Club 100 Sprints Round 10 Whilton Mill
The second visit of the year to Whilton Mill and this time using the shorter ‘Zulu’ circuit which turns the flat right handed Inkermans into a tight hairpin before running into a short straight and then a tricky left, right, left sequence of corners known as Zulus one, two and three and named not after some African tribe or 60’s film but christened after the circuit owners dog. The final left hander leads onto the back straight. Some love the configuration and some loathe it but never let it be said that Club 100 doesn’t supply variety.
Into the afternoon and the clouds finally began to break up to give the fine weather the weather forecasters had promised for the Lightweights and Heavyweights/ Super Heavyweights events. And it was good to see a healthy turnout too necessitating B finals in both categories.
Chris Bell stopped the clock with a sub forty four second lap on his first lying attempt but Chris Woodger beat him to fastest time midway through the session as did Ben Atkinson. Bobby Dawes was next but failing to get under forty four seconds with Thanassi Barnicoat next. A good effort this in his first run in Club 100. He’s raced in Easykarts though so he’s not short of experience.
Sammy Venables topped the second group and he was clearly on form with seven out of his eight laps under forty four seconds. Jon Watkins took the second spot with Championship leader Darri Simms third. Second in the Championship standings Liam Cochrane could only manage the sixth quickest time in the session behind Andrew Ward and Seb Algieri.
Lightweight Pre B Final
Four to qualify for the Pre A final and Marc Roberts on pole from Jon Buck with Tom Mackenzie and Oscar Lancaster on row two. Row three, James Haslehurst and James Venning. Roberts led the field away but any chance of qualification disappeared as he ran wide and got swamped by half the field dropping to ninth by the end of the lap leaving Buck in first place from Lancaster. Venning was up to third after a sharp getaway with Mackenzie occupying fourth from Haslehurst. Venning was flying at this point and a lap later he was into second with Lancaster third from Haslehurst and Mackenzie. The order stabilised for a few laps before Venning decided he’d be better off at the front and with six laps run he moved ahead of Buck. Haslehurst by this time was up to third with Darren Martin into fourth whilst Mackenzie remained fifth. Martin’s fourth place lasted just a lap before he spun down the order. Lancaster had dropped to sixth but as Martin fell back he managed to get back ahead of Mackenzie, still in fifth. And that was how they remained all the way to the flag. Venning took the win almost a second clear of Buck with Haslehurst third from Lancaster with Mackenzie just missing out in fifth.
Lightweight Pre A final
Venables on pole from Woodger with Watkins and Atkinson on row two. Then the first of the Championship contenders Bell with Championship leader Simms alongside. Row four, Ward and Algieri with Cochrane and Darling completing the top ten. Venables brought the field up to the start but it was Woodger who made the smarter getaway. Well, not that smart. It was certainly quick bur he’d jumped the start much to his clear annoyance. Venables dropped to third behind Atkinson whilst Watkins got forced wide on the run up to Christmas corner and would be down in thirteenth as the field crossed the line at the end of the first lap. Simms got the better of Bell to run fourth with Bell fifth and Cochrane up to sixth. Darling ran seventh from Algieri. Woodger continued to lead but with four laps run Venables was up to second ahead of Atkinson. But Venables had been a little too aggressive as he went by Atkinson out of Inkermans which meant the first two runners on the road were both carrying penalties. Meanwhile Bell was pressing Simms hard into the Boot complex and as Simms ran a little wide Bell moved inside. As they ran down to the final corner Simms looked back over shoulder to see where Cochrane was. The answer was coming up the inside and the Championship leader dropped to sixth.
A lap later and Bell moved ahead of Atkinson for third. Cochrane wasn’t about to let him getaway and pressed Atkinson hard. Out of the final corner at the end of the eighth lap he swept round the outside and overtook on the concrete apron. But he got away with it. Champions luck? Certainly Liam new afterwards that he’d dodged a metaphoric bullet. He immediately closed in on Bell the two of them third and fourth on the road but in reality in first and second. Two thirds distance and Bell slipped ahead of Venables to try and put some breathing space back to Cochrane. A lap later and he was into first as Woodger fell back to third. By the penultimate la he was down to fifth. At the front Venables was intent on the win and wisely Bell didn’t defend the place too hard knowing his rival would be penalised at the end. Venables crossed the line first but dropped to fourth after his penalty thus handing the win and valuable Championship points to Bell. A relieved Cochrane took second with Atkinson third from Venables. Fifth went to Watkins. After dropping to thirteenth he made steady progress up the order and had a late race battle with Simms. The two of them swapped places a couple of times before Watkins finally broke clear and also got the better of a fading Woodger who finished sixth on the road but dropped to eighth after his penalty was applied. Simms was sixth ahead of Darling. A good drive this. He was on the pace and kept out of trouble. Ward and Fincham completed the top ten.
Lightweight B Final
Marshall on pole from Roberts with Mackenzie and Wood on row two from Rowlands and Martin. Marshall led away from pole with Roberts tucking in behind but it was Rowlands who caught the eye moving quickly into third whilst Wood dropped away. By the end of the third lap he was down to eighth. Marshall continued to stretch his advantage at the front but Roberts was far from safe in second as Mackenzie and Rowlands began to pressure him. Half distance and they were both by. Martin was on a charge and a lap later he moved up to third as the battling Roberts and Rowland held each other up. Marshall was untroubled at the front and Mackenzie was well clear of the battle for third headed now by Martin from Rowlands and Roberts. And that was how they remained to the flag with Marshall taking a comfortable win from Mackenzie who took an equally comfortable second place from the squabbling Martin and Rowlands. But then came the post race drama. Marshall was underweight and excluded handing the win to Mackenzie with Martin promoted into the final qualifying spot ahead of Rowlands by just 0.093.
Lightweights A Final
The final race of the day for the lights. The three main Championship protagonists were all well down the order with Venables on pole from Woodger and Barnicoat and Watkins on row two. Wheeldon and Mather on row three from Ward and Atkinson on four. Row five, Bell and Fincham with second in the Championship Cochrane and Championship leader Simms starting eleventh and twelfth. Venables led the field away and this time Woodger was a little more circumspect off the line tucking in behind the leader as the field streamed up the hill. Barnicoat remained third with Wheeldon next from Watkins. Atkinson moved up a couple of spots whilst Ward and Fincham spun to the back of the field. Cochrane dropped a spot but Simms fared even worse. Coming through the Zulus he got tagged and spun to halt. Despite getting restarted he pulled into the pits and retired. Woodger didn’t allow Venables any respite and was ahead by the end of the second lap having briefly got ahead in the Boot on the first lap.
Watkins quickly recovered lost ground to move into third ahead of Barnicoat, Wheeldon, Atkinson and Bell. Woodger inched away at the front as Venables came under increasing pressure from Watkins and Barnicoat with Bell getting ever closer. Further back Cochrane was beginning to make progress moving into the top ten. Venables finally succumbed to the advances of Watkins and Barnicoat and dropped to fourth. A lap later though and he was back into third with Barnicoat dropping to fifth behind Bell. Bell knew a good result was within his grasp and a good haul of points would see him move back to second in the standings and cut Simms Championship lead and a lap later he was through into third with plenty of laps left to chase down the leaders. He was flying having set fastest lap and establishing a record on the seventh tour. Venables though was desperate to get back on terms and as they went up the hill into Christmas he lunged down the inside from well back making heavy contact and spinning Bell to a halt. Bell would later say he was sure he had enough pace to catch the leaders and win the race but rather than continue he too pulled into the pits and retirement. Venables continued but within a few more laps he too was into retirement with a mechanical problem. Woodger continued to lead chased by Watkins with Barnicoat third from Atkinson. Cochrane was now up to fifth having taken full advantage of some of the confusion in front of him. And that was how the order remained to the flag.
Podiums and Championships
All smiles on the Lightweight podium with Chris Woodger taking his first win of the season. And well deserved it was too. Jon Watkins second place was his first visit to the podium since winning at round four whilst Thanassi Barnicoat can be well satisfied with third in his first Club 100 outing. Tom Mackenzie too can be well satisfied with his day after winning the B Final and taking home a trophy.
It wasn’t a great day for the three main Championship contenders and certainly Darri Simms will be glad to see the back of Whilton this year having been taken out of both A finals on both visits this year. Nevertheless he continues to lead the Championship but his lead has been cut whilst Liam Cochrane gained a bit of ground and increased his lead by a few points over third placed Chris Bell. Despite a poor day Liam never gave up the fight. With two rounds to go who is going to be mentally the strongest driver? Who will handle the pressure best?
Another great days racing at Whilton but it was a great shame that JV had to lay down the law after the first two Clubman’s races had to be restarted. Hearing drivers claiming that other drivers were deliberately turning into other drivers or driving people off the track is not good. All drivers have a responsibility to their fellow competitors. We want to see good clean racing with drivers showing each other respect. Take heed.
I must admit I struggle sometimes to understand the mindset of some drivers and not just with regard to driving standards. I had harsh words for a couple of them in the paddock after they had retired healthy Karts. It’s true they weren’t going to win but I just don’t get why you would spend money testing, spend money on overnight accommodation and travelling, money on racing and then pull out with plenty of laps to run. Track time is important so why not take full advantage. You don’t learn anything stood in the pits. There are drivers racing who will probably never trouble the podium but they don’t just give up. They drive and race for the joy of it. I grew up in a sporting household. Football, Cricket, Snooker and Table tennis were the main games. And one thing I was taught was that that you never give in. Winners don’t quit and Champions don’t give in. Quitting displays a mental fragility. If I were competing I’d play on that. Or am I missing something?
See you at Bayford!!
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell – JAM Motorsport Photography