After the heavy showers of Saturday and early morning rain on Sunday it was with some trepidation that the competitors for round 3 drew back the curtains on Sunday morning. And it was wet. But not for long thankfully and what few puddles there were around the track were soon dissipated as the four classes came out for their warm up laps.
Rookie Connor Brown was quick to lay down a marker topping the times on his second and third laps but Championship leader Tyrone Stansfield grabbed top spot pipping Brown by just 0.011 on his fifth tour. Thereafter the times increased as the tyres went away. Stansfield’s next best lap was some two tenths adrift of pole. Nevertheless the majority of the field kept pounding round in the hope of finding a few tenths but only Harry Barlow, Seb Algieri and Harry Graham found any significant improvement. Stansfield and Brown then on the front row for the heat followed by Scott Huntley, a good effort this, alongside Toby Goodman. Barlow and Algieri were on row three followed by Graham and Thomas Masserella with Charlotte Fox and Matt Rainbow completing the top ten.
Could anyone stop Championship leader Oliver Gray? Unbeaten since Buckmore Park last year and winner of the first two rounds this season he has looked in imperious form and threw down the gauntlet in the warm up setting fastest lap by over two tenths. But it was Freddie Bates who was the early front runner before leading Rookie Milo Pilfold grabbed pole on his fifth lap by just 0.069. His first ever. Again, all the quick times were set early in the session but did anyone want to save their tyres? Of course not. The cadets, like the Juniors just want to drive. Gray had to settle for third and was visibly rattled having been beaten to pole. Ella Stevens was the only runner to significantly improve later in the session and it was a fabulous effort to qualify on row two just 0.066 shy of Gray. Third Rookie Oliver Blanchard took row three alongside Dillon Reed with George Whitehouse and Rowan Campbell-Pilling on four. Thomas Harvey and Louis Ross completed the top ten.
A somewhat strange session this, a bit reminiscent of Formula one qualifying earlier this year with no one running at the end. The times had been set early in the session though and it was no great surprise to see Championship leader and birthday boy Sam Faulkner topping the times after only three flying laps. He knew he wasn’t going to go any quicker and pulled into the paddock after only five laps. A very confident pole sitter then. Grant Hunter set the early pace before Faulkner usurped him but it was a very fine front row spot for him. Front row and leading Jedi. Third quickest was the ever cheerful Kieran McCullough followed by returning Jedi Steve Youle. McCullough was the only driver among the front runners to improve towards the end of the session. Rob Newman and Matt Pearce locked out the third row with Mantas Ziromskas and Tom Snape just behind. Elliot Stanley and Ami Jerger completed the top ten.
A different approach then from almost half of the Masters who waited in pit lane for several minutes after the session had begun before venturing out. Again though the frontrunners set their times in their early laps. Joe Paterson looked on fine form on a circuit of which he is not particularly fond but Sam Dimelow pushed him very but couldn’t quite find the extra tenth needed for pole. Ben Yeomans took third from the ever improving Sam Fisher. George Friday and Joe Richardson were on row three the latter even taking to wearing his sister’s socks in an effort to find more speed. Mark Lawrence was first Grand Master with Steve Crutchley alongside. Neil Fisher and the evergreen Simon Mace completed the top ten.
Connor Brown got a fantastic start as the lights changed. Too fantastic as it happened. There was a fair amount of loading going on its true but Brown went far too early. A rookie error which would lead to a two place deduction at the end. Despite that the front runners put on a fine display of precision driving. Goodman immediately got ahead of Stansfield who got further pushed down by a fast starting Algieri whilst Barlow had a little brushing session with Huntley to move himself into fifth. Llandow is not the easiest of circuits for overtaking so it was no great surprise to see the order begin to settle. Brown led from Goodman with Algieri in third from Stansfield and Barlow keeping a watching brief in fifth. Huntley held sixth ahead of second quickest Rookie Martin who was having a strong run. Brown began to pull a gap at the front but Goodman was driving with his head.
He knew Brown was carrying a penalty so he just controlled his pace brilliantly allowing Brown to do as he pleased. Stansfield meanwhile was trying desperately to get round a very on form Algieri eventually snatching the place mid distance and closing in on Goodman for second. But Goodman was aware. He immediately upped his pace and the two of them began to close down the gap to Brown. As the flag came down it was Brown across the line first followed by Goodman and Stansfield who set fastest lap two from home. But Goodman had the win after Browns two place deduction for a jump start. Algieri took a well deserved fourth ahead of Teesside winner Barlow who just kept Huntley at bay. Graham took a somewhat lonely seventh ahead of Charlotte Fox who deposed Martin two from home with Morgan Cole a very creditable tenth. The drama though was not over yet. Championship leader Stansfield’s Kart had a compliance issue excluding him from the results, sending him to the back of the grid for the pre-final and moving everyone else apart from Goodman up one place.
Rookie Pilfold then away from pole with Bates slotting in behind ahead of Gray and Stevens. Reed was up a place as a result of a better start from Blanchard. But Campbell-Pillings fine qualifying effort was ruined as he spun in the first corner melee demoting him to the back of the field and leaving him with a lonely run to the flag. Two down and it was Bates at the front and Gray up to second from Pilfold with Stevens running well in fourth. Out also at this time were Humphreys and Smith. Then Gray got a run on Bates into the final corner to lead. Out of the corner Bates moved across but Gray defended very aggressively over the line and remained in the lead.
A lap later though Bates grabbed the lead back only to drop it out of Surtees. Despite resuming his Kart wouldn’t pick up and he was forced to retire. He was disconsolate in the pits. His day will come. Gray meanwhile continued to eke out a gap at the front from Pilfold and Stevens. But it was Reed who was really on form slotting by both of them as they exited the final corner with four to go. Gray it was though who took the flag to retain his unbeaten run but it had been a far from comfortable win. Reed chased him really hard putting in his best performance of the season thus far, pulling a gap to Pilfold and setting fastest lap. Stevens took a splendid fourth and was fastest Rookie whilst Whitehouse took a lonely fifth. Lilley had a good run making steady progress into sixth and well clear of Ross. Blanchard, Harvey and Gurney completed the top ten.
Hunter got the better start and swept into the lead at the first corner followed by Faulkner, Youle and McCullough. Ziromskas lost out badly dropping to eighth behind Pearce, Snape and Jerger. Newman was in even worse shape though. Having qualified fifth he was down the back of the field but about to put in the drive of the race quickly moving from sixteenth to twelfth in consecutive laps. Faulkner though was intent on first and duly slipped by Hunter into the final turn whilst McCullough quickly deposed Youle for third who then found himself locked into a battle for position with Pearce. Ziromskas meanwhile was also fighting back after his poor opening. But whilst the race stabilised at the front all eyes were on Newman who was really flying and moving into the top ten. Faulkner set the fastest lap of the race on the third tour and thereafter controlled the gap allowed in part by Hunter and Mc McCullough fighting over second. Newman meanwhile was still making up lost ground and into sixth just after half distance. Faulkner took a comfortable win from Hunter with McCullough third from Youle and Pearce, the top five comfortably clear of Newman. Ziromskas recovered from his earlier setback to seventh ahead of Stanley and Grigalauskas who put in a great drive to move up six places throughout the race. Hudman completed the top ten.
Paterson on pole then from Dimelow with Yeomans and Fisher on the second row. Paterson held off Dimelow at the start to lead but the latter was close enough to get a good tow down the back straight and darted through at the final corner. Paterson wasn’t giving up easily though and had the better line out of the corner to lead over the line. But Dimelow was far from done and Yeomans was well positioned to take advantage of any coming together whilst Fisher circulated comfortably in fourth. Richardson held fifth, his kart handling well after star mechanic and dad John had cured a chassis defect. Friday and Crutchley were having a real fight just a few tenths shy of Richardson whilst Mace was running well in eighth. Half distance and Dimelow took another run on Paterson into the final corner. This time he held the line well and defended into the first corner to keep the lead. Then suddenly Paterson was slowing. Down the bottom of the circuit the exhaust snapped. Yeomans was through into second whilst Paterson headed into retirement. So Dimelow took the win some seven tenths clear of Yeoman’s whilst Fisher was a distant third but well clear of Richardson in fourth who had Crutchley and Friday snapping at his bumper in fifth and sixth respectively. Mace held off a charging Beroual-Smith for seventh with Rainbird ninth and first Grand Master ahead of Lawrence in tenth.
Goodman was quickest away to lead and after the first couple of laps looked to have the race won but then out came the red flag. Morgan Wroot had come off at the exit of Surtees fortunately without injury but the ambulance was dispatched as a precaution. He would take no further part in the race whilst Parkinson, Bush and Massarella were also out. It was an incident which would also have repercussions for the Cadet pre-final. After a lengthy interval the race was restarted as a new race although of shorter duration. Goodman was again into the lead but Barlow and Graham were now running second and third with Algieri and Brown dropping a couple of spots. It was all a bit rumbustious at the hairpin with Brown clearly feeling aggrieved and waving his arms angrily.
He’s a Rookie, and a good one, and I’m sure he’ll soon learn that waving at your opponents won’t make them go any slower! Goodman still led but was now under real pressure from both Barlow and Graham whilst Algieri ran fourth ahead of a much calmer Brown. Huntley ran sixth, battling hard with Martin and Fox with Euan Johnson finally breaking into the top ten. Half distance and Barlow made his move into the final turn. Goodman defended hard and it all got a bit untidy as he lost momentum losing the lead and then second to Graham. Algieri almost made it through too but Goodman recovered. And that was how they stayed to the flag. Barlow pulled a three tenth gap to take control from Graham whilst Goodman dropped off the pace a little as did Algieri after a strong race. Indeed over the final laps Huntley and Fox were closing him down. Brown meanwhile had dropped to seventh but still leading Rookie. Martin took eighth ahead of Cole and Stansfield, the latter in damage limitation mode his championship hopes having been dealt something of a blow.
Milo Pilford shares an awning with Connor Brown and after Morgan Wroot’s trip into the tyre wall in the Juniors pre- final the Pilfold’s were concerned it was Connor. Consequently their trip down to the corner made them late to the grid and Pilfold found himself relegated to the rear of the field. So one less driver for Gray to worry about at the front. But Dillon Reed was on form and perhaps Ella Stevens could spring a surprise. Gray got a good start but Reed was quicker and it looked as though he had the lead into the first chicane but Gray just edged him out. Reed wasn’t about give best though and Stevens, Lilley, Whitehouse and Blanchard were all close behind. Coming across the start and finish line Reed thought to aim for the inside into the first corner but Gray moved well to the right to block before moving left to take the line into the corner. It was aggressive but fair enough. Just.
Humphreys was out after three. Not his day whilst Whitehouse and Blanchard got together, Whitehouse falling down the field whilst Blanchard would soon have to call it a day. Gray continued to lead with Reed still in close attendance followed by Lilley and Stevens. But who was this forcing his way into the action? Pilfold? Couldn’t be. But it was. All the way from the back of the grid to fifth and threatening the order. In consecutive laps he dealt with Stevens, Lilley and Reed to move into second. Could he take the win. Not quite, Gray hung on to take the win by just 0.012 from the flying Pilfold. The drive of the day thus far. Reed took a very good third after an accomplished drive which also netted him fastest lap from the flying Pilfold. Lilley kept Stevens at bay for fourth with Gurney sixth from Harvey. Whitehouse recovered to eighth with Brierley and Ingram rounding out the top ten. It was shaping up to be quite a final.
Faulkner got away well but Hunter was just a fraction quicker as they entered the first turn. Youle got the jump on McCullough with Pearce and Ziromskas running fifth and sixth. One down and Faulkner made his move into the final turn to lead but Hunter fought back to regain the lead only for Faulkner to dive down the inside at the final turn. This time he held it just a bit tighter forcing Hunter a little wide. McCullough meanwhile had taken Youle who had also been jumped by Pearce. Faulkner put the hammer down, growing the gap and setting fastest lap on the sixth tour, whilst Hunter was now having to defend from McCullough who duly made it through into second. Although he gave valiant chase Faulkner was controlling the pace and duly took the win. Hunter held third although Pearce was closing by the flag. Youle remained fifth ahead of Newman with Ziromskas seventh and then a fair gap to Collins who had made up four places from the start and just kept himself ahead of a real hard fight for ninth which finally fell to Jerger from Snape and Hudman.
Dimelow controlled the pace brilliantly as they came up to the start but all eyes were on Paterson starting from grid nineteen. Were we about to witness a legendary charge? It certainly looked that way as within three laps he was up to twelfth. Dimelow led from Yeomans with Sam Fisher third, Crutchley fourth and Friday sixth. Meanwhile Neil Fisher and Matt Thomas managed to trip over each other at the first chicane putting them both out. Both machines were dragged to safety whilst the two ‘pilotes’ sat for the rest of the afternoon chatting amiably whilst the race went on. There was also the amusing sight of the wind catching someone’s rib protector and blowing it over the course bringing out a yellow flag. Dimelow continued to eke out his lead chased hard by Yeomans who in turn had a gap to Fisher. Paterson was still charging through the field and was into the top ten but could he get closer to the front? No. Dimelow took the win from Yeomans with Fisher an untroubled third. Crutchley took fourth whilst Beroul-Smith jumped Richardson for fifth two from home. Friday took seventh ahead of the flying Paterson but the latter was excluded for overtaking under a yellow flag. Remember the yellow flag at the first turn? So Friday was promoted to seventh ahead of Rainbird and Lawrence with Mace in tenth who had at one time been as high as sixth before falling back after a coming together with Beroual-Smith. Needless to say both drivers had a different interpretation of events.
Barlow on pole then from Graham followed by Goodman and Algieri on row two. Huntley and Fox on three with leading Rookie Brown on four alongside Martin. Cole ninth with Championship leader Stansfield alongside and needing a strong race after his earlier dramas.
Sadly Graham’s race didn’t happen as his machine refused to fire up. A great shame this as a decent points haul would have seen him take over the Championship lead. Algieri got a flying start but locked up momentarily into the first turn allowing Barlow through into the lead with Goodman from Fox who had also made a great start. Over the first two laps the front three were beginning to pull a gap to Fox in third but then it all went wrong for Algieri. Coming out of Macwhirters he ran wide and was caught out by the high kerb spinning to the rear of the field. Immediately Goodman began to close on Barlow and Fox suddenly found a bit more pace and was with the leaders, just a shade too far back to mount a challenge but close enough to pick up the pieces if anything went wrong with the front two.
Behind these was real battle for fourth headed by Huntley from Martin, Brown, Stansfield and Rainbow who was looking particularly feisty. He picked off Stansfield and Brown and then engaged in fine dice with Martin which would see them swop places several times. One to go then and Barlow led across the line. Goodman though wanted the win and made to go up the inside into the hook. He didn’t make it. He’d been losing grip at the rear for several laps and it might have been wiser to have settled for second. Fortunately he only half spun but Barlow was away and Fox was through into second. And that was how they finished. But behind was yet more drama. Huntley looked safe in fourth but Martin was intent on taking fifth from Rainbow. The move didn’t stick and caused the two of them to lose places to Stansfield, Brown and Skye Siddall who drove a very strong race. Rainbow did at least have the satisfaction of setting fastest lap whilst Martin and Brown shared the Rookie fastest lap with Brown taking home the leading Rookie trophy. Morgan Cole was tenth with Algieri recovering to eleventh ahead of Euan Johnson. A bit of a disappointment this for Euan after a strong showing at Teesside. Llandow is not his favourite circuit.
Harry Barlow then on the top step of the podium for the second round in a row and promoting himself to second in the standings. Charlotte Fox’s second place was just reward for a very positive performance. She reckoned she was lucky to take second after Goodman’s error. Maybe, but to a large extent you make your own luck. She was there to profit and didn’t make any errors. Toby Goodman’s third place was good enough to vault him to the top of the standings. I can’t blame him for wanting to win but Championships can be won on very fine margins at times. Despite his non start in the final Harry Graham is holding down third in the standings from Scott Huntley. Tyrone Stansfield drops to fifth ahead of Matt Rainbow and Charlotte Fox with leading Rookie Will Martin eighth from Morgan Cole and Seb Algieri who despite finishing down the order at Llandow looked particularly strong this weekend.
Could anyone stop the Gray steamroller or would we see a repeat of Teesside? Gray led the field away from pole with Pilfold slotting in behind whilst Lilley got the jump on Reed for third with Stevens holding fifth ahead of Harvey. Gurney and Stanton tangled sending them both down the order. Stanton would soon retire. Over the line at the end of the first lap and Gray was already defending moving well to the right over the start/finish line before darting left to take the line into the first corner. Quite legitimate when your defending your position but a very risky strategy when your defending fresh air. Moving off line and then back on again carries the risk of collision unless you’re absolutely sure of where the other driver is. Lap after lap Gray used the same tactic but Pilfold was never on the inside. It was heart in the mouth stuff at times as Pilfold remained steadfastly on the racing line as Gray swooped across his nose missing him by a whisker. Lilley and Reed were also having a great battle for third but losing touch with the leaders whilst Harvey usurped Stevens for fifth.
As the race wound down Gray was defending now on the back straight moving well to the right to deter anyone coming up the inside before switching left to take the corner and then moving back across to defend across the line. It was going to take a brave move from Pilfold to grab the lead or a mistake from the leader. Reed fought back ahead of Lilley. Last couple of laps and from my vantage point Gray was massively over defending, turning his head from side to side, whilst Pilfold remained on the racing line. And Reed and Lilley were closing very rapidly. Last lap and Gray led over the line still defending the inside line when there was no need. Pilfold wasn’t there. Into Macwhirters and Gray went very narrow severely compromising his exit speed as Pilfold stuck to the line carrying him round the outside. Into Chandlers and Gray was again very narrow whilst Pilfold kept the momentum and executed a classic switchback move as they headed for the chicane. Contact was made but it appeared from where I stood more of a brush then an uncompromising punt. Pilfold was through though and defended cleverly down the back straight to take his maiden win from a very disgruntled Gray.
Reed claimed third after very strong drive ahead of Lilley with Harvey a lonely fifth from Whitehouse. Blanchard took seventh and second Rookie whilst Ingram placed eighth ahead of Stevens who faded somewhat towards the end. A decent performance though from Ella over the weekend. Campbell –Pilling rounded out the top ten ahead of Brierley, Humphreys’, who didn’t have the greatest weekend, Gurney and Stanley Smith. Louis Ross had gone out after five laps whilst Freddie Bates failed to start. A weekend for him to forget.
Despite Gray’s second place he has actually increased his lead in the Championship. It would be a brave man betting against him but there is still a long way to go. Pilfold is second with Reed third.
Faulkner got the better start to lead the field round the first lap but McCullough was right with him and as they came round for the second time he got a good exit from the chicane and was alongside well before the final turn. Sweet as you like he was through into lead and without too much defending to do on the exit. Pearce had moved himself up into third ahead of Hunter and Youle the latter then taking Hunter for fourth whilst Ziromskas was engaged in battle with Newman who had dispensed Jerger early on. But it was all eyes on the front as McCullough and Faulkner circulated just a couple of lengths apart. You knew Faulkner was going to make a move at some point and it was pretty clear where but when would it come? Four from home was the answer.
He came from a long way back on the straight and as they turned in contact was made, Faulkner briefly taking to the air but leading as they came out of the corner. But inevitably if you go up the inside and collide you are going to get penalised. Despite crossing the line first the two place deduction dropped him to third with McCullough taking the win and benefitting from a Faulkner error for the second time in three rounds. Pearce took second having driven very well. Always in touch but never a serious threat. Hunter took fourth some distance ahead of Newman who was in turn well clear of Youle in sixth. Ziromskas took seventh and might have been up to sixth had the race been a lap longer. Hudman took eighth leading Jerger, Darling and Snape over the line. Solid drives from all four.
Faulkner still leads the Championship despite making a few errors this season. He learns quickly though and I’m sure his edge won’t be blunted. He’s a racer. McCullough is second with Newman a little way adrift in third.
Yeomans and Crutchley both got great starts but Fisher was really on it and back into third by the end of the second lap. Similarly at the front Dimelow was by Yeomans into the lead and immediately began to pull away. Game over. Down the order Richardson was hard behind Crutchley with Rainbird and Beroual-Smith in close attendance. Friday lost out badly allowing Mace into the top ten but with the leaders stretching the gap between them and well clear of the pack all eyes were on reigning Champion Paterson. How much ground could he make up from the back of the grid after a horrible day?
Two thirds gone and the front three remained unchanged but Beroual-Smith was mounting a real challenge passing Crutchley and Richardson in one move for fourth but too far away from third to trouble the podium. Over the line then it was Dimelow for a relatively easy win from Yeomans who admitted that he didn’t have the pace. Sam Fisher took a fine, and very popular third after another lonely run. His best ever finish was a real crowd pleaser. Beroual-Smith held on to fourth. His best finish too whilst Richardson took fifth. More to come from these two I’m sure. Paterson drove a great damage limitation race to net sixth grabbing two vital places over the last couple of laps. Rainbird took seventh and the Grand Master honours with Crutchley fading to eighth over the last couple of laps. Neil Fisher and Lawrence rounded out the top ten.
A great win then for Dimelow who consolidates his position at the head of the Championship from Yeomans, Fisher and Beroual-Smith. Joe Paterson left Llandow last year feeling that his championship chances had ended after a disastrous meeting. This year’s wasn’t any better but I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
A great days racing then and superb weather for once in Wales where it always seems to rain. As ever the marshals, scrutineers, observers and Clerk of the course did a superb job. They won’t see everything and sometimes will get a different view but never doubt that they are always being scrupulously fair. And check out the great pics from Kartimage!
Roll on Ellough. Long trip but worth it !!!!
Images courtesy of Kartimage