Smeatharpe Stadium - Saturday 30th September 2023

The Saloon Stock Car World Final took centre stage at Smeatharpe Stadium. Only its fifth ever running at the venue will go down as one of the greatest World Finals (in any formula) of all time as 730 Deane Mayes ran out the victor. A strong field of BriSCA Formula Two Stock Cars were also in action, contesting the Grand National Championship and O’er the Border Trophy.

Saloon Stock Cars

A Smeatharpe record 61 Saloon Stock Cars were in attendance with 32 seeded to the World Championship Final and most of the remainder eligible for the last-chance qualifying race that kicked off proceedings. Polesitter 622 Gary Paterson led the field away but it took 329 Kegan Sampson only a couple of laps to take over, with Paterson then getting spun down the order. Local favourite 577 Harry Darby was another early spinner and was then collected, ending his hopes of a World Final debut. 121 Kai Gilmour took second from Paterson before being passed by 610 Trent Arthurton and then spun by a charging 428 Lee Sampson. Arthurton then took the lead when Kegan Sampson was briefly delayed but the youngster quickly fought back to get ahead once more, with his father following through to make a Sampson 1-2 when yellow flags came out with five laps to go. Sampson Sr appeared to hang back to give his son a clear run, but it all went wrong for Kegan when he hit a marker tyre and was forced out on the back straight. 28 Ian Govier had been spun and taken a pummelling, which brought out more yellow flags with just a lap to go, Arthurton leading from Sampson Sr and 661 Graeme Shevill. A messy restart was called back but Arthurton then hit trouble and was unable to take up his position. That elevated 151 Levi List into the all-important top six and it was he who provided the main action on the one-lap shootout, running wide before spinning out both 5 Tam Rutherford Jr and 261 Dom Davies to regain sixth spot. That secured the young East Anglian’s place on the World Final grid, behind Sampson, Shevill, 626 Derek Duff, 27 Jason Kingwell and Paterson. For Sampson, it would be a 17th World Final, putting him joint second on the all-time list with 499 David Aldous.

After such a spectacular LCQ, could the World Final itself live up to that? The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ – and then some. The 32 qualifiers took part in a popular public grid-walk during the afternoon, and were joined by the six who made it through the last-chance race for the pre-race parade as darkness fell. Two rolling laps began with a crescendo of fireworks and then the action started for real with 389 Ryan Santry getting spun from the third row. Local man 677 Warren Darby got inside front-row starters 349 Michael Allard and 902 Junior Buster to lead, followed by 670 Ross Watters and Allard. But a lap later, Allard was back in front – the regular lead changes a sign of things to come. A marker tyre on track required the first yellow flags, with Allard leading from Darby, 277 Jack Grandon and 747 Matthew Stirling. On the resumption, there was a constant exchange of hits as Darby, Stirling and 618 Stuart Shevill Jr all had spells in front, while Allard’s chances were hit by a gyration on the back straight amid the hard-hitting action. Stirling managed to get a break and held a decent lead when more yellow flags were required after D153 Nick Antwerpen went in backwards on the pit bend and another marker tyre was displaced onto the track. Stirling retained the lead despite Shevill’s best efforts, with the latter then trading blows with 131 Timmy Barnes, which let Allard back into second before yet another bout of yellows just after half-distance to recover the stranded Kingwell.

Into the second half of the race, Allard grabbed the lead, only to be tipped towards the centre and lose several places as he regained control. Stirling was turned around as 730 Deane Mayes briefly moved in front before Junior Buster took over from Santry, Allard and Barnes. Next it was Barnes who spun, and with Allard caught behind him the defending champion was severely delayed. That let Mayes back into third, chased by 600 Barry Russell who was suddenly emerging as a strong contender. The East Anglians demoted Junior Buster, and Russell passed the lot to lead with five laps remaining from Santry and Mayes before another caution was required when Darby took a pounding and deposited much of his bumper on the track. Russell led from Santry, Mayes, 720 Archie Brown and Junior Buster and suddenly the frantic action eased for a couple of laps as the drivers bided their time. Santry tracked Russell and built a slight margin to Mayes, putting him perfectly placed for a last-bend lunge to claim the world title. In went the bumper, and into the wall and around went Russell. But Santry couldn’t stop himself from gyrating in sympathy, as a grateful Mayes shot inside to snatch victory at the death. “I can’t believe it, I honestly can’t believe it,” said Mayes after clambering off the roof of his car, tears streaming down his face. His victory, a ninth successive East Anglian win in the big race, means he is missing only the National and UK championships from a stellar CV. Brown also swept through for second, as Russell recovered to third. To their credit, Russell and Santry, who could only manage 12th, were the first to come and congratulate Mayes with a warm embrace after a spectacular end to an incredible race. The top six was completed by 561 Aaron Totham, 120 Luke Dorling and Allard, ahead of Northern Irishman 153 Ryan Wright. H16 Jeremy van de Kraats was the first continental driver home in 14th place, earning a trophy for his efforts from Team 902.

After the big one, there were two consolation races for everyone who hadn’t finished in the top 12 of the World Final. In the first, 314 Bryn Finch led the way before Levi List pushed past shortly before half-distance. List went on to win from Arthurton and Finch. The second consolation was largely made up of World Finalists, with Dom Davies the only lower-graded driver. Davies duly built a big lead but was gradually reeled in by a flying Lee Sampson. When Davies was pushed wide by a rejoining backmarker, Sampson pounced. 760 Joey Reynolds spun from second, so it was Warren Darby who followed Sampson home, with Davies third.

By the time of the meeting final, a heavy mist had descended but the 32-car field continued to provide plenty of hard-hitting action. Yellow flags were required when H868 Bart Wouters went backwards into the wall as Kegan Sampson led from Reynolds and Junior Buster. Allard worked his way into second and, as the leaders negotiated backmarker traffic , Sampson was delayed which gave Allard the opportunity to pounce. The Yarmouth man took the victory – little consolation for losing his gold roof – ahead of Kai Gilmour and Timmy Barnes, as Sampson slipped to fourth.

BriSCA F2 Stock Cars

There were 55 BriSCA F2 Stock Cars at the track although three failed to make it past pre-meeting practice. The first race of the evening was for the Grand National Championship, featuring the top 28 drivers present from the season-long nationwide Grand National points chart. 27 Kieren Bradford’s gearbox cried enough after the drivers’ parade, leaving 27 starters. On pole position was Scottish visitor 92 John Hogg, but he was immediately jumped at the start by 127 Matt Stoneman. Further back, 980 Charlie Lobb spun and 161 Ben Bate and 542 Steven Gilbert were sent into the wall, with Gilbert riding up and getting hooked in the steel cables. Yellow flags were quickly upgraded to red and a complete re-run ordered, with non-starters also including second-row men 560 Luke Wrench and 979 Paul Moss. At the second time of asking, Stoneman again hit the front, and was quickly followed through by 24 Jon Palmer and 783 James Rygor. The three star locals set a terrific pace, with Hogg clinging on in fourth before a stoppage was needed just before half-distance to assist 460 Adam Pearce who had gone backwards into the wall at pace. In the second half of the race, Palmer began nibbling at Stoneman’s bumper and then nudged him wide to take the lead with three laps remaining. Having slowed each other up, Rygor now sensed his opportunity and managed to pounce as Stoneman and Palmer went wide together. Crucially, Palmer and Stoneman were delayed enough to give Rygor a decisive lead that he wouldn’t relinquish. Stoneman attempted a last-bend lunge on Palmer, but only succeeded in letting Hogg snatch third on the line – an excellent result for the Scotsman. 890 Paul Rice and 184 Aaron Vaight completed the top six.

Heat two largely comprised lower-graded drivers. Yellow flags were required after 290 Kieran Cocks spun and was t-boned by 53 Philip Mann. Thereafter, sole red top 325 Ryan Sheahan quickly took the lead before half-distance, going on to win from 935 Nathan Maidment and Ministox graduate 654 Harley Soper. A 29-car consolation began with inevitable chaos as most of the yellow grade piled in on the fourth bend. After a complete restart, there was a home-straight pile-up in which 126 Jamie Avery had plenty of air time, and 525 Charlie Knight and 468 Sam Weston were left facing the traffic, leading to a caution. When the race truly got going, 828 Julian Coombes relieved 870 Bruno Farrell of the lead before half-distance, but Wrench was the man to watch. He shoved Lobb and Gilbert wide in one move on his way to third place, then passed 194 Luke Johnson with three laps to go. Wrench began closing Coombes down, but the local veteran was able to ride out his last-bend lunge to win.

Ahead of the final, for the O’er the Border Trophy, Mick Whittle led the parade and two rolling laps in the magnificently restored car used by a white-top 218 Rob Speak in the late ’80s. The race began with a train of blue and red tops thundering into the wall and when 302 Dale Moon gave the ‘thumbs down’ signal yellow flags were called. Soper led the way from 925 Jake Wilson, who soon took over. With mist descending over the stadium, the drivers were finding there was very little grip on track, but 184 Aaron Vaight found more than most. He flew through the field and relieved Wilson of the lead before halfway. Wrench worked his way into second, but could not overhaul the healthy margin Vaight had built. So Vaight won from Wrench and Rygor, with Scotsman 674 Steven Burgoyne fourth and 390 Jessica Smith fifth.  The night ended with a thrilling Helter Skelter race.  Wilson built up a good lead but was being chased down by Bate. In turn, Wrench was closing on Bate, and in an enthralling climax, Wrench just got to Bate before he could challenge the white top, and that bought Wilson just enough breathing space to land a maiden victory.

Saloon Stock Cars 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
LCQ 428 661 626 27 622 151 112 177 nof
World Championship 730 720 600 561 120 349 153 618 131 122
Cons 1 151 610 314 697 121 577 7 33 5 8
Cons 2 428 677 261 868 329 H16 661 399 760 811
Final 349 121 131 329 600 428 902 677 760 389
BriSCA F2 Stock Cars 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
GNC 783 24 92 127 890 184 390 475 736 895
Heat 325 935 654 844 762 533 925 605 180 359
Consolation 828 560 194 674 302 542 979 980 285 335
Final 184 560 783 674 390 935 925 828 736 127
Helter Skelter 925 560 783 161 27 126 926 844 390 184
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