World Final 2017 – Race Report

The pre-meeting time trials for the overseas competitors proved disastrous for one of Holland’s top drivers, Geert-Jan Keijzer (H6), who sadly had major engine problems and was forced to load up, never turning a wheel in anger all weekend. A cruel stroke of luck but this brought in Frank Wouters (H417) as first reserve who went on to set the fastest lap and claim the inside row three berth alongside Wesley Schaap (H77).

The World Final grid taking shape

The feeling prior to the 2017 World Final seemed to be that if pole sitter Nigel Green (445) cleared the first bend unscathed he would be uncatchable and so it proved to be.

Pole-sitter Nigel Green was the favourite to win

Thirty-six cars took to the track, front men Green and Dan Johnson (4) setting a fast rolling lap before slowing at the end of the back straight. Instead of coming to the flag side by side, Green held back, a couple of car lengths behind Johnson and then floored it, catching Dan by surprise. The 445 car did indeed clear turn one unscathed, chased by Johnson, while Stuart Smith Junior (390) landed a big hit on Paul Hines (259).

The push came from further back, chief suspects being Rob Speak (318) or Mark Gilbank (21) and the overseas challenge ended there and then, with Wouters, Schaap, Jan Roelof Wijbenga (H228), Christiaan Weyenberg (H380) and Wayne Hemi (NZ591) all involved along with Gilbank and Davidson.

The cause of the caution – and the end of the race for many overseas drivers

The loaned and superbly presented NZ591 car was severely damaged, with both outside wheels ripped off, one wheel making its own way down the back straight. The race was brought under caution, all drivers thankfully uninjured while the first bend car park was cleared.

Damage to NZ591

The restart order top ten was 445, 4, (464) 1, 390, 197, 259, H217, 318, 55 and H99 with Johnson literally right on the 445 back bumper. At the green Nigel again shot away, back–marker Davidson moving aside to let the train of cars go through. Smith tried to remove defending champion Wainman but then came in for some attention from Ryan Harrison (197).

As Simon Joblin (NZ1) drifted onto the shale inner track (probably felt more at home there) Green, as expected began to pull away, putting several car lengths between himself and Johnson. Joblin returned to the tarmac, using the bumper to good effect and showing an impressive turn of speed as the leader encountered back-markers. Moving inside Jan Kuin (H699), the Dutch dirt track driver became one of only two men to land a blow on the 445 car all race, whacking Green’s back bumper as they charged into turn three before spinning out.

All this was allowing Johnson to close the gap on the leader, while Harrison took fourth off Smith. Green received another scare, this time from Evert van den Berg (H12) who clattered into the 445 rear bumper, sending him wide but he held on, sending Drew Lammas (543) wide on the next bend to clear a path then repaying Kuin on the next corner. A yellow flag raised on turn four for Jordan Dare (NZ2) went unheeded as Joblin spun on turn one ahead of leader Green.

Thoughts of history repeating itself dissolved as the Leicestershire man negotiated the bend successfully, keeping well ahead of Johnson. With five to run, Harrison passed Wainman for third who then came under attack from Smith but FWJ found a bit of extra speed to move clear. On the final lap, with no back-markers between himself and Green Johnson went for an outrageous last bender, jumping the kerb in a last ditch effort to remove the 445 car, missing and piling into the fence, never to finish. Green powered off the bend for victory with Harrison promoted to second and outgoing champion Wainman third.

Congratulations to Nigel Green who adds the World Championship to the European title he won in July with a cool, calculated drive. He came close to taking the silver roof last season – what are the odds on him going all the way this year?

Congratulations to Nigel Green!

As in the 2008 event this was a race for stock cars, not a stock car race. Very, very fast but, as with many world finals, very little incident beyond the first bend pile-up and talking of that first bend shunt, can I offer my apologies to New Zealander Wayne Hemi and Team Fairhurst for all the damage done to “Trigger’s Broom”. Wayne was the only driver at Ipswich I shook hands with and wished good luck for the big race. Commentator’s curse is well-known, but writers’s curse?

2017 World Championship podium

Words: Mick Jenkins
Photos: Colin Casserley and Mick Jenkins

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