Stoke, 19th April 2014 – meeting report and photo gallery

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A flat tyre in the closing stages was all that stopped Rob Speak winning his fourth final in a row.

A double header of Bank Holiday meetings for the Startrax promotion saw the first meeting of the weekend in The Potteries at Stoke on Saturday.

With two meetings being held at Stoke this year, the second being the all important World Semi in July the first meeting on Saturday 19th saw 40 cars in attendance for the meeting. The meeting format was run on a two heats, consolation and normal Final and Grand National ,the first 8 from the heats and first ten from the Consolation making the final.

Heat 1 saw a grid of 22 cars with 252 Paul Redfern leading the pack off from the start. Early spinners were 435 Ricky Finney and 448 Jason Eaton on turns 3/4 and at the end of the first lap the leader was 169 Billy Johnson from 276 Mark Poole and 502 Richard Wilson. An early casualty was 16 Matt Newson pulling off on Turns 1/2 who appeared stranded but soon got going again a lap later whilst the 276 car with 215 Geof Nickolls spun out on turns 3 and 4 with the 41 car of Robert Broome collecting the Nicholls car at full chat. At lap 5 the Wilson car took over the lead from Billy Johson and was to then hold the lead for much of the race followed by 51 Dylan Williams Maynard from 462 Scott Davids , 1 Tom Harris and 55 Craig Finnikin.

At the halfway stage the positions remained much the same, 51 Maynard dropping a couple of places whilst 259 Paul Hines was now in 7th. With 5 laps to go the 55 car of Finnikin passed Harris and then dispatched the 462 car into the turn 3 bend and with 3 to go passed the Wilson car for the lead followed by Harris, the Finnikin car holding on to the lead till the finish. Wilson finished 4th after holding onto the lead for so long after being passed by Hines with a lap to go. The 16 car of Matt Newson was initially placed 5th but after checking the lap charts was demoted to tenth due to his earlier stranding in the race.

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Heat 2 had a grid of 17 cars with 220 Will Hunter leading off the pack but was soon passed by 135 James Baliey before 337 Dave Willis took up the lead on lap 2. Mark Gilbank 21 was in a hury at the back dispatching 388 Paul Ford and 463 James Morris into the Turn 1/2 fence on lap 3 and by lap 6 Willis was still leading from 174 Paul Poulter with Gilbank third and Dan Johnson in the new shale car in 4th. Johson then overtook Gilbank for 3rd on lap 6 with Gilbank going for the Johnson car on the next lap but drifted wide to let through the fast moving 515 car of Frankie Wainman and 318 Rob Speak.

Just before halfway the Wainman car retired out stationary on turn 2 while Gilbank had re-taken Speak for 3rd place and a couple of laps later Gilbank and Speak had overhauled the 337 Willis car. With 2 laps to go the 150 Mick Sworder car who was by now running 5th retired to the infield, the placings remaining the same to the flag, Johson first from Gilbank, Speak and Willis. At the results stage the Gilbank car was docked two places to 4th after being judged to have jumped the start.

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Before the consolation it was obvious all was not well with the 515 car of Frankie Wainman as the wing had been removed and the reason for his retirement in the heat was diagnosed snapped crankshaft, probably the worst outcome of any engine failure, good luck to the 515 team and hopefully things will not be as bad as initially thought and the team can get things repaired quickly.

The consolation saw a grid of 19 cars for those wishing to still make the final. On lap one the cars of 276 Mark Poole and 10 Lee Smith hooked up on the main straight, both cars managing to get going before a stoppage was inevitable but both cars soon retiring to the in-field. On lap 4 there was a coming together between 24 Mark Adkins and 220 Hunter, these two being then collected by another 4/5 cars including the 462 car of Scott Davids.

Most got going but the stranded cars of Adkins and Scott Davids brought out the yellows. On the re-start it was 435 Finney from 169 Johson and 183 Steve Whittle 3rd but followed by 15o Sworder, 16 Newson and Danny Wainman. Sworder was flying though and on a mission and by halfway was leading from Finney followed by Newson and Wainman and with 4 to go Sworder had a lengthy lead from Newson and Wainman. With two laps to go the inside rear tyre of the 150 car let go but in typical Sworder fashion he just kept going and with a lap to go Newson took the lead on turns 1/2 and on the final bend Danny Wainman went for the inside line on Sworder, the Sworder car amazingly with a now shredded back inner tyre drag racing Danny to the line for a very close 3rd place.

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The final saw a full grid of 28 cars competing from the earlier stages and is wasn`t long before the packed grid ran into problems. At the end of the first lap on turn 3, 338 Paul Ford span and was collected by the Paul Hines car, both got going but with Newson and Danny Wainman being delayed by having to take the outside line. The flowing lap on the same bend 502 Richard Wilson clipped the infield tyre on the way into the bend, this spinning the car which was now heading backwards to the fence with 169 Johnson, 22 Will Yarrow,, 238 Bryan and 51 Dylan Williams Maynard.

The cars of 335 MarkWoodhall and 388 Paul Ford had also come to a halt just beyond this traffic jam so the yellows were thrown. It was a handy thing as Dylan had gone in hard and was shaken up quite badly, he got out of the car but was taken away for further checks, a quick chat with Gary his mechanic after the race confirmed Dylan was alright just shaken and its always best to be on the safe side in these circumstances.

The re-start had 220 Hunter leading the pack off and a lot of the star men had made rapid gains, Lund was 6th with Speak behind followed by 335, 55, 21, 4, 1 16 and 212. Rob Speak was on a mission here, going for his fourth final on the trot and on bend 1 put in a well timed hit on 337 Willis and 53 Lund, moving them and two other cars aside . Further back 21 Gilbank did a similar move on Lund and Finnikin on turns 3 to move to second. The yellows came out on lap 5 for the 335 car of Mark Woodhall which was stationary on the straight and once the race got going it was not long before Speak overhauled Hunter for the lead with Gilbank following.

At halfway it was 318 from 21, 1, 55 , 4, 16 and 53 and on lap 13 the car of Gilbank was delayed by 435 Finney, this giving Tom Harris the chance to clatter the Gilbank car aside. The Rob Speak car was now in a healthy lead but it was not to be the inside rear of the Speak car was deflating and his pace dropped, with 3 to go Harris overhauled the Speak car whilst the now rapid moving Finnikin armchair was flying pushing Gilbank aside, the final result being Tom Harris from Finnikin and Gilbank – the car of Rob Speak unfortunately not finishing in the positions.

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The Grand National was equally as fast and furious with the Harris car leading off from the customary handicap and it wasn`t long before the 463 James Morris car had taken the lead. Further back the Gilbank and Newsom cars hooked up together on turns 3/4 with 335 Woodhall also coming to a standstill and by lap 5 the yellows were out for a collection of cars on turns 3 and 4, the tractors not being required as all managed to get going under their own steam. On the re-start it was Morris from Speak, Yarrow and Finnikin and the first couple of laps saw a real bumper fest between these 4 cars before Speak managed to draw clear for the lead.

Meanwhile the 55 car had again picked up the pace in pursuit of Speak but coming out of turn 4 on the inside of Morris for second the cars hooked up onto the centre, the 55 car getting going but a lap down leaving Speak to power home to the finish from Paul Hines and Tom Harris. The Speak car was unanble to take its usual lap of honour the osr tyre had given way just after the chequered.

Another fantastic nights racing at the potteries which has yet to see a less than action packed meeting there with action aplenty and although the track is still bumpy and undulating it is noticeably smoother than when the Brisca F1`s first attended a couple of years ago and a quick chat with the track man during the meeting had him confirm further work is planned on the track before the all important World Semi in July, which should prove to be a meeting not to miss.

Words: Andy Armer
Photos: Colin Casserley

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