Stiddard Trackside Racing - Sunday 6th November 2005
Report and Photographs by Neil Ashcroft.
It was going to take 16 rounds and 30 hours of racing to finally decide the 2005 Stiddard Trackside GP Premier Series! Lets just remind ourselves of the situation going into this meeting, B&R Racing needed to beat RKC Racing 1 by a clear position i.e. with a team in between them. Kartsmart and Titan Motorsport were too close to call and both teams needed to do well in both races to snatch 3rd place in the championship.
In GP, Roadrunners were already champions elect, although mathematically I think, JD Vipers could have nicked it. The biggest challenge here was whether Hammonds Heroes could overhaul Vipers at the last hurdle.
Who would triumph and who would lose out by the tightest of margins? I promise I didn't write the script in this thriller finish to the toughest race series in the UK for Rotax MAX.
So how did it all pan out in the final race meeting of the season, let me take you through it.
It is fair to describe the conditions as changeable for qualifying although the track was dry it wasn't initially grippy as everyone scrambled to get a banker time in before the inevitable happened.
RKC Racing through down the gauntlet with pole position, RKC Racing 2 locked out the front row for the RKC team. The Jason Jones, Dave Hunter SRP boys went third only 4 hundredths off RKC 2. Roadrunners Kevin Schofield took 4th overall and pole in GP, half a second off pole and looking quick.
KKC put the Tonykart on 5th but were unhappy that the kart wasn't running cleanly. B&R had a mini disaster with a 6th place. Mike Williams and Steve Stapley had it all to do from here.
Poland Racing making a guest appearance for only the third time this season, took 7th place on the grid and looked quick if they could make the brake last the distance.
Red Stripe Racing looked well balanced in 8th place and were definitely on the pace. Hyde Racing sitting in 9th place looked much quicker then this position would have us believe, Rapid Logic ran well and looked sharper then 10th although the guys weren't to unhappy with this place, given how track rusty they were, having missed most of the mid-season for various reasons.
Next came the battle for 3rd and 4th in the championship, although no-one expected this contest to be fought out from 11th and 12th on the grid. Titan took the honours but with 8/100th's of a second between them it was wide open.
JD Vipers were well off the pace by their standard and 13th overall although 2nd in class left them a lot to do. Auction My Igloo, were running a leopard in the AM race and an open gear MAX in the PM so no points to be had today but they are looking towards next season as this years championship is lost.
Another team who have had a tough year but for different reasons, is 2old2b Racing. 15th place was another below par for them placing. I feel your pain guys!
Auto 1 Racing have took to running engines in, in qualifying over the last few rounds and today was no exception. Lets hope the race turns out better for them here as previously they have blown up shortly after the start.
Simon and Dave from Zero Racing were struggling with a engine down on power at the top end, which will kill lap times around Lydd, hence the 17th grid slot. Axles of Evil could not find a setup and struggled to 18th. Only 1.8 seconds off pole mind you, and only 5/100's ahead of Hammonds Heroes who did half a dozen laps and came in to get ready for the race as per normal.
All was set for the GP Premier 1 ½ hour race and so far the weather had held.
Race 1, GP Round 7 and GP Premier Round 16
Slight confusion at the start caught a couple of people out as the bulk of the field went straight through the first chicane as was correct, while some teams turned in. The main losers in this were Hyde who drove around the chicane and 2old2b Racing got caught in two minds and ended up in the tyres. Both got going and joined the back of the field.
As the race settled into a race proper, RKC Racing 1 lost the lead to Special Racing Projects and these two chased each other round for ten minutes in a great race.
Then came a very special drive from Gary Worthington in the No.2 Kartsmart charge. Gary came from 12th on the grid and in a display of the finest driving I've seen all season, took the lead and opened a gap. It was breathtaking and a pleasure to watch, especially when you consider the calibre of the drivers he passed.
Titan were not about to give up on this chase either and chased as hard as they could with another strong performance from Rob Parfoot.
In GP, Roadrunners, although not as polished as normal, were in the GP lead and their closest rivals, JD Vipers were off the pace and trying to defend against Hammonds Heroes who were on the move in pursuit of that championship place.
Hyde Racing had an unscheduled stop when a steering column bolt shears and the steering "went very light". Another team in trouble was KKC with a stripped front sprocket.
At the first pit stop, B&R made an adjustment to the rear torsion bar to improve handling and this helped as Steve Stapley went visibly quicker as a result.
Auction My Igloo momentarily held the lead in the leopard powered No.20 kart as they were the last to pit. The leopard engine was mighty down the back straight and pulled 5 metres on everything by the time they hit the braking zone for the final turn.
Once all the stops were out of the way and "normal service" was resumed, Kartsmart was back in the lead with Matt Coles at the wheel. Matt drove another strong final half of the race to take a deserved victory for the Surrey team, their second of the year.
Titan Motorsport took 2nd to keep things alive and RKC Racing 2 took 3rd with a strong drive from Clive Hewitt in the final stint. B&R Racing took 4th having made those early adjustments with RKC Racing 1 right behind them keeping everything very alive. Fantastic.
Special Racing Projects who had been fighting for the win parked it and walked away when the rear axle snapped with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Auto 1 Racing were delighted to "finish a race" and break the run of bad luck that has plagued them for the last few rounds. 6th place was just reward for a good drive from both Mike and Graham, or Richard to their friends
The GP race and 2005 GP Champions Title went to Roadrunners with a 7th place overall.
Gary Coombes and Kevin Schofield were delighted. Rapid Logic finished a credible 8th after a long layoff for both Tim Eng and Anthony Tomlinson.
Tom Robinson and James Michell finished a strong 9th bringing the Red Stripe Racing No.19 kart home in style after a titanic scrap with Auction My Igloo for the last 15 minutes. James finally getting the better of the contest. I believe this was one of Red Stripe's strongest races of the year and to finish only 2 laps off the winner and to be there on merit deserves mention. Well done gentlemen.
Talking of teams being worthy of mention, Barry Hammond in the No.26 Hammonds Heroes kart drove yet another calculated and considered race to finish 10th overall and 2nd in GP. A great result in Barry's first season. You know you have come a long way when one of your competitors, a race winner in his own right, says he just wants to stay with you. This was what Julian Hunt in the 27 JD Vipers kart said about Barry Hammond here. Praise indeed and a measure of how far Barry has come this year.
Auction My Igloo classified 11th although no points were allocated due to the fact they were running a Leopard engine. Ian Norman struggled to get a set up today but the Leopard engine was mighty in a straight line. JD Vipers came in 12th overall and 3rd in GP. John Bennett finding the limits of adhesion a couple of times, which is hardly surprising as he has only done a couple of races this year and is obviously ring rusty. Add that to the shower of rain that came down in the middle of the race and in real terms John drove quite well.
I felt for Zero Racing as both Simon and Dave are quick drivers but today with a kart down on power they were always playing catch up. There is nothing more frustrating then being passed through no fault of your own. Hyde had a mechanical with the sheared Steering column bolt, Axles of Evil couldn't get the Intrepid chassis to work for them and lost time finally finishing 15th behind Hyde.
Poland Racing were running well until they ran out of brakes again and ended up limping home in 16th just ahead of 2old2b Racing who had a couple of spins but simply couldn't make up the lost time from the early brush with the tyres. The last two slots were filled by the afore mentioned SRP with the snapped axle and KKC who lost an engine and decided to use the time to prep the kart for the 3hr PM race.
Post Race Analysis
None of the front running teams were giving anything away and fought to the bitter end in this race. Kartsmart were outstanding here and deserved this "famous" victory. Without doubt the drive of the day! Gary Worthington was scintillating to watch and didn't even "scratch the paintwork" despite passing everyone at least once. Then for Matt Coles, under incredible pressure, to take over and not only, not put a foot wrong but to drive at the limit in equally classic style was a testament to their professionalism. Well done both!
Well played too, Titan for not letting go and a performance that on any other day would have been good enough to win. RKC 2 have been strong towards the back end of the season and today was another good run for Clive Hewitt and Barry Ives.
For there to be 6 seconds between the two championship front runners at the end of this race was great. Both B&R and RKC were relentless and it was too close to call on how the final race of the season was going too pan out.
In GP, although Barry Hammond took the GP 2nd place from Vipers on the day, it wasn't by big enough a margin to take the 2nd slot in the Championship but it was enough to give Vipers a scare. Well done both teams for making a fist of it. But to the victor the spoils and Roadrunners take the GP title with a very strong and consistent performance over the year.
This was a fantastic race and set everything up for the final round. As the race finished and the teams drove back to their pits the heavens opened and it rained! Cut! Cut! "Get me the scrip writer, no-one will believe this!
It rained persistently after the GPP morning race and only just stopped as the teams gridded up for the start of the 3hr championship decider!
Everyone was on wets with the exception of Axles of Evil who decided it was going to dry very quickly and went for slicks. Gutsy, or something like that!
At the start Steve Stapley in the No.36 B&R kart got an absolute flyer from row 2 and was alongside pole sitter Kartsmart's Gary Worthington No 2 as they reached the braking zone for the 2nd chicane.
Both lost it under braking and Gary ended up in the tyres while Steve slid across the wet grass at speed and ended up facing the right way on the exit of the corner. Someone was smiling down on him!
The racing over the next ten minutes was top drawer. Less then 3 seconds covered the first 4 karts with Titan Motorsport's Rob Parfoot in the lead from Mike Robinson in the Auto 1 Racing No.88 kart. Both guys driving fantastically well in the tricky conditions. Steve Stapley tucked in nicely in 3rd from a flying Karl Holmewood, guesting for Auction My Igloo. Auction My Igloo was running open gearing in the PM race so weren't in the point's hunt. Running three teeth less on the rear made them faster down the straight and Karl was certainly not looking sluggish out of corners either! SRP in the newly axled No.55 kart was going very well and was in between B&R and RKC Racing. This was exactly what B&R needed to take the championship. RKC had other plans though and as the race unfolded the two teams got closer together.
With the rain off and on and the track remaining wet, to varying degrees, Axles of Evil remained on slicks far longer then was prudent and had several excursions towards the scenery, the biggest moment being the "storming" of the Marshal post on the start / finish straight.
Undeterred they continued on, slick shod until the Clerk of the Course made them change to wets. Although I don't know why they persevered for so long.
KKC continued to have a nightmare day with mechanicals and were in and out of the pits too many times to allow them to be competitive. Rapid Logic spent too much time in the "kitty litter" early on to threaten the leaders and Zero Racing's morning problems continued into this race.
In the ascendancy was a recovering Kartsmart after that first lap spin and RKC Racing 1 who were also moving up through the field.
The rain was inconsistent and the track would start to dry, then suddenly it would shower and the teams were back to square 1. It was noticeable that Titan went much quicker as it dried and lost handfuls of time as it got wetter. Eventually after leading for most of the race they lost the lead to Auto 1 Racing who simply ground away lap after lap and finally took the lead in a pit stop.
It was at this point that the Championship was decided. With 30 minutes left on the clock of the 2005 Premier Championship and with 30 hrs of racing behind them, B&R Racing's Steve Stapley ground to a halt on the infield next to the back straight. The engine in the No.36 kart had expired and with it, the championship. Gracious in defeat but "gutted" none the less, B&R could only reflect on what might have been.
Meanwhile there was a race to be won and I'm delighted to say that honour went to Auto 1 Racing. Their 2nd win of the Season and a well deserved victory in the near darkness of a late November afternoon. Titan Motorsport took 2nd from Kartsmart in 3rd. SRP took 4th from a cruising RKC 1 who only needed to bring it home.
RKC 2 finished strongly again to take 6th from the none points scoring Auction My Igloo. 2old2b racing managed a credible 8th ahead of Zero Racing and Red Stripe Racing. B&R classified 11th, Rapid Logic 12th later losing their points for being on the wrong rubber. KKC called it a day not long after B&R and classified 13th. The final slot went to Axles of Evil.
Post Race Analysis
RKC Racing 1 successfully defended their 2004 championship with a Championship victory by 7 points from B&R. Kartsmart took 3rd overall only 9 points off 2nd place. Titan Motorsport, a team used to winning championships, took fourth overall and couldn't hide their disappointment.
I said in the Introduction that it was an incredible finale to the season, and so it was. Auto 1 Racing took their 2nd victory of the season and what might have been had they not lost the engine so many times during the season?
It's been a hard fought year and anyone of the teams that could have taken this title would have been worthy champions. RKC Racing did a fantastic job to successfully defend their champion status for the 2nd year running.
There have been lots of opinions expressed about every aspect of this championship, that is the nature of the beast, and I too have an opinion and it's this: any championship that lasts for 17 rounds with 30 ½ hrs of racing and it is decided in the last 30 minutes of the season AND with less then 2 seconds covering the entire field on most qualifying grids is a strong championship!
It has been my pleasure to watch and report on the 2005 series and I would like to thank each and every one of the drivers and team members for making my job such a pleasure. It has been thrilling to watch and commentate on. The driving standards have been predominately high, as have the levels of competition and when you look back at the series on reflection take pride in your contribution to a great racing competition.
To all of you and your loved ones, have a great festive season whether you are racing or not. Stay safe and well and I hope to see you all in 2006.
All photographs and text are copyright Neil Ashcroft