Preview: World Championship Semi-Finals 2015

After sixteen qualifying rounds, the points have been totalled and the drivers have been designated their World Championship Semi-Finals. It’s another step on the road to the gold roof and nobody wants to crash out at this late stage.

Rob Speak was light-years ahead of the rest, topping the qualifying chart by 99 points from Mat Newson, who himself was well clear of third-placed Frankie Wainman Junior. Finishing top of the pile gave Rob Speak the choice of which semi-final he wanted to compete in. He chose Birmingham on 22 August, leaving Newson to take pole position at Belle Vue on 26 July.

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The line up from last year’s Stoke semi final

Only on asphalt, solely on shale

Rob Speak’s choice of semi-final meant that the rest of the drivers on the qualifying list shuttled into place in one of the semis. Speak will be a popular driver in the pits – many of the single-surface racers were fortunate to find themselves on their favoured surface. The Belle Vue semi-final has four shale-only drivers: James Morris, Timmy Farrell, Chris Brocksopp and Nigel Green. The Birmingham grid includes six drivers who focused solely on the hard stuff prior to the grids being released: Shaun Webster, Carl Pickering, Jordan Falding, Michael Steward, Jack Aldridge and Joe Booth.

Where there are winners, there are also losers. Mal Brown and Billy Johnson will race on the Birmingham tarmac, while Luke Davidson, Paul Carter, Micky Randell and Paul Ford will be on the Belle Vue shale. None of them had scored a point on their semi-final surface when the grids were announced.

Talking tactics

The World Semi-Finals are one of the hardest races to plan for. The primary aim isn’t to win, it’s to finish in the top ten and qualify for the World Final on 19 September. Having said that, the better you finish, the better a place on the World Final grid. So should you go all-out for the win, or play it safe and make sure you finish?

The drivers towards the back of the grid are the ones with less to lose. They might try to put the pressure on the front runners with a big push into the first corner – if they time it right, they can sneak up the inside while everybody else fights for traction.

But if it all goes wrong and your favourite has to pull off, don’t worry. There’s always another chance at the Consolation Semi-Final back at Belle Vue on 31 August.

Ones to watch: Belle Vue, 26 July

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Stuart Smith Junior is looking to qualify for his tenth World Final – he would be the 28th driver to make it to double figures. Craig Finnikin raced in his tenth last year, and it worked out pretty well for him. Stuart still has a few years before he overtakes his father’s World Final appearances (15) and brother Andy’s (17).

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Micky Randell is also hoping for a milestone moment – he’s aiming to qualify for his fifth World Final. Micky is one of the tarmac-only racers to have been allocated a Belle Vue berth, so he may struggle to remain in the top ten. But if he qualifies it’ll be good practice for the World Final, which will be raced on the shale at King’s Lynn.

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On the same row as Randell, keep an eye on Nigel Green. He’s a good bet to sneak onto the podium and start amongst the front rows of the World Final. Nigel is no stranger to World Final qualifying campaigns, although not behind the wheel of a BriSCA F1 – he’s more used to driving them in his F2.

 

Ones to watch: Birmingham, 22 August

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Danny Wainman has earned his first front-row start in a World Semi-Final, clinching the spot in the last qualifying round at Sheffield. Both Wainman brothers will start their semi-finals on the outside of the front row. It’s a dangerous spot, although Danny will be happy that he has the Birmingham Armco wall to deal with – Frankie must negotiate Belle Vue’s rope-and-post fence.

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Danny’s performance partly contributed to Tom Harris not featuring on the front row for the first time since 2009. That won’t bother him too much – Harris is on the inside of the second row, a place many drivers consider to be the best place to start. Given that Tom is starting behind Rob Speak, the man who put him out of the running on the first bend last year, there could be fireworks this time round.

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Finally, watch Scott Davids on the rolling lap at Birmingham. He’s in a good position to try and big heave-ho and put as many drivers in the fence as possible. Will he try it? Scott certainly isn’t afraid to use the bumper when it suits him.

 

Words: Scott Reeves
Photos: Colin Casserley

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