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It would be a crying shame if in hindsight the championship turns on Pietro Pagano being left nose into the tyres at the start of the Lightweight A Final for what ought to have been a belter of a head to head from the front row between the two winningest (5 wins a piece) drivers sandwiching Christopher Powell in the championship table.
Regrettably it was not to be, although after Golding won the Pre A Final comfortably from pole position, from Pagano’s rapid start from P5, Pietro could do no more than peg Golding at 1secs or so for the 13 lapper, I feared it might be repeated in the A Final, but disappointingly we never saw even that. Instead Golding made his pole position into the lead into turn 1, while Pietro couldn’t close the door on Chris Dixon off grid 3 and by the time the corner had tightened to it’s very late apex, Steven Lester on grid 6 had squeezed inside the pair, it led to 3 wide going into the next right hander coming out of the opening complex and Pagano was squeezed into the tyres. Unfortunately for him everyone behind him managed to avoid him. Unfortunate – as the start would not be waved off like it was for 4-5-6-10 karts off at turn 1 in the other finals. And unfortunate, as Pagano had skipped a second round of the season by missing Llandow, which means with the best 18 of 22 final scores from the 11 round season to count, he will be carrying this 26th place finish into his season score tally.
The incident also handed Golding a 2secs lead out of the gate, that no one could close down, on the upside Chris Powell came through from his P5 grid to pass Dixon for 2nd place passed halfway to put a smile back on his face, and put him back into the title chase. What does it all mean? It’s now 7wins for Golding, who after skipping rounds 3 and 4, must take Pagano’s predicament as a warning, and drop on track, won’t be dropped from his season’s score, but does seem to have got his mojo back with this double win following his Glan y Gors A Final abberation, where he dropped it, in admittedly tricky conditions. Two good scores for Powell, and perhaps his consistency (in turning up for every round – thats harsh, but hear me out) will play him into the championship in the run, as might a finale, at Buckmore, under lights, and in quite possibly pure meteorological filth (I still haven’t forgotten Round 1 2015). Chris can score or drop finals as best he can all the way to the finish and that may prove a very useful string in his bow that Golding and Pagano, who remains in the mix, of a 3 cornered battle for the title, it’s just Pietro really didn’t need 100points when he was on for a podium at Red Lodge. But thats the breaks…
Four drivers to qualify from the Pre B Final, to the back of the Pre A Final, and a Pre B Final that would be dominated from pole position by Ben Leslie, which was a little surprising, given the calibre assembled. Aidan Kitchener on grid 2 didn’t survive the first lap. Any lingering championship hopes Martin Theodorou had were surely extinguished by failing to get out of this final, he’d have to try again from the B Final. Sam Dicker, Easykart racer David Darling and Ben Atkinson would fair better, all making the top 4, but again John Foulds, Mathieu Gauthier-Thornton, Jospeh Liddiard, Stefano Marra (returning from a different era of Club100), Andrew Mather (on his day), likewise Alexander Lammin, might also have laid claim to Pre A final slot on another day.
Leslie got away to 1.25secs lead ending lap 1, possibly assisted by Kitchener’s demise, instead Dicker brought Darling through on his bumper, with Theodorou, Atkinson, Gauthier-Thornton behind. Leslie checked out as this group engaged and tripped over one another Theodorou moving through to 2nd only to tumble down the order on lap 5. Dicker picked up the baton with Mathieu, Ben and David yo contest the 3 remaining places, while Rhys Clarey and Andrew Hunt were not out of touch of qualification, even if they were not looking likely to be in touch with it either, unless more fell off or tripped each other up ahead. Ben Leslie cruised to the finish from halfway, Gautier-Thornton had taken over in 2nd but Dicker closed back in with the every present Darling and Atkinson threat, and when Sam passed Mathieu he could not hold off Darling and Atkinson coming through. With just 2 laps left, there was no time for Mathieu to mount a challenge on Ben Atkinson for 4th place. Leslie ran out 7secs clear of Dicker and Darling fighting to the finish line.
Most peculiar, Llandow winner Darri Simms started outside of Tom Golding on the front row for the Pre A Final, and that’s about all I can say about that. I didn;t see it and don’t know where he went but he was missing on to the backstraight, just gone. He’d gone backwards off the start, which handed Tom a clear run through turn 1, and a lead that never extended beyond a second or so, but never looked threatened unless he made a mistake. GYG showed he is not infallible, but Pagano’s burst through from grid 5 to exit the turn 1 complex in 2nd, was about the only standout moment as he could not exert the pressure to make Tom crack. Chris Dixon followed him through from grid 7 and this trio had a small margin on Frankie Hedges, gap to Chris Powell, gap to Steven Lester also from the 2nd row brought the field through in his wake in 6th. Lester would spend the opening laps falling away at a tenth of second of a lap from Powell, partly because the attentions of James Martin, Andrea Fioravanti, James Venning, Michael White and Bobby Dawes and partly because he was looking over his shoulder at Martin. And honestly aside from consistent and tidy driving, very little happened from there on. Powell had a scrappy lap, and although he fell back to Lester it was only very briefly, Powell edging clear again but not making inroads into Hedges, indeed it was Lester providing the interest in holding off Martin, but here again a trigger didn’t get pulled.
Into the closing stages, Pagano settled for 2nd and Golding’s half a dozen kart lengths lead finally slipped out over the 1second mark. Dixon was a further 2secs adrift, and Hedges had had a quiet run a further 2secs off in 4th place, with Powell only just edging toward him as the final lap board came out. Frankie was safe. Martin, followed Lester in, in 7th place, gap to Fioravanti, Venning, gap to Michael White and Bobby Dawes. Only Dawes was excluded for contact. Otherwise aside from the mystery of Simms, it was all very well driven, but a completely unremarkable race.
Poleman Mathieu Gautier-Thornton dropped the hammer on the B Final field and his kart pulled cleanly down into turn 1, comfortably outdragging Rhys Clarey. Rhys took a light shot from Andrew Hunt towards the apex that threw the pair wide enough to allow John Foulds a sneeky run up the inside into turn 2. Andrew Mather pushed on to Hunt’s bumper with Martin Theodorou. By the end of lap 1, the jockeying, nibbling and rubbing behind between the chasers had handed Gautier-Thornton a 2secs lead. It was a lead he would not relinquish and a lead that would be out to 5secs before Theodorou, who lets face it on past form had no business being in the B Final, after moving passed Mather, who in turn couldn’t stay on Theodorou’s bumper, and Hunt, then passed both Foulds and Clarey on lap 4, to go 2nd.
And 2nd was all Martin needed and as John Foulds had slipped straight out of his slipstream as Mather had before him, 1st and 2nd was settled before halfway. Aside from one tardy lap that allowed Theodorou to bring the lead down to 3.5secs, victory never looked in doubt for Mathieu and Martin didn’t need to push too hard as Foulds fell away and into Andrew Mather coming on strong toward the finish, getting down the inside into turn 1 at the second attempt, although that change of position between the pair was academic. Andrew was never going to catch Theodorou 3.5secs up the road by then.
So you already know the disappointment of the A Final (Pagano tyre walled) from the intro, Golding out to his lead, Dixon who’d been in the middle of the Pagano, Dixon, Lester trio, emerged in 2nd place, Lester running wide out of turn 2 and Frankie Hedges running side by side with Dixon into the turn 3-4 complex, but Frankie lifted first. On to the back straight, Golding was out to his 1.7secs lead, Dixon, Hedges, Lester lined up to offer a pursuit. In 5th Chris Powell had seen off Andrea Fioravanti, and would soon run down and around the outside of Lester coming of out of the far complex for 4th place. Fioravanti then looked for a way by Steven Lester, which worked for Powell’s escape and pursuit of next target Hedges. Lester again ran sloppily out of turn 7 and Andrea was through to 5th. Ahead Powell was already lining up Hedges for a pass. He looked quick and resurgent but before he could pull the trigger down the backstraight Frankie bounced down the exit kerb from the off camber turn 5 left hander, and Chris set straight off after Dixon 1.3secs up the road.
Powell was the fastest driver on the circuit, chopping 0.4-0.5secs a lap out of Dixon and possibly looking like he might have the pace to close on the race leader, but 3.5secs was quite an ask even with 8laps remaining. First things first he needed to take care of Dixon in 2nd, well the gap between them was reeled in short order. Behind Hedges was holding off Fioravanti and Lester, a small gap to another dicing trio, James Venning, Adrian Mertens and James Martin. Dixon was looking over his shoulder, but knowing Powell was coming made no difference, Chris was able to put his kart wherever he wanted and it gripped. He had the decency to look for a mistake from Chris passing him into turn 1. Starting lap 10, Powell was 3.4secs behind leader Golding but could not make much headway. Chris was the first to dip under 48secs, but he needed half second chunks, not tenths of a second. He probably knew it, he relaxed into 2nd place, and Golding cruised in 3.6secs clear. Just off Powell, Chris Dixon picked up his first podium and trophy of the season, so the podium was smiles and satisfaction all round. 4secs behind Fioravanti had the measure of Lester, Hedges was still clear of James Vennings and Adrian Mertens, and Ben Leslie passed James Martin on the last lap to complete the top ten.
Round 9 will be at Whilton Mill (Zulu) on 18 September.
Report written by Chris Simpson
Photography: Jack Mitchell, JAM Motorsport Photography