Perfect 10! Master of Midshires Grasstrack – Race Report and Results
Race Report and Result Images courtesy of Gareth Bemister – Action Images courtesy of Martin Ilsley
The club also took a gamble to move from their former venue to their new venue at Fosse Way near Leamington- a gamble that seems to have paid off. The day was an absolute scorcher, with temperatures maxing out at 32 degrees for much of the day. But plenty of water was splashed onto the circuit before racing, and a steady spraying throughout the day, meant that racing was able to reach its satisfying completion.
Of all of the line-ups, the 500cc solos looked the most impressive, with star power in every quarter. A late entrant, former Speedway Grand Prix star Chris Harris, looked very impressive in his rides. He was beaten by James Shanes in his opening ride after leading Shanes for 3 and a half laps, but from there ‘Bomber’ led each heat comfortably. The other rider looking in good form was Dutch legend Theo Pijper. The former European champion won his first two rides, before having to succumb to the sheer pace of Harris. Adam Ellis was another star of the sport in action. The Premier League speedway racer was only beaten by Pijper in the heats. Andrew Appleton also went through the heats steadily, as he has done so many times in the past.
It was a tremendous effort by James Shanes to make it to the event, having ridden a tough European Final at Tayac the night before. Sadly, Shanes had seen his European title, which he had held for two years, slip from his grasp. After an excellent opening ride, Shanes was certainly below his usual high standard for the rest of the meeting. Aboard an unfamiliar machine, Shanes flipped the bike whilst leaving the line in the B Final, and his day was done.
In the B Final, it was another speedway rider doing the winning. New Zealander Bradley Wilson-Dean had only ridden one Grasstrack prior to the meeting, but quickly got to grips with the rough and ready Grasstrack conditions. He won the B Final after making an excellent start, seeing his way into the big A Final. Charley Powell rode well to claim 2nd in the B Final, and Daniel Winterton was in his usual consistent form, scooping 3rd and the final place for the big final.
However, the final was all about Ellis. He made a fantastic start and lead the race convincingly, picking up his first UK Grasstrack meeting win. Hopefully, we’ll see Ellis at the British Masters in a few weeks time as he would certainly start as a favourite after winning this event. Theo Pijper claimed a solid 2nd, with Appleton once again riding consistently to finish 3rd. Dan Winterton put in an excellent ride to dispose of Chris Harris late on in the race and finish 4th. Rob Finlow, who had been amongst the top point scorers throughout the day finished behind Harris for 6th. Wilson-Dean sadly lost his cut-out whilst well placed in the final.
Perhaps some of the closest two-wheeled action of the day took place in the 250cc and 350cc solo classes. In the 250cc solos, Henry Atkins had to fight hard for his class victory. The British Champion was put under immense pressure by a former British Champion David Knowles in the first three heats, with Knowles coming out on top in the opening race. In the final heat, though, it was Charlie Brooks who put in a stunning performance. The young East Anglian had been making poor starts all afternoon, and this final race was no exception. However, Brooks gritted his teeth and fought his way through the pack, finally passing Atkins late on in the race. Atkins started to fight back but Brooks had gathered enough momentum to hold him at bay. Atkins, however, had already ridden to two fantastic wins by this time and the meeting was already his. Great racing, however, from two youngsters who could well be the future of British Grasstrack racing.
In the 350s, two racers locked horn throughout the day. Experienced Kent racer Mark Giles has been in great form this season, and duly won his opening ride, beating British Champion Tom Perry in an absolute classic. However, mechanical failure struck Giles as he had to move onto borrowed equipment. From here, Perry managed to win the next three races, though Giles pushed him very hard in each ride, even on borrowed machinery. Another excellent win for Perry, and one of the best performances from Mark Giles for many years.
In the three-wheeled action, the 500cc sidecar class was dominated by young second-generation crew Shaun Hughes and Louis Bennett. The youngsters looked very fast in all four rides, making excellent starts and pulling away from the rest of the field with ease. They were only headed in the final heat, when Dan Berwick, reunited with Mark Hopkins, outgated them and held them at bay for a lap. But Hughes/Bennett simply had too much speed, passing Berwick/Hopkins and once again pulling away to make it four straight wins. One of the most impressive displays by this young crew to date. Plenty of closely fought racing took place further back in the pack, including some entertaining tussles between Tony Dart/Karl Hocaniuk and Barrie Bennett/Eifion Hughes. Dart/Hocaniuk was the overall winner of that particular feud.
The 1000cc sidecar class involved all of the country’s top crews. As expected, Mark Cossar and Carl Blyth looked super-quick through the heats, storming to three straight wins and never looking challenged. Matching their maximum score was 2016 Master of Midshires champ Rob Bradley, teaming up with returning passenger Darren Wilce. The newly established crew looked incredibly fast. The most entertaining crew through the heats was Gary Shearer and Billy Winterburn. In their opening ride, they made a real hash of the start, and set about catching the pack. With some determined racing and several heart-in-mouth overtakes, Shearer and Winterburn fought their way to the front and won. From here, they were always in amongst the action, showing real determination. Paul Whitelam and Alan Elliott were looking fast too. They won a race, but had been twice beaten by Bradley/Wilce.
In the sidecar B Final, the top two crews would advance to the Final. Perhaps disappointed to not be heading straight to the final given their recent form, Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards made no mistakes in the B Final. They performed a great opening lap to lead the race. Behind them, however, a real squabble for the final spot occurred. Matthew Fumarola/Gareth Williams, at one point, looked like they might force their way to the all-important second spot, as did Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield. But both crews were outfoxed by Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters, who did what they needed to take the second spot.
In the A Final, Cossar/Blyth were simply sublime. They made a textbook start, got themselves into the lead and never looked like getting caught. Bradley/Wilce affirmed themselves in second place, still showing plenty of speed. Once again, Gary Shearer/Billy Winterburn fought hard to claim their 3rd spot- perhaps Shearer’s best result to date. Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards found themselves frozen out of the early racing in the final, but dogged determination saw them fight through to claim 4th, passing Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters on the last bend.
Given the heat and sun, it was nothing short of remarkable what Midshires achieved on Sunday. It felt like a big meeting and some of the racing was top class. No doubt, Midshires will continue to build on this event, and we can look forward to plenty more big meetings in the coming years.