Stoke, 26th March 2016 – Meeting Report and Photo Gallery

To steal the title from Hugh Laurie’s last album: “Didn’t it Rain”! Light precipitation pre-meeting turned into a deluge at the Stoke opening meeting, getting just about everyone, even those in the grandstand, as wet as an otter’s pocket before the F1s took to the track. The winter work carried out at Loomer Road paid dividends though, with the raceway, whilst decidedly soggy on the outside, standing up well to the onslaught of F1s, V8s and Ministox.

Throw in a power failure part way through caused by the damp conditions and you could have forgiven Steve Rees for abandoning the meeting there and then but enter the hero of the hour, Karl Roberts (313) who brought light from darkness and hope to the sodden. Remember the name Karl Roberts next time your stadium goes over to the Dark Side.

Twenty-two gridded (skidded?) for Heat One led by Tom Boyer (28) amongst much spinning and slithering. Finnikin (55) showed well early on but it was John Dowson Junior (94) who coped with the conditions the best, taking the flag only to be docked for jumping the start and handing the win to Mat Newson (16).

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John Dowson was docked for jumping the start, handing the win to Mat Newson.

Twenty-four for Heat Two and Nigel Green (445) was on it right from the start, but all eyes were on the new FWJ car as he tangled with Roberts on the second bend. Tim Warwick (307) led until Green took over as the caution came out for Thomas Stephenson (75), stuck mid-track on the back straight facing the traffic. As the rain started to fall again, Green led the charge into turn one, not stopping until he hit the fence but recovered to lead down the back straight just ahead of Mark Gilbank (21) with Wainman (515) now up to third. FWJ passed Gilbank and slowly reeled Green in, bumpering the 445 car into Wainman the Younger (555) to take the lead on the pit bend and crossing the line at almost walking pace for the flag.

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Despite an early tangle, Frankie Wainman Junior made his way to the front in Heat 2.

Just seventeen for the Consolation, delayed by nearly an hour until Karl Roberts saved the day, won by Rob Speak (318) who had retired early on in his heat. Nigel Harrhy (45) led until he spun on the pit bend handing the lead to Paul Hines (259) but there was no denying Speak as he trailed the 259 car, tapping Hines wide with two to run. Honourable mention for Frankie JJ who netted the final qualifying position in eighth place.

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A rare consolation appearance for World Champion, Rob Speak.

Twenty-six cars for the Final of this World Qualifying round, led away by Frankie JJ and Mark Poole (276) – no white top contenders in this one. It was very hard to read the numbers on some of the cars before the race even started but all credit to the Dowson team – car 94 looked spotless.

After a bit of a false start, Poole led from Morris (463) and Hawkins (175) as 555 went missing in a fast, hectic race despite the conditions. A pile up on the pit bend claimed a number of cars, Speak got by Finnikin and FWJ was swept onto the infield by a retiring Mark Woodhull (335), losing valuable time, then hit trouble again on turn four, dropping even further back.

It was a difficult race to follow with the starter not indicating who was leading but Hawkins kept his head and his foot down. Speak, meanwhile, was closing rapidly, while Wainman (515) had charged into third place. The Gold Top got within two car lengths of 175, went for it on the last bend but missed and Hawkins crossed the line for his first F1 final win – unfortunately most eyes were on an overturned car on turn one. Another Karl, Roberts this time, the earlier hero of the meeting, had clipped a marker tyre and went for a victory roll into the bend. What’s the phrase – no good turn goes unpunished?

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The Top 3: (L-R) Rob Speak (2nd), Karl Hawkins (1st) and Frankie Wainman Junior (3rd)

Frankie Wainman Junior made short work of the nineteen-car Grand National while Rob Speak’s luck continued to see-saw – this time he ground to a halt on the pit bend before crossing the start line and suffered a heavy sideways hit from Woodhull, bringing out the yellow flags. Finnikin fell foul of a shemozzle on the back straight but recovered for eventual second place.

Long time leader Boyer held on to just before half way but FWJ was well in command, finishing half a lap ahead of his nearest rival. Boyer dropped down the places as the laps wound down but still came home in eighth and novice Ant Lee, who only had his first meeting at the King’s Lynn opener, hung on for a very worthy twelfth-place finish.

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Speak (318) and Woodhull (335) brought out the yellow flags in the Grand National

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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