10 racers braved the cold of the Wellingborough club room on Valentine’s day. A good job had been done by certain members of the club to ensure we had power to race on the Sunday, after reports of a dodgy Scalextric motor had completely fused the whole club room on the Thursday night! With no power and therefore no light on the Thursday, Mick was unable to goop the track and run it in after a clean, so that was left to Paul Harwood, with his Riverside Raceway experience. Practice was little unpredictable with the grip not becoming consistent in all parts of the track.
Newcomers to the Area Rounds this year, but long time racers, David Buddle, Mick Thompson and Mick Kerr were in attendance which gave us a race for the Novice points, between Gavin Wills and David Buddle. True to form, Gavin put in a fantastic performance with a newly rebuilt falcon production car and set an amazing time that would only be beaten by three people in overall saloon! David had a very bad run on Red lane due to mechanical issues and was unable to challenge Gavin for outright pace. A good couple of runs for David, were right up with his best club night runs, so the track was starting to run in nicely.
Standard 1/32 BOC format for Saloon was slightly modified for the six lane track. Drivers would get 3 heats of 3 minutes each on one set of lanes (Black, Blue, Green or Yellow, White, Red). The best run would seed drivers into a 6 x 3 minute final. With 10 racers it was decided to give the advantage to the top qualifiers so there would be 3 finals with 4 drivers in the C-Final and 3 drivers in the B and A-Finals.
The heats got underway with Mick Thompson (Mick T) setting the pace on the hated Black lane with 32 laps, just beating Ian by 3/100ths. In heat 2, Gavin showed that he was very capable of upsetting the Area’s premiere drivers by clocking a 35.30. After getting very nearly beaten in Saloon, by Gavin, on a previous club night, James was out to prove that he could do better, and promptly set a new top time of 37.16 in heat 3. Mark Harwood was gradually improving and in heat 5 he just beat Gavin’s time to knock him down to 3rd qualifier. Ian would wait till his last heat to show what he was capable of and knocked Gavin out of the A-Final and put himself into second spot. With a middle lane still to come, Mark Harwood would still be a threat. In heat 7 he upped the pace and easily took TQ with a clean run of 37.73. A lot of drivers were around the 34/35 lap mark which left Greg Harwood, struggling for any sort of cornering speed, down in the C-Final. What could he do from there?
Joined by Mick Kerr (Mick K), Franz and David B, the C-Final could be a close race. After the first 3 minutes, it most certainly was. Greg, Mick K and Franz all on 32 laps. With Greg now moving off Black lane to an inside lane, he managed to pull out a 2 lap lead on Mick K, who was getting Yellow and Black out of the way. A mechanical disaster for Franz on Red lane put him behind David B. In segment 3, Mick K held on to Greg and they both managed 35’s. On his return to the track, Franz also put in his best run of final with 35 laps! Segment 4 was also very close, Mick K still only 2 laps behind Greg and Franz now catching David B. Segment 5 was the race decider. Mick K had a bad run on Red lane, while Greg had his best run on White lane and pulled 5 laps clear. Meanwhile, Franz would have another bad run on Black lane, which would put David B out of reach. After all six runs Greg would finish on 207.67, an average of 34.61 per lane. This was slower than many drivers had done in qualifying, so Greg did not look too hopeful of an assault on the Championship!
The B-Final contained Gavin Wills, Paul Harwood and Mick T. It started well with all 3 drivers on the pace of Greg. Gavin was one lap up on 33 and both Paul and Mick T were on 32’s. The second segment saw Gavin move to Black (on the same rotation as Mick K in the C-Final), Paul move to Red and Mick T onto White. Mick T took full advantage of the better lane and moved a lap clear of Gavin, with Paul a further 2 laps down. At this stage, Mick T was a lap off of Greg’s pace and Gavin was 2 laps behind Greg, but with the worst lanes over. Segment 3 was a turning point in the race. Gavin put in a 37 lap segment and overtook Mick T. Paul fell a further 5 laps back! This brought Gavin back level with Greg’s score and the other drivers well still behind. In segment 4, Gavin further extended his lead and moved a lap clear of Greg, at this stage, but was now moving to Red lane. A cautious run on Red for Gavin meant that he dropped off the pace slightly and finished the section level with Greg’s time. With only one segment left, he would have to up his pace if he wanted a chance of a good finish. Greg’s last segment was on Yellow, where as Gavin would be finishing on White. With White lane running much faster than Yellow, Gavin managed another 37 lap segment to make sure he was two and a half laps clear of Greg. Both Mick T and Paul were well behind Gavin at the end and failed to beat Mick K’s time from the C-Final. Gavin’s time of 210.18 averaged out at 35.03 per segment, only half a lap per segment, better than Greg.
The 3 man A-Final would have more marshals and less crashes! TQ man and Fast Bro, Mark, would start from Black. James opted to start from Green to get his least favourite lanes out of the way first. Ian started on Yellow, which had worked very well for Gavin in the B-Final. In the first segment, Mark had a terrible run, by his standards, on Black lane and was in third place, 4 laps down on James and 2 laps down on Ian. 36 laps from James was well up on the pace set by Gavin so far. Mark moved on to Blue lane for the second segment and James on to Red. Ian would be getting Black lane out of the way. Mark managed 5 laps more on Blue, than he did on Black, and Ian went 5 laps slower on Black than he did on Yellow! James scored another 36 laps on Red lane which put him 3 laps up on Mark and 5 laps up on Greg, who was the leader at this point overall. With Mark now on Green, Ian on the favoured Blue lane and James on White, the pace should improve further. James did another 36 laps, Ian nearly 36 laps, but Mark dropped off the pace again, with only 33. Mark was now falling back into the clutches of Greg and Gavin, and Ian was still trying to make up for the bad run on Black. James clocked another 36 laps in segment 4 and Mark slipped further behind on Red lane and Ian was now within 2 laps of him. James was 6 laps up on Gavin at this point, but both Mark and Ian were well behind. They finally got back to form in segment 5, but it was a little too late. Another 36 laps from James on Black lane would surely give him victory and the overall Area Saloon championship. 37 laps on Blue and a 4.57 second lap would secure victory and fastest single lap record for James. Ian was now finishing on a middle lane, with Mark on Yellow, and this porved to be the deciding factor in the overall positions for these two drivers. Ian was now on the pace and just beat Mark by 2/100ths to take 5th position overall.
So an interesting and long Saloon event, resulted in another Victory for James, giving him 3 wins out of 3 and therefore, an unassailable score in the championship. Gavin Wills showed what he is capable of by taking 2nd place overall and moving up to 4th in the Saloon championship! Greg stole 3rd overall from the C-Final and Mick K finished 4th. James’ winning car and Greg’s 3rd place car can be see in the Gallery section. An 8th place for Paul H was not one of his best results and he needs to improve at NLSME if he is to avoid the crown of ‘SLO Saloon BRO!’