Darren Teal reinvigorated his challenge in the chase for runner up spot in the 2016 Elite championship with a first win of the season at Red Lodge. Runners up spot? Rye House… Rye House A Final exclusion to be more precise. Ian Blake’s Rye House A Final exclusion to be specific. It is a score, or rather a ‘nil point’ (french accent), that he must now carry to the season’s end. If… If I understand the Elite best 9 or 11 rounds scoring system in the regulations, correctly. Important? Well that was the unspoken cost of Ian missing a second round of the season at Red Lodge. I’m sure Ian knows that, and I’m pretty sure Steve Brown is being quiet about it. His lead unadjusted will be about 50points with 3 rounds remaining after a 3rd place at Red Lodge, behind a resurgent Darren Teal, who took pole for Final, even with a penalty in the heats, and held the lead, where skeptics (such as me) expected him to be eventually run down and passed, he kept his head and his lead together. It was close, but he was effectively unchallenged, while remaining for the first half just a single mistake away from being caught. But he never really made a mistake. He held champion elect Brown at arms length for the first half of the final, and then when Tyler Mays moved through to 2nd place and began to edge into about a second, held his nerve and had enough in hand with 3 laps to go, that Tyler settled on his first Elite podium.
It left Darren Teal with a comfortable run in, and in hindsight, one of the easiest wins of the season in Elite Class. I don’t think Brown had worked out that with Blake’s absence he could now ease off and hoover up easy (for him) podium points to the end of the season. Although he might now as I believe thats all he needs to do, stay clean, pick up a few extra round points if they are on offer. I think we need at least one more round of points to be able to do a proper guesstimate and whether Brown can put the champagne in the chiller as there are enough points available to overhaul him. I just can’t see anyone going on such a run. Moreover I can’t see Brown going so monumentally off the boil. What it does mean that Darren Teal moves back into 2nd place in the championship and has put himself firmly, after a quiet mid season, back into the runners up race to the end of the season, along with Parmveer Nijjar and Jay Elliott. Blake joins, strangely Anwar Beroual-Smith, despite such an off form/out of luck season (I might be reading it wrong), Pete O’Connor, Jonathan Lisseter and Jack Harding in trying to complete 2016 championship top 5 trophy line up. So there’s plenty of sport left in 2016.
Just 22 again for Elite at Red Lodge, which was a little underwhelming, but it makes for a simple 3 heats and one A Final back to back, which I kind of like. Old school. It almost suggests keeping Elite to one grid, which it appears to be again. Plonk it in between Heavy and Lights alternating at each end of the day, or run it with one, alternating morning and afternoon and expand those sold out classes to a C Final, maybe, to provide pushers for Elite. Thats not an official idea, btw. I know some almost hang on my every word, but I wouldn’t (take anything I write seriously). It’s just the Prosecco (hic..) talking. I digress.
Heat 1, Stuart Osborn was pole position but outside of him Thom King tipped over the top into turn 1 to lead. Stuart also did Thom a great service in pinching down on Tyler Mays at the turn 2 apex, to keep his position, and it launched King into a 1.8secs lead. James Small, a future Elite champion (2017? If it’s too soon for Joe Holmes) snuck under Daniel Truman into turn 3. Ending the lap Kirk was holding off Mays, Small, Truman, Steve Brown and James Hattersley. Kirk was passed inside by Mays into turn 1 and hung out to dry by Small, and Truman wouldn’t let him in the line at the apex. It released this trio to chase after the leader, and left Brown apologising to Kirk as Pete O’Connor, Ed Barrs, Jay Elliott, Darren Teal, David Longman and Jack Harding jumped into the other half of that neat chasing group from the previous lap.
Small moved on to Mays’ bumper before moving through, Truman just tried to live with the pair, by being neat and sucking on Mays’ slipstream. Brown broke clear with O’Connor, gap to Elliott, gap to the throng headed by Teal. After throwing off Mays, Small started to chop 3-4 tenths out of King and by lap 9 he picked up the tow, and went through to lead, it brought Mays and Truman up to King. The groups behind had shifted, 3.5secs back Brown was holding off and up O’Connor, enough that Elliott joined them, while 2.5secs behind them Teal and Harding had broken clear of the pack headed by James Hattersley in 9th place. Small pulled clear to win, King settled into 2nd edging clear Mays after he took a half arsed move into turn 4, Truman still dutifully followed him to the finish. Elliott replaced O’Connor, then passed Brown in sight of the finish.
In contrast Harry Neale comfortably converted pole position to the lead in Heat 2, Stephen Hicks in “that suit” missed the start and was working hard to hold Thomas Glyde off the 2nd row and Andy Cowell off the 3rd. When it settled to just two wide off turn 2 Neale was out to over 1secs, Hicks clung on ahead Glyde, and Cowell filtered back into 6th behind Dan Healey and Brown. And this front 5 would pull clear on to lap 2 as Cowell had to nearly block pass to hold off Ed Barrs into the final corner. It sapped both drivers momentum and Mays, Myles Sharman, Longman, Elliott and Hattersley set the pack up behind him into turn 1. Neale pushed his lead out to 2secs as Healey looked for a way by Hicks, it was going to happen, and Brown would be there to slide through when the move was made. Behind Mays, Ed Barrs were trying to find a clean way passed Cowell, Elliott was closing in behind, behind that was a mess mostly two and three wide in the pack, rotating in order, and occasionally bouncing down the grass (watch the video on Facebook).
Into the closing stages Healey had eaten up Neale’s lead at 2-3 tenths per lap, Dan had dropped Brown, Hicks was fading, but Dan would need to be quick to pass Harry, or Brown would be back on their tails. On to the last lap it was all heads on the swivel as it became a trio, but Harry was tidy, and to be fair, wide where he needed to be, to hold his old sparing partner from Lightweights and Dan didn’t force the issue, conscious of Brown waiting for an opportunity. Brown’s arrival into fight was enough to give Neale an unchallenged run to the flag. Healey won the drag race to the line for 2nd place.
Heat 3 proved difficult to start, neither for poleman Stephen Docker nor Jack Harding on start 1, the same couldn’t be said for 2nd start, where Harding didn’t even make the turn 1 apex, and he might have been in trouble and left behind, but there was trouble in turn 2, and more into turn 3. When it finally got going, with only 7mins or so left on the clock, Docker converted again, but Harding missed the start, Lisseter from grid 3 on Docker’s bumper, O’Connor, then Teal refused to let Jack into the inside line right through the apex of turn 1, but perhaps intent on holding the inside, that they loaded each other up and pushed O’Connor wide and into the tyres. Pete had also pushed Lisseter wide and Jon skipped turn 2 to short cut across the grass to turn 3 for a one lap penalty. There was no way the clerk of the course was going to abort the heat for a third time, unless it was for a park and bark about driving standards. Docker edged clear of Teal, Lisseter and Nijjar, Dan Healey bringing through the rest who were still rubbing and bumping all the way off turn 6.
Teal pulled the group as far as Harding into a group of 6 for the lead on the road, Docker started to get wide, covered up into turn 1, as Harding pushed inside Healey for 5th, but Jack risked losing the tow to Nijjar, who in turn was struggling to hang on to Docker, Teal and Lisseter but Stephen’s staunch defence meant within a few corners they were a 6 again. Teal attempted his turn 1 move again, but started later and got his wheels inside and resisted Docker’s attempts to close the door and clip the apex, he ran wide, Lisseter slipped through. Running back to the end of the lap, the penalty board was flashing and Teal’s body language suggested he disagreed with being called for gaining an advantage by contact for this move for the lead. With Lisseter already a lap down, Teal to be demoted to 5th, Docker, 3rd in line, was still effectively leading, and Nijjar was struggling to make any impression in 4th. And thats how it finished, Teal, Lisseter, Docker, Nijjar, Harding and Healey. Correction – Docker, Nijjar, Harding, Teal, Healey, Andy Cowell had escaped the pack from 10th on the grid, Ray Norris had been anonymous from grid 6. Thom King, Myles Sharman and Dan Truman rounded out the top 10.
The penalty on Darren Teal did not affect his pole position for the Final, indeed perhaps that should’ve been an indicator that Daz was hooked up around Red Lodge and favourite to win. I confess I didn’t realise it, expecting Tyler Mays, another surprise, on the front row to be held out, and shuffled out into turn 1 by ‘yer man’ Steve Brown on grid 3. Perhaps James Small, outside of Truman on the 3rd row, was another to watch. But I called it all wrong. At the green, it was true, Brown and Nijjar got on it, go in line behind Teal, and on to each other’s bumper to leave Mays’ with a shuffle down the outside, but Tyler toughed it out running an outside line all the way into turn 2. Nijjar opened a hole, Teal edged clear of Brown, Mays and Truman, gap to Nijjar again appearing to struggle with his pace, I’m guessing he’s not a Red Lodge fan. The field lined up behind him, Harding, Healey, a poor start from Small, and Harry Neale, gap to Andy Cowell in 10th, holding off Stephen Hicks and Jay Elliott, and the rest of the field.
Darren Teal was at home leading from the front, Brown could not close the gap fully, Mays on his bumper, Truman hanging on to their slipstream. Nijjar was adjusting and beginning to tow in the group behind him into what would become eventually a leading, more loosely at the front, line of 9. Behind Jay Elliott had got the memo and realised he needed to clear Hicks then Cowell in short order or be left with nothing more than 10th for his efforts. He moved through, Hicks and Lisseter, from the back of the grid, a lap later. With Teal stretching Brown’s best efforts, Mays realised he was quicker, and with a good run off the last corner, got down the inside into turn1, only to find he didn’t have the pace to lead the chase and Truman brought the group together to push Brown back passed Tyler on the back straight.
A group of 8 was too big to work together, it needed to be trimmed, on cue Harding made a mistake, Healey and Neale went by, Small ground to a halt before the stripe with a few F3 tyres wedged under his nose. That might make things interesting… Teal had gap to Brown, Mays, Truman but it might be more workable to work it’s way back to him, gap to Nijjar, gap to Healey, Neale, gap to Harding. Elliott was promoted to 9th and just a second off Harding, Jay’s clear running had given him the opportunity to be the fastest driver on track. Teal took a look over his shoulder and he had a 1.2secs lead, Brown did not appear to be quite the force expected, Truman looked happy to follow his team mate Mays. Mays appeared to be on it, but it would take a couple of laps to tow in and see Brown being a little weak in the complex at the far end, to get under his bumper off the last corner to seize the clean pass down the inside once again into turn 1, where he appeared to be pretty strong. This time Tyler was wise to Steve coming back at him off turn 5, he got his head down and held him into the long left hander at the far end. He probably didn’t realise it, but he’d also seen off Brown’s best. Nijjar had picked up Truman’s tow and was part of this 4 kart group. Tyler was 1.4secs down on Teal, it was half distance, could he make an impression on Teal? Well, the short answer was no. You read the introduction.
For the next 4 laps he could make no impression on Teal, Healey, Neale, Harding and even Elliott, were about to join up to reform a chasing line of 7 behind him. Truman was flirting with losing the tow from Brown, who looked as though he knew he was not going to get back on terms Mays, never mind leader Teal. Darren lost 0.4 on lap 13, his lead down to just a second, it would prove to be his only mistake. By the penultimate lap the lead had edged out to 1.1secs, Mays had dropped Brown, and settled in to his first podium in Elite. Darren Teal settled into his first Elite win. Truman, Nijjar, Healey, Neale and Elliott came through nose to tail, gap to Hicks and Lisseter in 10th.
It would appear that Tyler Mays, Daniel Truman, Daniel Healey and Harry Neale join James Small in looking at home in Elite, the new guard meets the old. I’m not sure if Steve Brown counts as the old new guard, or the new old guard, as he looks to secure his first Elite championship.
Round 9 will be at Whilton Mill (Zulu) on 9 October 2016.
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography