29th APRIL 2017 – CROFT
BIRD FLIES AS LAYTON EXTENDS SERIES LEAD
Andy Bird took overall honours and collected his first ever MSA Championship win. However, it was Jack Layton who extended his lead in the series after his closest rivals struck trouble.
With the championship an infrequent visitor to Croft there were a lot of drivers who had never raced at the circuit before. Among them was reigning champion Jack Layton who described the track as ‘a bit brutal’. The consensus was that the surface had got bumpier and the lap record may be unchallenged. There was a 12-minute qualifier to determine grid positions and local driver James O’Reilly, now on an Anderson chassis, set the early pace. He was briefly headed but responded with a time of 1m22.813s to secure pole position before pitting with just over two minutes to go when the nosecone came loose. Andy Bird is another driver that has switched to an Anderson chassis this season. He had a bit of an issue at Sunny but collected it all together to post a time of 1m23.430s for a place on the front row. Jack Layton was into the pits after three laps of the session to make adjustments and on his first flying lap set a 1m23.578s with just over a minute left on the clock. But he was beaten for third spot on the grid by Ross Allen who posted a 1m23.563s on the final lap. Despite losing oil pressure and blowing a KTM engine in free practice the day before, Stephen Clark was easily the quickest of the four strokes and inside the lap record to set a time of 1m23.706s and head the third row. He was joined by Paul Platt. Now back on his favourite PVP chassis, he did a 1m23.908s despite the kart being tail end happy due to an oil leak. Gavin Bennett was trying a few chassis tweeks and ended up seventh quickest on a 1m23.909s, with Dan Clark next on 1m 24.619s and struggling to get his Anderson to turn in despite moving the seat to give more bite on the front end.
The grid was in good order as it approached the line for race 1 and when the lights went out it was O’Reilly who took the lead. Dan Clark made a lightning start from row 4 and slotted in second place but behind him it all kicked off. Layton ran a bit wide on the exit of Clervaux, his new tyres not giving him the expected grip, and this allowed Bird and James through while Hatfield spun in the middle of the pack. Gulliford ran over his nosecone and was launched into the air but continued. Unlike Burton who also spun and was collected by Haywood. Burton was out with a puncture caused by a damaged rim while Haywood continued at the back of the field.
Layton’s first lap went from bad to worse when he went off at Sunny and he completed the opening lap in 11th place. Up at the front O’Reilly had opened a lead of 1.584s over Bird with Clark and Bennett locked together. James was next with Stephen Clark the lead 450 just ahead of Allen. O’Reilly set his best race lap on lap 2 as he doubled his lead to over three seconds while Bennett pulled off at Hawthorn with an electrical problem.
Dan Clark got better drive out of the hairpin on lap 3 and he was alongside Bird as they started the next lap, taking second place at Clervaux. He now set about closing the gap to O’Reilly and put in the fastest lap of the race on lap 5. Over the next couple of laps Clark chipped away. Exiting the hairpin on lap 8 O’Reilly made contact with Andy Johnson while trying to lap him but kept going, however his lead was down to 1.988s as he started the last lap. Once past Johnson, O’Reilly had clear track and put in a quick lap to increase his lead and take the flag 2.530s ahead. An excellent result on his new Anderson chassis using the Ian Harrison designed Viper engine. Clark was fairly happy with second place, although the handling wasn’t perfect. Bird lost ground in the closing laps as his tyres were well past their best but was far enough ahead to claim third place. Allen was heading for fourth but his DEA piston broke with three laps to go. When Gareth James passed Stephen Clark on the final lap he inherited the place. Layton worked his way through after his first lap excursions and despite handling issues finished sixth on the road. Championship rival Platt was next, but over 5s behind after a crankcase oil seal failed.
With fastest lap from the earlier race, Dan Clark was on pole for race 2 and made the most of that position at the start. He led through Clervaux for the first time chased by O’Reilly, Bird, Platt and Layton. However, Clark’s time at the front was short-lived as O’Reilly took over the top spot during the opening lap with Bird slotting into second place. With newer tyres fitted, Bird wasn’t going to let O’Reilly get away this time and Platt joined the battle for the lead on lap 3 when he set the fastest lap of the race. But his charge came to nothing when a chain tensioner broke on the following lap and he started to tumble down the order.
Gavin Bennett was making up places from his row 8 starting place and by lap 4 he was on Platt’s tail in fourth spot after passing Layton at the hairpin. This became third on the next lap but he was over 4 1/2s behind the leaders.
Bird took the lead on lap 5 but couldn’t shake off O’Reilly. However, starting the last lap the gap had grown. O’Reilly was in trouble and judging by the sound coming from the Viper engine it was easy to guess that the exhaust had broken. Bird reeled off the final lap and punched the air as he crossed the line to record his first ever MSA British Superkart Championship victory. “It’s my first wedding anniversary today and my wife would only allow me to race this weekend provided I came home with a win. Job done.”
O’Reilly struggled round the final lap with a gaping split in the exhaust and eventually crossed the line fifth behind Stephen Clark, the 450cc class winner. Bennett’s drive from 16th on the grid was rewarded with the runner-up slot ahead of Layton whose Anderson was handling slightly better after the team had made some changes. Gareth James had another solid race and passed Dan Clark on the penultimate lap. The Redspeed driver couldn’t get the kart to handle properly and was unable to match his earlier pace, only losing out to James at the flag by 0.1s. Platt soldiered on with the broken chain tensioner affecting acceleration out of the slow corners. He eventually finished 10th in class and more importantly handed Layton a 16-point advantage in the championship. There is still a long way to go.
Race One (9 laps) 1 James O’Reilly (Anderson Viper) 12m35.771s (91.10mph); 2 Dan Clark (Anderson Gas Gas) +2.530s; 3 Andy Bird (Anderson Gas Gas); 4 Gareth James (Anderson DEA); 5 Jack Layton (Anderson DEA); 6 Paul Platt (PVP Gas Gas). Fastest Lap Clark 1m22.806s (92.38mph).
Race Two (9 laps) 1 Andy Bird (Anderson Gas Gas) 12m31.514s (91.61mph); 2 Gavin Bennett (Anderson DEA) + 6.444s; 3 Jack Layton (Anderson DEA); 4 James O’Reilly (Anderson Viper); 5 Gareth James (Anderson DEA); 6 Dan Clark (Anderson Gas Gas). Fastest Lap Paul Platt 1m22.432s (92.80mph).
Championship Positions after 4 rounds
1 Jack Layton 135 pts
2= Paul Platt 119
2= Dan Clark 119
4 Andy Bird 104
5 Gareth James 98
6 Gavin Bennett 95
Words by Gary James
Photography By Nick Purdie
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