Stoke, 4th November 2017 – Meeting Report and Photos

stoke: (v) feed furnace of engine etc.

We could have done with a furnace at this meeting. It was cold, damp underfoot and some of the track lights produced less lumen than a jar full of glow-worms, but this last Coventrystox session for the foreseeable future served up some first class stock car racing that would be talked about long after the feeling returned to your feet!

As became the norm with the final Coventry of the year, the first event was the Whites and Yellows Championship race with 16 cars, lined up in points order, Geoff Nicholls (215) on pole. A very wet and slippery track saw the Melton Mowbray veteran out in front, chased by Eliot Smith (293). Smith made his move as Nicholls was delayed by Jon Lawrence (413) but the 215 car held firm, only to go out on the next lap in a tangle with Sam Makim (93), gifting the top spot to the Halifax man. Smith stretched out his lead to win comfortably from Aaron Cozens (76) and Jack France (216).

Gridding up for the Whites and Yellows Championship race

Next up was the Coventrystox Track Championship race, with gold top Nigel Green (445) and Danny Wainman (212) on the front row. Danny’s mind probably wandered back to his disastrous semi-final start here in August but the track was drying out nicely as Green took the similarly coloured flag with Danny trying to force his way up the inside. Points Champion elect Stuart Smith Junior (390) lay in third ahead of Frankie Wainman Junior (515). Smith took a punt at 212 but both lost out to a hard-charging British Champion who set about reeling in Green. As the field spread out, the world champ looked to be in command, throwing his car sideways into the bends in impressive style but as he hit traffic FWJ closed the gap. Two cars collided on the pit bend – Green eased safely by as did Wainman. Next up was Mark Woodhull (335), never an easy man to pass, but he moved out wide and Green now had FWJ looming large in his mirrors.

FWJ saw his chance, popped Green wide on turn one next time around and took the lead just before the halfway stage. A close encounter with James Morris (463) coming off turn two nearly saw the 515 car in trouble but he clearly wanted this one, coasting the final lap nearly a straight ahead of Green with Smith a distant third.

The top 3 in the CovStox track championship: 515, 445, 390

Twenty five for heat three (it was two-thirds format) with Morris locked out at the gate. A massive pile-up on the pit bend, Ben Riley (422) the likely catalyst, involving eight or more cars brought out an early caution and it was left to France to lead an untidy restart as Green had stopped to push start a stalled car. Smith and Wainman were at each other again, Green making up for lost time as Newson (16) frightened the starter, clattering hard into the home straight fence and ending up mid-track – cue yellow flags again. Scott Davids came to his rescue, coming off the centre to push start the 16 car.

The order was France, from Booth (446), Green, Smith and Wainman with more cars on the centre than on the track. Green wasted no time in annexing the lead but FWJ was taken out by Booth on the pit bend, resulting in a bit of on-track argy-bargy between the two. Another caution to move the stranded 446 car gave Smith hope of a win but Green was just too quick on the restart, taking the flag from 390, Wainman recovering to third – only eight cars completed the distance.

The World Champ dominated Heat 3

The grand final was a classic. Twenty-four started, six finished. France again led, this time from Jacklin (137) and Booth. The Smith and Wainman show resumed early on, Smith side-swiping 515 out to the pit bend fence. Frankie retaliated but could not shift the 390 machine as Jacklin led briefly. Booth went wide, losing places and as the dust rose in earnest Green was almost at the front of the pack but John Dowson Junior (94) was now leading. 212 and 515 clashed on the pit bend, delaying them both but Dowson’s lead was cut short by red flags – Billy Johnson (169) had ridden the pit bend armco and rolled onto his side.

Nige (45) stopped to protect Billy and suffered severe damage to his car as a result of his selfless act. For what it’s worth Nigel you did the right thing and thankfully Billy was unhurt. Dowson took the “green and four to go” signal from the starter, just eleven cars left running now. Green went in hard with the bumper on Dowson to take the lead, only to be fenced himself by Smith on turn three. The 390 car looked uncatchable but Green scraped off the fence, powered down the back straight and launched Smith into the pit bend fence with all the force he could muster. Smith was history.

Green regained the lead but Woodhull squeezed inside him on the last lap as more cars piled into the pit bend, almost blocking the track. Green edged ahead down the back stretch then drove straight into the third bend car park and never came out. Woodhull forced his way through, dragging his bent and battered car over the line for a great win, ahead of Wainmans Danny and Frankie JJ (555). FWJ finished fourth followed by Davids and Nicholls. A real stock car race if ever I saw one – and I’ve seen a few.

Billy Johnson rolls over in the meeting final

It was no surprise that only 13 made it on track for the National, but all credit to the 445 team for changing the rear axle between races. Alas there was no fairy tale ending for Nigel, as the gold-roofed car ground to a halt mid-race, gaining him no ground on Smith in the race for 2017 Grand National Championship honours. France pulled out a good lead, heading the pack past the halfway stage until he succumbed to pressure from Dowson and Smith (293).

France later spun, eventually finishing ninth after a last lap attack from Joff Gibson (249) but still ahead of a wandering 212 car. Dowson won, Eliot Smith second and FWJ third.

Grand National winner, 94 John Dowson Junior

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley

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