Stoke, 11th April 2015 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

For the 7th World Championship Qualifying Round of the season, it was a trip to Loomer Road, Stoke on Saturday 11th April; for the first of two meetings there this year. Since its introduction to the Brisca F1 calendar via Startrax promotions, the Loomer Road site has always provided action-packed racing, very popular with the fans and always resulting in its fair share of talking points. This meeting lived up to all the expectations.

With 40 cars in attendance, it gave the chance of a ‘two heats and consolation’ format and the weather was perfect for the evening’s racing. A gradual improvement has been noticed at the track, and the track surface has been smoothed somewhat compared to its introduction, the cars now not bouncing down the straights as per earlier meetings.

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Sunshine and shale at Stoke.

The first heat had a grid of 19 cars, on a well-watered track – thanks to the 21st century hi-tech John Deere water bowser seen at last year’s Semi Final meeting. After the chequered flag dropped, 134 John Brown was the early leader, whilst 462 Scott Davids span at turn 3 being collected by 45 Nigel Harrhy. John Lund retired to the infield and the 448 car of Jason Eaton came to a standstill on turns 1/2 . With the Davids and Eaton cars refusing to re-start, the yellows came out.

At the re-start, on Lap 4, it was 335 Mark Woodhull who claimed the lead, from 21 Mark Gilbank, who had made rapid progress to second. Mark always seems to have the upper hand and feel for the Stoke track; he was now ahead of 152 Neil Scothern in third. Woodhull held the lead for a couple of laps, until Gilbank nerfed the car aside on turn. Gilbank held the lead ’till the chequered flag, while Woodhull was overhauled by Paul Harrison (2) for second, with 55 Finnikin finishing fourth.

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Paul Harrison nipped up the inside of Woodhull to claim second spot in Heat 1.

Heat 2 saw 21 cars grid up and, at the drop of the flag, it was 293 Eliot Smith who made the early running. The cars of Mark Poole (276), Karl Roberts (313) and Dylan Williams-Maynard (51) all hooked up on the main straight but managed to get going. Further back, 318 Rob Speak was on the move, followed closely by 4 Dan Johnson and 217 Lee Fairhurst. But by Lap 5, the 293 car of Smith had made good ground with a very healthy lead and Johnson had the pace over Speak, moving the 318 car aside on turns 1/2 in pursuit of Smith.

Smith did well holding onto the lead until Lap 12 before Johnson took the top spot, followed by Speak and 515 Frankie Wainman Junior. This was the way it remained until the finish, the 293 car retiring with 2 laps to go. Further back, 34 Mal Brown and 463 James Morris decided to test each other’s bumpers on the turn 3 fence; both clattering the fence head-on in spectacular fashion, both though managing to get going again.

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Mal Brown and James Morris had a coming together in Heat 2.

The consolation was run on a dry the track, with a grid of 19 cars, including John Lund and Stuart Smith Junior (390), who had managed the first lap of Heat One, before retiring with a blown diff. The team managed to repair the diff in the pits. John Brown (134) and Aaron Cozens (76) were early spinners on turn 2, whilst Josh Smith (191) fired the 207 car of Ben Hurdman wide on turns 3/4 . The 276 car of Mark Poole that had made fast progress got fired wide into the turn 3 fence and then did a gradual wall of death routine before gravity finally won the day, the 276 car rolling over and bringing out the yellows.

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Mark Poole ended up upside down, bringing out the first caution in the Consolation.

At the re-start, it was Josh Smith who led off and held the lead for a couple of laps before retiring to the centre, emitting steam. With 220 Hunter and 326 Mark Sargent stranded on turns 3/4, the yellows were called for again. At the re-start, it was 462 Scott Davids from 94 John Dowson, 390 Stuart Smith, 34 Mal Brown and John Lund.

With only 9 cars now running, it was a simple case of anyone who finishes makes the Final – the drivers, though, had other ideas. Scott Davids got an early lead whilst 34, 53, 390 and 94 decided it was the first lap of the World Final. It was only a couple of laps before the yellows were out again; this time for the stranded cars of 208 Steve Malkin and 321 Ed Neachell on turn 3. Malkin had been fired in by Neachell, the 208 car coming to a standstill at the front, the 321 car going underneath the 208 car; both cars sustaining heavy damage, with Neachell’s coming out the worst.

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The 208 car was fired into the fence by the 321, but it was Neachell himself who came off worst.

At the re-start, the crowd were then entertained to a ‘battle royale’ between 53 and 390, Scott Davids again hitting the front. Before the last lap board, Stuart pushed the Lund car to one side, squeezing Lund to the fence on the exit and gaining the advantage. On the last bend, Lund – from miles back – went for an almighty lunge at the 390 back bumper, both cars drifting wide with Lund coming home second from Smith third, to what could only be described as enthusiastic terraces.

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John Lund and Stuart Smith Junior battling hard towards the end of the Consolation.

The Final proved to be the major talking point of the night and one many will remember for a while. 415 Russell Cooper, in the Newson hire car, was the only white top in the race and hit the front, with the 244 car of Mick Rogers in second spot. John Lund was not far behind but did not last long in the race, being taken out on turn 3 – a big hit from Danny Wainman sending him fence-wards and into retirement from the race. John Dowson, continuing his recent superb form, was soon in third but the quick Dan Johnson and Rob Speak were the star men on the move. Speak bumpered the Johnson car aside and took up the chase. Mick Rogers had taken the lead at Lap 7 and held on from Dowson, Speak and Johnson in fourth, with Mal Brown in the mix as well.

Heading down the back straight, Rogers had the cars of Speak, Dowson and Mal Brown surrounding him and, going into turn 3, Rogers’ car flipped over and rolled on its roof. Speak, Brown and Dowson slipped through but left the Mick Rogers car facing backwards on its roof. The yellows on the bend were thrown immediately, but with the cars still at full chat, Rogers was hit and spun by Johnson with Mark Woodhull  and Geoff Nickolls attempting to take avoiding action but also hitting the Rogers car.

The race was now at a standstill and a few minutes of silence fell amongst the crowd as the track team, mechanics and medics surrounded Rogers’ car. Dan Johnson’s car was reversed out and Mick Rogers’ car was righted, with Mick getting out of the car shaken and bruised – but thankfully all okay – to applause and cheers from the up to then silent fans. It’s a testament to the knowledge of F1 Stock Car fans that we, perhaps, all sensed something may be amiss but also,  and much more importantly, to the strength and safety of a modern F1 and the quick response of the flag marshals, track crew and the team mechanics that Mick was, thankfully, alright.

At the eventual re-start to the race, Speak was in lead position from Dowson, Brown and Gilbank. Speak was forced to retire to the infield, along with Brown, with flat tyres before the race was re-started. At the drop of the flag, Dowson held onto the lead for a lap before Gilbank slipped past, holding the top spot to the finish, from Danny Wainman and Dowson in second and third spots.

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Final Top 3: Mark Gilbank, Danny Wainman and John Dowson.

The Grand National saw another action-packed race, with Gilbank taking the mandatory lap handicap. Early on, 169 Billy Johnson, 338 Chris Brocksopp and Craig Finnikin all collected on turns 3/4 , the yellows being brought out for the stranded Brocksopp and Johnson cars. At the re-start, the lead car was 45 Nigel Harrhy from Dowson, with Speak already in third. By Lap 4, Speak had hit the front, holding the lead to the finish. Further back, the crowd were entertained to an exchange of bumpers between Dan Johnson, Craig Finnikin. Matt Newson and Mark Gilbank; the 21 car having lost its handicap at the yellows. Johnson retired before the race end.

Frankie Wainman Junior and Mark Gilbank were having a ‘battle royale’, Gilbank bumpering the 515 car aside with one to go and, on the last bend, the Wainman car having an almighty lunge on the 21 car’s back bumper to finish ahead at the chequered flag, Mark, having not seen chequered flag being waved, then had another go at Wainman, planting  the 515 car into the stricken 45 car of Nigel Harrhy. Frankie, a little disgruntled, then set off after the 21 car for a little ‘tête-à-tête’ down the main straight, which really brought the crowd alive at the end of what was probably the best night’s Brisca F1 Stock Car racing seen for a long time.

Words: Andy Armer
Photos: Colin Casserley

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