Published March 17, 2015 15:39
£6.50 is a ridiculous toll charge for anywhere, never mind to enter a slightly different part of our own country. But, for those of us blessed (cursed?) with living in the southern part of our island, it was the price we had to pay for two days of intense racing from Rounds 5 & 6 of the British Universities Karting Championship 2015 at Llandow Kart Circuit, just west of Cardiff in Wales.
The fallout from the previous rounds at Buckmore Park meant that for the first time this season it was Huddersfield A that topped the table - but with two drop rounds to consider at the end of it all it was still definitely all to play for.
One thing the teams hadn’t counted on however was the ‘glorious’ Welsh weather. During the Rookies round the day before it was, as described by many, close to ’t-shirt weather’. Brilliant sunshine and a bone dry circuit all day. What a difference a day made though! An overnight shower and misty rain all morning meant that the beginning of the day at least would begin with a soaking wet track.
Race 1 saw UCL’s Dickon Whitewood take advantage of both his high grid slot and the difficult conditions to narrowly take the win, after a superb show of sportsmanship from Cardiff A’s Peter Rundle. Pete dived down the inside of Dickon on the final corner, an unbelievably late lunge that would have been spectacular if he’d managed to pull it off. Unfortunately he side-swiped Dickon out of the way, taking the lead but graciously backing off just before the line to give the win back to the UCL driver.
Championship challenger Oxford Brookes A nearly managed to take advantage of this last-corner melee courtesy of James Theodore but was narrowly held at bay, and the race finished with UCL on top, just 3 tenths ahead of 2nd placed Cardiff A, and a further two tenths ahead of 3rd placed Oxford Brookes. A significant gap followed to the other two championship challengers, with Coventry A’s James Raven finishing in 4th place 8 seconds down the road, and Huddersfield A’s Patryk Szczerbinski in 5th.
Sprint Race 2 began with the front row being penalised for shortcutting the circuit after completely missing out the hook section on the first lap. Whether this was due to loading or not was unclear, but it put both Kingston A and Nottingham A clean out of the running for the lead almost immediately.
As ever it was Oxford Brookes that took advantage, with Joe Waters pulling out a huge lead of over 12 seconds to 2nd placed Brunel A’s Chris Bell, with 2013 champions and previous round winners Hertfordshire A finishing in 3rd place.
Local boys Cardiff A did one better than their narrow 2nd place in Sprint 1 by winning the third sprint race of the day courtesy of captain Matt Isherwood, 6 second ahead of Ollie Greenwood from championship leaders Huddersfield A.
Durham A’s Will van Es was on a charge from his low grid slot of 28th, but disastrously for the former TKM champion some contact and a visit to the tyres on lap 5 left him back down where he started with a lot of work to do. Lapping on average a second faster than the entire field, the time left simply wasn’t enough for the Intermediate class leaders who finished in 8th place.
Another local boy, Seb Hutchinson from UWE A, managed to put his experience round Llandow to full use in the 4th Race of the day, starting in 26th position on the grid and proceeding to win the race a full 17.6 seconds ahead of 2nd placed Loughborough A. Cardiff A’s Max Lowry finished a further 8 seconds down in 3rd place, yet another podium for the local boys who were excelling in their sprint races.
Race 5 saw another comfortable victory, this time for Southampton A’s veteran driver Scott Michaels. Scott finished the race with a 13.6 second gap to second place, with Callum Hughes from Oxford A finishing in 2nd place and reigning champions Coventry A in 3rd after capitalising on their high grid slot, courtesy of Luke Russell.
The final sprint race of the day was a superb fight to the flag, with all the top championship competitors in the race together. After dicing throughout the entire race it was Huddersfield’s Josh Butcher that came out on top, narrowly beating Coventry A’s Miles Murphy who was chasing a return to form after coming back from injury. Brunel’s B team bested their A’s (not for the first time this season as well!) to finish in 3rd place, beating off title contenders Hertfordshire A, Oxford Brookes A and Cardiff A in the process.
After the 6 sprint races in the morning it was local boys Cardiff A that came out ahead, with a win in Race 3, a 2nd place in Race 1 and a 3rd in Race 4. Huddersfield A once again came out on top against Oxford Brookes and Coventry, finishing in 2nd place with a 1st, a 2nd and a 5th, with Oxford Brookes narrowly finishing in 3rd place with a 1st, a 3rd and a 5th place.
Durham A came out top in the intermediate class (7th overall) with a 4th, and 8th and a 15th, with Cardiff’s B team finishing 2nd (5th, 8th and 14th - 9th overall) and Southampton A finishing 3rd (1st, 13th and 15th - 12th overall).
After a short lunch break, and with the rain stopped and the threat of sunshine beginning to appear over the circuit, it was straight into Round 6 and the three 1 hour endurance races.
Durham A’s team of Andrew Dawson and Will van Es started in 4th place for Endurance 1, and managed to take advantage of their high starting position to take the win by 12 seconds over a charging Cardiff A (Matt Isherwood and Peter Rundle). Cardiff started 34th on the grid, and through a combination of brilliant driving and some quick pit stops they managed to carve their way through the field to finish just short of the top step. Huddersfield A, ever present on the podium, finished in 3rd place; the team of Josh Butcher (having just won the final sprint race) and Shaun Arnold mimicking Cardiff by climbing 28 places from their starting grid spot of 31st.
The result was exactly what Huddersfield needed, as in Endurance 2 the benefits of finishing highly from a low grid slot came about as their second pairing of Ollie Greenwood and Patryk Szczerbinski started in 4th place and never looked back as they took the win by 18.6 seconds, ahead of Oxford A. Crucially, they also finished ahead of their main championship rivals Oxford Brookes A, who could only manage 3rd place (albeit from 26th on the grid).
The final Endurance race saw Oxford Brookes A’s strong team of Craig Mooney and Jamie French starting from 9th place, needing to win the race to stand a chance of the overall round win. Unfortunately for them it appeared that UWE A hadn’t quite read the script, as they dominated the race - starting from 34th on the grid they took the lead on lap 42 and led right the way through to the finish, building an impressive 19.9 second gap over Oxford Brookes who finished eventually in 2nd place. Coventry C’s team of Colin Fox and Luke Wilkins finished in 3rd place, but the race was mathematically a disaster for Oxford Brookes who desperately needed the win to help their championship hopes.
After the three endurance races (and mainly thanks to UWE’s win in the final race) it was Huddersfield A that took the round win with a 3rd in Race 1 and a win in Race 2. Oxford Brookes finished just one point behind in 2nd place (3rd and 2nd) and Cardiff A beat reigning champions Coventry A to the final step of the podium with a 2nd and a 5th to top off a fantastic days racing at their home circuit.
Coventry’s C team topped the intermediates table with a 10th and a 3rd (6th overall), with Warwick A finishing 2nd (11th overall) and Loughborough B in 3rd (14th overall).
But of course, you’re wondering how this affects the overall championship standings. As you might expect, Huddersfield have extended their lead at the top of the table to 12 points - but when the drop rounds are taken into consideration the table looks significantly different! The final round at Whilton Mill will see a straight shoot-out between Huddersfield and Oxford Brookes, with Cardiff, Coventry and Hertfordshire all in the running for 3rd place.
Barring disaster it looks like Southampton’s title to lose in the intermediate class, with the nearest challengers Durham A five points behind after drop rounds are factored in, and Warwick A in 3rd place.
It all seems to be ending too soon! With just one day of racing remaining, and an unbelievably close finish to the 2015 season beckoning, you’d be completely daft not to join us for the final rounds at Whilton Mill on the 28th March.
Photos by the ever superb Stu Stretton.