Oulton Park, 24th March 2018
MORLEY MAKES AN EARLY START
Liam Morley started the defence of his F125 Open title with victory in the opening round. Unfortunately, the chance of making it a double were scuppered when two red flags caused the abandonment of race 2.
A new season with new drivers, new colour schemes, new chassis and new numbers. The event format was the same with a free practice and qualifying session of 15 minutes each and two 15-minute races. Overnight rain had left the track wet for the free session, which saw Sam Moss top the time sheet ahead of Matt Robinson and Ian Larder. With no further rain the track dried in time for the timed qualifying session. Kirk Cattermole set the initial pace before Morley struck back with a lap underneath the lap record. He improved 2 laps later to secure pole position with a 1m 43.738s and then pitted with five minutes of the session remaining, satisfied that he couldn’t be beaten. Robinson was also under the lap record with the benefit of new tyres and posted a 1m 44.506s.
Cattermole lapped consistently, but without a tow managed a 1m 44.656s for third quickest. Joining him on row 2 was English Champion Lee Harpham. Having tried the MS chassis at Snetterton the week before he reverted back to the Anderson and set a 1m 44.771s. Moss (1m 44.898s) and Larder (1m 45.129s) completed the top six. Chris Needham was back on an Anderson chassis after using the Silverstone in 2017 but was struggling with carburation issues on the IAME. After a few visits to the pits he finally went out near the end of the session, but red flags ruined a chance to set a quick time and he ended up 16th. Danny Butler was another ex-champion in trouble. The left hand rear tyre went flat on the opening lap. After crawling back to the pits and inflating the tyre he only got as far as Shell Oils Corner before it went flat again. No time recorded, the lap record holder would have a lot of work to do from the back of the grid.
The grid was reduced to 22 before the start of Race 1 when Alan Crossen pulled out from row 4 with a brake pad issue and Clint Bridge couldn’t get his TM motor to clear on the warm-up lap. When the lights went out, Morley made the most of pole position to lead into Old Hall while Harpham squeezed into second place ahead of Robinson who ran wide on the exit. This allowed Moss and Larder to get a better run down through Dentons and into Cascades and Robinson found himself down in 5th place. Cattermole made a slow start from row 2 while Needham had made up 5 places on the run into the first corner. Morley had a two-length lead into Hislops chicane for the first time, but it was now Moss and Larder that were chasing having relegated Harpham down to fourth place.
The positions were unchanged at the end of the opening lap with Cattermole in 6th place and rookie team mate Anderson Chilcott next through. Butler’s bad day continued when the rear tyre went flat again and he pulled into the pits at the end of lap 1 to retire. While Morley and Moss edged clear, the battle for third place was hotting up. Harpham dived inside Larder at Old Hall starting lap 3 to take the spot and held it until the exit of Cascades when Larder went past. Robinson got a great run out of the corner and also relegated Harpham and then ran side by side with Larder through Island Bend taking third on the entry to Shell. He then set about closing the gap to Moss but at the exit of Druids the EGT sensor blew out of the exhaust and he cruised into the pits to retire. Moss was keeping Morley in sight, but then the champion started lapping in the 43’s and the gap increased rapidly. A new lap record was set on the penultimate lap and at the flag Morley had an advantage of nearly seven seconds.
Maximum points and the best start possible to the defence of the title. Moss was content with second place and looking forward to the next race hoping to put more pressure on the winner. Third place was still in doubt up to the flag. Cattermole closed onto the back of Harpham and took the place on lap 7. But Harpham fought back. Starting the last lap, they ran side by side through Old Hall with Harpham coming out ahead on the run down to Cascades. Over Hill Top they came across a slower kart and Harpham went for the gap while Cattermole was a bit cautious. That gave the Anderson driver an advantage that he held to the flag to take third spot by 1.851s. Larder lost touch with this pair during the closing laps but was in a safe fifth spot. Chilcott had looked good in sixth place but then started to slow when a coil wire broke and he retired with two laps to go. Andy Connor inherited the place after coming through the pack from a poor start with Needham closing on him during the final stages after his IAME overfuelled on lap 2 and he stormed back from 14th place.
Race One (9 laps)
1 Liam Morley (Anderson DEA) 15m 40.076s (92.78mph)
2 Sam Moss (Anderson DEA) 15m 47.004s
3 Lee Harpham (Anderson TM) 15m 50.244s
4 Kirk Cattermole (Raider CAT IAME)
5 Ian Larder (Anderson TM)
6 Andrew Connor (Anderson Redspeed TM)
Record Lap Morley 1m 43.492s (93.64mph)
The start of race 2 was a bit delayed due to stoppages in the car races but when the start was finally signaled Morley led into Old Hall for the first time followed by Moss. That was still the order at the end of the opening lap with Cattermole, Harpham, Larder, Needham and Robinson completing the train. On the next lap at the exit of Shell Larder was tapped into a spin and rolled back into the path of Robinson. Matt took avoiding action but hit the barriers hard on the left-hand side. Moss took the lead at Hislops as Morley faltered and at the end of two laps the reigning champion was down in third place, his DEA starting to misfire. Fortunately, for his sake the red flags came out to remove Robinson’s kart from a dangerous position. Matt was a bit battered and bruised but thankfully walked away from the incident. While everyone lined up on the start line for the re-start, Morley dived into the pits. The battery had gone flat and the team hastily changed to a charged one.
However, it meant that he would have to start from the pit lane. Larder and Cattermole also pulled into pit lane to retire after earlier contact. With the light starting to fade the decision was made to re-run over 10 minutes and the clock was ticking when the pace car set off. This was going to be a 5-lap dash. Moss took the lead from Harpham into Old Hall while Alan Crossen had got a superb start from row 6 to take third place. Harpham crossed the line at the end of lap one from Moss but there was an ominous gap before Jonathan Bell came through in third place. Crossen and Needham had gone off at Druids and the red flags were shown again. With the noise curfew upon us there was no chance of another re-start and the race was declared void. Despite damage to both karts, both Crossen and Needham also walked away. However, with the next round in 3 weeks’ time there were going to be some busy days getting ready.
BSA F125 Open Championship Points after 1 round
1 Liam Morley 40pts
2 Sam Moss 35
3 Lee Harpham 32
4 Kirk Cattermole 30
5 Ian Larder 28
6 Andrew Connor 26
BSA F125 Cup Points after 1 round
1 Ian Larder 40pts
2 Luke Clemson 35
3 Paul von Gerard 32
Words by Gary James
Images by Dave Robinson