After making sure all the roads would be clear and a few phone calls to the Vauxhall Recreation Club, it was decided to go ahead with the Area Round. As it turned out, there were no further issues with the roads on Sunday, but the East Anglia contingent decided not to risk the chance of being stuck in Luton! That left 9 drivers to fight it out for top honours on the LSCC track, and those of you who may have taken a chance and bet on someone other than James Cleave, would have made some money! Having announced that doors would be open at 08:30, Paul Harwood and Michael Ovens were outside the door at 07:30! (Many thanks for your help cleaning the track Michael)
Unfortunately, with Area 10 not in attendance and other Area 6 novices, having to work, Gavin Wills was the only Novice driver present and took maximum points towards the championship.
The first heat welcomed new racers to the championship, with the returning from Pakistan, Franz Barillaro, and the “I have just opened my box today,” Tony Ryder, on Green and Yellow respectively. They were joined by Paul Harwood and Michael Ovens on Blue and Red. Franz still had not got to grips with squeezing the trigger and the rest of the drivers were still half asleep. 32 was the best Paul could manage on Blue. Into the second heat and on came the big boys of the championship so far, Greg, James, Mark and Ian. In practice, Paul Harwood made comment on how James’ car looked awful and that he would not do very well, being much slower than the times Paul could do himself. When a new Saloon record of 36.31 was set on Green lane, by James in the second heat, Paul decided not to make further comment! That was to prove to be the fastest heat of the day, the next best 3 minute time was 32.62 set by Greg in his second heat. This was all just academic though, as this class could be won, or lost, from any segmented final. One notable result, was that Gavin managed to pip Franz for 8th place in qualifying.
With 3 drivers in each final, it was down to Tony, Gavin and Franz to fight it out in the C-Final. Gavin lead the way after the first 3 minutes, beating his best heat time in the process, and still learning the track. After a disastrous blue lane run, Tony got going much faster and pulled away from the others to win comfortably, setting a target of 123.86 to beat. Gavin held off the challenge from Franz, to take second in the C-Final, but where would he finish up?
The B-Final featured, none other than self crowned Fast Bro, Paul Harwood, up against Ian Fisher and Michael Ovens. Paul lived up to his name and pulled away from Ian and “every lap is a qualifying lap,” Michael Ovens. By the third section, Paul had a 2 lap lead on Ian and a 4 lap lead on Michael. Then DISASTER struck. Paul got involved in an accident and did some damage to his car (Possibly even breaking an nail in the process) this cost his over 6 laps and he slipped back behind Ian Fisher. This put Ian top on 130.34 with Paul on 128.57 and Michael on 125.63. All three of them, beating Tony’s C-Final time. The race of the Aces was next up. The big story here, was that Mark Harwood was nowhere! Possibly down to a bad tyre choice, but he was well off the pace and only managed 121 laps in 12 minutes! This would leave him in 7th place overall. Greg was charging hard and it was looking close after 3 runs, with Greg one lap down on Ian’s time at that stage. James had continued his heat time pace and would finish over 12 laps up on the rest of the field with a car that is FOR SALE! Greg had Yellow to come, but Ian had finished on Red. Greg put in his best run of the final and beat Ian, ending up with 131.53.
After a short discussion on the rule change proposals, it was on with Formula One. At first, it seemed that everyone had forgotten how to drive; lots of crashes and falling off! Then James put in a good run on red lane, to beat the lane record, with a new, experimental F1 car. Greg had put together an F1 car that could only be described as EVIL! Every time he touched the trigger, it would roar and kick around like a stabbed cat! Only a great Harwood could tame this beast, and in his second heat, Greg trod very carefully and avoided any more stabbing, to qualify fourth for the semis. Perennial F1 Ace, Mark, qualified in third with a good clean run, just behind the remaining Bro, Paul. Gavin was a little out paced in this class, with only a Falcon to compete with. Ian didn’t;t have particularly good heats, but with only 9 drivers present, still managed to claim a middle lane for the semis.
The first semi consisted of the top 2 qualifiers and the most dangerous car and driver combination of the whole event, Michael Ovens. Over 5 minutes, James just managed to get the better of Paul, but with many accidents, the time was not very fast. The second semi, by contrast, was very clean. Ian finished nearly a lap up on James’ time and Mark also beat James by about half a lap. That left Ian, Mark, James and Paul, in that order, in the A-Final, with one semi to come. In present form, only Greg was likely to challenge these four, and challenge he did! He tamed the beast and qualified top for the A-Final. This bumped Paul out of the final and relegated him to 5th place overall. Franz was also on the move and secured 7th place overall, in front of Michael and Gavin.
The Final was a very closely fought race. Greg and Ian on the middle lanes and Mark and James on the outsides. James got the jump from the start with Ian in chase. Greg found the car biting back under pressure and was struggling. Mark could not match the pace of the two leaders and was out for a steady drive on on red lane. Ian had an off, giving James a little breathing space. This dropped Ian back into the clutches of Greg. There was a coming together and a few words were said. James soon came round to lap Greg and wammo! Another coming together. A few more words were said and Ian was back in the lead! James was playing catch up for a while and another coming together with Greg, didn’t help. By this time the adrenalin was running high on the rostrum and all but Mark were a little excited! James eventually caught Ian again, but in true Ian style, a little touch gave James more work to do, but a little touch from Greg, on Ian, made this job easier! James retook the lead but had an ailing car. The front of the bodyshell was dragging along the track with a big dent in it and the back of the shell had been truly “mullered” in to the rear tyres, making a lovely mess of black rubber in its wake. With less than 10 laps to go of the 75 lap final, James pushed on. The race was finally decided by another off from James, handing Ian the lead and the win, by about 15 parts of a lap!
“Mediocre Bro” and “Slo Bro” in the two classes so far, what could Paul do in sports? With a range of cars to choose from, He had to go for the best, something he often doesn’t do at area rounds, preferring to save the best for BOC’s. What a performance he put in. He TQ’d from the heats, giving him top spot for the final with a 38.63, probably his fastest time ever round the Luton track. James was the only one close on 38.27. Mark had one good heat to slot into third with 37 laps just ahead of Ian. That left Greg, with controller problems, no better than 5th, taking the “Slo Bro” crown for sports. Gavin was the unlucky 9th man to miss out on a final. Running Southern 32 style gives plenty of chance in the heats, but can mean that you miss out on a final if you are the odd one out!
The finals provided some excellent close racing. In the B-Final, Greg and Michael were very closely matched. Michael had an absolute rocket ship, but Greg was staying in the slot. They had a close race throughout, but Michael eventually got the best of Greg (using James’ controller) and claimed 5th place overall. The A-Final was another very close affair with two separate races going on. Mark and Ian on the outside lanes and James and Paul on the inside. It was nip and tuck all the way. Paul was mightily consistent, lap after lap at a good sting pace, never faulting. James was quicker, but having more offs. Paul would lead for a while, then James would catch and pass, then fall off and Paul would regain the lead. After 4 minutes and 30 seconds, they were virtually tied. James just had the lead, but fell foul of the dodgy slot on yellow lane (It was clearly dodgy, as pointed out by Ian :) ). This gave Paul the lead, but also gave James time to catch up. At the end of 5 minutes, Paul held off the pressure from James and took his first Sports win at the Luton club for many years! A fantastic drive.
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During the event, we also had a discussion a proposal to swap the next two area rounds. This proposal was made by David Farrow, but due to his absence from the event, it was suggested that the rounds remain as published, so that is what will happen.
The snow did not stop us from having a very hotly contested area round and it is off to Wellingborough for round 3. The championship is hotting up. Who will win the new Area 6 trophy?
Thanks to the Luton club for hosting the area round and to Tony and Ian for help with race control. Don’t forget to visit the Gallery to see photos from the event.
James Cleave (Area 6 Coordinator)