Preview: British Championship 2015

It’s the 60th anniversary of the founding of the British Stock Car Drivers Association and all eyes are turning to the organisation’s flagship event, the British Championship. A large prize pot is on offer – £11,000 is promised if 60 drivers make it to the grid – meaning that a packed pits is likely.

Drivers race in a set number of heats – likely to be three out of five – with the results used to generate the championship grid. The top performers start at the front, those who only just scrape together enough points start at the back.

Since the heats are gridded in graded order, lower-grade drivers often make the most of starting further forward. Last year, yellow-tops Rob Cowley and John Dowson Junior earned second and third position on the grid in the championship race. Having said that, the cream usually rises to the top in the big race. The last time a star or superstar driver failed to win the title was 1994, when blue-top Phil Smith tasted victory.

Northampton has only hosted the British Championship twice, the last time being as long ago as 1985. On that occasion Bert Finnikin won from Stuart Smith. Craig Finnikin might take that as a positive omen. Stuart Smith Junior would likely accept a re-run of that race too, given the struggle he is having with his new tarmac car.

The Defending Champion:

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Paul Harrison has won many races over his long career, but he seems to reserve his best performances for the British Championship. He won in 2014 after dominating the meeting: two heat wins and a flag-to-flag drive in the championship race that left the result never beyond doubt. In 2011, one of the finest ever British Championship races saw Harrison start pole, spin, claw his way back to the front and survive a last bender from Stuart Smith Junior. He’s now looking to add a fifth title to his collection – an achievement that would give him bragging rights over Andy Smith.

The Challengers:

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Paul Harrison still has some way to go if he wants to win the most British Championship titles – that honour belongs to Frankie Wainman Junior, who has won it seven times. Wainman is still greedy for more and is in good form, having taken the first championship race of the season at the UK Open. The V8 and Ministox British Championships will also be decided on the same night – what odds on the Wainman family winning all three?

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Lee Fairhurst is ultra-smooth and mega-quick on tarmac. He knows how to win at Northampton too – the last meeting final there proves that. Most likely to win if the races don’t end up with plenty of big hits and bumper work, although he has proven in the past he can dish it out if necessary.

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Tom Harris only needs the British Championship to complete a career grand slam of major stock car titles. Harris is always the man to beat on tarmac, but that puts a big target on his back bumper. Will one of his rivals try to put Harris out of the running early on? Or will Harris fight fire with fire and race aggressively himself? Whatever happens on the night, it’ll likely involve car 84.

The Dark Horses:

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Ben Riley and Jack Aldridge will be looking to take advantage of starting under yellow roofs towards the front of the grid in the last meeting before they are upgraded. A Riley or Aldridge win would be a real shock – probably the biggest shock in the history of the championship – but what a great way to celebrate 60 years of the BSCDA!

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Tarmac specialist Luke Davidson has scored more points than any other driver on the hard stuff so far this season. His dad, Jamie, finished fourth in 1995. Luke will be looking to better that and make it to the podium – the top step isn’t beyond him.

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Fresh from winning the most recent tarmac final at Buxton, Paul Ford is hoping to take the title from blue grade. It’s been done before – not only Phil Smith in 1994, but Pat Driscoll in 1974. The venue? Northampton…

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Did you know? It will actually be the 58th British Championship – no championship meeting was held in 1971 and 1977. Both times Doug Cronshaw was gifted an extra year as title-holder.

 

In a quote:My fourth term as British Champion, can I make it five or will it be wrestled from me by ex-champions Paul Hines in his new car, Lee Fairhurst the slickest of tarmac racers, the in-form multiple winner Frankie, Super Stu who may have his new stunner up to speed, or Craig Finn who has been absent from the tar this year? What about the champions-elect: Tom, Rob, Mick, Mat, one of the Dans, or even one of the lightning-quick lower-graders who will no doubt make good accounts of themselves in the heats to secure good grid positions for the final? Myself or Frankie could become the first driver to win World, European and British at Northampton so bring it on and may the best man win!” Paul Harrison

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Words: Scott Reeves
Photos: Colin Casserley and Anthony Jenkins

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