By BSCDA, Jul 26 2018 09:06AM
The first European Championship run on shale since the inaugural event in 1978 takes place at Northampton Shaleway this weekend as reigning European Champion Nigel Green sets out to defend his title.
Back in 1978 the event was a two-leg affair, held at Long Eaton and Rochdale, with Stuart Smith taking the crown after a run-off with Mike Close.
This year Green will be having his first outing on shale since the National Points Shootout finale at Belle Vue last November, and he will be competing in his white shale car, which was last seen out the year before at the same Shootout Finale meeting.
There are currently 60 cars booked in over the two-day meeting, including 15 drivers from the Netherlands, the biggest foreign entry for the European for some years. The meeting kicks off at the earlier start-time of 2.30pm on Saturday with the BSCDA Trust Fund race, won last year by Scott Davids.
But much of the talk leading up to the weekend has been focused on the track itself, with promoter Deane Wood working tirelessly to get the shale surface up to scratch after dust created issues with drivers and fans at the first meeting on shale at the venue for World Championship qualifying round in June.
Since then a number of cars have been back to Northampton to test out the surface, beginning last Friday, with last year’s European Championship 1-2, Green and Ryan Harrison leading the way, along with Will Yarrow and Kyle Gray.
Initially, the dust returned, and despite the fact it had settled later in the day, extreme temperatures during the past month were causing major issues with the surface.
Wood sort the advice of King’s Lynn shale track guru Buster Chapman. “He basically said to me “You’ve got to dig it all up and start again,”” said Wood. “So that’s what I did.”
So, in a race against time, Wood set about relaying the shale track using the advice of Chapman and he now believes he has the racing surface heading in the right direction.
“Any track will struggle with the weather we are having,” said Wood. “But apart from a couple of bumps, fingers crossed I think it will be OK.”
Wood’s main fear is forecasted thunderstorms due on Friday. “What I don’t want to see now though is a major storm flooding the track,” he said.
Both Green and Harrison tested the track on Tuesday and both were positive with the result. “With regards to dust the track is fine,” said Green. “It was a bit bumpy but that is not a big issue. There will be lots of crashes as the track is narrow and you end up racing on a wider line. It should be an entertaining weekend. He just needs to keep that moisture in the track.”
“It was definitely a lot better,” said Harrison.
With the weather forecast over the weekend slightly cooler than of late, the weekend should be more comfortable for drivers and fans alike with two days of hard and almost certainly dramatic racing on the cards.
James Morris won his first final at the June meeting and will be will be hoping to feature again over the weekend, and reigning National Points and British Champion Stuart Smith Jnr, who ended the June meeting with victory in the Grand National after a forceful drive, will be searching for his first European title.
Smith Jnr is in tip-top form on shale this season, with four final victories, including his dramatic last-gasp win in the British Championship at Belle Vue. If Smith Jnr is successful in his Euro bid, he will be one title away from a clean-sweep of major championship honours, with the World Championship missing from his trophy cabinet.
However, there will be plenty of top-line stars trying to stop him, including Mat Newson. Yet to win a major title, Newson came agonisingly close at Belle Vue when just a quarter of a lap away of taking the British, before Smith Jnr pounced.
Two-time European champion Dan Johnson will also be a major threat. Johnson won his first final of the season on the Tarmac at Skegness two weeks ago and also won the first heat on the Northampton shale in June.
Frankie Wainman Jnr is another multiple European champion, having won the event three times during his career, and with shale being his most successful surface this season with three final wins, the 46-year-old will undoubtedly be one of the favourites to take the crown.
The BriSCA F2s are also on the card, competing for their European Championship, along with the Rebels.
On Saturday the racing starts at 2.30pm and 12 noon on Sunday.
There will be also plenty of post-meeting entertainment in store on Saturday night, including live music and karaoke.