Great Racing at British Classic Upright Grasstrack Championships

Wednesday May 10, 2017 at 4:25pm
Great Racing at British Classic Upright Grasstrack Championships
A sizeable crowd in fine weather witnessed some fantastic racing on an immaculately prepared Boarded Circuit at Trebilcock Farm, Roche on Sunday, with the first British champions of 2017 being duly crowned. Tough, highly competitive racing was seen in all three of the championship classes (the championships bringing together Britain’s best ‘classic’ machined riders, competing on old style upright engine machines) and the sidecar and quad support classes proved equally as entertaining.

From the very first heat, the 500cc Upright class looked completely wide open as Plymouth Devils racer Richard Andrews took an impressive win, as did Mike Dowling. Whilst Bob Dolman managed to get the better of the 2016 champion Stephen Green in what was to set up quite a challenging day for the reigning champion.

In the all-important, winner-take-all final, many eyes were on Richard Andrews, who had dominated all of his qualifying heats, beating Bob Dolman in the process. As the tapes went up, it was Dolman who stormed into an early lead, putting all of his experience as a top European level Grasstracker to good use. Andrews was already chasing him down when the red flags were raised, bringing the race to a stop- Stephen Green’s title defence had ended in misery when he’d become unsighted and connected with the boards.

In the rerun, once again Dolman made a fantastic start and started to pull away from the chasing pack. After a poor start, Andrews had to fight his way through the pack and set about Dolman. Just as it looked as though he was ready to pounce, a mistake going into the pit corner sent the Devils racer wide, and he pulled up not long after, leaving Bob Dolman to race home in relative comfort, winning the British title.

The 250cc solos looked all set for a local triumph, with St. Austell’s Julian Collings going through his heats unbeaten. The manner in which he took his four race wins, though spectacular, were risky as he made poor starts and had to round the front runners to win. In the final, it proved too much as he, once again, made a poor start and after another tremendous effort, couldn’t work his way up past 3rd. Some great riding from the Cornishman, but the final was all about a comeback racer. Former Eastern Centre Champion Phil Ranson made full use of the long journey by winning the final in emphatic style. Ranson, a top 250cc rider throughout the 90s rode an excellent first lap to get the better of Neil Copestake, another distant traveller going well throughout the day, and never looked like being caught.

In the 350cc class, another young Speedway talent, Luke Harris, proved too fast for his rivals and defended his Upright 350cc crown successfully, although it wasn’t all plain sailing. In his opening ride, Harris managed to get himself in the wrong race, which led to an exclusion from the ride although he had won. After this opening race confusion, he looked simply unstoppable, even when he was out-gated by others. Dave Mears, doubling up in the 500cc class, was his closest rival, putting in a fine day’s racing to finish 2nd, with Oswestry rider Phil Rowlands finishing a solid 3rd in the final.

The main event classes were supported with three other classes; two sidecar classes and an entertaining quad class. The seven local quad racers, who had had their first taste of Grasstrack racing several weeks ago at a Grasstrack event in St Erme, put on a fantastic show, and their final was the icing on the cake. Several close battles took place throughout the race, with riders coming within inches of the boards, narrowly avoiding catastrophe. As the final lap began, it was Andy Hoskin who led, but Redruth’s Jack Hodge, the winner of the St Erme Grasstrack, hunted him down and rounded him. The two racers chased to the finish line, with Hodge just pipping Hoskin at the post in a fantastic race. It’s now two out of two Grasstrack meetings for Hodge, who has proven to be somewhat of a dab-hand at the flat-out, sideways style of Grasstrack racing.

The Old and New Sidecar class saw once again Cornishmen Mark Courtney/Leon Torres do battle with young Bugle-based racer Thomas Newton with his uncle Ben Bushell in the chair. The two once again engaged in battle, but this time a wild card came in the form of Birmingham brothers Jake and Sam Fumarola. The three outfits put on some fantastic racing, but sadly it was to end miserably for the Fumarola’s. During a tussle with Newton/Bushell, the two outfits touched coming over the start/finish line and passenger Sam Fumarola was knocked from the outfit. Driver Jake struggled to gain control of the bucking machine, and was dumped onto the circuit in unceremonious circumstances. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but it was the end of a good day for the Fumarola’s, who are following in the footsteps of their Father and Grandfather.

In the final heat, Courtney/Torres, who had suffered some mechanical problems earlier in the day, won with ease as Newton/Bushell appeared to be struggling with problems of their own. More tremendous racing by this new class. The Roche circuit seems to be a perfect track for delivering good racing in this class.

The final support class was the 1000cc sidecars. High drama was to occur in the winner-take-all final. In the first attempt to run the race, Welsh racer Neal Owen and his St.Austell based passenger Jason Farwell connected when leaving the start with another front-running crew; Matt Fumarola/Gareth Williams. The Welshman had suffered mechanical gremlins throughout the afternoon and scraped into the final, whilst Fumarola/Williams were boasting three wins on their way to the final. Young Cornish crew Kieran Hicks/Robbie Simmons had been left on the line and could breathe a sigh of relief as they would get a second bite of the action.

In the second rerun, more drama would ensue. As the dust started to fly, Bridgwater racer Simon Heal and his passenger Rowland Broomfield became unsighted and slammed into the fence. Thankfully, the crew had shed a little of their speed by the time they connected with the wall, but the outfit turned over awkwardly, throwing Heal onto the floor. The incident meant the end for Heal/Broomfield, who had looked strong all day having won 3 of their 4 heats.

The third attempt saw a good start for St. Austell pairing Joe Sturtridge and Mark Truscott but a tough first bend saw Owen/Farwell emerge in the lead, and Fumarola/Williams found their way past the early leaders quickly as well. The Midlands crew of Fumarola/Williams chased the V-Twin powered Owen/Farwell for four laps but Owen, no doubt revelling in the first chance to race with no mechanical problems were just too fast as duly took the win, followed home by Fumarola/Williams, with Sturtridge/Truscott finishing an excellent 3rd.

Once again, the Mid Cornwall Premier Motorcycle Club have proven that their unique venue at Trebilcock Farm is just getting better and better, with the racing surface looking better than ever. Grasstrack in Cornwall has now seen two excellent events in two months, proving that the sport is alive and well in the county. Congratulations to the new British Champions.

Report by Gareth Bemister

Photos by Tracey Bree

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