Four years. It’s been four years since we’d taken ourselves so far north. Karting North East, more affectionately known as Warden Law, was the venue for Rounds 5 & 6 of the 2016 BUKC season. The weather, you ask? Northern.
The Rookies round, switched this time out to be the day before, got the worst of it with an utter deluge of rainfall the day before. Fortunately, there was no rain forecast for Thursday 9th March, and as such, with a wet track and chilly conditions, the racing got under way.
After their victory in 2014, Coventry A had to settle for a hard-fought 3rd place last season as Huddersfield and Oxford Brookes duked it out at the final round for the title – but with some superbly consistent race performances this year they came into Round 5 leading the championship, and looking to extend that lead even further.
Mathematically, it was entirely possible for the midlands team to wrap up the championship one race day early, as long as they managed to secure both the round 5 & 6 wins. Of course this meant that everyone else was out to spoil their party – but could they manage it?
UWS were the first team to try. Warden Law is the closest round to Scotland, so could potentially be counted as their home round – and they used that advantage to deny Coventry the Race 1 win, whilst securing their first ever BUKC victory in the process. Well done Sam Moffat!
Race 2 saw Oxford Brookes’ B team use their high grid slot to take victory, with Exeter’s John Pike doing the opposite in Race 3, starting 30th on the grid and proceeding to drive through the field in the greasy conditions to take one of their first race victories in quite a while.
Coventry A finally got their day off to a winning start with Race 4 victory courtesy of Luke Russell, finishing almost 7 seconds ahead of 2nd placed Swansea A.
Oxford Brookes A had been finishing highly in their earlier races but that all important top step still eluded them, with Brunel A putting in a dominant performance in Race 5 after starting 6th, finishing 9.4s ahead of last year’s runners up, who had to settle for 2nd place after being unable to catch them.
Race 6’s victory went to the other Scottish team in the mains championship, Heriot-Watt A, looking to stretch their lead at the top of the intermediates table with another dominant race victory, finishing 9s ahead of last year’s champions Huddersfield A who had not managed to finish in the top 3 yet in this round – some extremely valuable points gained there!
After 6 sprint races and the end of Round 5, it was tied at the top – both Coventry A and Oxford Brookes A’s high race finishes giving them both 175 points after the lowest score was dropped. This meant that the result went to count-back – and with Coventry A’s Race 4 win it was they who took yet another round win and those all important 60 points, moving them one step closer to championship glory!
Two 4th places and a 7th gave Leeds Beckett A another podium finish, a very strong performance for the #33 team who managed to hold off UWS by just a point to secure that 3rd place.
In the Intermediates class it was Heriot-Watt A that took another round victory courtesy of their Race 6 victory, with Nottingham B and Swansea A finishing immediately behind them in 2nd and 3rd (8th and 9th overall).
With the track beginning to dry (hooray!) and, pretty unbelievably, some blue sky actually making an appearance (we kid you not!) it was time for the Round 6’s endurance races.
Pit lane limitations necessitated a format change to the endurance races – 45 minute races, two driver changes and no refuelling.
Coventry A were just one round away from tying up the championship and got their round off to the perfect start with victory in Race 1, after successfully managing to convert their high 3rd row start, with their nearest championship rivals struggling during the race – Oxford C (their A team, remember!) finished in 7th whilst Huddersfield A finished way down in 27th place after a slow second pit stop – a real blow to their round hopes.
The return of John Pike to the Exeter team inspired a fantastic Race 2 victory, climbing 12 places to deny Oxford Brookes B who started on pole but fell away early in the race, managing to recover to 2nd after the last series of pit stops. Their A team however were unable to salvage a good result from their low grid start of 34th, finishing in just 16th place – but with a pole in the final race, could they convert that to help recover?
They could not. Disaster on lap 2 saw them fall through the field to 33rd, and with the pack so bunched up at the start of the race they were unable to recover, finishing way down in 28th place. Their championship rivals Huddersfield and Oxford did the opposite however, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively from low grid starts – but it was the #22 Warwick A team that took victory, their first in many years, after holding on to their front row start with some fantastic team work and pit stops throughout.
The all important result however, was Coventry A. If they managed to finish highly and win the round, they would win the 2016 BUKC title with two rounds to spare! But it was just not to be. Starting 30th, they simply could not get the race to go their way, finishing almost where they started in 32nd place.
This meant that with a 6th place and a 3rd it was Oxford C (A team…) that took the round victory and a crucial boost to their championship battle – with Brunel A finishing 2nd (5th and 9th) and UWTSD A in 3rd (11th and 6th) as all the other top teams faltered – Huddersfield in 15th, Coventry A in 24th and Oxford Brookes A way down in 36th place!
Coventry’s B team were able to take home some silverware for the midlands university though, finishing 1st in the intermediate class (6th overall) ahead of Oxford Brookes C team in 2nd (7th overall) and Round 5 winners Heriot-Watt A in 3rd (11th overall).
So what does this mean for the overall championship? Our napkin maths reveals to us that in a nutshell, it is wide open going into the final rounds. Coventry A have a clear lead at the top of the table but with drop scores applied, are just a single point ahead of Oxford Brookes A, though they currently sit 5th in the table after a disastrous Round 6. Other challengers include Oxford C (currently 2nd overall), Nottingham A, reigning champions Huddersfield A and Leeds Beckett A. Wow!
In the Intermediates class, barring disaster it looks to be Heriot-Watt A’s title to lose, with nearest championship challengers Cambridge A and Oxford Brookes C 20/21 points behind respectively.
Who will win the BUKC in 2016? We have no idea. It’s been a topsy turvy championship with the usual suspects slipping up and dark horses (shout out to Nottingham A and Leeds Beckett A!) coming right out to the front of the field.
In the Rookies Class the day before, Surrey A took victory to cement themselves at the top of the table, with Plymouth A in 2nd and Liverpool A staying in the top 3 despite a poor Round 3.
Full results from the two day’s racing can be found here: http://www.bukc.co.uk/results/2016
Rounds 7 & 8 take place at Clay Pigeon over the weekend of 1-3rd April at the BUKC Festival. Three championships to decide, three days of racing, and anything could happen. You’d be utterly, utterly mad to miss it!
Photos by Stu Stretton