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.
All the leading Championship contenders were in this group but it was no surprise to see Championship leader Darri Simms finally top the times. He’s always quick over one lap and this was no exception although he left it till his last lap to usurp Christopher Bell. These two were in a class of their own being the only drivers to get under fifty five seconds. Ryan Williams was next ahead of Liam Cochrane.
Jon Watkins headed the list here setting his fastest time as early as his third lap. It would prove good enough for pole too in the Pre A Final. Bobby Dawes was next but almost a second adrift with Sammy Venables next ahead of Jacopo Fioravanti who was back after missing several rounds.
Lightweight Pre A Final
Watkins on pole by a healthy margin from Simms but could he convert pole to a win? Bell and Dawes on row two from Venables and Ryan Williams on row three. Row four saw Cochrane alongside James Williams with Woodger and Jacopo Fioravanti completing the top ten. Simms looked to have got the better start but he got in way too deep into the first turn and emerged from the following chicane in sixth. Bell took over in second whilst Dawes also ran wide behind Simms and would cross the line down in eleventh at the end of the first lap.
Venables was up into third followed by Ryan Williams and Cochrane whilst James Williams fell back to twenty third. With two laps run Watkins looked as though he would drive away from the rest of the field as Bell fell back a touch but still remained ahead of the battle for third briefly headed by Ryan Williams before Venables reclaimed the place. Cochrane remained fifth just ahead of Simms. With five laps run Venables finally got ahead of Bell whilst Cochrane slipped by Ryan Williams to put the pressure on the chasing Simms. Simms knew he needed to stay on terms with Cochrane and a lap later he was ahead of Ryan Williams with Andrea Fioravanti now into seventh after starting on grid fourteen.
Watkins continued to pull away from Venables with Bell third but under threat from Cochrane who duly moved ahead at two thirds distance taking Simms with him as Bell got impeded by a backmarker into the Horseshoe. Simms fourth place was under threat though as first a recovering Bell slipped ahead at the chicane followed a lap later by Ryan Williams. Watkins took the win over four seconds up on Venables with Cochrane third and setting fastest lap. Bell placed fourth from Ryan Williams and Simms as the field spaced out towards the finish. Andrea Fioravanti was next across the line but penalised down to ninth behind Jacopo Fioravanti and promoting Sam Nash into seventh whilst Mike Noon completed the top ten.
Lightweights A Final
Watkins on pole from Cochrane and Championship leader Simms on row two with Venables. Bell and Robinson on three from Dawes and Ryan Williams on four. Woodger and Mackenzie completing the top ten on row five. Watkins brought the field round to the start but then managed to get on the grass on the outside of the little left kink before Billy’s. With no chance of saving the moment he headed across the grass keeping the Kart dead straight and emerging in front of the pack as they rounded Billy’s. He had enough momentum to keep going and was fortunate not to spin or collect anyone else but he was down to ninth as the field arrowed down the back straight. Cochrane led the field over the line at the end of the lap chased hard by Simms. The two of them were already beginning to pull out a gap to the chasing pack led by Dawes from Bell, Ryan Williams, Venables, Robinson, Woodger and Watkins.
A lap later and Watkins had fallen to sixteenth but his race was far from over. Cochrane and Simms continued to circulate at the front with Dawes third but being pressured by just about everybody as far down as ninth. It was a humdinger of a battle with places changing all round the lap and Karts going through the Horseshoe three and four abreast. Yet it was surprisingly clean in the early stages. Half distance and as the leaders came down the back straight Cochrane went into the hairpin just a little too deep. He kept it on the circuit, just, but was tippy toeing round the outside. Simms took to the inside and was through into the lead. Behind, Ryan Williams made it by Dawes for third with Ben Atkinson into a scarcely believable fifth.
Having started on grid eighteen he’d moved up into the top ten and was tracking the ferocious battle for third which was playing out in front of him. He chose his moments to attack well. Sixth at this stage was Venables from Bell and Robinson. Simms continued to lead with Cochrane a few lengths back and trying desperately to close the leader down. Onto the straight he tried a different tack as Simms stuck to the conventional line. It looked for a moment as though it had worked but Simms had the better traction and stayed ahead. As Cochrane dropped away he glanced over his shoulder. Suddenly his front wheel was on the grass and he did the Karting equivalent of a tank slapper. Fortunately he ran on to the cut through and kept it together. Had that piece of tarmac not been there he would undoubtedly have spun out. And that was game over at the front. Cochrane’s pace dropped and although he kept Simms honest he was never close enough to attack despite Simms being impeded by a backmarker. It was a welcome, and emotional, win for the Championship leader. But what of the battle for third? Ryan Williams’s third place lasted a lap before Dawes got him back. But he wasn’t done and a lap later he had the place back.
Dawes dropped to sixth behind Atkinson and Venables with Woodger seventh from Robinson and Bell. But still any of these could have a shot at third. But then, after a great and clean battle it all got a little fraught. Atkinson took third, grabbing the spot on the penultimate lap and pulling clear over the final tour. Venables took fourth. With two to run he’d been ninth! Dawes was next across the line but penalised three places after gaining a place through contact and classified seventh. Robinson placed fifth having been down in eleventh at the start of the penultimate lap. Watkins was sixth, up from twelfth with just two laps left. Next across the line was Woodger but he took a six place penalty after putting Ryan Williams out of the race on the penultimate lap. Chris Chubb too took a six place penalty after causing Bell to come to a halt. All of which left James Williams, George Wilson and Tom Mackenzie to complete the top ten.
Podiums and Championship standings
Darri Simms top step on the podium was only his second A Final win of the season and was a welcome relief and boost after recent events. He also increased his Championship lead. Liam Cochrane was happy enough with second. Since returning for round five he’s consistently scored big points. He remains third in the standings behind Christopher Bell who failed to finish at Clay after a fraught final. Ben Atkinson’s third place was his first podium of the season having just missed out previuosly finishing fourth on a couple of occasions.
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