Club Classic! British Clubman Grasstrack Championships – Race Report & Results
A tremendous day’s racing took place at GTSA’s superb Dig Dog Lane venue on Sunday, as the competitors fought for placings in this year’s British Masters as well as winning the British Clubman’s title itself. The meeting was expecting to be a wide open affair, with several expected to perform well, but the meeting exceeded all expectations with furious racing in both the 500cc solos and 1000cc sidecar classes.
Report and Result Images by Gareth Bemister – Action images courtesy of Darren Nokes
Such was the openness of the competition, no less than 10 sidecar outfits (half of the field!) scored up a heat win at some point throughout the day, with others, such as Jeff Measor/Gareth Tregilgas, leading twice before being pipped to the post. Every heat that came to the line was difficult to predict, but eventually some cream began to rise to the top.
Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards have been in fantastic form this season, and they managed to win 3 out of 4 of their qualifying heats in a blisteringly quick style. The only time the outfit were headed was by another young crew making a huge impact in the sport right now- Cornishmen Kieran Hicks and Robbie Simmons. In the first meeting of these two, it was Hicks/Simmons who drew first blood, taking an emphatic win. They followed it up with another win in their second ride, making excellent getaways from the tapes.
After following the two aforementioned crews home in their opening ride, Will Offen/Josh Russell took no time in setting their day alight. They won all three of their next rides, safely placing themselves into the British Masters final with the second-highest points haul. The 4th placed crew Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield also scored up two wins of their own, in their opening two rides.
Whilst the young up-and-comers were doing the business at the pointy end, not too far behind them, and on their tails all the way were 70-year-old John Hiscock and his 72-year-old passenger Terry Madley. Team Renegade were in sensational form, knocking up a hard fought heat win after a dice with George Penfold/Ryan Barker in their opening ride, and scoring consistently throughout. A great achievement for these two legends of the sport to ride so comfortably into the British Masters- not to mention surely a record?
In the solos, it was a similarly open contest, with six different heat winners and just a few points separating the top 8 riders. Mark Baseby, however, looked the most dominant. He won all of his heats and was the only rider to do so. One of the pre-meeting favourites, Tim Nobes looked in good form. But for a fall whilst leading in his third ride, he might have gone 3 races unbeaten himself, before being beaten by Baseby in their final ride.
Two riders impressing after joining the 500cc class only this year were young Devonian Henry Atkins and Upright racer Stephen Green. Atkins, the reigning British 250cc champion, didn’t take long to get to grips with the 500cc machine. He won two races in convincing fashion and comfortably secured his spot in the British Masters. Stephen Green had several excellent races. His fast gating and brave first bends were putting him in great positions. He then fended off assaults from several notable riders, producing some of the best solo races of the day.
So after the four qualifying heats, the Masters contenders were decided and so attention turned to the British Clubman’s title itself. In the solo class, Baseby continued his winning ways by winning his semi final, although he was pushed very hard by Yorkshireman Andrew Whitaker. In the other semi final, Nobes mirrored Baseby’s dominance, but first he had to overcome a determined ride from both Stephen Green and Steve Boxall. Boxall led the race but made a mistake entering the pits turn and pulled out. However, it had been a successful day for the former elite league speedway star, but it ended here. Atkins rode solidly again to claim 3rd in front of Adam Filmer and Chris Malone.
The sidecar semi-finals were also hotly contested. Top scorers Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards duly won their semi final, followed home by Hiscock/Madley who were putting in another solid ride. Heal/Broomfield could make no in-roads on the veteran crew. The other semi-final saw a lightning quick start from Will Offen/Josh Russell, who’d been gating well all afternoon. They won the race, but behind them was plenty of overtaking. Welsh/Cornish crew Neal Owen/Jason Farwell had missed their opening ride and had a dramatic day. After several determined lunges around the outside, they appeared to settle into 4th place. Gary Shearer, teaming with Cornish youngster Kylub Wilce for the first time, rode another sensible race to finish 2nd. Shearer was the highest placed rider who failed to win a heat all day, but he’d never fallen lower than 3rd. Job done for another young rider with heaps of potential.
In the first running of the solo final, a surprise ensued when Martyn Sturgeon, who’d actually failed to finish in the top 8 in the heats, got himself to the front. He was quickly pursued by Mark Baseby, but Baseby dropped his machine entering the slick pit bend. The race was stopped and Baseby was excluded as the primary cause of the stoppage. In the rerun, it was again underdog Sturgeon who hit the front. He was swallowed up by Tim Nobes entering the second lap, and then later by Henry Atkins. Sturgeon eventually finished 5th. Nobes, however, made no mistakes and The Cotswold Express stormed to a perfect race, heading home young Henry Atkins, with Andrew Whitaker fighting his way through for 3rd.
After all of the chopping, changing, overtakes and incidents, the final itself proved to be fairly straightforward, with Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards taking a strong tapes-to-flag victory, successfully defending their British Clubman’s crown for 2018. Kieran Hicks/Robbie Simmons rode equally tidily to claim a career-best result of 2nd in a meeting of this stature. Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield made it an all R1 crossplane rostrum with a 3rd.
Hard luck story of the day must go to returnee to the sport Richard Richard Fred Jenner and his passenger Roddy Stirling. In their second ride, whilst holding a secure 2nd place, they almost turned the machine around 360 degrees and pulled off the circuit. They followed this up with a fantastic win in their next ride, and a solid third in their final ride. They must surely rue the missed points in that one mistake as it certainly cost them their spot in the British Masters. However, it was great to see ‘Fred’ going so well and there’s plenty more to come from this crew. Also involved in this incident, having to take avoiding action to miss Jenner/Stirling, was George Penfold/Ryan Barker. They too were scoring well all afternoon, but this heat set them back a few points, and mechanical failure in their final ride put paid to them progressing to the Masters itself. In truth, every crew in the meeting seemed to have their moment where they could have forced their way into the top 11. It certainly bodes well not just for the British Masters on 12th August, but for the future of the class as a whole.
The Lefthand Sidecars provided support for the British Clubman’s Championships, with several crews taking an opportunity to get another ride before next weekend’s British Championships in Chelmsford. Martin Cuff/Colin Clarke were in dominant form, winning all four races convincingly from Rob Heath/Kyle Fish. Newcomer Alex Balman and passenger Mark Hopkins looked like they would challenge Billy Penfold/Dan Woodbridge for 3rd spot, but after a 360 pirouette in their opening ride, they upturned the outfit in the same spot in their second ride. Both riders were up and ok, with no lasting damage, but their day was done.
This meeting, all finished and completed by 4:30, was simply fantastic. The sizeable crowd never knew who was going to win each heat, or the meeting itself, until the tapes went up in the final. The Clerk of the Course Paul Hurry, as well as all of the other officials, kept things moving along swiftly, and the racing circuit was simply superb. GTSA return to the Dig Dog Lane venue for the Dig Dog Dash 2 in September. It’s bound to be a meeting not to be missed. As will the British Masters Championships, which is being hosted by the Cheshire Grasstrack club on 12th August.