drivers outside the top 28 points scorers next event was a last chance qualifier race with four places on the back of the grid at stake. The good weather evaporated as quickly as Gordon Browns re-election chances and the heavy shower left drivers facing a wet track with the majority switching to the heavier treaded shale Goodyear tyre which seemed well suited to the conditions. Gareth Wildman got away at the front and maintained a comfortable lead for a flag to flag victory. H482 Peter van den Bosch towed 85 Ian Holden around the armco while Adam Slater 214 reeled off consistent laps which took him into second place. With two laps remaining Slater had to give way to a fast moving 2 Paul Harrison. Behind 2 and 214, Lee Fairhurst and Danny Wainman 212 enjoyed an aggressive tussle over the last qualifying place. Sadly the Wildman car failed post race weighing checks promoting Harrison to the win and 212 into the last qualification place for the big race.

Photo Paul Tully

Photo Paul Tully

The track was almost dry as all 32 qualifiers grided for the UK open championship final with those with most points starting on pole in their grade. A clean start saw Steve Thompson 385 once again open up a substantial lead. With a large volume of star and superstars on track it did not take long for the clean start to give way to chaos with notable victims being Frankie Wainman Jnr 515 and Dan Johnson who were squeezed into the armco on the back straight. By halfway 385 had a comfortable advantage from a consistent Craig Utley. Prospects for a higher grade winner were left with Tom Harris and Andy Smith but as the 5 to go board was shown the gap to Thompson seemed insurmountable. A big time race at Skegness is rarely without drama and with just 4 laps to go a yellow flag caution was shown for 217 Lee Fairhurst whose car was precariously positioned in turn 3. On the re-start 385 led from 484, 84 and Andy Smith, and the 385 car had the added comfort of three back-markers starting between him and Utley. As the green came down the back-markers became irrelevant as Thompson cleared off and left all others trailing behind, an exceptional performance for a driver in only his fourth meeting in an F1 car. Harris and Smith both forced thier way passed Utley and then battled all the way to the flag with a very determined Harris keeping the World Champion at bay.

Steve Thompson #385 2010 UK Open Champion. Photo Paul Tully

Trophy presentations closed proceedings and as the crowd made its way to the exits one was left to ponder when if ever a major championship meeting had been completed without any star or superstar driver seeing a chequered flag.

The junior's formula BriSCA MiniStox provided plenty of supporting action. Photo Paul Tully

Damian Noblett

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