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It’s all over bar the shouting at Whilton Mill. Okay. First an apology, I may have been a little premature, with the ‘Joe Holmes park up and win the title at Red Lodge’ suggestion in the last report. Indeed, I may have guilty of not reading this season’s regulations, or rather thinking it was the same scenario as last year’s when Jonny Elliott was defacto champion after Round 8 at Lydd. You should never trust I thing I write, or place in the ‘take as gospel’, I have been wrong before and will be again. Simon Lloyd was the first to question my reading, or lack thereof, of the regs, whether it was best 16 or best 18 of 22, understandable enough although it left this observer wondering whether or not he just wanted to be first to congratulate Holmes on his championship.
After also apologizing to Joe and Mr Holmes Snr for my confusion as well, Holmes Junior had gone out and won both the Pre A Final, despite a superb dive from Lloyd across from grid 4, to be inside into 2nd place into turn 1, and the main A Final from pole position emphatically anyway, from Lloyd again, after Simon struggled to find a way passed Martin Gurnett early on to get another shrinking view of Holmes’ bumper. It was academic either way, Holmes had pulled away at nearly a second a lap in the Pre A, and repeated the trick in the main, to run out over 11secs clear in each final. So at the risk of more opprobrium, this time over my maths, I have studied the scoring system, and the magic winning number right now is 2271. Joe Holmes will be champion, regardless of double win for Simon Lloyd, and then winning every pre A and A Final to the end of the season, unlikely aside from the championship leader’s form, at “Whilton Mill is my favourite track so far”. He is 207 points short of the winning post. Or, here I go again… 19th in the Pre A Final, and he can start and park in the A Final although I expect him to do neither and do just more of the same formula – pole, win, pole, win. For Lloyd looking more and more like the best of the rest (with the nicest possible inference inferred in that), his contest remains seeing off, the absent Jack Bolton, for the runners up spot. How to judge being runner up to Joe Holmes will probably be best judged with where Holmes places in Elite if he steps up (my maths being correct) for Ellough Park and Buckmore Park. The Heavyweight title chase is over… as good as at any rate.
It was hard not to look any further than the front 2 rows for the 4 qualifiers from the Pre B Final to join the top 20 from timed practice in the Pre A Final, poleman David Whitehouse is used to being in the A top 10, the same can be said for Ben Cottle, Darrell Lowe was 2015 runner up and Paul Williams blows hot and cold, but hotter of late. Yes, Tom MacKenzie, Daren Townsley and James Browning, the latter off grid 13, would need a good start and not get stuck in the crowd, on a track that divides opinion, but it is generally agreed as a tough track to overtake on, or should that be is easy to defend on? It would be Whitehouse, Cottle and Lowe getting an early break in the opening stages, although Williams slotted into 4th place with a 0.5secs margin over Alistair Mason ending lap 1.
Goddard moved ahead of Nick Butler into 6th to be the front of the pack that Nick, Mackenzie, Townsley, Eric Mignon and Browning would have to slice through. By the end of lap 6 Cottle had been dropped by Whitehouse and Lowe, and Williams was closing in, Mason was falling away and Townsley, Mackenzie had passed Goddard, Paul being lined up by Browning, but this group were 5secs off the lead and 3secs of the last qualifying spot. Lowe moved to the lead and Whitehouse settled into a comfortable 2nd place into the final third of the race. Williams picked up Cottle’s tow and moved through to 3rd. With 4 laps to go Mason was just 0.7secs off Cottle in 4th, but with Townsley on his tail, Browning a further 1.7secs behind, and Mackenzie looking out of it 0.7secs further back. Goddard had faded, Andrew Hamilton made up the top 10, with only jockeying for grid slots for the B Final. Cottle kept Mason out of reach, now preoccupied with Townsley and Browning, Mackenzie coming up to join a 4 way battle for 5th, the longer it went on the safer it was for Cottle. Not that long as is happens as Mason exited, but the final lap started with Ben with 1.6secs in hand on Mackenzie, and that was more than enough. Lowe, Whitehouse, Williams and Cottle progressed.
Championship leader Holmes had qualified in pole position for the Pre A Final, Rob Moore an excellent P2, looking like a convert from the dark side (of whatever else he’s been racing) to the light and blessings that is Club100, Jason Bradbury, once again showing further progress on P3, Simon Lloyd on P4, Martin Gurnett, in a return to form after a quiet period P5, with Tim Hill on the outside of row 3. And it was Gurnett giving Bradbury a push over the start line and then losing his own momentum, that made a hole for Lloyd to accelerate into, moving from the outside line, to the inside going into turn 1 that would allow him to go down the inside of Bradbury with his over speed, while Bradbury following Holmes would watch Moore from grid 2 shuffled back along the outside of the line into the long left, with Hill pressing home, Luke Hornsby and James Taylor, bottled up and lifting behind Moore. They emerged from turn 1, it was Holmes a kart length clear of Lloyd, Bradbury, Gurnett and Hill, gap to Moore being double teamed by Hornsby and Taylor, and being joined by Roger Davis, Mike Bodnar and Mark Ridout into the long left at the far end of the circuit.
On the run back to the stripe, Holmes was already 8-10 kart lengths clear, 1second, Lloyd had edged out, Bradbury brought through Gurnett and Hill for lap 2 and everyone settled in for fast lappery. Bradbury towed into Lloyd on the back straight there was light contact as the corner tightened up, Jason was crossed up, straightened back up by Gurnett, but crawled out of the right hander to a halt, it also doubled Holmes’ advantage to 3secs over Lloyd, and even only ending lap 3 in a 15 lap race, Holmes looked secure. I’d never bet my house on any racing, but I’d chance betting your house that Holmes was a racing certainty to win from there. Gurnett spent a few laps edging into Lloyd, towing Hill, Moore and Hornsby until Luke blocked passed Moore into the turn 4 hairpin, to leave the chasing group split into 2 groups of 3. Then Taylor forced a move on Moore early on lap 6 that released Hornsby and dropped the pair, Taylor briefly, back into Davis and Ridout, and Michael Ballinger in 10th.
By the end of lap 10, Hornsby had closed into the battle for 2nd, as Lloyd was unable to shake off Gurnett and Hill to make a group of 4, behind Holmes by now cruising 8secs up the road. This group in turn were over 3secs clear of Ridout clear 6th, clear of Taylor, clear of Davis, Ballinger and Moore, after a few laps of hard racing. And thats how it finished on the road, the quartet racing for 2nd, huffed and puffed on the limit, a half mistake by Lloyd at the end of lap 13 gave Gurnett a look down the inside of turn 1, but he decided to lift rather than press home, and Hill couldn’t get off turn 5 close enough to Gurnett to pass at the end of the back straight, the stalemate ran on to the finish, where Ridout saw his comfortable 6th reduced to 9th with a contact penalty, like Ballinger, out to 11th and Whitehouse got a 2place penalty for excessive kerbing.
21 from 45 driverslined up for 2 places on the back of main A Final in the B Final, and it looked like a 3 cornered affair between pole man James Browning, Tom Mackenzie on the front row and Daren Townsley on grid 3. Andrew Hamilton was on the outside of row 2, with perhaps Paul Goddard making it entertaining from grid 5 and most likely making it hard for anyone else trying to get through from behind. And indeed Paul got off to good start edging out Townsley through the first switchback to go 3rd ahead of Daren and Thomas Caen off grid 7, only to be waved off. On the restart, either Townsley ran narrower into turn 1, or Goddard’s new plan was up the middle of row 2 and Daren was not going to let Paul work around him in turn 1, Hamilton didn’t look like he fancied it much, it appeared, and got hung out to dry on the outside of the line, and Mackenzie got clear and left Browning to deal with Townsley and Goddard, then a gap to Thomas Caen, Ben Benneyworth and Nicholas Reynolds. And as James and Daren had settled on Browning leading the chase from 2nd, the field had opened up and that it was already too late for anyone else. And so it would prove, Browning quickly pulled clear of Townsley and Goddard, and up on to Mackenzie’s bumper looking for a clean pass and through to make the lead his own by the end of lap 5 by which time Townsley was over 4secs off in 3rd place, Goddard another 2.5 off in P4. The remaining 7laps looked like practice for the A Final for Browning and Mackenzie, and our 2017 visit for everyone else. Goddard got bushwhacked (from memory) in sight of the flag as Caen, Nick Butler, and Benneyworth all tried to move up.
Well the A Final was settled on the start as trailed above, everyone knew that Holmes had dominated the Pre A Final, on pole position again, but with Simon Lloyd on grid 2 this time. Simon appeared contesting turn 1 wasn’t in the plan, at least I think that was the plan. On the first start Martin Gurnett on grid 3 guessed the same thing and when Holmes got going and Simon couldn’t get in for Martin on Joe’s bumper and he had to squeeze down on Luke Hornsby coming through from grid 5. The front half of the field made it through cleanly pretty much but 10karts were parked from the mid-backfield, abort, regrid, and restart. This time Simon got on it at the same time as Holmes but again Gurnett was ready again and so was Hornsby and Hill off grid 4, James Taylor off grid 6, Dave Whitehouse off grid 7, were all also prepared to drive it in deep into turn 1, between Hornsby, Hill and Lloyd, still on the outside, the 3 tried to go into the late apex together, Simon pivoted over Tim’s nose into a spin, the pair stopped and it was waved off again. Start 3… Same thing Gurnett going with Holmes, Lloyd not pulling crisply, Hill changed lanes from grid 4, and Lloyd came over to squeeze him out of pushing through to 3rd. Taylor ran around the outside of Hornsby, and the pair ran through the infield giving each just enough racing room and not a centimetre more. Perhaps less.
Holmes had a clean run to end lap 1 and 1.6secs advantage over Gurnett holding off Lloyd, Hill in touch, gap to Hornsby, Whitehouse, Rob Moore, Roger Davis, Mark Ridout and a resurfacing James Taylor no longer racing Hornsby or anyone else for the remainder in 10th place ahead of Peter Harris and the rest of the 26 kart field, save for Darrell Lowe and Harrison Darvill who had been parked in, on or just off the turn 1 tyres. End of lap 2 Holmes was 3secs clear and on his way to his 13th win in 16 starts. Gurnett was holding off, and holding up, Simon Lloyd so that Hill, Hornsby and Co. were closing in to make a 6 kart fight over 2nd place. Lloyd was anxious to be by, as you can imagine, and once he was through he edged clear, but the race for the win was over as Holmes was 5.5secs clear at the end of lap 4. So long as Simon made no mistakes and Martin held off Hill then 2nd place was on, and while Hill struggled out of the slow exits from corners (a feature of Red Lodge) he’d struggle to pass Gurnett at the end of a straight.
Through halfway the podium places became more solid, Hill limpet like in 4th place, managing Hornsby, looking for a clean-ish pass, Rob Moore leading SuperHeavy class comfortably, Ridout, Whitehouse, and James Taylor if he could just pick up the tow in 9th place. Roger Davis had faded in 10th. Into the closing stages Gurnett closed to Lloyd’s bumper, and Hill was edging his way back with the group behind, but the track was narrow, the karts so even, the drivers evenly matched, save for Joe Holmes, no one could see a gap to go for. And thats how it finished, Holmes 11.6secs clear, 2nd Lloyd, Gurnett 3rd through to Taylor 9th covered by 3secs.
Round 9 will be at Whilton Mill (Zulu) on 9 October 2016.
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography