With the festivities now a distant memory it was time to get back racing at Whilton Mill for Round 1 of the 2015 Championship.
It was great to say the ‘home of karting’ was back with it’s old name restored and within excess of 200 drivers entered there was no reason that this round was going to be anything but exciting. There were some changes to the format in that all the points the drivers scored in the heats would go towards the Championship so there was now no hiding and every single race was just as important as any other. So with all that in mind, let’s find out what happened…..
Honda Cadet A FinalThe first final of the day came from the Honda Cadet’s and with 33 drivers lined up on the grid, history hinted that this was going to be a cracker. On pole position was last years champion Henry Laws who had picked up from where he finished, Laws took a win, a 2nd and a 4th in the heats, which is a truly amazing effort considering the amount of entries. Alongside him was the number 9 seed of Alex Lloyd, who has decided to give the class another go and may have just made the right decision. Now with some of the countries finest in the class moving up into different classes this left room for some new faces to come towards the front of the field in the shape of Knight and Cunnington as well as Stevenson and Burgess who started on row 3. One man to watch would be Louie Short (last years Vice Champion) who if not for a DNF in heat 1 would have found himself well within the top 6. As the race got underway it was a fairly clean start for all involved, sadly Restall made it no further than turn 2, at the front we were left with a breakaway group of 3, which contained Laws, Stevenson and Lloyd in that order. But it didn’t stay like that for long as the next lap Lloyd passed Stevenson for 2nd who was struggling for pace in the early stages and was passed by Short and Cunnington a couple of laps later. Short and Cunnington pushed on and quickly found themselves behind the lead pair of Laws and Lloyd, behind Stevenson was dropping further back and now found himself in no mans land. So with Lloyd, in 2nd, coming under increasing pressure from Short and Cunnington behind he had two options, take the lead or lose 2nd he of course took the first option and passed Laws for the lead with Short following him through. It got worse for Laws who a couple of laps later found himself losing another place, this time to Cunnington, all this battling between the lead group was allowing Stevenson in 5th to catch up and he was bringing with him Brown and McQueen. Now into the business end of things we were reduced to a lead group of three as Laws’s pace was dropping dramatically and his 4th place was looking in serious danger. Back at the front and Cunnington’s patience with Short had ran out and he passed him for 2nd with now just one lap to go! Behind things were just as exciting with four karts battling for 4th place with Laws leading, Stevenson, Brown and McQueen in close pursuit. The last lap was nothing short of exciting with Lloyd defending for all his worth, he had done so faultlessly and with just the boot to go Cunnington was clearly thinking about the lead and forgot about Short behind. Cunnington went for the switch back coming out the boot but in doing so left the door open to Short who snatched 2nd from him this left Lloyd taking a close, but well deserved victory! Behind Brown pulled off a sensational lap passing both Stevenson and Laws to take 4th, Laws had very different fortunes and dropped to the back of the group to finish 7th. Stevenson held position to take 5th with McQueen gaining one place on the last lap to finish 6th. Theo Micouris gained 3 places to finish 24th and take the novice victory (5 places ahead of his rivals) with Ollie Marsh being the biggest mover of the race gaining 12 places to finish 10th.
Iame Cadet A FinalSo after a thrilling start to the finals it was time to move on to our second and final cadet race of the day the Iame Cadet A Final. Like the Honda’s we had 33 drivers on the grid with some of the nations finest coming along to have a play. On the front row were perhaps two unfamiliar names in Lorcan Hanafin and Joe Taylor with just three points separating the pair. On row two was Archie Mace who was joined by the British Open Champion Jonny Edgar. And finally on row three two more names unfamiliar to the sharp end in Brandon Martland and Maxwell Dodds, one man to watch would be last years Vice Champion Reggie Duhy who would start from the outside of row 5. It was an aggressive start to say the least by pole-man Hanafin who did everything right to hold onto his lead with Taylor slotting in behind. You’d have to wait nearly two more seconds before you’d find Edgar in 3rd who had pretty much the entirety of the field in close company behind. Taylor was in no mood to work with Hanafin ahead and took the lead straight away, behind Edgar was looking very fast as he and Martland detached themselves from the peloton behind, which was now lead by Duhy. Despite passing Hanafin Taylor could not break away at the front and it looked like the pair were set to become a trio with Edgar setting some stonking laps behind, which Martland was finding difficult to hold on to. By lap 6 Edgar had completed the chase and was now right on the back of the lead two and the question everyone was asking was how long will it take him to pass the lead pair, the answer, just one lap! By lap 7 Edgar took the lead but it didn’t last long as his Fusion team-mate Taylor took it straight back from him the next lap. Edgar however was not going to be settling for 2nd he took the lead back on the next lap, all of this battling came as good news to Martland who now found himself part if the lead group with just 3 laps to go. Further back Duhy lay a lonely 5th and would have been hoping for a battle to commence ahead to give him a chance of a podium and another man catching people’s attention was Bray Keneally who from p16 was now in 6th and a very comfortable one in that. So as the last lap board went out half a second covered the top 4 and it was anyone’s race to win, Edgar who lead, defended for all his worth with Taylor, Hanafin end Martland all in behind squabbling for positions. Edgar’s experience however shone through, he defended faultlessly and was handed the race after Martland pulled off me what was one of the best moves of the day. With Taylor and Hanafin ahead defending furiously through 8 Hanafin went for the outside and managed to come out onto the back straight in 2nd. This left Edgar with just enough of a gap to take the victory, Martland held onto 2nd and would have been delighted, Taylor managed to take 3rd with Hanafin finishing 4th, but only just as Duhy eventually was only 0.2 seconds of the lead group and if the race went on for one more lap things may have been very different for last years Vice Champion. Bray Keneally finished a deserted 6th and was the biggest mover gaining 10 places with the novice victory going to Bowen Kent who put an excellent display gaining 4 places to finish 22nd.
Mini Max A FinalMini Max turned out yet another huge grid with again 33 drivers on the grid and after two excellent races so far I’m sure this one would undoubtedly be following in the footsteps. On pole position was Keirn Jewiss who has showed no signs in struggling to adapt to the Mini Max Class and astonishingly managed to take all 3 wins in the heats! Alongside him and now a year into his Mini Max career was William Pettit who is showing he could be a man to watch on the national scene this year. On row two it was the number 9 seed Jordan Collard, alongside him was the ever improving Connor McCarthy and on row three was one driver fresh to the class in the shape of Alex McDade with Morgan Porter alongside who has already proved his credentials on this track last season. Starting 7th was last years Champion Lochlan Bearman. It was no surprise at the start to see Kiern Jewiss quickly give himself some breathing space, leading the chasing pack behind was Collard with McDade, McCarthy and Porter completing the group. Thomas Byrne was briefly part of that group but his race unfortunately came to an end as did Kimber’s and Turney’s just a lap later. However the biggest loser out of the whole field had to be front row starter Pettit who dropped all the way back to 22nd on the opening lap and now had a lot of work to do. The second lap, however, the race completely turned on its head, for whatever reason the grip on the track completely went and it started at the first part of the boot. Clueless to this was leader Jewiss who hit it first and took a spin, he was followed off into the grass by a number of drivers and the man who benefited from it all was Collard who now found himself leading by over a second. Filling 2nd place was McCarthy with Porter in just behind, and a further two seconds back was French man Charpentier and Butterfield who formed row 7 at the start of the race. So with drivers now switching to the wet lines the race turned chaotic for a few laps with a number of moves completed all the way through the field. By lap 4 Jewiss found himself in 8th place after just passing Bearman, he then quickly added Phillips, Charpentier, Porter and McDade to that list after passing the quartet in successive laps. So with the conditions now back to normal the times started to tumble again and the situation of the race looked like this, Collard had checked out at the front and would need a mechanical to lose the race, Butterfield was in a fairly comfortable 2nd Jewiss was 3rd with McDade, Charpentier, Bearman, Porter and Phillips all in behind. However it did not stay like this for long Jewiss started to put the hammer down closing the 0.7 seconds gap between himself and Butterfield before passing him a lap later and he brought with him McDade who now lay in 3rd place. With only 3 laps now remaining and a gap of two seconds stood between Jewiss and the leader Collard and you felt Jewiss had no chance of victory so his aim was now to consolidate 2nd which he did so immediately pulling out a 1 second gap over his competitors in just one lap. Collard took the victory in the end by 1.4 seconds with Jewiss a comfortable but I’m sure disappointed 2nd place, however behind things were not so simple. As we started the last lap we had a two kart battle for 3rd containing McDade and Charpentier and a four kart battle for 5th which was made up by Butterfield, Bearman, Porter and Phillips. In the end it was Charpentier who took the last spot on the podium stealing it from McDade and in the battle for 5th it was Butterfield who came out on top with Porter, Phillips and Bearman completing the top 8. However after the race McDade was given a 5 place penalty for circuit limits which demoted him to 9th place. The novice victory went to Bailey Bateman who gained a place to finish 25th and the biggest mover of the race was the lady driver Brooke Childs who gained 13 places to finish 16th.
Junior Rotax A FinalNext on the track was Junior Rotax and it was arguably the best grid of the day with some of Europe’s best drivers coming to compete for round 1 victory. On pole position was Jonathon Hoggard who has put himself as one to watch for the future with his outstanding achievements in Mini Max last year. Alongside him was a man who had been turning heads all weekend in Aaron Drury, Charlie Cudlipp started from the inside of row two with Oliver York starting alongside who would be an interesting one to watch and on row three it was Harry Gooding and the Arden youngster Ross Martin. The three seeded drivers in the race Tom Gamble (3), Jack McCarthy (4) and Zak Fulk (5) started from 7th, 21st and 25th places respectively and I’m sure would be providing some entertainment to the growing spectators. It was an eventful start to the race to say the least with a handful of drivers coming off at the first three corners, among them was Brookes and the two LT Motorsport team-mates Musk and Matschull who found themselves watching from the sidelines, leaving the front of the field fairly spread out. Hoggard had no problems however and lead from Cudlipp and Drury who were half a second back, Whitbread was a lonely 4th with Martin leading a huge train of karts in 5th place. The biggest gainers on the opening lap were McCarthy and Brown who from 21st and 22nd on the grid were now in 7th and 8th places. The pair then started to take advantage of their good fortunes the next lap, McCarthy passed both Brown-Nutley and team-mate Ross Martin with Brown also managing to pass the latter. At the front Hoggard was slowly managing to increase his gap over Cudlipp and Drury, behind Whitbread’s 4th place was looking under threat with McCarthy closing in on every lap. Realising this Whitbread increased his place and by lap 5 he caught Drury but now had McCarthy right in behind. Failing to pass, McCarthy made quick work of Whitbread and was handed another place as Cudlipp became involved in an incident dropping him to 11th place. On the same lap Brown-Nutley and Brown had also managed to pass Whitbread with Drury next on the list for the trio. Two laps later Drury’s time in 2nd place came to an end with both McCarthy and Brown-Nutley passing him, Brown still lay well and truly in the mix in 5th and in 6th place was 24th place starter Zak Fulk who had a second between himself and Brown ahead. So far Hoggard had been untroubled out in front but unfortunately for him his odds of winning the race had now dropped as he had quickest man on the track McCarthy behind, so Hoggard needed to find some extra pace from somewhere. Unfortunately for any Hoggard fans that did not happen, as with two laps to go he was passed by McCarthy and Brown-Nutley who had been working together marvellously. Behind you couldn’t rule Drury, Brown and now Fulk out either who were still all in with a shout of a podium, in fact the top six were covered by around 1.5 seconds so from a neutral point of view it was game on! The top six all defended furiously on the last lap but coming out Chapman’s Hoggard found himself having no shot at a win so defended for 3rd position, ahead this gave Brown-Nutley a chance to perform a switch back on leader McCarthy. However McCarthy was not going to be beaten and won the race and was the biggest mover gaining 20 places! Brown-Nutley took a well deserved 2nd place with Hoggard doing a great job to round off the podium in 3rd. Drury in the end took 4th place with Brown 5th and Fulk a close 6th place, the novice victory went to James White who gained five places to finish 24th.
Junior X30 A FinalNow four finals down we moved on to what looked like the most open final of all Junior X30. We had an astonishing 31 drivers on the grid which I think is the most ever for the class in any UK Club terms and with drivers coming from all different classes it was hard to pick a clear favourite. The man in pole-position was Cadet graduate Callum Bradshaw who had done a fantastic job in the heats taking two wins and a 3rd, alongside him was a very exciting prospect in Arran Mills who is the reigning British Champion in Junior TKM. Row two was completed by Cadet graduate Angus Fender and former TKM driver Ethan Pitt, with the reigning Iame Cadet Champion Harry Platten and Jake Bowman forming the third row. Last years Champion in the class, Philip Hanson, would be one to watch starting from p7. Bradshaw made no mistakes at the start holding his own, Mills slotted in just behind with Fender a close 3rd, Platten was a further 1.1 seconds back in 4th and was closely joined by Pitt. The top 3 stayed absolutely together for the next couple of laps with all drivers waiting for each other to make the first move, eventually it was Mills who stood up and took the lead with Fender following him through to take 2nd. In all of the place swapping the top 3 had now found themselves fairly spread out with Bradshaw looking the slowest out of the three. So with things settled out in front it felt like a good time to turn our attention to the battle for 4th which was still being lead by Platten, Pitt still lay in 5th but was about to come under pressure from Hanson and on the fifth lap Hanson was passed and now set out to close down Platten. And it didn’t take him long! Just two laps later Hanson had completed the chase and was now into the top four, but would have a tough job making the podium which was a further two seconds up the road. Looking further down the order and one driver catching the attention of the on looking spectators was the lady driver Bryony King who after a surprising 25th place start was now up to 17th and did not look like stopping there! There was action everywhere you looked in Junior X30 race but the next lap one drivers race was turned on it’s head. After driving faultlessly for 8 laps Fender lay in 2nd and was still within half a second of the leader Mills but on lap 9 coming out of turn 2 Fender ran wide and this dropped him back to 5th with Bradshaw, Hanson and Platten the beneficiaries. Fender, however, wasted no time in getting his recovery started and quickly passed Platten for 4th but would find it hard to go any further as he now lay 2 seconds off the podium places. Things got worse for Platten the next lap as he was again passed this time by Bowman who’s race was finally starting to come together. So in the end it was Mills who a dominant victory, Bradshaw just managed to hold onto 2nd with Hanson finishing 3rd, Fender finished 4th with Bowman 5th and Platten in 6th place. Bryony King was the biggest mover of the race gaining 12 places to finish 13th.
Rotax Max A FinalThe penultimate race of the day was the Rotax Max A Final and it was a pleasant surprise to welcome 23 drivers to the grid in what continues to be a stable class despite the rise of the X30 engines. On pole position was the familiar face of Kieran Gifford who took a win in the heats alongside him was a new face in Jonathon Paylor who was looking to upset some of the local favourites. On row two it was Levi King and another familiar face in Sam Smelt and completing the top six starters was Marcus Pett and Brett Ward. Two men to watch out for lower down the order were the number six and last years Rotax Max International Open Champion Josh Price and the number 11 of Jack Constable. It was a very close start with no driver wanting to settle for 2nd, eventually it was King who came out of all the melee in the lead and he was closely followed by Gifford, Pett and Smelt. A further two seconds back was the fast starting Price who had Ward and Wright for close company among others. The next lap the battle among the top four assumed with Gifford taking the lead away from King, with Smelt passing Pett for 3rd the next lap. All of the jostling among the top four was allowing Price to catch up and at a very fast rate of knots, by lap four the number six had already caught and moved into 4th at the expense of Pett. Seeing the danger behind Smelt took the lead away from Gifford in an attempt to make a break for it but his gamble did not pay off as the next lap he was shuffled right back to 4th place. The race was fascinating to watch and the fans were being treated as now two more drivers were thrown into the lead group in the shape of Ward and Constable. As we hit the half way stage of the race Price had finally made his way past 11 drivers and was now into the lead and you’d have expected him to pull away comfortably. Someone needed to step up in the lead group and try and stick with him and it was Smelt who took up that role after taking 2nd place off King the next lap, so the question now was could he hold on? The answer yes, the two pulled away as the group behind started to battle with King and Gifford trading places on almost every lap. So with five laps to go the situation in the battle for 3rd looked like this, King lead the group with Pett in 4th, Gifford was 5th, Constable was now 6th with Ward, Wright and Neil now also earning their ticket to this growing establishment. However in the next two laps things changed quite drastically, King managed to detach himself away from the group and into a comfortable 3rd, behind Gifford ran into some trouble and dropped back to 9th with Constable having very different fortunes moving through to 4th passing Pett along the way. Back to the leaders and things were the closest they had ever been and on the penultimate lap Price left the door open coming down the hill and you felt that would be Smelt’s only chance to pass such an experienced driver and he did so successfully. Now in the lead it was all down to could Smelt hold on? He just had one lap to do it and coming out the last corner the pair run side by side and it felt like watching the grand national rather than a kart race, but it was Smelt who bagged himself the victory by just five hundredths of a second! Price would have perhaps been a little bit gutted with 2nd but I’m sure would have held his hands up in this instance. King in the end was only half a second behind the leaders in 3rd, Constable 4th, Pett 5th Ward 6th, Wright 7th, Neil 8th and Gifford a disappointing 9th.
Senior X30 A FinalThe seventh and final race of the day was the Senior X30 A Final and it was great to see yet another record grid for the class with 14 drivers lining up ready to take to the track. There was a good chance we could have saved the most interesting race to last with the vast majority of the field making their debut’s in the class it was going to be hard to pick any winners before the race. The man on pole, Max Stilp, who took two wins and a 2nd in the heats, starting alongside him was last years Junior TKM Vice Champion Matthew Ayres. Starting on row two was Jamie Flynn in the 27 with former Rotax Max driver Andrew Rees-Reynolds to his outside, forming row three was Junior graduate Sean Rudge and Irish man Odhran Henry. One man to watch would be the most experienced man in the field Brett Wykes who started 12th after some dismal heats. Stilp made no mistakes at the start and quickly gave himself some breathing space between him and the rest of the field with Flynn being the best of the rest after the opening lap, Ayres lay in 3rd with Rudge 4th. But the changing in the top four started almost immediately Rudge was passed by the Recovering Rees-Reynolds, with Ayres passing Flynn for 2nd the next lap taking Rees-Reynolds with him. With Stilp now almost two seconds down the road it was fair to say he already looked too hard to catch so with that in mind everyone’s focus behind became trying to take 2nd. Despite this there was no overtaking with everyone happy to stick in their positions however at half race distance the group extended to six karts with Maylon and Wykes joining the party. The extension to the group seemed to spark the race back into life, Flynn took 2nd away from Rees-Reynolds on lap 7 before losing it again the next lap. Behind Wykes was starting to carve his way through the group passing Rudge, Maylon and then Flynn in the space of just two laps, in all of the frantic battling Rudge found himself down to 8th and with some serious work to do. As we entered the final quarter of the race the battle for 2nd was even bigger and now stretched all the way back to Bickers in 9th place and it became hard to keep up with all the moves that were being pulled off. However on lap 10 there was an incident in the group which mixed things up dramatically, it involved Ayres, Rees-Reynolds and Wykes and it left Maylon saying thank you very much to the lot of them and inheriting 2nd, Rees-Reynolds still managed to hang onto 3rd with Wykes 4th, Malin from the car park was now 5th, with Rudge 6th, Bickers 7th, Flynn 8th and Ayres a very disappointing 9th, but the race wasn’t over yet! On the penultimate lap Rudge was the only man that went backwards losing places to Bickers and Flynn, which left him in 8th with only one lap left to try and improve. So as we started the last lap Stilp was still a country mile ahead and went on to take a dominant lights to flag victory eventually winning by 6.4 seconds! Who said it would be hard to pick a winner ! Maylon managed to hold onto 2nd with Wykes snatching 3rd from Rees-Reynolds in the boot on the last lap. Malin was 5th with Bickers 6th, Rudge was 7th with Flynn 8th and a disappointed Ayres rounding out the top 9.
So that concludes the end of Round 1 and what a way it was to get the 2015 season underway. We had a huge turnout across all classes which transformed into some fantastic racing, we welcomed some of the Europe’s best talent and I’m sure we probably had future British Champions present in each class. The new points system also seemed to go down a treat with the drivers and more importantly as I said at the start “The home of Karting” is back! See you on the 22nd of February for Round 2!