Club 100 Sprint Series Round 8 Clay Pigeon
Back to Clay for the second time this season and the Championships are really beginning to heat up. Joe Holmes leads the way in the Elites but will a resurgent Steve Brown continue his return to form in the defence of his title. Or will Ian Blake upset them both? In the Lights will Darri Simms get back on the top step of the podium or will Liam Cochrane continue his run of form. And lets not forget Lydd winner Christopher Bell. Probably the driver under the least pressure and it may well work to his advantage. In the Clubman class can anyone stop Harry Neale? Pietro Pagano reckons the Championship is Harry’s to lose but Harry was missing from the entry list at Clay so it was up to Pietro to produce a good result and keep up the pressure. But there’s many a slip between cup and lips. And in the heavies James Browning was back after missing Lydd because of family commitments. Could he stave off the rapidly advancing challenge from Mark Ridout and Adam Wright?
Having had a beautiful sunny Saturday for the Endurance round the Sprint series arrived to find the circuit awash and a very stiff wind blowing from south to north across the circuit. The rain was a fine drizzle which never stopped all through the event. Days like these often throw up surprise results as the heavier drivers gain better grip. Here’s how the day unfolded.
With the track well wet everyone held their breath as the field accelerated down into Billy’s for the first time. But everyone made it through without incident. By the end of the lap Luke Hornsby had dropped to second from pole with Harrison Darvill up into the lead having started third. Jamie Pender though dropped away from his front row spot crossing the line fifth whilst Stephen Docker remained in fourth. Down the order James Taylor drove a fantastic first lap moving up from grid twenty to twelfth. Martin Theodorou was another driver on the move. As the field continued to slither around the track Darvill continued to set the pace but Chris Dixon was up into second now ahead of Hornsby and Docker. Moore was into fifth having started on grid eleven whilst Taylors charge appeared to have evaporated down in ninth chased by Theodorou who was ahead by lap three and revelling in the wet conditions. Darvill continued to lead and was pulling a gap from Dixon and Hornsby who mid race found themselves demoted by Docker who then began to home in on the leader. With one to go the order looked to have settled but into the Horseshoe for the final time Docker spun to the outside throwing away a certain second place. Darvill took the honours with Dixon just holding off Hornsby for third. Fourth went to Moore with Taylor fifth after a late race surge. Sixth went to the former Elite runner James Hattersley. Having started on grid twelve he’d dropped to fifteenth early on before fighting back. Theodorou was next up from Jack Bolton. Another good drive having started on grid nineteen. David Whitehouse and Darrell Lowe completed the top ten.
Poleman Lowe led the field down into the first turn but it was a determined Pagano who came out in front and would still be at the front by the end of the lap. But not for long. Taylor was up to second from grid eight and clearly intent on first. Lowe was down to third with Theodorou fourth from a fast starting Stuart Osborn, up from grid nine. Taylor continued to pull clear at the front as Lowe, Theodorou and Pagano battled over second. With four gone Theodorou was up to second and chasing the leader quickly pulling out a gap. Pagano was third but then spun away his chances at the Horseshoe allowing Lowe back into third ahead of Peter Harris. No one though could catch Taylor and he ran out the winner. Theodorou was some three seconds adrift at the flag but well clear of Harris who grabbed third from Lowe with two laps to go. Next up was Hattersley. Starting twenty third and last he’d moved up to sixteenth by the end of the first lap. He remained there for a lap before picking up places gradually over the course of the race. Steady rather than spectacular but staying out of trouble does work. Hornsby was sixth. Another good drive up from grid twelve. Bolton was seventh which was where he had started. Osborn took eighth. Having run as high as fifth he’d dropped back to tenth before recovering a couple of spots over the final laps. Moore was next holding off a very determined Justin Buck. He could have let him by as Buck was excluded from the results after colliding with Hodge at the hairpin and bringing him to a halt. Dixon completed the top ten.
Hattersley led the field way from pole but it was Buck who led the field into the chicane with Moore settling into third. Taylor was up to fourth from eighth ahead of Foster and Whitehouse who had made a great start up from grid eleven. He would be fifth after four laps before spinning out and finishing down in twenty first. Martin and Osborne, starting fourth and sixth respectively were both out of the picture dropping out of the top ten but still running. Buck continued to set the pace at the front from Hattersley who was just a few Kart lengths ahead of Moore who in turn was just a few lengths ahead of Taylor. Buck was really driving hard but was a little ragged a couple of times out of the chicane. It would be his undoing. Hattersley closed the gap and coming through the chicane for the fourth time Buck ran wide across the exit kerb and a large puddle. It was enough to lose a little momentum and as they slowed at the end of the back straight Hattersley moved to the front. Buck though didn’t fall away and the gap ebbed and flowed by a matter of hundredths as the race wound down. Half distance and Taylor slipped by Moore for second but could make no impression on the leaders. Final lap and Hattersley set the fastest lap taking the win by a fraction under half a second from Buck. Taylor took a lonely third ahead of Moore. These four had been the class the field. Darvill was next some seven seconds adrift. A good drive though after starting on grid nineteen and really having to work hard to move up the order. Stefan Scully took sixth. After starting ninth he’d fallen back out of the top ten before moving forward. Theodorou was next. He’d started down in sixteenth but was ninth by the end of the first tour. Then he fell away by a couple of spots before settling down and moving up the order. Harris, Bolton and Docker completed the top ten.
Taylor on pole from Hattersley with Theodorou and Darvill on row two. Row three was Moore and Hornsby with Bolton and Hornsby on four and Dixon and Harris completing the top ten. Taylor led the field down into the first turn but Hattersley lost out on the outside as Darvill powered his way through into second. Theodorou couldn’t quite take advantage and slotted into fourth with Moore fifth. Bolton got the better of Hornsby off the line for sixth. The order remained as you were for the opening laps but as they came down the back straight for the fourth time Hattersley was visibly closing in on Darvill for second. Then he spun. All on his own. Having braked he flicked the rear out but failed to catch it. A strong result gone. So Theodorou took over in third with Moore fourth but losing out just a shade on pace allowing Theodorou to keep him at bay. Taylor and Darvill were long gone and although the latter kept the leader honest he could never quite get close enough to mount a challenge eventually losing out by just over a couple of tenths. Theodorou took the final podium spot from Moore who was well clear of Dixon by the flag. Bolton ran fifth for a time before running wide at the hairpin and dropping to ninth. Two from home that became tenth as Scully powered past him. Hornsby was sixth losing fifth right at the end to Dixon. A good drive though. Pagano took seventh after starting down in twentieth. He needed the result too after disastrous heats. The pressure was really on him to produce something in the final to keep his Championship challenge alive. Scully, Harris and Bolton completed the top ten whilst Docker set the fastest lap of the race.
Podiums and Championships
James Taylors win was his best result of the season and came on his birthday too which earned him a rendition of Happy Birthday from JV. It was certainly more tuneful than the infamous winkle song but not as funny. Whilst the conditions played to James’s strengths it should not detract from a fine performance. Harrison Darvill too revelled in the conditions to post his best result of the season and the same is true of Martin Theodorou. None of these three are likely to be in with a shout at the Championship though unless of course we get rain at the next four rounds. That could mix things up!
Despite being absent Harry Neale continues at the top of the order from Pietro Pagano and Rob Moore.
The weather at Clay was truly awful and played a big part in some of the results. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many smiling drivers. It may have been wet, windy and cold but the majority of drivers certainly enjoyed themselves. There was some very good driving too in the tricky conditions and surprisingly few penalties. As always the organisation was slick and the marshalls did a great job. Not easy for them in the rubbish weather. Next on the calendar is Red Lodge. I’ve never been. Some drivers like it, some don’t so we shall see. You can’t beat a bit of variety though.
See you there!
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell – JAM Motorsport Photography