Pure power from Powell! Battle of Britain Grasstrack – Race Report and Results
Report and Result Images by Gareth Bemister – Action Images courtesy of Sandy Bemister
Riders from all over the country flocked to the Sandhurst Bridge Farm venue, and they were rewarded with one of the best racing surfaces in the country. Dust was kept to a minimum by overnight and early morning watering which rendered the track virtually unrideable in the early stages of practice. By race time however, the track was absolutely fantastic and served up tremendous racing in every class.
The Cossar family provided a one-two for the big 1000cc sidecar class, who were competing in the first round for the Brian Stibbs trophy as well as the Battle of Britain trophy. Eldest brother Mark teamed up this week with his former work colleague Gareth Williams (who usually crews for Matthew Fumarola) to put on an impressive display to win the meeting. Younger brother Tom, and passenger Wayne Rickards,couldn’t make any impression on his brother’s lead, but impressed throughout the meeting. Both Cossar brothers went through the heats unbeaten and held their first and second convincingly in the final. The race for third was interesting, with Matt Fumarola, now passengered by Liam Brown, fought his way into third place. Fumarola/Brown had already won the B Final in an absolute instant classic of a race with returning racer Myles Simmons, passengered by his eldest son Robbie. Fumarola has right to feel hard-done-by to be in the B Final, having finished second in all three of his heats. But such was the level of competition, failure to win a heat was enough to see riders into the B Final. Although the Simmons Father/Son combination got in front several times, Fumarola/Brown were the first over the line in one of the races of the day.
Spare a thought for rapidly improving George Penfold/Bradley Steer. After looking very impressive in their opening ride, they suffered a problem at the start of their second ride, and mechanical gremlins hit again during their third, putting them out of the B Final despite looking like one of the fastest crews in the field.
The Upright Solos were once again fiercely contested, with any one of four or five in with a chance of winning the final. Rodney McDonald and Tim Curnock made things difficult for Bob Dolman, but he had enough to force his way to the front early in the final and win the meeting. Curnock got the better of McDonald after hounding him for a lap.
The 250cc solo final was also a brilliant race. Speedway racer Luke Harris only dropped one race during the afternoon to Graham Thomas in a race that took place immediately after heavy watering. The slippery conditions seemed to play into the hands of the two-time British Champion and he served Harris his only defeat of the afternoon. In the final, Thomas did everything he could do to stop Harris from riding around him, but the Cradley Heathens star just about managed to get round and win before the chequered flag. Another instant classic.
The 350cc solo final threw up a real surprise and several cases of bad luck for two riders. Heading into the final, Yorkshireman Andrew Whitaker was the only rider to have won all of his heats. Dave Mears, who was impressing in the 500cc class as well, was closest to him, only being defeated by Whitaker in the heats. But in the final, Mears was forced very wide in a robust first turn and appeared to have lots of work to do. Whitaker hit the front and heading back towards the pit turn with a slim lead, until disaster struck. He dropped the machine whilst leading and the chasing pack thankfully avoided the stricken rider and machine. Further misery was then served to Mears whose racing progress was even further hampered by the fallen rider. He pulled up, hoping for a rerun that never came. All of the drama meant that, despite struggling in the heats, Mark Giles once again got to the front and took the win in the final, fending off a late charge from Neil Taylor. Giles had struggled to get on terms with his rivals in the heats, but really turned on the style in a dramatic 350cc final.
In the 500cc final, Charley Powell made no mistakes, pulling off a professional win from start to finish. He pulled up in his opening ride and failed to score, but won his following two convincingly and won the final equally so. Putting the disappointment of the 350cc final behind him, Dave Mears rode brilliantly to claim second. Mears’ fine performances in two classes earned him the ‘Clean My Ride’ Rider of the Day award.
Josh Goodwin and Liam Brown put in a stylish performance in the 500cc sidecars. The reigning British Champions were excellent all day, often leading by a few bike lengths by the first turn and never looking back. Newcomer James Hartley, passengered by Sam Heath, put in several impressive rides throughout the afternoon in what was his best meeting to date. He held third for most of the final before Shaun Hughes/Louis Bennett charged past him, trying to make up for their poor start. The young crew rode well to make it up to third from sixth. The day’s major incident came in the 500cc sidecar class. Shaun Harvey/Danny Hogg were involved in a collision with James Hogg/Scott Goodwin in a tight first bend. Thankfully all riders escaped with minor bruises and bumps.
The 1000cc Lefthand class also saw an excellent final. Rob Heath/Kyle Fish had looked likely winners in the heats. They had won all three of their races convincingly. But in the final, it was the vastly experienced Tom Penfold and William Naden who gated well to lead. However, namesake Tom Penfold Jnr (not his son, but for the sake of this article, we shall refer to the younger as Jnr) and passenger Ryan Barker showed a spectacular turn of speed to hunt down Penfold the elder. In the final turn, the experience of Penfold paid off as he guarded the racing line, so much so that Penfold Jnr crashed into the back of him, forcing his front wheel up onto the platform of Penfold Snr’s sidecar! Both outfits separated quickly and finished the race 1st and 2nd in a fantastic race.
The Battle of Britain completed a wonderful weekend of Grasstrack racing. More racing in the South Eastern Centre takes place on Sunday 16th June at Grafty Green, hosted by the Maidstone Aces club. Frittenden’s next event will be the super-popular Summer Spectacular Pairs meeting. This will take place on Sunday 28th July at this superb Sandhurst Bridge Raceway. Congratulations to the Frittenden club on yet another excellent event.