SILVERSTONE 25TH & 26TH MARCH 2017
The Superkart season started recently at Silverstone on the 1.64 mile circuit with the opening rounds of the British Superkart Racing Club Championships involving four classes on the track at the same time.
With a healthy entry of over 40, space was going to be tight in the 15-minute timed period. Unfortunately, the session was red flagged with five minutes to go when Lewis Smith crashed at Copse. A few drivers had pitted hoping to make some last-minute alterations but the clock ran down and we were denied any last lap changes. Jack Layton was using the event to fine tune the set-up rather than racing hard but that didn’t stop him putting his Anderson DEA on pole position with a time of 58.499s. He was later called before the new CIK Judicial panel to explain his actions when he was reported to have overtaken under yellow flags. After 1 ½ hours the evidence proved inconclusive and he didn’t receive a penalty. Joining him on the front row was Stephen Clark on the Anderson KTM 450 with a time of 59.082s. A scare on the dummy grid when the carb blew back and the airbox caught fire delayed his session. The marshals wanted to cover the engine with powder but Stephen extinguished the flames and the team fitted a replacement box before he went out. Heading row two on 59.155s was Dan Clark. He struggled with handling problems earlier in the day but was happier once the rear chassis clamp had been refitted. A new radiator scoop with adjustable airflow that looked very neat was being used for the first time. Completing the second row was Paul Platt with a time of 59.179s. He was back on his championship winning PVP chassis, which was a bit ‘tail happy’ but after raising the nosecone the handling settled down. He was looking to improve on his time having pitted when the red flag came out. Ross Allen was on a new Jade chassis that had a few modifications from last season. He was getting better speed from his DEA motor and posted a 59.553s lap for fifth quickest. Completing the third row was Gareth James on a 59.674s.
Heading the F125 Open class was reigning champion Lee Harpham. Despite posting a time of 1m 01.855s for thirteenth overall the 125’s would be starting at the back of the grid. Lee was happy with the way the motor was performing considering that the team only fired it up for the first time a week before the event. He was still suffering with the ankle that he broke at the beginning of last season and not looking forward to another operation. Chris Needham has switched to an Iame engine for this season and was very pleased with the performance ‘straight out of the box’. His time of 1m 01.945s was only 0.002s ahead of Liam Morley. The championship runner-up was trying a new ram air induction box on the 125cc DEA for the first time and happy with the results. Fourth quickest on 1m 02.329s was Dan Edwards. The former champion has bought a new Anderson chassis in a bid to get back to past success. A few niggly issues in free practice, swarf in the fuel system and a loose axle hanger, hampered his progress but with a rich running TM he felt he had done the best job possible. Andrew Connor surprised a lot of people in FP2 when he topped the 125cc class times on the ex-Neil Robinson Anderson chassis. He proved that was no fluke with a time of 1m02.778s for fifth quickest, these drivers all inside the existing lap record. Two drivers who would be starting out of position after qualifying were Gavin Bennett and Tom Hatfield. Bennett seized the DEA after one flying lap and ended up on the 12th row of the grid while Hatfield didn’t get out on track at all after the big end failed in FP2.
With the new starting procedure embedded in the drivers’ minds, the two by two formation held station until the lights went out. Strangely, pole position is on the outside of the front row and it was Stephen Clark on the inside who got hooked up better to take the lead into Copse from Layton. Allen on row 3 bogged down and got swamped by the pack with Tom Rushforth also making a slowish start. At the end of the opening lap Clark led by just under a second from Layton and Dan Clark. James had slotted into fourth place clear of Platt, Gulliford and Gellately. Hatfield had scythed through the field and was already up to 11th spot with the leading F125 Open kart of Morley in 17th place after starting from 32nd on the grid. Allen came through in 25th place while Bennett had disappeared on the opening lap with a big end failure.
At the end of lap 2 Layton peeled off into pit lane to try a different nosecone, part of the set-up strategy ahead of the MSA Championship opener at Bishopscourt. This allowed James to take over second spot from Dan Clark. Up at the front Stephen Clark increased his lead to 5.129s after 5 laps with Dan Clark ahead of James. Hatfield had pulled through to 8th spot but on the next lap he spun it all away and dropped back to 22nd. Layton emerged from the pits with a different nosecone but was three laps behind. He was soon into his stride and at half distance set the fastest lap for the F250 National class. Stephen Clark increased his lead to 7.819s after 8 laps and was starting to lap the slower 125cc drivers. On the following lap, he set a new F450 class lap record of 58.148s. At the head of the smaller capacity class it was a three-way fight between Morley, Needham and Harpham, these three also dicing for 12th place overall. Layton pitted again on lap 10 but all eyes were on the progress of Rushforth. The 17-year-old was closing in on the second place battle between James, Platt and Dan Clark.
Stephen Clark reeled off the remaining laps to win by just over fourteen seconds. “That was a good shakedown and quite nice to get the win. We are just making sure that everything is right with the engine this weekend.” Gareth James put in his quickest laps in the closing stages and managed to break the tow from the others to secure second place. “That’s a great start to the season and I had a good battle with Dan and Paul.” Tom Rushforth set his quickest time on the penultimate lap as he closed onto the back of the Platt/Clark battle. At Maggott’s he went past Clark, who was struggling with a down on power Gas Gas engine, and then picked off Platt at Brooklands. “I made a dodgy start but had a brilliant race to come through to third on the final lap.” Ross Allen was heading for 6th place until the final lap and a half when he ran low on fuel and coasted over the line in 11th place, two behind Hatfield who recovered from his spin. The 125cc class win went to Liam Morley who set a new lap record of 1m 01.371s with two laps to go as he increased his lead over the others. Second in class looked to be Harpham’s but when the TM hesitated through Woodcote for the final time due to low fuel, Needham nipped past on the inside and looked across at the Redspeed driver slightly surprised.
1st Stephen Clark Anderson KTM 450
2nd Gareth James Anderson DEA (F250 National class winner)
3rd Tom Rushforth Spyda VM (Division 1 class winner)
4th Paul Platt PVP Gas Gas
5th Dan Clark Anderson Gas Gas
6th Mark Gellately Anderson DEA
10th Liam Morley Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)
As grid positions were decided on lap times from the previous race, Rushforth found himself on pole position. His first at a long circuit event. Allen should have been on row 3 but he didn’t start when an air leak was discovered in the engine and Gellately had to get an ignition coil replaced in the pits before the start and lost 5 laps. When the lights changed Rushforth couldn’t get the VM to pick up and dropped back to 7th place through Copse while Stephen Clark and James led the field.
Platt got ahead of James and tailed Clark down the Wellington Straight, taking the lead by the end of the opening lap. The leading duo had managed to open a gap of 1.3s over a snarling pack of James, Dan Clark, Rushforth, Gulliford, Kinsey, Hatfield, Waite and Sifleet. Layton had a bad first lap and was behind Watts in 12th place. Morley had once again raced through the slower 250’s and was up to 17th place with Needham, Connor, Rayman and Edwards close behind.
Rushforth was determined to get amongst the leaders but had a couple of scrappy laps running wide at Copse and was only just holding off Hatfield, Dan Clark and Layton. Platt briefly increased his lead but James set the fastest lap for the 250 National class on lap 4 and closed onto his rear bumper.
Layton pitted from 7th spot at the end of lap 6 thinking there was a problem with the nosecone, but the team sent him out again. However, this dropped him back to 22nd place. Morley had managed to break clear in the 125cc battle with Rayman just ahead of Harpham, Connor, Edwards and Needham. These five karts covered by 0.6s as they headed towards Copse almost four abreast. Sitting behind them was Bennett who had dropped to the back of the field on the opening lap and was slowly making his way up the order. Needham’s challenge in the 125cc race ended on lap 9 at Beckett’s when he pulled out with a broken chain and three laps later
Bennett stopped with a seized DEA after getting in to 11th place.
Up at the front Platt and James were circulating nose to tail but were being caught by Rushforth. Stephen Clark had lost ground on the leaders caused by a lack of grip after swapping the tyres around, but was still leading the F450 class. Cousin Dan was not so fortunate when his Gas Gas seized for no apparent reason on lap 12 elevating Hatfield into 5th place.
With three laps to go James went to the front but they were side by side along the Wellington Straight and went either side of a slower kart on the approach to Brooklands. There was still nothing between them when they completed the lap with Platt only 0.037s in front. James went back ahead on the penultimate lap but Rushforth was with them. He passed Platt down the back straight but the four times champion nipped ahead at Luffield, however Rushforth had the line through Woodcote to snatch second.
Down the Wellington Straight for the final time Rushforth took the lead and set his fastest lap of the race to win by 0.464s from James with Platt getting a tow from the Division 1 kart to set his best race lap and end up 0.264s behind James. “That was just perfect,” explained an ecstatic Rushforth. “The tyres were ok but I thought I had lost the win as the last lap board and the chequered flag came out at the same time.” Stephen Clark maintained his lead in the F450 class, albeit 8 seconds off the leaders. Gulliford had been second in the 450’s but an engine bolt broke on the last lap and he pulled out when the chain went loose thinking it was a wheel coming off. That elevated Andy Waite who finished ahead of Layton in 7th spot after his earlier pit stop. In the F125 Open class Morley broke the lap record with two laps to go and extended his lead over the pursuers. Connor just held off Edwards who passed Harpham on the line.
1st Tom Rushforth Spyda VM
2nd Gareth James Anderson DEA (F250 National class winner)
3rd Paul Platt PVP Gas Gas
4th Stephen Clark Anderson KTM 450 (F450 class winner)
5th Tom Hatfield Anderson DEA
6th Andy Waite Anderson KTM 450
9th Liam Morley Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)
The final encounter of the day saw Rushforth once again on pole position. This time he made a better start but at the end of the opening lap it was James in the lead. Rushforth held second spot from Platt, Bennett, Gellately, Hatfield, Stephen Clark, Gulliford and Layton. The first nine covered by 1.6s. Only 0.329s separated Needham, Morley, Connor, Rayman and Edwards at the front of the F125 Open scrap.
Layton moved in to 6th place on lap 2 but this caused some concern amongst the Parker Motorsport team as their drivers were now running line astern in the battle for the lead– Gellately, Layton and Hatfield.
Platt was the first driver to lap in the 58’s and opened up a useful gap at the front. But on lap 5 that changed when Bennett set his personal best and pulled alongside as they crossed the line. Morley and Needham were also side by side as they headed the 125cc class just ahead of Edwards and Connor.
At half distance, Platt regained the lead from his old adversary and set his best lap time while behind them Clark set a new F450 class lap record and James set a new F250 class record as they joined in the scrap at the front. This became a five-kart battle on lap 10 with only 0.9s covering Bennett back to Layton. But Layton’s chances of success disappeared at Beckett’s next time around when he tried to go around the outside of Clark and spun. Gulliford also retired on this lap when the chain broke, another second in class ruined. In the 125cc class Edwards had been delayed but set a new lap record on lap 12 as he closed onto the back of the group led by Morley from Needham and Connor.
Up at the front, the group became fragmented as Platt’s times dropped off and Clark also lost ground. This left James and Bennett to fight over the lead. Starting the last lap, they were side by side. Who was it going to be. As they entered Brooklands for the final time there was a huge cloud of smoke as James half spun but somehow managed to regain control. Unfortunately, Harpham who had just been lapped had nowhere to go and spun in avoidance and out of the race. This handed Bennett a clear run to the flag and he won by 3.154s. “We have had all sorts of engine gremlins today and scraped together various parts to get a motor ready for this race. Hopefully we have cured the problem but our fingers are crossed for Bishopscourt.” Clark picked up second place as James hobbled over the line just ahead of Hatfield. James problem was revealed when he got back to parc ferme. A bolt had come out of the front right upright and the wheel was loose. He was lucky to finish. Over the last four laps the 125cc battle could have gone to anyone. Morley, Needham, Edwards and Connor were locked together. Starting the last lap they were covered by 0.332s but it was Morley who secured his third class win of the day from Needham by 0.028s with Edwards third. “That was a right good race,” advised Morley.
1st Gavin Bennett Anderson DEA
2nd Stephen Clark Anderson KTM 450 (F450 National class winner)
3rd Gareth James Anderson DEA
4th Tom Hatfield Anderson DEA
5th Paul Platt PVP Gas Gas
6th Tom Rushforth Spyda VM (Division 1 class winner)
11th Liam Morley Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)
Words By Gary James
Images By Steve Addison Photography
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