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Wirtzfield and Cossar win in the rain! 2024 Bantasia Grasstrack – Race Report and Results

Wirtzfield and Cossar win in the rain! 2024 Bantasia Grasstrack – Race Report and Results

After the 2023 Bantasia had been cancelled due to wet weather, the awful Great British climate again threatened to wreak havoc at the 2024 event! Following several days of dry weather, conditions were ideal for early morning practice but then come race time typically rain had started to fall. Although mainly light, the precipitation became slightly heavier for a period turning the race strip into a slippery, skating rink. The rapid change in the going forced the organisers to temporarily halt the action and carry out remedial work, turning the top surface over with a harrow in the hope that the circuit would then start to dry!

Race Report and Images by Mike Wood

After a short break, the racing did continue and thanks to the determined efforts of the Grasstrack Banter Promotions team, the 2024 Bantasia was concluded and the Champions eventually crowned. So, it’s many congratulations to David Knowles, Chad Wirtzfeld, Mark Cossar/Carl Blyth and indeed all of the riders on their desire and skill in not only continuing to race but also still entertain the large crowd in attendance.

250cc winner David Knowles.

Starting with the 250cc class and despite making his Bantasia debut, David Knowles won both of his opening two rides, a feat matched by Charlie Wood. In the first race after the stoppage due to the wet track conditions and subsequent repair, Knowles met Wood in Heat 26 and it was the more experienced former who took the win. Just like the first attempt to run this one, Wood actually slipped off and had to settle for 3rd behind Luke Tuck.

So going into the ‘A’ final, Knowles was on maximum points joined by Wood, Tim Greig, Richie Knight, Karl Beddingfield, Aidan Arthur, Lewis Duke, Shane Knight, Max Derrick and Tuck. In that final, Knowles then showed his class by leading all of the way but the battle was on for 2nd! Right up until the last turn, Wood had held that position before incredibly being passed by both Aidan Arthur and Richie Knight on the run in. In the 250cc ‘B’ final, Hayden Watts took the win from Jake Breeze and Charlie Prior with Austin Riches missing out after falling.

Paul Cooper the 500cc runner-up

After Paul Cooper, Cameron Taylor and Charley Powell had all won their opening rides in a stacked 500cc solo contest, the first big clash of the day came in Heat 18. With Cooper, Taylor and Chad Wirtzfeld coming to the tapes it was always going to be hot stuff! Cooper though was very quick away and led with all eyes on Wirtzfeld. Going around the outside in his normal, swashbuckling, spectacular style Chad got up into 2nd and was rapidly reeling in Cooper before backing off after getting a little out of shape! With conditions at probably their worst, Cooper then suffered his first defeat of the day in leg 3 when victory went to Powell. Throughout the 500cc contest, Wirtzfeld and the always exciting Alfie Bowtell and Mickie Simpson also scored heat wins. Although the meeting had not started well for Simpson when shedding a chain in practice, he still comfortably qualified for the big final as well as featuring in one of the best races of the day in leg 3 when just losing out to Bowtell in a very tight finish!

In the 500cc ‘A’ final, the race was stopped at the first attempt when Powell fell in a frantic turn one leaving Cooper with simply nowhere to go and also crashing. With Clerk of the Course Adrian Croft deeming the incident to be first turn bunching, all of the eight riders were invited back into the rerun. Although Powell was not able to compete, Cooper did make it to the tapes but it was Wirtzfeld who was quickest away yet again. The Belle Vue Colts speedway rider had made his best gate of the day and thus lead the ‘A’ Final all the way to the chequered flag in style chased by Cooper, Simpson and Taylor making an instant impact on his move up to the big bike 500cc ranks.

Liam Ashcroft the 500cc-B Final winner

The 500cc ‘B’ Final was also rerun following a nasty fall for Gareth Hickmott and who was then collected by the unfortunate Ben Phillips having simply no chance of taking avoiding action! With Hickmott suffering a serious arm injury and requiring a trip to hospital, Liam Ashcroft then passed his brother Ryan on the final turn of the rerun to snatch victory as Will Thurlby got home in 3rd.

Sidecar A Final as Mark Cossar(37) makes a tight and brave inside pass on Terry Saunters

Although Will Penfold/Freddie Wood blew the bottom end of their outfits engine in practice and Michelle Minard suffered a nasty fall off the chair early in their first outing, there was still plenty of positive 1,000cc Right-Hand sidecar action at Bantasia. Mark Cossar/Carl Blyth, Matt Fumarola/Andi Wilson, Michael Ausitn/Jordan Holland and Paul Whitelam/Richard Webb all won their opening rides.

Kieran Hicks and Frankie-Courtney(78) taking on Will Offen and Ricky Pay.

Having been defeated in his own super opening race tussle with Cossar, Terry Saunters/Liam Brown were then involved in a Heat 13 thriller just getting the better of Fumarola and Will Offen. After starting with a win, Whitelam then saw his chances of reaching the big final all but disappear when his new Honda outfit stopped in Heat 14. Regardless of the deteriorating conditions though, Cossar was marching relentlessly on, remaining unbeaten to qualify easily for the Bantasia showdown joined by Saunters, Fumarola, Neal Owen/Jason Farwell, Kieran Hicks/Frankie Courtney and Austin.

Terry Saunters and Liam Brown fighting their bucking outfit

In that ‘A’ Final, Fumarola made another supersonic start but quickly Saunters and Cossar got through and the battle was on! As Cossar hunted Saunters down all the while he was clearly examining every possible racing line before driving through the narrowest of inside gaps, brushing his rival as he went, simply breathtaking sidecar racing! Whilst Cossar’s win was his third Bantasia victory, having arguably one of his best performances for a couple of season’s Hicks also passed Fumarola for a very well-deserved 3rd place on the podium. Making some amends for his earlier stoppage, Whitelam scorched to a big gate to flag victory in the ‘B’ Final ahead of Offen and Simon Beaney/Sam Heath.

1000cc RH Sidecar winners Mark Cossar and Carl Blyth

Completing the Bantasia action, there was also racing for the Old and New Sidecar boys. Stamping their authority on proceedings, Liam Brown/Frankie Courtney won all four of their outings in style. In the opening two heats, Brian Hatch/Lew Wharton were runners-up before not appearing in their remaining programmed rides. So, Herman Paul/Ashley Pierce took the second step on the podium. In this class, Kieran Hicks also made an appearance jumping on the chair for Sam Jacobs. So that’s Bantasia 2024 done and a massive well done to Grasstrack Banter Promotions and an equally massive get well soon to all of the unfortunate riders who picked up injuries on Sunday!

Third placed 1000cc RH sidecars for Kieran Hicks and Frankie Courtney.


250cc A Final 1 David Knowles 2 Aidan Arthur 3 Richie Knight 4 Charlie Wood 5 Tim Greig 6 Shane Knight 7 Karl Beddingfield 8 Lewis Duke 9 Max Derrick 10 Luke Tuck.

250cc B Final 1 Hayden Watts 2 Jake Breeze 3 Charlie Prior 4 Austin Riches 5 Harrison Rogers DNS 6 Mark Headling DNS.

500cc A Final 1 Chad Wirtzfeld 2 Paul Cooper 3 Mickie Simpson 4 Cameron Taylor 5 Alfie Bowtell 6 Luke Harris 7 Jason Prynne 8 Charley Powell DNS.

500cc B Final 1 Liam Ashcroft 2 Ryan Ashcroft 3 Will Thurlby 4 Gareth Hickmott DNS 5 Ben Phillips DNS 6 Jack Roberts DNS 7 David Speight DNS 8 Jordan Derrick DNS.

Old and New Sidecar action as Brian Hatch and Lew Wharton(69) take on eventual winners Liam Brown and Frankie Courtney.

1,000cc RH Sidecar A Final 1 Mark Cossar/Carl Blyth 2 Terry Saunters/Liam Brown 3 Kieran Hicks/Frankie Courtney 4 Matt Fumarola/Andi Wilson 5 Neal Owen/Jason Farwell 6 Michael Austin/Jordan Holland.

1,000cc RH Sidecar B Final 1 Paul Whitelam/Richard Webb 2 Will Offen/Ricky Pay 3 Simon Beaney/Sam Heath 4 Mick Stace/Terry Madley 5 Stef Blyth/Morgan Blyth DNS 6 Mark Warren/Ryan Barker DNS.

Old and New Sidecars 1 Liam Brown/Frankie Courtney 28 points 2 Herman Paul/Ashley Pierce 11 3 Brian Hatch/Lew Wharton 10 4 Sam Jacobs/Kieran Hicks 9 5 Marianne Walford/Barbara Springall 8 6 Dean Kitchker/Liam Kitchker 1.