Who will be the top dog? British Masters Grasstrack – Preview
The quirkily named ‘Dig Dog Lane’ in Frittenden, Kent is the stage for this weekend’s huge Grasstrack event the British Masters Championships. The highlight of the British Grasstrack calendar for over 25 years, the British Masters sees all of the country’s very best racers do battle to claim British Grasstrack’s top prize.
Images courtesy of Amanda Morrison
The event this year, which serves as an official British Championship for 500cc solos and 1000cc sidecars, sees one of the best line-ups of racers for many years in both classes. It is almost impossible to predict a winner.
Heading the solo line-up is reigning British Masters champion Zach Wajtknecht. The 21-year-old rode brilliantly last year to win his first Masters title. He showed he is top form last weekend by winning the British Under 21 title. However, there is a plethora of talented racers who will be trying to dethrone the young rider.
Dorset’s James Shanes is already a three-time British Masters champion. It was last year where Wajtknecht put a stop to Shanes’ dominance of the competition. The 22-year-old will be desperate to regain his title in 2018, and get back to a winning streak.
Experienced, world class racers Andrew Appleton and Paul Hurry have tasted Masters glory four times in their respected glittering careers. With both in tremendous form in 2019, one of these two more experienced hands could clinch a 5th Masters title, equalling the record presently set by the late-great Simon Wigg.
Former British Speedway Champion Chris Harris comes to the tapes with some good Longtrack form. Though he hasn’t contested any domestic Grasstrack this year, he has been riding well abroad and always is a rider to watch. He had a disappointing 2018 Masters when an accident early in the competition in its tracks.
Similarly, two riders who missed out on the 2018 meeting altogether through injury, Paul Cooper and Edward Kennett, come to the meeting in fantastic form. Kennett has already shown what a talent he is on the grass, finishing on the rostrum in both of his Masters appearances. And Cooper, who has been putting in plenty of domestic grasstrack appearances, was in excellent form at the Wimborne Whoppa a few weeks ago.
Add to this line-up former British 350cc champions Tom Perry and Tony Atkin, the super-spectacular ‘Cotswold Express’ Tim Nobes, former British Upright champion Stephen Green, former Premier League Speedway Riders’ Champion James Wright and a whole host of other top Grasstrack stars, you can see how experts are really struggling to predict a winner.
Another added level of intrigue comes in the form of one of the wild card entrants for the competition. Speedway racer and former Team GB star Benjamin Barker revisits his Grasstrack racing roots by gaining an entry for the meeting. Barker, who was a British Grasstrack champion at Youth level, has had very few adult outings on a grass bike. It will be fascinating to see how he adapts in this level of competition, though he has been racing in the top echelon of speedway for many years.
In the 1000cc sidecar class, it is as competitive as ever. At present, Gareth Winterburn, passengered by brother Billy, are the in-form crew. They have been undefeated on their Crossplane R1 outfit so far this year and are defending the title that Gareth (passengered last year by Liam Brown) won in 2018. Gareth’s father, Rod, is a three-time British Masters champion and really hasn’t shown his hand in 2019 at all. With his career drawing to a close, the Yorkshire family’s patriarch will desperately want to win another Masters title. Do not expect any family etiquette to be adhered to!
Five times British Masters champion Mark Cossar has virtually dominated the sport for the last decade. Though the Winterburn family have been a constant thorn in Cossar’s side, he is still highly regarded and starts as one of the favourites for the Masters. An added interest is that Cossar’s regular passenger, Carl Blyth returns to action for this meeting. This could give the edge that Cossar needs to win a sixth Masters crown.
Eighteen of the very best outfits come together for this event, including former champions Rob Wilson (passengered by Terry Saunters), Paul Whitelam (passengered by Alan Elliott) and Colin Blackbourn (passengered by Carl Pugh, who is also a former champion).
Young talent is coming thick and fast in the class also. 26-year-old Tom Cossar and his passenger Wayne Rickards are two-time British Clubman’s Champions and have been in amongst the results all season. And this year British Masters Qualifier champions, 21-year-old Kieran Hicks and passenger Kieron Ivy have also been in top form all year.
Perhaps an outside bet might be placed on a rider competing in his first British Masters. Kent rider George Penfold, passengered by the experienced Bradley Steer, have been in great form this year, and have been pushing the top riders all season. It would be a big upset if Penfold/Steer manage to pull off a win on Sunday, but certainly not unthinkable.
Another crew whom many are keeping a close eye on is V-twin Godden mounted Neal Owen and Jason Farwell. They won the Dig Dog Dash meeting which was held at this venue last year and always go well at this circuit.
So the stage is set for what could be one of the best British Masters meetings for many years. All of the action takes place at Dig Dog Lane, Frittenden on Sunday 11th August. Practice begins at 11am with the presentation of riders at 12.30pm. First race is at 1pm. Camping is available from Friday, but be aware that the field is locked after midnight.
There will be a pre-Masters party on Saturday, with lawn games for the children, a disco and bar, food and all the bells and whistles which are expected from an event of this nature.
Whether you’re an avid Grasstrack fan, or have never seen the sport before, this really is an event not to be missed.