Thursday August 23, 2018 at 11:57am
Welsh border crew Barrie Bennett and Eifion Hughes are in their final season of competition in the 500cc sidecar class, and on Sunday they raced for the last time at a Ledbury Grasstrack- a club that they have been so closely linked to for many seasons. And what better way to sign out of competition in the Western centre than by winning the class, seeming to enjoy every moment of an excellently prepared circuit and a well-organised meeting which has become something of a hallmark of the Ledbury club.
In truth, Bennett and Hughes the elders will not be too disappointed in admitting that they weren’t the fastest crew on offer at the meeting- that accolade must surely go to their respective sons Shaun Hughes and Louis Bennett, who won three out of the four outings in the 500cc sidecar class on Sunday. However, in the opening race of the day, the youngsters failed to leave the start line, giving their fathers a head-start in the event. From there, the seasoned campaigners did everything that they could to ensure that they backed their offspring up in their next three rides, even coming from the back in spectacular fashion. The younger crew have really stepped up their game this season, and once again looked tremendously fast on Sunday. Three wins was enough to seal second for them, and a fitting victory for Barrie and Eifion as they look forward to supporting the young lads in furthering their racing careers in the future from the relative safety of the pit box! Tony Dart teamed with Karl Hocaniuk this week to claim third.
The only winner-take-all final of the day provided a win for another young talent lighting up the sport at present. Teenager Charlie Brooks rode through the heats of the 250cc solos unbeaten and looked to be in top form. Equalling his form was former British 250cc champion Graham Thomas. The two-time British champ rode exceedingly well through the heats to head into the final as the closest competition to Brooks. Thomas, who’s 1992 and 1993 British titles occurred several years before his adversary was even born, had no answer to the youngster. A fine win for Brooks, with Thomas slotting in comfortably for second.
In the 350cc class, Kentish racer Mark Giles once again made the long journey across the country to compete at Ledbury and was once again unbeaten. His only loss at Ledbury this season came in the opening meeting of the season. Since then, try as they might, none of his competition have managed to stop him. Once again, he claimed victory, and with it a convincing Western Centre Championship. Barry Powell was never too far from Giles, pushing him in each of the four rides. Unfortunately, Powell dropped his machine while chasing Giles in their third ride, giving him his only finish outside of the top two all day. Thankfully, the Forest of Dean racer was able to remount to claim a 7th spot, and the points to claim a rightful 2nd overall. Good to see Bristolian John Weeks competing once again, finishing 5th overall.
‘The Cotswold Express’ Tim Nobes was in devastating form in the 500cc Solo class, following up his very decent showing at last week’s Masters by winning the Ledbury Flyer and the Western Centre title. In the opening ride, it looked like his closest challenge would come from Arran Butcher, but the challenge faded after the opening ride, and Ryan Ashcroft continued an excellent season by claiming second overall. A non-finish in one of his rides saw Butcher slide down to 5th overall, with Wiltshire-based Bristolian Jody Hodgson putting in an excellent few races to claim 3rd.
The Upright class was once again dominated by Tim Curnock, who appears to be in the form of his life. Both Mark Taylor and Wayne Broadhurst had no answer for the Worcestershire man as he stormed home to four perfect wins. Broadhurst, who has been concentrating on other classes over the season, looked a hot prospect in this class as expected. The Pre-75 class saw John Priest win in emphatic style. Ian Ian Gutteridge was fast enough to hold consistent second places but couldn’t match the pace of Priest on this occasion.
The Youth racers provided some good entertainment, with one of the healthiest Auto-Cadet –line-ups seen for some time. George Colvin, fresh from victory the previous day at Norwich New Stars, continued his winning ways in the opening ride by claiming victory, but from then on it was Ollie Binns doing all of the winning. Kayden Munday rode well amongst the Autos to claim the cadet win, with Charlotte Arthur, the only other Cadet rider, looking better than she has ever done.
Cameron Taylor was in tremendous form once again in the Junior class, beating Zak Batey despite Batey’s continued improvements throughout the season. The oldest kids in the Inters class was also dominated by one rider. Mickie Simpson, desperate to get more Grasstrack fixtures under his belt, made full use of the afternoon’s action by winning all four races. A new name for the class, Kai Ward, was able to capitalise on a non-start from Aidan Arthur in their third ride to claim second overall. George Pardoe and Jordan Derrick spent the day getting used to their machines on the superbly prepared circuit- valuable experience no doubt for these budding racers.
Yet again, a decent turn out of GT 140’s descended on the Ledbury circuit, with class stalwart Jed Rolph rolling back the years to claim a four-heat maximum. Glyn Stanton, whose mainstream comeback seems to have finished, joined the class bringing plenty of Formula Grasstrack experience with him, but the Shropshire rider was no match for Rolph.
Colin Blackbourn/Carl Pugh, no doubt still licking their wounds from their shattering DNF in last week’s Masters final after being well-placed, made strides towards amends by winning the 1000cc sidecar class, though they did not have things their own way. Youngsters Kieran Hicks and Kieron Ivy were piling pressure on the former British Masters champions all afternoon, managing to notch up a win in the second heat. Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield joined the foray to create some fantastic races between the three crews. Their fourth race was particularly spectacular, with Heal/Broomfield leading for most of the race as the other two crews crawled all over them. Eventually, the Westcountry crew relented, allowing both Blackbourn/Pugh and Hicks/Ivy through in a fantastic race.
Tragically, the final word of this report must go to honouring the memory of 250cc racer Frank Yates. The popular veteran racer sadly lost his life after being taken to hospital due to an on-track incident which took place during Frank’s final heat of the day. Until then, he had been having some excellent battles throughout the day, no doubt enjoying himself as Frank always did. The Grasstrack world was devastated to hear the news and at this sad time, all of our thoughts are with Frank’s family and of course, Holly the dog, who was Frank’s companion on so many racing trips. Frank has raced all over Europe in his racing career, competing in the Pre-75 classes and the 250cc class. Until recently, he was aboard a modern laydown JRM machine, competing with the big boys. Most memorably, he has competed in the European Veteran’s Grasstrack which has taken him to some of Europe’s biggest Grasstrack events. He will be sorely missed by so many in our Grasstrack family.
However, Frank Yates, a Grasstracker through and through, would never have wanted such a terrible incident to in any way overshadow what was a fantastic day’s racing, held on a circuit which was arguably the best that Ledbury have offered all season.
This closes the club’s racing dates for 2018 and no doubt they are already planning a big 2019 season.
Report by Gareth Bemister