Easykart Rd8 – Llandow
Sowery and Hirst crowned but Faulkner and Round-Garrido must wait to see who is Champion
The 2011 Championship drew to a dramatic close in the Welsh valleys (25 September) with two titles decided on the day, with a third pending an appeal.
Pole-sitter Jenson Murchison neatly led the field away to commence what was the event’s first of three title-deciding races. Albeit that he could not claim the overall win himself, Murchison had put in a late season surge and, just as he had in the previous round at Fulbeck, he assumed the mantle of ‘the one to beat’. Matthew Round-Garrido, a contender for the Championship had shadowed Matthew Taylor, Sam Faulkner and then Murchison through qualifying, the heat and first final respectively. Faulkner did enough to keep his claim on the Championship alive, as had Jordan Sanders.
However, drama and controversy would follow during the fifteen minutes of action. With Round-Garrido losing ground immediately after the start, it was Callum Croxon who swept from 4th to 2nd with Sanders, Faulkner and Round-Garrido in line astern. The lead trio soon formed a breakaway with the resurgent Round-Garrido leading the chase. In the midfield, Lucas Blakely slid past Esmee Hawkey at The Hook to nick 6th.
With each successive lap Murchison began to grow in confidence and take a firmer grip on the encounter. Behind him, Sanders now held 2nd from the charging Round-Garrido and Croxon. An absorbing battle had developed between siblings Ethan and Esmee Hawkey, who were not only fighting for track position, but also to see which of them would make the cut for the final qualifying place for the World Finals.
Like Horatius defending Rome’s Pons Sublicius from the Etruscans, Sanders desperately tried to hold Round-Garrido at bay. Croxon sat behind the pair, poised to pick up the pieces from any potential mishap. Tragedy struck for Faulkner, whom sat stranded on the grass. He was able to re-start – but his chances of taking the title looked dead in the water.
Round-Garrido’s pressure paid off and he set now set his sights on Murchison. An anxious glance over his shoulder prompted Jenson to hop up and down in his seat, urging his kart forward. The scrap for 5th saw Ethan lead Lucas Blakely with Esmee in close attendance. In the blink of an eye, this order would reshuffle itself and then change again. An untidy move saw Ethan appear to tip Lucas into a spin on the exit of Spitfire with the officials choosing to regard it as a racing incident.
Murchison’ anxiety was justified. Round-Garrido halved the gap, with Sanders refusing to settle for 3rd and keeping close. The intensity of the fight between Krishaan Sivagnaman, Bailey Kelley-Campbell and Jason Gavagan belied the fact that they were racing for 10th. At one point, they ran three abreast going into the hairpin, providing a highlight of the race.
At the front, Murchison doggedly held onto his lead, but as he and Round-Garrido disappeared out of view behind the awnings at Macwhirters, the latter snatched the advantage. Jenson immediately responded and lunged on the entry into the NGK Chicane. He pulled the move off and, sensing that 2nd would be enough to take the Championship, Matthew opted for safety rather than glory. Murchison punched the air with both hands, crossing the line four tenths clear of the similarly celebrating Round-Garrido. Sanders deserved his 3rd ahead of the jubilant Croxon, whom had enjoyed his best result of the season.
Post-race scrutineering on Round-Garrido’s engine revealed what was deemed to be a ‘technical infringement’ and saw him disqualified. His team launched an immediate appeal and pending the MSA’s decision, the overall Championship winner remains unresolved. It will be an anxious wait for both Round-Garrido and Sam Faulkner, whom eventually finished in 15th place but had sufficient points in the bag to be provisionally crowned Champion.
At the beginning of the day, a top seven finish stood between reigning Champion Toby Sowery and retaining his title. A snapped chain in the heat put a nerve-wrackingly different perspective on his chances. However, a ripped off nosecone for his nearest rival, James Lay also in the heat may well have sent his and his supporters’ blood pressure higher than the aerobatic plane practicing overhead. In the pre-final the pair demonstrated cool heads to rocket through the field and finished 1st and 2nd, setting up the perfect showdown for the main final. The drivers occupying the grid slots behind them sat poised to punish any mistakes their rivals might make. These included Tom Thickpenny, Jack New, Willis Mayneord, William Stowell and another Championship hopeful, Ronan McKenzie.
Lay initially led from pole position, but started to defend on the opening lap. Sowery quickly seized the initiative at Spitfire and began to ease away. New had swapped places with Thickpenny for 3rd, whilst McKenzie had made up three positions ahead of Mayneord, Nickson and the rapid AJ Morris.
By lap three the order at the top remained unchanged, but McKenzie had dropped back to 7th. A disastrous start had seen Stowell plummet to 17th.
Sowery lit up the timing screen with a purple lap – six tenths faster than Lay, but the latter responded with an awesome next tour, as did New. The ever-improving Mayneord led the chase from 4th ahead of Thickpenny and Nickson. At the Hairpin, New launched a bid for 2nd. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. As he and Lay sorted themselves out, Sowery stretched the gap yet further. It took just two laps for New to demolish Sowery’s advantage. Approaching mid-distance Jack set the fastest time of the race – 46.8 seconds – and this signaled a bold attempt to wrest the lead from the Champion. He succeeded, only to spear off onto the grass between the chicane and Raymond’s, the circuit’s final corner. Sowery was immediately shown the black and white warning flag. Unsettled, he was quickly passed by a grateful Lay.
Both had a big advantage over Thickpenny, who had pushed Mayneord back to 4th. The frustrated and angry New regained the track down in 15th. Lay again began to defend from Sowery, who piled on the pressure trying to force a mistake from the E-plate holder.
Though still on his novice plates, Michael Iacovou was performing in the manner of a seasoned campaigner and, having out-manoeuvred McKenzie and Nickson, sat in a superb 5th. Lay was now high, wide and handsome through each of the turns as Sowery continued to probe for a way past. Nickson tagged Iacovou under braking and seized his chance, taking 5th back.
At the Hairpin Lay’s kart slewed sideways as he shut a barn-sized door on an attempt from Sowery. At this moment, Toby eased back and dropped his shoulders a little. He had ceded the battle in order to win the war. He playfully had one final look at the Hook, but the gap was insufficient.
Iacovou’s fine drive was tarnished with a tangle that saw him lose six places but again claim the novice trophy. Thickpenny claimed a richly-deserved 3rd following his race-long scrap with Willis Mayneord, with Fulbeck winner Nickson 5th and Ben Nicolls ending his season with his best result, 6th.
After watching his younger brother take victory in Junior, Patrick Lay had a great opportunity to make it a family double from pole-position. First, there was just the small matter of fending off a quality-packed field, including fellow front row man Ayrton Hirst, round seven and six winners Sam Dimelow and Jake Hughes.
From the Union flag Hirst caught Lay napping and simply motored round the outside going into the first bend with Hughes and Jamie Crease following. Lay found himself both attacking and having to defend as Dimelow tried to prise an opening past him. Much as he resembles happy-go-lucky Blur bassist Alex James, Patrick showed he had real fire in his guts when, after Sam had sailed past at the Hairpin, he reclaimed the place at the Hook.
Another driver vying to retain his title – alongside Toby Sowery and Heavy star Barnaby Pittingale – Elliot Rice was driving with real purpose as he made his way up from 11th on the grid. Three-time winner Joe Paterson received a nibble of his rear bumper from Matthew Pearce as they negotiated Surtees. Such was the tenacity with which these two raced each other it looked likely to end in tears.
The lead quintet of Hirst, Hughes, Crease, Dimelow and Lay began to bunch up, as Rice unsuccessfully attacked Richard Moxom for 7th at Macwhirter’s. Paterson had his hands full trying to keep Pearce and Grant Hunter at bay, but must have been aware that in doing so he was losing his chance of winning the title. Rice’s increasingly forceful moves on Moxom earned him a driver warning but did little to cool his ardour.
The race went through a period of stalemate at the front but was enlivened when the cool and relaxed-looking Hughes edged ever closer to Hirst. Dimelow had some fun launching a bid for Lay’s place at the Hairpin but was over-committed and dropped the opportunity. Crease had a big look down Hughes’ inside but thought better of it. Hunter clipped the inside kerb on the start/finish line, allowing Owen Jenman a run at him on the entry to the Hook. Hunter defended and the pair touched, launching Jenman over him. Both continued but it could have been so much worse.
With one of the performances of the day, Brad Fairhurst had come from the back of the field to challenge Paterson for 10th. Moments later, he pulled it off making Joe his 16th scalp of the race. Lay outgunned Crease at the Hairpin exit to go 3rd. At the same spot, he attempted the same move on Hughes, but Jake was able to draw alongside on the start/finish straight before darting down his inside at the Hook. Patrick tucked in behind him with Jamie directly behind. There were just inches between them.
A lap later Dimelow passed Crease at the Hook with a deft move but nearly lost it when he was biffed under heavy and late braking for the Hairpin. Sublime kart control kept Dimelow on track and on course for the podium. Hirst, responding to Lay’s late challenge coolly picked up his pace to ultimately win the race and the championship, by just six points from the 6th-placed Rice.
With Champion-elect Barnaby Pittingale opting to sit the meeting out, after wrapping the title up in the previous round, the stage was set to see who would be crowned Vice-Champion and qualify for the World Finals.
After an awful start to his campaign, the 2010 number two Mark Lawrence was the paddock’s choice for victory. The Scot had been in dominant form in the heat and pre-final but faced a very real threat from the likes of Roland Bredner, Ken Churchill, Michael Roots, plus crowd favourite, William Smith.
Lawrence, a successful chef by trade, rather turned the season finale into a bland affair. From the off he romped into a commanding lead and with clear space ahead of him, simply turned the screw on his rivals.
Karting Magazine contributor Andy Gould, fired by having the home advantage, displayed just how far he has come in the space of the season. A novice at the beginning of the year, he passed the hugely experienced Jim Rainbird with an assured, confident move to take 8th spot in the early stages. After being chastised for lacking faith in his own abilities beforehand, the Welshman seemed transformed. He picked off former World Finalist Mace for 7th and set off after Kayman. In contrast to Gould, Roots appeared to lack his usual vim and vigour at the wheel, but he hung on in the fight for a top six finish.
Lawrence’s lead was eventually pegged, but not bridged, by Bredner. Smith, though quick, could not find that extra tenth to get on level terms with the 2nd-placed driver. This left him to trade similar lap times with Churchill and Kayman, whilst patiently waiting for a chance to move up the order, should it arrive.
Gould continued to stalk Roots, whilst Lawrence continued to deliver a masterclass in precision driving. Gould’s excellent day got better when he cleanly passed Roots for 6th. This preceded a period of stalemate as the top five remained unchanged.
Kayman broke the deadlock when he upped his attempts to wriggle past Churchill. With his calm, unhurried approach now rewarded, Smith had narrowed the margin between him and Bredner but would he commit to a brave manoeuvre from some distance back? He had a brief look down the back straight but sensibly erred on the side of caution. Roots, Rainbird had begun a lively dice for 7th as the race entered its final phase.
Churchill’s consistency broke Kayman’s resolve, leaving Help for Heroes’ favourite karter to settle for an eventual 5th. A nod of acknowledgement to the flag marshal was the only celebration Lawrence permitted himself as he sealed an easy but thoroughly deserved win. Bredner took his best finish in the category, with Smith’s 3rd good enough to make him the overall Championship runner-up. Gould’s exciting and at times flamboyant performance saw him also enjoy his best ever result and earned the Karting magazine Driver of the Day award.