Watching The Pennies

Life can be full of little surprises. Less than six months ago I was looking ahead to the Little Green Man championships with a sense of foreboding. In previous years, this competition had produced superb racing and some very worthy champions, Luke Stapleford, Jack Harvey, Jordon Lennox Lamb and Max Goff. This time around, I was convinced that we would be watching a watered down affair. Many of the established stars had baled out of this series due to uncertainties surrounding the new B5 engine. A six month ban imposed on these motors did nothing to lift my spirits and I wasn’t looking forward to the opening round at Wombwell with any particular relish. I’m very happy to confess that I got it totally wrong. The racing at Wombwell was fantastic and every round afterwards somehow managed to lift the bar a little bit higher. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the 2006 series has been more competitive than ever before.

Five competitors went to the final round at Kimbolton each with a realistic chance of winning.  Andy King is the new champion with 360 points, just twelve ahead of James Raven in 5th place. After a magnificent seven rounds, more than half the field is covered by seventy points. Previously, Sennan Fielding, Dominic Wheatley and Connor Hambleton were names that didn’t figure too prominently in the pages of this magazine. Whether these drivers choose to remain in cadets or move onto pastures new, they have more than proved their ability and can approach the coming season with confidence. What about newcomers like Ben Barnicoat, William Whitelock, George Line, Ashley Lacey and Benjamin Craig? All of these managed to find a place in the top fifteen and that’s surely no mean achievement.

I’ve deliberately omitted George Russell’s name from this list because he deserves a special mention of his own. He started out at Wombwell as a raw novice but finished off this competition looking every inch the true professional. 7th place in round 3 at Rowrah was the start of some spectacular results that culminated in a podium finish at Kimbolton. Luca Hirst, James Raven, Sam Clarence, Adam Hughes and Brad Fairhurst began the season looking like seasoned campaigners and their reputations certainly hadn’t diminished as the competition reached its finale. All five looked well capable of winning the title. Of course, there can only be one champion and you’d have to travel a long way before finding anyone quite as deserving of this honour as Andy King. Like Max Goff last year, Andy never once set the fastest lap at any round yet he possessed a special knack of coming through from the back that often left us all gasping in wonderment.

The championships have now been running for 5 years, consisting of 34 rounds and, when you take heats and finals into account, that adds up to more than 200 races. Although competitors have suffered from various collisions and mechanical breakdowns, none of these could be attributed to engine failure. All those races took place without a protest ever being registered and that must be worth shouting about. However when we reached number 201 nothing less than the title itself was at stake. In such a highly charged atmosphere, driving errors inevitably occur and ultimately there was a protest registered after the final at Kimbolton which led to a subsequent appeal. I’ve no argument against those who made this protest and, indeed, it was actually upheld. Nevertheless, I hope we can go another 200 races without having to deal with the next one.

Two or three years ago, WTP grids at championship level were considerably larger than Comers but couldn’t really match them for quality. I’d argue that in 2006, this situation has actually been reversed. I’ve watched every S1 round this year and, for one reason or another, the cadet racing here hasn’t quite come up to Little Green Man standards in terms of excitement. Next year, WTP will be featured in the Motors TV Ultimate Challenge which, instead of being based exclusively at Three Sisters, is now going nationwide. I believe that this innovative competition offers a tremendous opportunity to broaden the appeal of WTP. All too often we’ve seen judgements made by people who have never observed the class actually operating. The additional exposure on television might dispel one or two myths. Apart from providing us with a feast of exciting racing I expect to see one or two words being eaten. I hope the gastric experience won’t be too traumatic for some of our detractors.