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“Can anyone stop Tom Golding taking the title at Ellough Park?” I asked at the head of the last Lightweight report. The short answer proved to be “Yes”, I’d forgotten Pietro Pagano lives locally and he dominated the field qualifying on pole position, and leading lights to chequered flag to win both A Finals by 6secs from Frankie Hedges and Darri Simms each time. The only other driver that could stop Golding was Golding himself and indeed he did, in qualifying, missing or mishearing the part of the pre event briefing about track limits (but not as reported as having his best qualifying times deleted for track limits) but by perversely respecting them too much to be so far off the pace that he qualified 15th for the Pre A Final. There’s probably a lesson in there for everyone about JV’s briefings… Pietro’s double win can give him the warm satisfaction that he is closer to Golding than perhaps previously thought, certainly if the circumstances are right, and that he can win, fair and square, with him in the field (as he was at Glan Y Gors but not spun out from the lead battle). It also frustrates Golding, making him wait a little longer, and thats all Pietro has done, by keeping the mathematical title battle running into the final round at Buckmore Park.
Tom needs to just start both finals, and with a 16th or better in the Pre A Final that will see him crowned 2016 champion when the lights turn green in the main A Final, even if Pietro wins both finals at Buckmore. Golding clawed his way back at Ellough to a brace of 4th places, which makes a 16th place in the last 2 finals look academic on a track he likes. Indeed had Tom finished in 2nd place at GYG when he dropped it he would already be champion, and Round 11 might have been about trying Elite on for size. Still the pair look most likely to move up in 2017 into Elite, or maybe it’s Clubman now for one or other or both. There are 5 championship trophies, Pagano has gone a long way to making sure Runner Up is his, although his 26 point advantage over Christopher Powell, who failed in the Pre A and was let down by his kart in A Final at Ellough, is surmountable on a track Chris always goes well at. And if lets say it’s 2 wins for Chris it leaves Pietro needing to finish only in the top 9 in each final. I’m confident Pietro will be runner up and Chris will be 3rd and Frankie Hedges will continue his upswing in form, or rather consistency, to secure 4th place. There is a contest over 5th place, Chris Dixon has a 3 point lead over former championship leader Martin Theodorou, but as one who had got stronger as the season has gone on, while the other has stalled, it leans toward Dixon.
Chris Penny is a further 10points back but penalties in both B Finals at Ellough, that took him out of qualification on each occasion, have made his task a little harder, too hard probably and Darri Simms’ late run, on the podium in both finals at Ellough is also probably too late, although he does have winning outright in his locker, it just depends which Darri he sends out on Sunday… The trophy winner or his ordinary clone there doesn’t seem to be anything in between.
David Darling had pole position for the Pre B Final and he converted it to the lead off turn 1. As ever grid 2 Oliver Rowlands struggled to get into the line going into the first corner, Ant Lewis going down his inside, followed by Ben Atkinson coming off grid 6 to pass Derek Beckley and go down the middle of Oli and John Foulds mid corner, to come out 3rd. Foulds then put his nose into Ben into turn 2 and ran him out wide and off circuit out of turn 3. Atkinson lost all his momentum coming back on into the new turn 4. This left Darling and Lewis clear up front, and Foulds led Penny in the chase for the other top 4 qualifying positions. Chris’s number flashed up at the start line for contact. The pair would be joined by Rowlands, Beckley and Martin Theodorou, while Sam Dicker held off Atkinson, Darren Martin and Lewis Nurse in the chase not to miss the bus contesting qualification which Penny moved to the head of. Atkinson’s efforts to get back to the front from the 2nd group were frustrated in a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ metaphor by Dicker, Martin, Nurse, Keith Segal and Lewis Nurse and it was over with a 4 place penalty for Ben for contact on Dicker although his body language suggested he thought he was pushed into it. The result was the same -4 positions was out of the Pre A by the end of lap 2.
The race settled into it’s rhythm Darling a kart length or so ahead of Lewis, gap to a closing Penny, gap to Rowlands under pressure from Foulds to begin with, to keep the hopes alive for those across another gap, Theodorou and Beckley, gap to Martin and Co. By half distance with the front runners had almost settled into a similar pace with only Penny moving forward, to leave a contest and neutral interest over 6th place between Theodorou, Beckley, Martin and a penalised Atkinson. Indeed Penny’s aggression in making his way through to worry Darling into the final third of the race earned him a 4 place penalty, that might cost him 5th in the championship, quite where it was, I’m not sure, perhaps at the end of the penultimate lap where he passed Rowlands with contact into the last corner. Darling got caught up behind a back marker off that corner, moved left and Penny squeezed by, around the curve, between David and the tyre barrier on the inside. Chris ran out winner on the road but was demoted to 5th, so Darling, Rowlands and Lewis were joined by John Foulds in qualification. John had been unable to bridge the gap but got in on the default of Penny, who’d be joined by Atkinson as favourites to qualify from the B Final.
Pietro Pagano had out qualified Darri Simms by a tenth of a second for pole position for the Pre A Final, and then probably looked down the times to see Golding 0.5secs off his pace, and good for only 15th. Possibly seeing what had happened to grid 2 so often, Darri dropped in on his bumper off the start, Frankie Hedges contrived to get his nose inside Simms sufficiently to slow Simms off the corner, and Pagano was gone. Hedges outdragged Simms to turn 2, Andrea Fioravanti ran James Martin out wide off turn 3 to take 3rd place which also put Andrew Ward into 4th place. It all left Pagano with 1.1secs lead end of lap 1, that would be 1.7secs at the end of the next lap, then 2.7secs, as Hedges didn’t have the speed to go with him, and was more concerned on maintaining his couple of kart lengths on Darri and Andrea. Golding had started 15th cleared his way 9th at the end of lap 1 but the field spread and competition had left him 8th and 6secs off the lead by the end of lap 3. The other title contender Christopher Powell had started 9th but had his hands full in the midfield 12th holding off Stefan Scully, another early season contender, Chris Dixon, James Venning, Llandow podium finisher Bobby Dawes and Andrew Hunt.
By the end of lap 4 Pagano was out of sight, but Hedges 2nd to Golding 8th were strung out over an inviting 3secs for Tom to run up the line or so I thought. Behind him at the time and falling away Craig Summers was settling in for a quiet run to the flag, although Mathieu Gaultier-Thornton would pass him after halfway on his way to 8th place had Stefan Scully not passed him on the final lap.
Golding’s first target was Tom Mackenzie, he’d eat his way in at 0.3-0.4secs to pass him inside into turn 7 on lap 6, 2 laps later James Martin handed over 6th place at turn 4 as Tom showed the same class on the brakes as he had with Mackenzie, and he would again at turn 4 on Andrew Ward the next lap. Ward went deep into turn 7 and Martin could pass him into the turn 8 hairpin. All the while Darri Simms had been harassing Hedges for 2nd place, they were slowing each other up, Simms looking for a clean pass, but with a third of the race remaining there was a chance Golding might make it through to 2nd, giving himself an opportunity to clinch the title in a head to head with Pagano in the A Final. But Hedges tidied up his driving a little and both he and Simms kept clear of Andrea Fioravanti. Andrea would prove harder to pass for Tom, an optimistic repeat move into turn 4 lost him momentum and though he would ultimately pass Andrea before the finish, the lap and a half it took him to get it done on the brakes into the turn 8 hairpin was enough to allow Hedges to break clear into 2nd to finish 6.5secs behind the dominant Pietro Pagano. It also left Simms 0.8secs clear on to the final lap, but able to out drag Golding from the final corner to the line to hang on to 3rd.
The B Final ought to have been settled early, with pole man Chris Penny qualifying along with Ben Atkinson. Ben was on grid 6 again, but another attempt at fast starting back fired badly as he left it too late to lunge grid 2 Darren Martin at turn 4 for 4th place on the opening lap, or perhaps he left it too late to back out of the move, but it was certainly badly executed whatever it was. He snatched a brake and spun himself out. Now that really ought to have left it clear for Penny and Martin Theodorou, who had started 3rd, emerged 2nd and clear with Chris from turn 1, leaving front row starter Darren Martin in the pack and behind Sam Dicker and Martin showed Ben how it was done in turn 4 to grab the lead on lap 1.
By the end of lap 1 the trio were clear, then Sam went deep into turn 1, and immediately Theodorou and Penny had gapped Dicker and looked odds on to qualify as the rest of field busied themselves with each other. But somehow Penny contrived to pick up a kerb warning and was it exceeding track limits off turn 9, I noticed, it then proved to be once too often and deep into race, the blue penalty board flashed 29 above start finish and he’d been done for excessive kerbing, -2 positions (that might track limits by another name). And like the -4 in the Pre A Final it was enough even if he won to take him out of the remaining 2 qualifying spots for the A Final and has probably cost him 5th in the 2016 championship. Dicker, with 3mins of the race remaining, had gamely clung on to Theodorou and Penny and with Chris’ penalty he could have afforded to run in clean to the finish, safe in the knowledge that there was nothing coming from behind. But I don’t think Sam was using his head, or had not figured out Chris’ penalty, as after Penny’s attempt on the lead, Sam would take 2 shots at Penny for 2nd place, risking a contact penalty of his own, when he could have just followed as Darren Martin was 4.5secs behind holding off Lewis Nurse to the finish. Behind hom there was a gap to Rhys Clarey, Derek Beckley and Rafal Drzaszcz, another gap to James Munro, gap to Keith Segal, 21secs off the lead, rounding out the top 10. As it was it was only Chris Penny’s penalty that affected the result, Theodorou and Dicker moved through.
It was deja vu for the A Final, settled for the most part in turn 1. The front 3 rows lined up as Pagano on pole, Hedges on grid 2, Simms, Golding, then Fioravanti and James Martin on the 3rd row. Into the tramlines before the lights, Pietro picked up the throttle, and got into turn 1 cleanly Hedges hanging on the outside as Simms was intent on following Pagano’s line and in his wheel tracks through turn 1, unbeknownst to him Stefan Scully had crossed over from grid 8 after the startline to try and fire one down the inside of Fioravanti into turn 1 but locked up, crossed up, missed Simms but collected Golding on the outside line and run Andrea out there with him, by luck they contrived to straighten each other up but the field backed up behind them. Somewhat unfairly as the instigator, Scully fired out of the mess first, basically unaffected, while Tom and Andrea were swallowed. Out of turn 4 the race already looked like the Pre A Final, Pagano had a 3-4 lengths lead over Hedges, soon to be 1.2secs at the end of the lap, Frankie holding off Simms.
A gap to Scully with a 4place penalty for advantage by contact, Jacopo Fioravanti off grid 12, he also had a -4 penalty for contact, bringing through a chasing pack with Mathieu Gautier-Thornton, Tom Mackenzie, Andrew Hunt. At the end of the lap Golding ran through 11th, Andrea Fioravanti 16th. The telling part was, you knew the score from the Pre A, no one but Golding, could catch Pietro, and you knew Tom would struggle to clear traffic quickly enough as the field spread behind Pagano. Scully had put Golding down the field and put his title celebrations on ice. So it proved. By the end of lap 3 Golding had moved through Daniel Becker, then Tom Mackenzie to be at the head of the chasing pack in 7th place, but 2.5secs behind Gautier-Thornton and 8secs off the leader who was still moving clear at 0.5secs a lap. All he had left to do was to clear Jacopo Fioravanti and Gautier-Thornton for 5th and he had that done by lap 8, Golding was then 2.5secs behind Scully in 4th place, fortunately Scully’s penalty would promote him to 4th place. Scully himself was unable to hang on to Hedges and Simms, and once again Darri could follow but not pass Hedges, or chose not to, as Hedges remained tidy and mistake free.
By the time they started the penultimate lap Pagano was 5.6secs clear in his groove and cruising into the finish, Simms finally had started to apply the pressure to make Hedges, who started to look a bit ragged but Frankie was able to close the door when Darri made his push into Turn 8, and on to the last lap he was able to get back a kart length or two to see him through to the finish. Scully’s penalty took him back to 7th place, as Golding was promoted to 4th, gap to Gautier-Thornton, gap to Fioravanti (penalty drop to 9th), gap to Becker, gap to Bobby Dawes holding off Alexander Lammin rounding out the top ten.
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography