Chelmsford prepared for Champs… ACU British Grasstrack Championships – Preview
The 500cc Sidecar Association and the City of Chelmsford are hosting the 2019 ACU British Grasstrack Championships on Sunday (July 7th). It’s the second successive season that the club have organised one of the ACU blue riband events and if 2018 is anything to go by, bikesport fans are in for a real treat.
Images courtesy of Martin Ilsley
Almost one hundred of the best riders from all across the UK will all converge at the club’s home track at Kings Farm close to Writtle for a day of high speed wheel-to-wheel action on both two and three wheels. Enthusiastic club members have been working solidly for the past two weeks on creating a top class 550 metre oval track close to Hylands Park, the home of the now defunct V-Festival in preparation for the event. And such is the hype around the championships even the national TV companies have shown an interest.
Four different classes will be represented in the Championships itself. The 500cc International and 1000cc Left-hand classes along with the 250cc and 350cc solos take centre stage. They will be supported by a small but quality 500cc Solo field who will be just as eager as the championship classes to stand on top of the rostrum at the end of the day.
Being the 500cc Sidecar Association it’s obviously the 500cc Sidecars that headline the proceedings. And what a line-up we have including club chairman and multiple-British Champion Shaun Harvey and passenger Danny Hogg. Chelmsford resident Harvey and Hogg have stood on top of a championship rostrum for a record eight times. But hot on their tails are ex-European Champions Josh Goodwin/Liam Brown who have taken the spoils for the past four years. They are six-times champions, love the Chelmsford track and probably start as favourites on the day. Current European Runners-up Mitch Godden/Paul Smith will no doubt be eager to add a National title to their CV after running so close for the past three seasons. But the whole class is full of potential spoilers including Aaron Vale/Stephen Vale, Natasha Bartlett/Kim Kempa. Both crews rode in the European Semi-Final in Germany this weekend just gone and along with Goodwin/Brown all qualified for the European Final. They join Harvey/Hogg and Godden/Smith who qualified via last season’s British Final. For the 500 sidecars it’s not only the British Championships at stake here. It’s also the European qualifier for 2020 with entry to the 2020 European Final awarded to the top two points scorers of the day. The British Championship is decided on one big final at the end of the day.
The other sidecar class is the 1000cc Left Hand Championships. These monster one litre multi-cylindered will definitely see a new champion crowned this year with the reigning champions missing from the line-up. If you are a betting man, then you might like an special-bet on a Penfold winning the title with half of the crews piloted by members of the Penfold family. Will Penfold/Ricky Pay have won the title on three occasions, the last time in 2016 and would love to make it four. And the 2018 runners-up Rob Heath/Kyle Fish would love to move up a step after getting the taste for a championship rostrum last year.
The 250cc Solos provided possibly the best race of the day in 2018 and the classic encounter between Henry Atkins and Luke Harris in last year’s Final has been watched many times on the internet. Atkins was crowned British Champion after a brilliant duel between the pair in which they swapped places on numerous occasions in the four laps. Both have returned to renew their friendly rivalry in 2019 with Atkins keen to make it a hat-trick of titles. They will be joined by young Jake Mulford who has just stepped up from the youth ranks. Mulford has been given a wildcard for the event, his first British Final in the adult class and one that is more than capable of springing an upset. Dave Knowles is always on the pace as is Charlie Brooks who joined Atkins and Harris on the podium twelve months ago. As with all classes this weekend, the whole field is full of potential race winners so expect some close racing throughout the event.
In the 350cc Solos Midlander Tom Perry will be looking to hold on to the title he won in 2018. Like many of riders taking to the track at Chelmsford they share their time between racing on the grass and on the shale for many speedway clubs throughout the country. The Stoke Potters captain will be looking to add to his three titles he has already won since 2015. The 2017 champion and last season’s runner-up Rob Finlow is amongst the favourites to challenge Perry as is the Paul Hurry. The latter was at the centre of controversy at Chelmsford last season when he excluded from the final for touching the tapes. Hurry is in great form on the 500 solos in 2019 having just finished in second place in the European Semi-Final which was recently held at Midshires. He will want to put the events of 2018 behind him and look to regain the title he last won in 1995.
350cc specialists Mark Giles, Dave Mears, Mark Taylor and Andrew Whitaker add real strength in depth to this class and once again as in all classes this is going to be a close-run championships.
To add to the already packed programme the club have a 500cc Solo Class full Grasstrack talent. Charley Powell is on great form at the moment after winning the Masters Qualifier a couple of weeks ago. He will be joined by a specially invited small field of 500cc talent. European Finalist Paul Cooper better known as Cooperman sounds like a superhero and anyone racing at Chelmsford on Sunday should be put in that category. You’ve gotta be brave to open the throttle to the stops around a grass field.
Stephen Green whom last season moved up from the uprights into the premier 500cc Solo Class. Green has been mixing it with the best in the country and will be no doubt be flying around the Chelmsford track. He’s not tried the track but has tried the venue this season demonstrating his art at the recent car show that was held a couple of weeks ago at the Kings Farm venue. Anybody that witnessed him sliding the bike around the show arena will be surprised to know that was around quarter speed. With speeds hitting 70+ mph up the straights grass track racing is not for the faint hearted. Callum Walker, Stuart Mears, Martin Sturgeon, Gareth Hickmott and Graeme Brown complete what is superb support class.
A day not to be missed. With over 40 races at the King’s Farm venue in on the outskirts of Chelmsford. Just behind Hylands Park and signposted from junction 15 off the A12.
Practice begins at 11 and racing is from 1pm. Only £15 for adults with kids under 16 going free. It really is a great day of racing for all the family. www.500ccsidecars.com