37 cars were in attendance for the latest of the World Championship qualifying rounds. This time at the Owlerton Stadium in Sheffield for some Sunday afternoon shale shifting in the steel city.
Frankie Wainman Jnr (515) still sitting at the top of the World Qualifying points heading into the Sheffield meeting. Dan Johnson (4) making massive gains at Mildenhall the previous week. A few drivers making their first appearance of the 2019 season, including Mal Brown (34) and Richard Howarth (495).
The meeting began with an extra race for the whites and yellows only. This did not form part of the meeting but allowed for extra track time. 13 cars took to the track with Wayne Marshall (483) a non starter. The track was well watered ahead of the race which meant the first few laps were a little tricky and caught a few of the drivers out, including Joe Nickolls (242) who had a spin and Scott Wright (254) with a trip to the wires in the Newson hire car. Liam Gilbank (20) would take up the early running as the cars would start to find some speed, notably John Wright (348) and Rob Plant (364) the first to full throttle. The yellows were waved for Scott Wright (254) who was parked in the turn 3 fence, all ok and the tractor was deployed to remove the car to the middle. Hard luck story for the leader John Wright (348) who picked up a puncture and was forced to pull off before the race resumed. Rob Plant (364) controlled the restart to pull away up front. Going into the final corner Richard Woods (268) took a hard hit into the turn 3 fence (all OK) but up front Rob Plant (364) came through to take the first win of the day.
W&Y - 364, 216, 242, 415, 532, 20, 526, NOF
Heat 1 next up with a full format being used (1 heat for each driver) now including the blues, reds and superstars. Danny Wainman (212) and Mark Sargent (326) were slow away at the start, Wainman (212) would ultimately retire. Will Hunter (220) and Frankie Wainman Jnr (515) would go for the same piece of shale and have a coming together, this would be just enough of a delay for the rapid Tom Harris (84) to gain 2 positions with ease. Harris (84) would then set his sights on tapping Bradley Harrison (25) wide into turn 3 to net another position. A big cluster of whites and yellows would trip over themselves at turn 3 which allowed Harris (84) through the gap and Wainman Jnr (515) would follow. A few laps later and Harris (84) would take the win, with a large gap to a very impressive 2nd place for Liam Gilbank (20). 8 drivers would transfer to the final.
Heat 1 84, 20, 515, 4, 259, 25, 220, 326//166, 348, 541, 211
Heat 2 saw the other half of the entry take to the track. Nigel Green (445) would pull up early in the running with a front outside puncture and Craig Finnikin (55) delayed with a spin at turn 2. Mick Sworder (150) made massive gains early on but almost took the right side of the car into the home straight fence and struggled to regain his position as he was out of place on the outside for a few laps. Jack France (216) was away and gone from yellow grade, almost a lap ahead and no one ever came close, netting a fine heat win. Mark Woodhull (335) would get 2nd with Mark Gilbank (21) taking third. Green (445) and Finnikin (55) would now have to attempt to qualify through the consolation.
Heat 2 - 216, 335, 21, 34, 37, 175, 150, 242//555, 55, 463, NOF
Consolation time and the last chance to make the meeting final. This race contained 5 red or superstar graded drivers including the likes of Danny Wainman (212), Craig Finnikin (55) and Nigel Green (445). In the opening few laps, Daz Kitson (532), Geoff Nickolls (215) and Phoebe Wainman (211) would all find the turn 3 fence, in avoidance Wainman (212) would take to the infield hitting one of the marker tyres hard enough for the tyre to come to rest in the middle of the home straight and yellows coming straight out. Bobby Griffin (166) would speed up proceedings by removing the tyre himself. The racing got back underway but John Wright’s (348) run of bad luck would continue as he went to the fence at turn 3, but was then collected by Frankie JJ (555) the following lap after being forced out wide and the caution was back out. John exiting the car himself and his rather damaged car being removed to the infield. The new Consolation King Craig Finnikin (55) would get his 2nd Consolation win in a row, Green (445) was right there but went slightly wide at turn 2 on the last lap and was unable to mount a last bend attack. It was a case of if you were running you qualified as only 10 cars finished.
Consolation – 55, 445, 212, 166, 555, 532, 541, 463, 495, 364, NOF
Final time with 25 cars lined up. Liam Gilbank (20) and Richard Howarth (495) leading them off. The opening laps saw many hits and side to side contact as many cars tried to go for the same gaps. Mick Sworder (150) and Tom Harris (84) would make the most progress of the drivers from the back. Will Hunter (220) and Frankie Wainman Jnr (515) would make contact down the home straight, this would fire Hunter (220) into the fence with Willie Skoyles Jnr (541) caught up in the same accident. Tom Harris (84) continued to apply his new favourite overtaking spot up the inside of turn 3, using it to good effect throughout the race. The yellows were called for a multiple car pileup on the back straight. All ok. Coming to the green for the final time Sworder (150) and Harris (84) nose to tail with Woodhull leading (335). Once the green flag dropped though Harris (84) was focused on the win, swiftly moving passed both Sworder (150) and Woodhull (335) and no one saw him again. Nigel Green (445) and Wainman Jnr (515) would come together out of turn 4, both pointing in the wrong direction, with many drivers having to take avoiding action. Wainman Jnr (515) would be the first to get himself moving again a full lap down. Danny Wainman (212) would battle his way into an impressive 2nd place using his single surface car (2018 tarmac car) with Mark Woodhull (335) taking 3rd on the podium.
Final – 84, 212, 335, 55, 4, 259, 150, 555, 463, 34, 25, 515.
Grand National time and 26 cars would take the green flag for the final race of the day, Harris (84) taking his lap handicap. A few laps into the race and the yellows were required due to the track almost being blocked at turn 3. Phoebe Wainman (211) had touched the back straight fence and upon recovering had been collected by Russell Cooper (415), both cars wedged together on the entry of turn 3. At the same time Mark Woodhull (335) and Richard Howarth (495) were both wedged into the turn 3 wires. A short delay to separate the cars. Jack France (216) leading at the time of yellows had to pull off with a puncture leaving Mal Brown (34) to show them how it was done. Controlling the restart to perfection, Brown (34) skipped away at the front, by the time Sworder (150) and Finnikin (55) found their way to front, Brown (34) had long gone, taking the Grand National and his first race win in 5 years. Harris (84) would make it into 7th from the lap handicap.
Grand National – 34, 150, 55, 4, 515, 445, 84, 21, 259, 212, 166, 37.
Report by Daniel Smith
Photos 1-4 courtesy of Jordan Cooper
Photo 5 - courtesy of Colin Casserley