Wednesday March 30, 2016 at 12:22pm
Despite the expertise and determination of the organising Crewe and South Cheshire club and the courage and determination of the day’s competitors, the opening round of the 2016 Tonfanau championships had to be abandoned. Just eight of the scheduled 21 races were run before a combination of high winds, heavy rain and hail stones forced the activities to come to a halt.
Few of the reigning 2015 Tonfanau champions started their season well, but John Price was a notable exception to that. He raced in three of those eight races, taking maximum points in the 400 Super Sport and Forgotten Era 251-500cc classes on his Kawasaki, a good start to retaining those two titles.
He won the first Super Sports, the opening race of the day, beating Paul Odlum (Kawasaki) by almost seven seconds, setting the fastest lap. John Nicklin (Suzuki SV) was the early leader in the eight lap race, but Price took the lead on lap four. Nicklin, though, was alleged to have made a jump start and was given a ten second penalty. He lost out to Odlum on the last lap, crossing the line in third spot, but the penalty dropped him to fourth place, behind Tony Griffiths (Kawasaki).
Just over two hours later the Super Sports were back on track for their second race. Price won the race, reduced to six laps, leading from start to finish. He was almost 19 seconds ahead of Odlum, who beat Mike Carter (Honda) by a slender three tenths of a seconds.
Conditions were now bad and getting worse. Price again the fastest lap, almost four seconds slower than race one. Price beat Tony Griffiths home by over 21 seconds in the only Forgotten Era 251-500 race of the day. Fifth at the end of the opening lap of the combined Forgotten Era event,
Price headed the entire pack three laps from home, setting the fastest lap of everyone. Second overall was Steve Birtles (Yamaha 1000), topping the Forgotten Era over 501 class. Third home was Paul Stones (Yamaha 1000), second in the big class., just over a second clear of Paul Myler (Suzuki 1000), who was third in the over 501s. Corey Lewis (Kawasaki 250) was an impressive fifth overall and top of the 250 class, finishing just under 20 seconds ahead of the next best, Phil Leatherland (Suzuki). It was a tough day for the current Tonfanau Classic champions.
Dave Thorp was absent from the Classic 125-250 Single Cylinder class, where Nick Bramley was the winner on a BSA Bantam 186, beating Mark Capewell (NSU 250) by over six seconds. Hudson Kennaugh was fourth overall, first of the Racing 50s. The South African, better known for his exploits on the National Superstocks, was on a Yamagama 50, crossing the line almost seven seconds clear of Martin Robbins (Minerelli).
Racing 50 Club members, Alan Naul, Ernie Parry, Karen England, James Widdowson and Martin Robbins were joined by Freetech riders Bradley Wilson and Mark Bainbridge and non club members Hudson Kennaugh, Steve Nugent and Colin Purslow.
Practice went surprisingly well, though England’s lovely new Kawasaki AR retired with teething troubles on its first outing at Tonfanau. Naul had similar tweaking issues.
A horrendous hail storm just before the opening race sent spectators running for cover from hail stones so big and fast it was actually painful to be exposed to it. A delay of several minutes allowed the storm to pass, just enough to allow the race to begin.
Robbins took an early lead followed by Widdowson, with Naul hard on his heels. Purslow riding Steve Porter’s Yamaha followed them both, a short way behind. England retired on lap one with technical problems and Parry battled against the strong winds before wisely deciding to pull in after nearly two laps for his own safety. Robbins battled with Kennaugh for the lead up to lap three. But Naul was forced to retire, unable to change gear due to a fault in the footrest gear change lever.
Bradley Wilson, the 18-year-old, picked a tough event for his first-ever motorcycle race.
The Classic 251-500 title holder, Adrian Day, was another absent champion. That left the way clear for Alan Bud Jackson (Norton 500) to take victory, 20 seconds in front of John Jones (Honda 350). Mark Griffiths (Honda 350) was expected to do well, by managed only a lap. Richard Ford, the over 501 champion, was absent. Paul Johnson (North Triumph 750) was on his own, notching up points.
Talented lady, Caron Roberts (Suzuki) found conditions tough in the Forgotten Era class, but she struggled home on a very slippery track to take second place in the Classic 250 class, behind Geoff Hadwin, to keep her hopes of retaining the crown very much alive.
Alan Russell, the Tonfanau Minitwins champion, was absent so Mark Purslow (Kawasaki) took an early lead in the 2016 series, beating home Rob Taylor (Suzuki), who was third in the series last season. Purslow led the eight lap race from start-to-finish, with rain falling just before the halfway stage.
Martin McGrath, the 2015 Steel Frame champion, missed the meeting and Jon Wright took full advantage, grabbing victory by over seven seconds from Nick Jefferies.
Chris Mort (Honda 600) began the defence of his Tonfanau 450-1100cc Open Class with victory in his only race of the day. He beat Carl Jones (Kawasaki 600) by over seven seconds in the eight-lap event. Jones narrowly held off James Evans by just over three tenths of a second in the sprint to the line.
There were just four sidecar competitors, but each had a tale to tell. After four hectic laps, victory went to Roger Stockton on his D&D Windle outfit, to the delight of his new passenger, Sharon Doodson. This was only her second ever meeting and she picked up a winners’ trophy. Second home was Tony Eades, who had a delighted, ever-youthful grandmother, Annette Daykin, making the long trip from Turriff, Aberdeenshire, to be in chair of the Green Ant Suzuki 600. The Cunnliffe brothers, Tony and Martin (Suzuki), the 2014 Tonfanau champions, crashed out spectacularly on the fourth lap, after leading on the previous lap. The current champs, Mark Berry and Adrian Illman (Heycobs Suzuki) tried to race on slicks, but were forced to retire on lap two.