Anglesey 2nd & 3rd September 2017
Clark Edges Closer Title
Dan Clark continued his advance to the MSA Championship with a win and two other podium finishes. In difficult conditions, he took overall honours in some very close racing.
The MSA Championship returned to Anglesey for its annual visit on the Coastal Circuit and the infamous Corkscrew. After a free practice session, there was a twelve-minute timed qualifying session. It was interesting to see the main championship rivals Dan Clark, Jack Layton and Gavin Bennett start the session line astern. However, Bennett only got as far as the Banking on the opening lap before the battery went flat. Without a time to his name he would be starting at the back of the grid. Clark and Layton continued to run close together and it was the Redspeed driver who was the first to dip under the 1m5s bracket.
His lap of 1m 04.630s was good enough to take pole position before pitting 5 laps later. “I am happy with the chassis and engine and didn’t want to show my hand in the early laps as Jack was right behind me.” Layton felt that his DEA was running a bit on the rich side as he chased the Gas Gas and put in a 1m 04.917s before he followed Clark into the pits. After a couple of adjustments, he went out again but left it too late to improve. In the meantime, Andy Bird put in three quick laps and pipped Layton to the other front row slot with a time of 1m04.891s. Paul Platt spent a bit of time in the pits but put in a quicker lap at the end of the session to record 1m04.987s and line up alongside Layton on row 2. James O’Reilly headed the next row on 1m 05.606s and he was joined by the quickest of the 450’s, Andy Gulliford who recorded a 1m 06.079s.
The grid exited the Corkscrew and when the lights went out at the start of race 1 it was Clark who led them away and round to the Banking. While the leaders were through the first corner there was a scattering of karts in the midfield when Ross Allen, Gareth James and Andy Waite spun. They all managed to continue while Steve Burton went off trying to avoid them and was out. Clark crossed the line at the end of the opening lap with an advantage of 0.546s. O’Reilly had make a great start from the third row and held second place but then the Viper motor seized on the approach to the Banking and his race was over. That elevated Platt into second spot ahead of Bird, Layton, Gulliford, Stephen Clark and Sifleet. The pace of the Gas Gas motors was drawing Clark and Platt away from Layton who was struggling to keep Bird behind him. “I was losing out when they went from 4th to 5th gear out of Church and along the back straight,” explained the reigning champion. Bird went past on lap 4 at Rocket but he was two seconds behind the lead pair.
Platt had been biding his time and went ahead of Clark into Rocket on lap 8 followed by Bird who had closed the gap dramatically and set the fastest lap of the race. On the next lap Bird tried a pass on Platt into Rocket but didn’t want to take his team mate off and hung back. On the final lap he was too far behind to make another attempt and Platt crossed the line to win by 0.445s. Clark thought he could get ahead of the pair but had to settle for third spot just over a second behind. There was joy in parc ferme afterwards as this was the first time there had been a 1-2-3 for the Redspeed team. John Riley was over the moon. Layton was suffering from a bit of understeer at the top of the hill and collected fourth place but was five seconds behind Clark. Stephen Clark took fifth place and maximum points in the 450cc after rival Gulliford understeered off at the exit of turn 1 on lap 4. “I was trying Hoosiers for the first time. The chassis needs a bit more set up so I pulled in as it wasn’t worth continuing.” Bennett did well to keep out of trouble on the opening lap and was up to 14th spot. He dispensed with the midfield runners by lap 4 and chased after Sifleet, finally grabbing sixth place on the last lap.
What a difference a day makes. After the bright sunshine on Saturday the circuit was shrouded in rain on Sunday. Sensibly, everyone was given two warm up laps to acclimatise to conditions. Bird was on pole position for race 2 with Platt alongside. But coming out of the last corner on the approach to the lights Platt’s Gas Gas motor died. The ignition box had failed. Somehow everyone managed to avoid the stranded kart. Bennett took advantage of the gap that appeared in front of him and led away followed by Clark and Bird. Stephen Clark saw an opportunity along the back straight and charged up the inside on the approach to Rocket. But he had picked up a puncture and skated off at the top of the hill just missing the leaders.
Layton was forced wide in avoidance. At the end of the opening lap Bennett led Dan Clark with Bird, Layton and Gulliford nose to tail. Stephen Clark pitted for a new tyre and lost three laps in the process. His cousin was making no mistakes and passed Bennett on lap 2 to take the lead. Layton also moved up a place but then ran wide at Rocket and dropped back behind Bird. Bennett set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4 but was only marginally quicker than Clark. The Redspeed driver controlled the race and thought he had pulled out a gap over the others. “But when I looked over my shoulder they were still there.” The trio closed up on the final lap when they encountered traffic but Clark took an important win by 0.488s from Bennett with Bird only another 0.261s adrift. “I got the gearing wrong and it wouldn’t pull along the back straight so I couldn’t get past Gavin,” explained Bird later. Layton had to settle for another fourth place with Gulliford take the 450cc class win in fifth place. Aaron Sifleet was heading for sixth place but dropped to the back of the field on lap 6 allowing Ross Allen to come through and hold that position to the flag.
The weather had improved for race 3 but the track was still greasy. Bennett made no mistakes from pole position and led the field into turn 1. Clark’s Gas Gas ‘popped and banged off the line’ and he lost ground while Platt, starting from the back of the grid, again suffered with an ignition problem and pulled off soon after the start. Bennett led at the end of the opening lap with Gulliford up to second place from the third row of the grid. Bird had Layton on his tail then it was Allen and the two Clark’s, Dan ahead of Stephen. Bennett set the fastest lap of the race as early as lap 2 and continued to extend his lead from then on. His final winning margin was nearly twelve seconds. “We tried a few changes and they worked,” he said later. Gulliford looked comfortable in second place and was under no pressure from behind until Bird flew past on lap 7. Bird couldn’t relax as the four stroke was still on his tail as they started the last lap with Layton and Dan Clark two and a half seconds behind and having their own dice. Up at Rocket for the final time Bird lost the back end of the Anderson on the exit, or was he distracted by a wayward seagull. Gulliford spun to avoid him and Layton and Clark nipped past the pair of them.
Clark chose the inside line and found himself in second place with Layton going around the outside of the two karts to claim third spot. Clark held on to his second place and crossed the line 0.327s ahead of the reigning champ while Bird and Gulliford recovered to finish just behind them. James O’Reilly had been heading for sixth place but his miserable weekend continued when the fuel cut off valve stuck and flooded the motor with one lap to go. Allen inherited the place with Stephen Clark finishing seventh. “We got the gearing wrong but I knew that second place in class would be enough to keep me on track for the 450cc championship.” However, it was cousin Dan that had the biggest grin knowing that he could wrap up the MSA Championship at Oulton in October having come close in the past.
MSA British Superkart Championship Positions after 11 rounds (Best 10 scores to count)
1 Dan Clark 343 pts
2 Jack Layton 296
3 Gavin Bennett 293
4 Andy Bird 282
5 Paul Platt 267
6 Ross Allen 214
Words by Gary James