Stoke, 12th August 2017 – Meeting Report and Photos

The eagerly awaited Stoke Semi-final meeting was one to remember but maybe not for the right reasons. Whilst the weather was good, not for the first time this season a major race was influenced by track preparation immediately prior to the event. Throw in some confusing flag marshalling in the consolation, a power cut during an F2 race and an unsavoury incident in the F1 National and you have all the ingredients to bring t’interweb to the brink of meltdown.

Fifty-one cars present, I made it, with a bonus, unscheduled Whites and Yellows race to start things off, delayed a little to allow the queue of patrons at the turnstiles in. Russell Cooper (415) led from Clark (83) and Malkin Jnr (308) with Chris Farnell (32) looking good in fourth. Malkin disappeared in a cloud of expensive looking smoke on turn two and Cooper was baulked by newcomer Jon Lawrence (413) at the halfway stage, allowing Clarke to close up. Into the pit bend and Clarke went into the fence, Cooper hooked up with Lawrence and Farnell took over, taking the flag from Rogers (244) and Harrhy (45).

Whites & Yellows winner, 32 Chris Farnell

Twenty for Heat One, Mat Newson (16) clobbering the fence before crossing the start line, while Cooper again set the pace. An early caution saw a single file restart with Super Cooper pulling away at the green, chased by Farnell, who took the lead on the pit bend then threw his car at the fence on the next lap, letting Cooper back in front with John Dowson Junior (94) up to third and using the bumper. Paul Harrison (2) looked quick, moving into second as Dowson took the lead, with Craig Finnikin (55), rattling the bar windows with every lap, up to third. Harrison passed Dowson for the lead as the Durham man tried to withstand an attack from Finnikin, losing second to 55 but escaping a last bender from Green (445) to keep third spot.

Next up was the Semi-final, delayed slightly while a build-up of shale was scraped from against the fence on the bends, followed by the inevitable watering. A number of drivers were seen checking out the track condition before Dan Johnson (4) led the semi-finalists out for the parade. Luke Davidson (464) was using the Jordan Falding (36) car, Ashley England (346) had the Robert Plant (364) car at his disposal while Daniel van Spijker (231) was strapped into the Fairhurst (217) car. Interestingly, Scotsman Stuart Shevill Junior (518) was driving the Harrison (197) projectile for the evening.

The new Heritage F1 replica leads them away for Semi-Final #2

A parade lap behind the splendid Ron Rogers (ex-152) Heritage F1 replica (look out for a forthcoming feature on this latest creation from Mike Shirley) followed by an orderly rolling lap and they were away, or at least most of them were. While Dan Johnson surged ahead, Danny Wainman (212) found himself squeezed into the fourth bend armco by FWJ (1) and others, all struggling for grip on the greasy track. Johnson led from Hines (259), FWJ, Tom Harris (84) and Mick Sworder (150) but the luckless Danny was stuck fast, still to cross the start line.

Into the pit bend for the first time and Harris took the number one car to the fence but the move back-fired – FWJ hit the armco, Harris scraped along the Number One nerf rail and popped a rear tyre, coasting to a halt on turn four. Sworder got by Wainman but they were both someway behind Johnson and Hines when the inevitable caution flags flew for Luke Davidson facing the traffic on the back straight.

The restart order top five was 4, (455), 259, (212), 150 (518), 1 and 21 but Sworder pulled off on the roller with a flat tyre on the outside front leaving Johnson to surge ahead once more. Hines was in a comfortable second place ahead of Junior Wainman who seemed to be closing the gap on the 259 car as the five to run board came out, but he had Gilbank in his mirrors and couldn’t afford any mistakes, settling for third at the flag. Special mention for Drew Lammas (543) who took his tarmac car to an eighth place in only his first F1 shale race and Danny Wainman who clawed his way back from a lap down to take ninth ahead of perennial trier Billy Johnson (169).

Semi-Final Top 3: Dan Johnson, Paul Hines and Frankie Wainman Junior

The consolation saw Mat Newson taking the flag but Neil Scriven (11) being awarded the victory in a confusing race. Joff Gibson led until yellow flags flew, but they only flew on the back straight! Gibson rightly slowed only to find himself being passed by drivers who didn’t acknowledge the caution – the starter was not waving a yellow flag so the race continued and Gibson found himself the unwilling victim of a Harris/Sworder feud, propelled with some force into the stricken 150 car by 84.

Gibson finished fourth behind Harris but was understandably wound up, venting his frustration on the starter, Scriven and the steward, urged on by the vociferous home straight crowd.

Consolation winner, Neil Scriven

Twenty-seven cars for the final, led away by white tops Eaton (448) and Cooper. 555, 207 and 175 tangled on the opening lap as Gibson powered his way into second spot behind Cooper but yellow flags (properly done, this time) for Sam Jacklin (137) saw a single file restart,  212 sent to the fence by Joe Booth (446), Cooper throw it away on the pit bend and another caution. The restart order was 249, 220, 11, 445, (555), 1, 55, 446, 215, 2, 415, 259, 175 and 212 with Gibson going early. Hunter spun on turn two, Green taking second ahead of FWJ and Finnikin.

The Gold Top disappeared from third place on turns one and two, Finnikin lost it on the pit bend and long-time leader Gibson’s car slowed shortly afterwards, handing the lead to Nigel Green around half-way. Paul Harrison moved into second spot but was half a lap behind the 445 car at the flag in a race of attrition which saw only 10 finishers, Danny Wainman recovering some lost pride with a good third place.

Another final win for Nigel Green

The Grand National saw an early stoppage for Chris Farnell whose car burst into flames after a crunch on the pit bend. With cars spread right around the track, the “restart” was shambolic as the green flag had not actually been shown, resulting in another, slightly less shambolic start as the lead cars caught up with the back of the field. Harris, well-placed, backed it into turn three but quickly re-joined, only to be pushed across the pit bend, into the fence and then onto the infield by Sworder.

It was anyone’s guess who was leading but a collective gasp from the crowd after an incident on the back straight saw smoke rising behind the John Deere tractor display on the centre green and the race was stopped. Sworder was in the fence, engine revving to breaking point and in need of assistance, seemingly the victim of a Harris revenge attack which was the subject of a BMB investigation. The race result was declared with Ashley England awarded the victory.

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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