Smeatharpe Stadium - Sunday 8th October 2017

Whilst it almost seemed to come too early ultimately, as in complete contrast to the two meetings held at Smeatharpe Stadium in September, the 2017 season finale was held in warm Autumn sunshine for a four formulae all-contact meeting featuring the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars, Saloon Stock Cars, Bangers and ORCi Ministox.  With a packed pit area, trophies galore, points championships won (and, of course lost) and retirement announcements made it really did have an end of term feel.

BriSCA F2 Stock Cars

As has been the case every year since 1996, the BriSCA F2 Stock Cars had the Ladies Trophy as their feature event for this meeting, in memory of Marylin Farrell with each race sponsored and trophies on the top three.  37 cars raced in the meeting which saw the track championship as close as it could be coming into the day with 38 Dave Polley tied on points with 127 Matt Stoneman.  Polley, on what was a weekend out of the current National Series chase for the silver roof, made the journey down from East Anglia once again in his efforts to take the title.  However, he was to meet some local resistance and this was evident from heat one when 111 Lewis Geach came back at him and spun him from contention and he had to go via the consolation where he finished fourth whereas Stoneman made second in his heat.  522 Chris Mikulla was the winner of heat one before 24 Jon Palmer took heat two and 528 Shane Hector the consolation.  As a bonus, there was a carrot dangled on The Ladies Trophy race – the offer an extra £500 prize money should a white graded driver take the win, and it was 572 James Lindsay who duly led off the 30-car race and opened out quite a lead early on.  Could he, possibly?  The answer was ‘No’ as he found himself involved in a crash involving 25 Stuart Hodson and 468 Sam Weston in which the latter pair where hooked up on the racing line to bring out the yellow flags.  464 Matt Linfield assumed the lead for the re-start and held sway until passed by 315 Justin Fisher whilst Stoneman made a quick move at the re-start to move ahead of Polley; too quick as it turned out as he was shown a black cross for overtaking before the green flag.  There was no catching Fisher at the front and he went on to win the Ladies Trophy for the third time in the last four years by a safe margin.  Stoneman was second across the line but was dropped two places for jumping the restart and this promoted Polley to second and Gilbert to third.  Another tradition for the Final winner is the champagne soaking, which Fisher duly took courtesy of Tim and Rob Farrell, as well as his placemen but also to be noted was the significance of the trophy being presented by Colin and Jill Higman.  Jill was instrumental in instigating the trophy 21 years ago, and Colin was the very first winner of it, and as he noted it was in the days before such things as a champagne soaking…  The Final had put the gap back to two points in the track championship and therefore it would be decided in the Grand National.  As it was, it was more local resistance that Polley met once again as Palmer ran him out wide and into the plating early on and it allowed Stoneman to get away to finish fourth, four places ahead of Polley which confirmed him as track champion for 2017.  It was one of those Smeatharpe races where there was so much going on it was difficult to know which way to look but did twice feature a big coming together between Geach and 418 Ben Borthwick.  Geach landed the first blow, but Borthwick brutally delivered the telling one, on the last bend.  At the front 460 Matt Weston took a lot of catching but it was 476 Ryan Wadling who did do just that and with it the annual Trackscene Trophy, which has been staged on the last F2 race of the Autospeed season every year since 1982.  Also, as a footnote of the race, just prior it was announced that this was 189 Paul Butcher’s very last race after 36 years and he joined the mass lap of honour afterwards.

Saloon Stock Cars

The Saloon Stock Car entry was always set to be down on what was enjoyed eight days previously, but it was good enough, and was noted in the programme notes, there are genuine hopes that there will be a far greater local contingent in 2018.  But equally, there were again some great travelling efforts from East Anglia and one who has made that regular trip during this season 78 Jack Thompson won heat one by some way, with the big battle being for second place which was resolved right on the very last corner between 27 Kieren Bradford, 158 Shane Davies and an almost cheeky lunge from 199 Phil Powell.   The second heat saw several early mix ups and Davies showed his class by simply picking his way through it to hit the lead early on and went on to win.  The Final again saw Thompson open out a good lead early on.  Davies moved through into second place and chipped away at the lead lap by lap and by the time of starting the last lap looked to be in a position to perform a last bend lunge.  He did just that, perfectly timed and executed, Thompson was sent spinning and collected the back marking 130 Chris Durrant at the same time and Davies took the victory with Bradford making second, Powell third and Thompson just recovering for fourth.  At the trophy presentation Davies confirmed that he would indeed be retiring at the end of the season.  This was a great way to go out, already confirmed as track champion and he will be much missed by all at Autospeed after being such a staunch supporter of the racing in the southwest in his time in Saloon Stock Cars.

Bangers

For the Bangers it was another tradition, for their last meeting of the season at Smearharpe has been raced in the memory of Dave Weare every year since 2012.  The entry was maybe slightly down on what had been hoped, but nevertheless enough for three split heats and just as with the F2’s they too came into the meeting with a track championship that was far too close to call and between three drivers.  The heats were fairly quiet and saw wins for 743 Jake Bond, 944 Callum Hosie and 23 Barry Staples.  34 cars for the Final saw a lot more going on and a very good race at the front between 145 Stuart Squires, 288 Billy Collins and 335 Albert Hughes who were latterly joined by Hosie.  However, they all came to grief one way or another and it was 246 Ryan Sparks who stormed through to take the victory and with his challengers in the track championship 133 Jody Jeanes and 797 Dan Moss having blank days, with this he confirmed himself as the track champion too.  70 Jamie Thomas made second in the race and 366 Pete Warren third.   The last event was the Pairs Race, always Dave Weare’s favourite event of the season and once again it did prove a lot of fun with nine Pairs taking part which included some comedy with Jody Jeanes piling brother 113 Chris into the plating after the two had become un-chained and 154 Barry Pike and 79 Brian Edmond trying to stop anyone they could but in particular the leaders 246 Ryan Sparks and his brother 247 Richard Sparks.  As before in this, the Sparks duo made it look easy and took the win – a pairing to match Torvill & Dean, no less.

Ministox

For the ORCi MInistox too it was an afternoon of great trophies on offer as it was Club 21 day and for them too there were retirements with several in their last outing in the junior class before moving on, but obviously more of a natural progression.   The outcome of the first heat was influenced by a yellow flag when 870 Stella Farrell found herself stranded and whilst 677 Warren Darby was first across the line, it was judged that he jumped the re-start which elevated 985 Sam Carter as the winner, for his first southwest win.  The second heat saw a near flag to flag win for 943 Hannah Esau.  The Final was led by 999 James Puckett until there was a yellow flag after a big coming between 946 Stacey Coombes and 970 Archie Farrell, amongst others, but left one stranded and the other requiring assistance.  Puckett was sent wide at the restart and 259 Bradley Eltham moved into the lead.  There was further drama as 619 Max Langmaid, and star graded drivers 667 Tommy Farrell and 911 Harrison Bryant went out in a crash and all of this helped Eltham to maintain his lead.  Warren Darby was the one to chase Eltham, but the long distance traveller was clear enough at the flag, leaving Darby as the runner-up with 980 Charlie Lobb in third.

BriSCA F2 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Heat 1 522 315 542 25 890 189 460 920 111 639
Heat 2 24 127 476 689 828 126 418 745 572 789
Consolation 528 464 303 38 468 302 325 800 663 895
Final 315 38 542 127 24 464 476 460 189 895
Grand National 476 460 828 127 745 126 24 38 189 464
Grade Awards W 460 Y 464 B 315 R 542
Saloon Stock Cars 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Heat 1 78 27 199 158 399 902 903 276 84 28
Heat 2 158 399 276 78 447 199 27 799 903 130
Final 158 27 199 78 28 447 84 799 903 276
Ministox 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Heat 1 985 980 677 667 259 577 654 911 983 339
Heat 2 943 677 654 619 970 667 980 339 577 999
Final 259 677 980 917 983 577 654 339 914 619
Bangers 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Heat 1 743 145 23 246 991 992 70 247 898 288
Heat 2 944 743 898 246 284 455 247 45 797 621
Heat 3 23 288 991 79 70 113 835 154 944 335
Final 246 70 366 621 145 284 743 154 133 335
Chained Pairs 246/247 45/441 366/604 154/79 70/717 nof
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