It’s got a ring to it, Simon. Even if only DTM has one. So enjoy it Vice Champion sounds like bollocks. It’s Runner Up or 2nd. So frequent are his guest appearances James Taylor is in danger of it being christened a comeback. No sooner than Joe Holmes had wrapped up the championship and moved up to pastures new, which you can read elsewhere (and the Heavyweight Class can breath a sigh of relief, it wasn’t you after all, it was him, and I won’t mention Joe again) than James returned to dominate the A Final, and take home the big pot, after pole man, and Pre A Final winner, Simon Lloyd had put up a more determined resistance after losing the lead almost immediately on the first start. At the second time of asking Simon managed a whole into turn 1, but when they returned to start lap 2, he was hard up on Simon’s bumper and clean through up the inside into turn 1. The pair had initially gapped the field, but Luke Hornsby’s speed brought him back to the pair, while Jack Bolton had had to work his way through from grid 7 to go 4th into turn 4, then it became a foot race between the quartet. Taylor never looked in danger of losing, Bolton worked his way up to go first 3rd then 2nd deep into the race and with only 3 laps left, 2.6secs was more than enough.
Bolton limited the points damage of Simon Lloyd’s Pre Final win, but still saw his 17 point deficit increase to 23 points, which should see Simon home to the Runners Up spot at Buckmore Park. As Jack readily admits his driving has gone awry midseason (something like a golfers confidence in his swing I guess) and he also owes me some wins at Buckmore Park as my pre season favourite. Presupposing he did the double (win) at Buckmore, Simon would need only a 5th place, or a pair of 7th places maybe, to be sure. Although I don’t think it’ll come to that or be quite so close. Christopher Murray another fancied runner before the season started came through late and robustly to get on the podium, and demote Lloyd from it. It was more like it but far too late in the season. With Bolton certain to secure 3rd place in the championship with any kind of performance at Buckmore Park, Harrison Darvill took 5th ahead of Luke Hornsby in their personal duel for 4th and 5th in the championship. Hornsby has been chipping into Darvill’s advantage since Red Lodge and Luke has it down to just 4points from what was 39points after Llandow. It’s a straight head to head for the last championship trophy as both Tim Hill and David Whitehouse are now too far back to feature. Rob Moore is 35points or so clear in the Super Heavweight Class heading into Buckmore Park and looks odds on to take the title after nearest challenger Peter Harris failed to get out of either B Final at Ellough Park.
The Pre B Final was sorted out at the start, and while I was still trying to breath life into the Suffolk 4G, I missed it but it was clear that it had all kicked off behind the front 2 rows early on, when I was finally able to pay attention. Probably kicking off into turn 1, as Ben Cottle, Tim Hill, Andrew Cherry and Jack Hollingsworth got clear, while Mark Turner, Jason Bradbury, Paul Williams from the 2 rows behind, and a trio most likely to push the quartet had seen their races go south immediately. At the end of lap 1 this lead quartet had settled loosely in line, doubtless knowing the score on qualification – they could all go through. Ben Conner was nearly 2secs off Jack’s bumper in 5th. It would take Ben half of the 14lap race to run down and pass Jack, who might have already had his cone (/track limits) penalty, although this was academic as Jack would be excluded for being underweight post race. No one else was within 6secs of Conner at that time, and this new quartet would run into the finish as they were. Peter Masters picking up a penalty for advantage by contact, and then Daniel Skilton would move passed Nicholas Reynolds towards the finish, giving Skilton 5th place and pole position for the B Final ahead Reynolds, Andrew Clarke, Masters, Peter Gillett and Lennie Wood rounded out the top ten.
It was a slightly unfamiliar looking front the Pre A Final grid, without you know who, but to see Lloyd on the front row was not unexpected. But James Browning on pole? James Taylor and Eric Mignon, the latter coming back into form, Luke Hodges and Chris Murray on row 3, but where was Jack Bolton? 14th?! It was reassuring for Lloyd, and it was a question of how far Jack could get up the field to mitigate the damage to his challenge for 2nd in the championship. Browning converted pole to the lead into turn 1 well enough, but it was immediately apparent he not driving the kart he qualified, or he needed a big tow to run so high, as both Lloyd and then Taylor were anxious to get by. Mignon could live with this pace, even if Murray, Hornsby and Gurnett just off and toying with bringing the field into turn 1 on lap 2 three wide might have different ideas. Behind David Whitehouse, Harrison Darvill and Chris James in 10th, Bolton had made some progress up to 11th. Although Lloyd and Taylor had demoted Browning by then and were set to pull clear as Browning only had the pace to hold off and up Mignon. A mistake by Murray into turn 4 was pounced on by Hornsby to go 5th, then Luke was picking up the tow from Eric and he’d be by into 4th into turn 4 the next lap.
I’d criticised Luke Hornsby for not making things happen (not instigating overtaking), I think maybe he’s taken it to heart, he’d edge his way into James Browning and on to his bumper. He took his time still, but after a false start, and with Mignon and Darvill closing and the prospect of Chris Murray getting back on the group, and Jack Bolton towing the bottom of the top ten group up to him, my invocation on the live stream that “he get some balls (15mins in) was answered as Luke launched one down the inside of Browning into turn 9 and immediately edged out a kart length.
In terms of the race up front it was settled, Lloyd had stretched and stretched Taylor until the slipstream over start finish was so weak it broke, Taylor settling into a comfortable run to the finish. Lloyd just had to be tidy, maintain his pace and he had one hand on the runners up trophy at Buckmore. He could look over from the turn 8 hairpin exit to see Murray holding off Bolton for 7th before Jack threw it down into turn 9 to bounce Chris off the exit tyre wall, Whitehouse slipped by Murray. In getting by Jack had lost 1secs to Browning, Mignon and Darvill, though James would start backing the pair up again toward Jack, still towing Whitehouse, Murray and Mark Ridout towards a struggling Browning. It all came back together briefly as Eric got by exit of turn 1, and Harrison dived inside James at turn 9, and perhaps seeing how he could get that pair before the finish Jack lunged Browning into turn 4, but felt obliged to let James have the road to turn 5 and Whitehouse (cheekily again) forced a pass on Jack. So Browning got a breather and although Bolton would repass Whitehouse laps were running out. Browning would hang on for 6th. And thats how it finished, Lloyd 2secs clear of Taylor, gap to Hornsby, gap to Mignon and Darvill, gap to Browning and Bolton.
16 runners left to the B Final repocharge for the last 2 qualifying spots but it was messy off the start again. Poleman Daniel Skilton ran in hot to turn 1 to be forced to square off the corner beyond the apex and allowed Nicholas Reynolds daring him to deep from the outside of the front row crossed behind him at the track out to lead into turn 2. Daniel was forced to defend Lennie Wood from grid 5 and Peter Masters from grid 3. What mess? Pete Gillett throwing it speculatively into turn 4 mess, spinning and splitting the field behind Andrew Clarke 8th and Jason Bradbury 9th from the other 6 runners. Wood dived inside Skilton at the pit entrance hairpin allowing Paul Williams and Peter Harris, two exponents of maximising their entry fees with another race, to get on the 2nd place battle bus at the end of the lap.
On the subject of Jason Bradbury he’d been busy and had moved up to 6th, in what would quickly became his final, Skilton rebuffed Williams into turn 1, Harris joined him to lunge Daniel at turn 4, Williams opened up his steering to run wide as Harris spun inside him, Bradbury out dragged Paul to turn 5 to go 3rd, Mark Turner slipping passed Daniel for 5th. Jason gapped the pair immediately, Turner block passed Williams into turn 4 on the next lap. Ahead Wood had caught up with Reynolds and run down the inside of the turn 8 hairpin to steal the apex kerb from him, Bradbury’s arrival on Lennie’s bumper was well timed, even though Reynolds forced Jason to run the long way around the outside of the next left hand corner on to the “old circuit” from the extension. Just a matter of time. Forced to lift, Jason would have to cover off Turner down into turn 2, but once his momentum was back, he was immediately down the inside of turn 4, this time Turner tried to follow him only to find Reynolds trying to apex, biff-baff-boff Bradbury was released, Nicholas held on, a little while longer, but Williams had lost all his momentum as was swallowed by the pack. That (new) turn 4!
The remaining 7mins of the race was a debate, could hold Lennie Wood hold off Jason Bradbury? Not likely, and so it was. Its a weight thing, as much as anything, too many hairpins, too many pies! And could Lennie hold off Mark Turner who now had a clear run free of the distractions from behind? As Jack Hollingsworth running 4th was carrying a penalty. Traffic at the wrong moment put Mark on Lennie’s sooner rather than later in the last 4mins, so much so that you could see Mark lining up for turn 4 (again) from the exit of turn 3. A run through the hairpins at the end of the lap gave Mark a kart length or so (or 0.3secs) and that gap grew each lap to the finish. Williams came through 4th on the road but he’d explored track limits once too often and was demoted to 5th behind Reynolds who was 14secs off the winner at the finish, holding off Masters. Claudio La Rosa, Philiip Hoodless, Andy Clarke and Brett Harvey, 20secs off rounded out the top 10.
Into the A Final the highlights of which are in the introduction. With James Taylor perplexed about why we had to regrid, it only seemed to fire him up more for the restart. Simon Lloyd I think knew that as James gave him “the stare” (through an iridium coated visor) before the start, perhaps the smart play wasn’t to make it too hard. Winner trophy? Or Championship Runner Up trophy (which you can call Vice Champion, especially if you’re German)? Hmmm… Passed the cone on the start line Simon swung over to squeeze James to the outside, James tried to run around the outside of turn1 anyway but with the track out point looming he let Simon have his way. It was good enough. Luke Hornsby was off his bumper and not a threat down into turn 2, Darvill, Bolton, Mignon, Whitehouse and Ridout behind Luke. The next lap James was in the tow over start-finish, Simon had the sense to let him have the lead. I mean if he didn’t have a kart to beat James, then hell get him to tow you clear, no? Bolton had moved passed Darvill, Harrison keen to be towed back to Hornsby if he couldn’t get back passed cleanly. Problem was James Taylor was too quick for Lloyd and there was a danger he’d be shot at by Hornsby and Bolton closing in with him. 4mins in Chris Murray had edged passed Ridout for 6th. Bolton moved Hornsby, Darvill closed but before he could strike on Luke, Murray dived in at turn 1 from too far back and then prevented Harrison getting to the apex in turn 2. Harrison would have to weigh up and wait for Murray to tow him back to Hornsby. Chris took a slightly wide line between turn 2 and 3 to get directly on to Luke’s bumper into turn 4 for a block pass. Luke keen to hold back Darvill into turn 5, ignored Murray to cover Harrison, but he would be through soon enough.
Into the second half, it was a more of traightforward race to follow, who had pace? Taylor, yes, clearing out to 1.5secs, Bolton, yes, Lloyd not so much, that could be tricky for Simon and even Murray was only 1.8secs behind and 0.3secs quicker. Bolton looked confident not to rush it, getting it down after a lap or so looking, down into turn 4, just in time for Murray to catch the slipstream from Simon. But if Simon could hang on to Jack, he might have still got on the podium. However Chris, no shrinking violet in having go, came from a long way back into turn 7 to take the spot, in footballing parlance, he got the ball but almost looked like he’d gone ball and the man and directed Simon to the pit lane, but both popped out from behind the barrier, and ran on to the finish.
Fortunately for Lloyd, Darvill was well back, and busy keeping Hornsby in his place ahead Roger Davis coming through the field strongly from grid 16, even if it would be back to 10th when Ridout, Whitehouse and Mignon came back passed him in the closing stages, only Eric had a track limits penalty demoting him to 10th.
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography