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King's Lynn Report - Saturday 27th April 2019

By BSCDA, May 8 2019 03:14PM

After last month`s season opener at Kings Lynn with a bumper crowd it was again back to the, dare I say, “the New Coventry” for the last Saturday of the month meeting on the 27th April. It was hard to say on the crowd levels as the weather was slightly chillier for this one, slightly depleted on the terraces but akin to sardines in a can in the more cosy back terrace stand.

What would this month bring at the Norfolk arena…after last months mid race final driver discussion and dance off anything could be on the cards, something really out of the blue (or white) with a low grader winning the final, no come on, let`s not get daft and all giddy??

First up was the whites and yellows race with Richard Howarth 495 looking good for the win before the pack were closed up after waved yellows. Local driver Finn Sargent was in second spot at the re-start before smoking his way to the front (literally) coming home in first spot from Sam Makin and Robert Plant in third.

Before heat one proper took place the Trackstar/Norfolk arena staff held a minutes clapping in memory of Andrew Battye and also Tommy Kay who had both passed away the week before the meeting. Andrew Battye was well known in the Stock car and racing world being a member of the Johnson motorsport pit crew. Nearly every car had had their front bumpers painted orange in tribute, also carrying ribbons. The orange being obviously Dan Johnson’s team colours but also the fact Andrew also drove a bright orange Focus ST. Tommy Kay had been around the oval sport scene for decades and latterly had an engineering firm supplying race parts whilst also involved with Team Riley. Both will be sadly missed and it’s a nice gesture to have a minutes clapping rather than the normal silence – nicely done.

Heat one then and a grid of 20 cars for this one with 254 Scott Wright in one of the Newson hire cars soon hitting the front, further back Nigel Harrhy had issues with a flapping aerofoil and Bradley Harrison came to a standstill on the main straight bringing out the yellows. Wright led off but it wasn`t long before Matt Newson hit the front from Paul Hines and Frankie Wainman but not for long, the yellows were out again for Paul Hopkins going over on his roof on turn 4 with a bit of help from Phoebe Wainman and Steve Whittle.

While the Hopkins car was being righted Matthew Black decided to interview pole man Matt Newson and essentially we can sum up Matt’s feelings (and the fans) by his answer…..”Its Good to be Back”.

At the re-start Wainman soon got past Hines and with what looked like broken OSR suspension, sparks and tyre smoke Wainman was gaining on the 16 car. Newson being slowed on the back straight by early leader Wright, Wainman seizing the chance slamming the Newson car to the fence for the lead but with Newson getting back in front of Wainman, the 515 pilot then on borrowed time with the tyre letting go with one lap to run, Newson winning from Paul Hines and Wainman limping home for third spot.

Heat two and one extra car for this one with 21 cars gridding up. Liam Gilbank soon hit the lead, further back James Morris hooked up with Mark Sargent and Tom Harris span, all getting going. Dan Johnson’s inside rear tyre let rip leading to retirement, meanwhile up front John Wright had gained the lead. Over on turns 3/4 Geoff Nicholls went fencewards with Michael Scriven and Mark Woodhall squeezing the front of the Nicholls car , the Nicholls car going front end first upwards and nearly over the fence before rolling on its roof leading to the yellows.

After righting the 215 car John Wright led off from Gilbank second but at the drop of the flag Wright came out of turn 4 sideways leading to carnage behind and a huge change of places, Robert Plant coming out the lead car from Nigel Green and Tom Harris in third spot, not for long though the 445 car soon overhauling Plant to take the chequered with a healthy lead over Tom Harris and Danny Wainman in third spot.

Consolation time now and to keep everything on an even keel this one had 20 cars trying to make the final. Early charger Mick Sworder was taking some very odd and wide lines, ie Box Office flat out hitting either the plate fence, other cars or both. Whilst Dan Johnson further behind looked much more sedate and positively slow in comparison. The outcome was Dan soon got up to the back of the bumper of Sworder, slipped up the inside and then drove off into the distance for the chequered for a well deserved win, something Battye would be looking down on with no doubt a grin.

The final proved to be a race of attrition rather than anything else, the top men heading to the infield with damage rather than the usual tussles galore before a red topped or silver roofed car took the flag. Early on Mat Newson span hitting the car of Dan Johnson, Johnson heading to the centre with a flat outside rear, soon followed by Tom Harris with front suspension damage. Nigel Green span on turns 1/2 facing the wrong way but soon got going before heading to the centre.

Up front young Liam Gilbank and the not so young John Wright were at the front, both these two have been showing some great form of recent with race wins from Wright and `nearly` wins from Gilbank. Their lead at the front was soon evaporated when Billy Johnsons osf wheel got fed up with its marriage to the car and parted company in spectacular style down the back straight leading to a yellows caution.

At the re-start it was Gilbank, Wright and Colin Goodswen in third spot. Mick Sworder was delayed by Mal Brown (yes you did read that correctly, one of the rarer appearances by Mal at the Arena) letting a flying Frankie Wainman close in before another flat and Sworder retiring.

At the front however both Wright and young Gilbank were remaining unchallenged and having a great battle in front of the fans. Not bang, crash, wallop but just controlled and very neat driving. John Wright holding onto the lead but with Gibank right on his tail and attempting the inside line. It`s great to see this style of driving and at Lynn with its wide fast bends an absolute pleasure to watch. After a few laps of this Liam decided the only thing was less of the controlled driving and a good firm use of the metal thing up front, tapping Wright aside and then heading to the chequered flag for a fine `white top` win, Wright coming in second with a very proud Dad, Mark Gilbank coming in third spot – the family and team having a fair old celebration on the centre – particulary as all three cars are stored, kept and maintained in the same place.

Mark was obviously over the moon and commented at the driver interviews - “What a phenomenal drive from a young man……I might be giving him the equipment but by heck is he driving the wheels off it”

A quick chat with Liam in the pits afterwards and he summed up the race – “Yeah Brilliant night, I just got on well at the beginning , John was a bit faster than me so I just tagged on the back of him and stayed there for a bit”.

When asked on the age of the car Liam replied “Me dad built it when he was 18 and he`s now 43 so that makes it 25 years old”. Not a bad result then, Liam winning a final in a car that’s 7 years older than the pilot – oh and thanks for letting your Dad’s age out Liam, I`m sure he will be pleased.

Unfortunately for John Wright though the car failed the scales of doom after the race, the car being slightly overweight (it had suffered heavy damage at Sheffield and been re-nerfed and bumpered), John being excluded from the results, so Mark Gilbank being promoted to second from Colin Goodswen in third.

The Grand National proved to be another war of attrition and with the rain finally arriving after threatening to do so all night the track was what we may describe as challenging. I could write chapter and verse on this but to summarise after four yellow flags and various retirements, we were left at the final re-start with Frankie Wainman, Mick Sworder and Dan Johnson slugging out the last 6 laps on a very greasy track, using the bumpers, nerf rails, fence and each other to barge and bash each other around. No major hits but a fine example of controlled and fair driving with Sworder eventually barging Johnson aside on the last bend for the win – even with the rain coming down it was an absolute pleasure to watch and a great end to another nights racing at the new, err, “Coventry”.