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.
Down into Billy’s for the first time and it was Jonathan Lissetter from fellow front row sitter Tyler Mays ahead of David Longman and Dan Truman. But one driver was off and it was Championship leader Joe Holmes who was backwards into the barrier. Clay is not his favourite track at the best of times. By the end of the lap Lissetter still led from Mays but James Small was up into third from grid seven. Clay was only his second start of the season having been studying hard for his A levels but he was already showing that he’d not lost any of his flair. By the end of lap two he was into the lead. Also on the move was Championship contender Ian Blake who moved up from fourteenth to fifth on the first lap. It would be an interesting heat for Blake. Small began to eke out a gap at the front pursued by Lissetter and Mays with Daz Teal now into fourth. He’d started tenth and was looking particularly smooth. Half distance and he was up to second but well adrift of the flying Small who ran out the winner by just over eight seconds. Teal came home second with Blake third. After his early surge up to fifth he’d dropped back to sixth before climbing to fourth, dropping back to fifth behind Steve Brown before climbing back into third. Brown crossed the line fourth but was penalised back to eighth promoting Pete O’Connor into fourth. Another strong run having started on grid eleven. Dan Healey took fifth which was just where he had started although he’d dropped to tenth by the end of the first lap before fighting his way back. Lissetter came home sixth. Fourth with one to go he lost out over the final lap. Mays was next. He fell away from around half distance. Brown was a penalised eighth with Edward Barrs and Brandon Williams completing the top ten.
Ben Yarwood led away from pole but by the end of the lap O’Connor was into the lead ahead of Teal who had started from the front row. Harding was up to third having started seventh with Williams remaining in his starting position of fourth. Blake was next. Having started alongside Holmes on the third row he’d got the better start. Wisely Holmes didn’t force the issue too much as he needed a good result after finishing at the back in the first heat. O’Connor was comfortable at the front and increasing the gap as Teal defended from Harding. With four laps run though Harding was through into second. But he could make no impression on the leader as O’Connor promptly set the fastest lap and continued to pull away. Holmes was now into third having slipped by Teal at half distance. At this point Teal was dropping away and over five laps he dropped back five places before settling into seventh. O’Connor took the win by a hugely impressive margin of over six seconds after an imperious performance. Holmes was next having taken Harding on the penultimate lap. Third place went to Small. Starting fifteenth he’d made up seven places on the first lap before settling into seventh for several laps and then picking off places over the closing laps. Harding came home fourth just holding off Blake with Williams next up from Teal. Barrs, Brown and Yarwood completed the top ten.
Barrs and Norris on the front row got away cleanly as did Small from row two but Harding spun away his chances whilst further back Healey and Truman were early casualties. With one lap run Small slipped into second with Blake taking the opportunity to also move ahead of Norris as Barrs began to pull a slight gap. Williams was on a charge moving up to fifth from tenth. Barrs continued to lead but Small was into a rhythm and beginning to reel him in whilst Blake remained third but was making no impression on the leaders. Norris remained fourth but was dropping away from third as he defended from Williams, Holmes and Brown. Teal was next from O’Connor, Healy and Lissetter. A small battle this but as they each attacked, or defended, they fell away from the front runners. Half distance and Small slipped by Barrs for the lead and promptly began to pull away to take the win by almost two seconds from Barrs. Blake closed up towards the end but never seriously challenged Barrs whilst Holmes made up a couple of places over the final laps to take fourth ahead of Norris. Brown took sixth ahead of Williams grabbing the place on the final lap. O’Connor was next but well behind Williams whilst Teal and Healey completed the top ten.
With all the points from the heats totted up Small was on pole from Blake with O’Connor and Teal on row two. Barrs and Championship leader Holmes on the third row with reigning Champion Brown and Williams on row four from Harding and Lisseter on row five. A lively race in prospect on the treacherous circuit and what we got was a race which surely sets a record in Club 100. In a sport renowned for overtaking if you discount the first
lap there were just five overtakes over the course of the next eleven laps and three of those were over twelfth place! It’s not intended as a criticism either, it was just one of those freak events that motorsport sometimes throws up. Small converted pole to a win coming home by almost three seconds from Blake who lost out at the start to O’Connor. It took him until the fifth lap to find a way past and set about the leader. it was a lost cause but still netted him valuable points for the Championship. O’Connor kept everything together coming home third for his best result of the season. Teal was next in fourth for his best result for a while whilst Championship leader Holmes took fifth. Harding was next. He made up a couple of places on the opening lap and then overtook Barrs for the place on the third lap. Barrs was next ahead of Brown followed by Healey and Williams. Norris was eleventh and then came the real battle between Longman and Mays. Longman was last on the grid but made up four places on the opening lap to slot ahead of Mays. Within a lap though Mays was back in front whilst a lap later they had changed places again. Exciting stuff! Two laps later and Mays was back into twelfth. And that was it. The field reeled off the remaining laps finishing as they were with Truman and Yarwood taking the final two places.
Podiums and Championships
James Small’s win was richly deserved and hopefully he’ll be back for some more races over the remaining rounds. Obviously he can’t win the Championship but he might well have a say in who does. Ian Blake’s second place was his second in a row whilst Joe Holmes still retains the Championship lead. Joe isn’t a lover of Clay and it wasn’t his greatest day but with Steve Brown fairing even worse and dropping to third in the standings behind Ian it could have been worse. Pete O’Connor’s third place was his best result of the season. He wasn’t disappointed and was full of praise for Small and Blake. He felt he could have driven a little better in the third heat but nevertheless it was a good result.
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