Stoke, 15th April 2017 – Meeting Report and Photos

Thirty-five F1s for the eagerly anticipated World Qualifier at Stoke and it must be said the Loomer Road shale-way is looking much tidier than in the past. The same, however could not be said of the pits where a fair representation of the Alps, made from heaps of stone chippings, saw transporter space at a premium and late-comers wedged into every available corner. I am not knocking the Stoke promoter here – he has no say in what the stadium owners decide to store in the pits or car park, be it chippings, vans or a fleet of ambulances.

Seventeen cars gridded for Heat One and the man in form, Stuart Smith Junior, starting off the front of the reds had to be the favourite. John Wright (348) led the opening laps in flamboyant style, harassed by Tim Warwick (307) until the Bedford man spun. Wright threw away a good lead with a half-spin on the pit bend, allowing both Smith and Paul Harrison (2) to pass well before the half-way stage. Smith went on to victory from Dan Johnson (4) with Craig Finnikin (55) coasting home in third.

390 4 55 212 244 348 463 152 73 25 220 192

Stuart Smith Junior takes the first win of the afternoon

Eighteen for Heat Two and an eventful race it was. Richard Woods (268) took the lead at the green flag but spun on the well-watered track handing the lead to Darren Clarke (83). The slippery track caught a lot of drivers out with much spinning and fence scraping but Cooper (415) and Griffin (166) forged to the front, Bobby G taking over as Cooper went missing but Stoke specialist Mark Gilbank (21) was already up to second and looking for the win. The drying track made no difference to Griffin who kept calm ahead of a closing Gilbank until a back straight tangle involving Clarke and Nigel Harrhy (45) saw the 83 car perform a rollover, leaving both cars in a sorry state.

With just two laps to run at the restart, Cooper was the back-marking filler in the Griffin/Gilbank sandwich but he wisely moved aside to let the Rotherham man by. A failed last bend assault by Gilbank saw Griffin take the flag with FWJ (1) third after really struggling early on.

166 21 1 445 84 293 259 207 169 12 415 NOF

Heat 2 winner, Bobby Griffin

After exiting Heat One with a flat tyre, Paul Harrison had no such problems in the Consolation but all credit to Bill Fenwick (57) for leading several laps before Cooper took over. Will Hunter (220) also had a spell at the front but Harrison held sway, taking the flag from 220, with Newson (16) limping home for third after blowing a hose with just a couple to run.

2 220 16 335 192 169 25 268 415 307 443 NOF

Problems for Newson at the end of the Consolation

Warwick was the only non-starter in the Final, 25 cars taking the green flag and Hurdman and Hines tangling on the very first bend. Wright led but Smith was carving his way through the field, harried by Gilbank and Finnikin. The 348 car came to a stop on the pit bend, passing the lead to Luke Dennis (192) with Smith second, but not for long. A hefty whack saw Dennis fence-bound on turn one and Smith away and gone by halfway. Harris challenged Gilbank for second as Wainman (1) dived inside Finnikin to take fourth place.

Gilbank clattered into Harrison bringing out a caution with three laps to go and the excitement level in the crowd ramped up several notches as a grandstand finish was on the cards. A lap down James Morris (463) separated the first and second cars but he pulled off on the roller, leaving the order as 390, 84, 1 and 55. Smith brought the field to a virtual standstill on the pit bend before roaring off into the distance, while Harris seemed taken by surprise and slowed those behind, losing second to FWJ as the gold top eased the 84 car into the back straight fence. Smith emerged a clear winner from FWJ with Finnikin in third.

390 1 55 84 4 212 259 21 220 335 169 166

Luke Dennis was an early leader in the meeting Final

Twenty-three for the Grand National and a maximum for Smith was a distinct possibility – it would only need a caution or two – and a caution was what we got early on as a first bend shemozzle left Frankie JJ (555) and Michael Scriven (12), having a luckless night in his new car, vulnerable to a hit from passing traffic. The restart saw Mick Rogers (244) leading but he was slow away letting Joff Gibson (249) ahead but almost immediately another caution for Griffin and Johnson (169), stuck together against the home straight fence, slowed things down.

Rogers had regained the lead, from Gilbank, Green and FWJ with Stuart Smith already up to about seventh place and looking strong. The 244 car failed before the green flag so Gilbank inherited the lead, a position he kept until he side-swiped Dickerson (443) heavily on the pit bend, losing out to both Green and Wainman and we were only at the half-way stage. Smith bumpered 21 wide for third and narrowed the gap on Wainman (1) but there were not enough laps left to advance up the order. Green won, from FWJ while Smith completed a profitable night’s racing coming home third for a bag full of world qualifying points.

445 1 390 21 84 212 259 335 152 443 220 463 220 443

Green took control of the Grand National before the half way stage and held on for the flag

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley & Ant Jenkins

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