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.
The top three – Frankie Wainman Junior, Mat Newson and Dan Johnson – finished well clear of the rest. Finishing top of the pile gave Frankie the choice of which semi-final he wanted to compete in. He chose Buxton on 14 August, leaving Newson to take pole position at Sheffield on 31 July.
Only on asphalt, solely on shale
Frankie’s choice of semi-final meant that the rest of the drivers on the qualifying list shuffled into place in one of the semis. Many will be cursing his choice – among the tarmac-only racers who have slotted into the Sheffield semi are Luke Davidson, Roger Bromiley, Todd Jones, Paul Carter and Neil Scriven. On the other side of the draw, a quarter of the grid – Mark Woodhull, James Morris, Karl Hawkins, John Dowson, Mal Brown and Billy Johnson – would have preferred to get dirty rather than make the trip to Buxton.
With so many drivers drawn on their less-favoured surface, there may be withdrawals which allow the reserves a chance to get in. Neil Scothern will be the first lucky loser, Geoff Nicholls will be the second – both will be a good bet to progress if they manage to make the grid at the Sheffield semi-final.
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 3 September. Having said that, the better you finish, the better your 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 front are likely to take it easy. Those at 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.
Ones to watch: Sheffield, 31 July
It’s often said that the best place to start is the inside of the second row. If that’s true, Mick Sworder will be happy – that’s where he’ll be starting the semi at Sheffield. Mick has been a model of World Semi-Final consistency since moving across from F2, finishing in the top three for the last four years. He’s also been consistent in World Finals – he hasn’t finished one yet!
Roger Bromiley last raced on shale in 1995 but has told us that he’ll take his place at Sheffield. He may not be a natural shale-shifter, but with plenty of experience on the circuits and three wins in World Championship qualifying, Roger knows how to race. He’ll be hoping for hot weather and as dry a track as possible – if that happens, expect to see him make it to the top ten.
Who’ll get the biggest cheer on the parade lap? No doubt of the answer – John Lund. King John didn’t enjoy the best of qualifying campaigns and sneaked onto the back row as the 46th of 48 qualifiers. Maybe it was a tactical move because he didn’t want to start too far forward… If he does qualify for the World Final, it’ll be his 32nd appearance in BriSCA F1’s showpiece event – when he made his first in 1978, half his semi-final grid weren’t even born!
Ones to watch: Buxton, 14 August
Danny Wainman starts a semi-final on the front row for the second year in succession and this time he’ll be alongside his big brother. Danny will certainly be happy that Frankie picked Buxton – starting on the outside of the front row at Sheffield wouldn’t have been his preferred option. Frankie Junior Junior will also be racing in the Buxton semi. Chances are all three will also be on the World Final grid at Coventry in September.
Joe Booth has been in on the action this year with six race wins and a couple of rollovers. Surprisingly enough, Joe hasn’t qualified for a World Final during his nine-year stock car career; but with a fourth row start at Buxton, he should be among the top ten who make it through to the World Final this year.
Keep an eye on Ryan Harrison on the rolling lap. An enforced absence from the early qualifying rounds meant that he only appeared in three meetings, but a healthy 26 points-per-meeting average was the third highest of all the qualifiers. He has to make up plenty of places if he’s going to make his fourth World Final, so he might try to cause a bit of first-bend carnage to help his cause.
Full 2016 Semi-Final grids can be found HERE
Words: Scott Reeves
Photos: Colin Casserley