The super-smooth Spaxton venue in Bridgwater hosted the first Grasstrack action in the South West of the season yesterday. With twelve packed classes of racers, a programme of 61 races looked like it would throw up some great racing- and it did not disappoint. There were plenty of talking points throughout the day, and plenty to whet the appetite for Grasstrack fans going forward.
Some of the 1000cc sidecar racing was outstanding, with no clear winner heading into the final. Despite an off-par day by his very high standards, and a mid-meeting change of passenger, Mark Cossar still headed into the final as the top point scorer- such is the quality of the multi-Masters champion. Although his long term passenger Carl Blyth began the meeting, an injury forced him out after a win in their second heat. Robbie Simmons took to the role for the rest of the afternoon. To begin with, the circuit was extremely slippery, and this seemed to cause the sidecars the most problems. But, as is tradition with the Bridgwater venue, the track just got better and better as the day progressed.
Cornish youngster Kieran Hicks and passenger Kieron Ivy were in tremendous form. In two of the hardest fought races of the day, they came out on top. A very promising start for one of the sport’s hottest prospects.
Heading into the final, Matt Fumarola/Gareth Williams had picked up two very impressive wins. Also managing a heat win was Will Penfold/Ricky Pay. They managed to round early leaders in another tight race to take the lead in their second race of the afternoon. Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards won their opening ride from Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield. Sadly, it would be the last finish for Heal/Broomfield. The local crew, despite looking fast on their home circuit, blew their engine in their second ride. Amidst plumes of smoke, their day was done and Heal was not to see his name on his father’s trophy this season.
The other finalists, Paul Whitelam/Liam Brown did not manage a victory all afternoon, but as expected were always in amongst the action throughout the day.
After all of the action-packed heats, the final was a relatively straightforward affair. Cossar/Simmons hit the front and never looked back, although Hicks/Ivy were never too far back. Fumarola/Williams continued their impressive end to the day by slotting in third. A minor tussle between Cossar/Rickards and Whitelam/Brown was eventually won by the latter.
The 250cc solo class threw up a surprise in the opening ride. The slick condition were not well suited to the JRM single-cylinder machines, causing pre-meeting favourite Luke Harris to have to work his way through from poor starts. He did so, but he probably didn’t count on the speed of just-out-of-youth teenager Chad Wirtzfeld hunting him down and passing him. A great way to announce his entrance at adult level for the Dorset youngster. After this, Harris had it all his own way, although he was still slow off of the starts. He had plenty of pace to round the pack and win the remaining three races. Evesham racer Brad Hardman put in a strong performance. With his quick starts, he led every race but was swallowed up by Harris and Wirtzfeld. In two of them. In the final heat, however, Hardman had enough to cling on to a hard fought second place, and second overall in the event. Clubmen racers Gary Cook, Jake Gerring, Paul Watts, Ian and Karl Bedingfield looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves all afternoon as they had some titanic mid-field battles.
After a problem leaving the start, Mark Giles could only finish third in his opening ride, whilst Ricky Sandford inherited a victory from Barry Powell when he dropped his machine late in the opening race. After this, Giles was impeccable, winning all of the remaining races. Powell had managed to remount in the opening ride to claim 4th
, and followed Giles home in the rest of the races to finish second overall. After winning the opening race, Sandford was beaten by an impressive ride by Cornishman Jake Quintrell in the second, and then failed to finish in his third race. This was enough to drop him to 4th
and Quintrell to claim 3rd
In the 500cc solos, reigning Jim Rendall Trophy champion Arran Butcher claimed a spotless victory. The young East Midlands racer never looked like being caught, despite both Richy Guest and Rod Melksham looking fast in second and third respectively. The only casualty of the day came in this class. Fresh from his return to the sport, Darren Drew took an awkward tumble and was attended to by the paramedics. We wish Darren all the best for a speedy recovery.
The Upright class was one of the most entertaining classes of the day. The heats had thrown up four different heat winners, but the eventual victor waited until the very end to perform his winning display. Tim Curnock was as impressive as ever. After being beaten by Mike Dowling in an absolute barnstormer of a race in his opening ride, he was not bettered again, duly putting him in the final as top scorer. Western centre racer Darren Phillips looked very fast all day, utilising a wide ride to good effect.
The final, though, threw up real drama, taking three attempts to complete. In the first running, Curnock had made his way to the front and Graeme Brown was giving chase. But Dave Hammond, who had already competed in seven races by this point and won the Pre 75 class, dropped his machine exiting the pit corner and wasn’t able to mount in time.
In the second running, a first bend incident meant that the race was stopped very early. Luke Cox and Graeme Brown had tangled in the middle of the corner and both had fallen. Sadly, Brown was unable to take his place in the rerun.
In the third running of the final, though, it was Australian Rodney McDonald who made a fantastic start and set about putting some air between himself and the chasing pack. Pre-race favourite Curnock found himself in fourth behind Ben Phillips and Mike Dowling. The three swapped and squabbled for four fantastic laps of racing before Dowling made an outside dive on the last bend to snatch second, with Phillips third. But there were no mistakes from McDonald, winning his first meeting of the 2019 season.
As mentioned previously, Dave Hammond claimed the Pre 75 class win. Another comeback rider, Neil Copestake, pushed Hammond all day, even beating him in one race. But the former Paris-Dakar rider had enough to keep Copey at bay.
The youth racing continues to be competitive in 2019, with all four classes having some good scraps. The Autos and Cadets were combined and Archie Rolph and Oliver Bovingdon continued their rivalry. After winning the opening race Rolph looked like he would clinch the Autos this time around. But not to be outdone on home turf, Bovingdon put in three sensational displays, beating Rolph from behind to win this time around. These two boys are having a fantastic season this year…long may it continue. Kayden Munday won the Cadets class from Harley Stainer, whilst newcomer Rylan French finished third in the Autos.
The Junior class was once again packed with talent. Max Perry looked very quick and won the class convincingly. Guernsey youngster Thomas Vining had to work hard to secure his second place positions throughout the day, as Corey Stainer gets faster and faster every week.
The Intermediate class was the most open of the day. After three heats, Kai Ward, Eli Meadows and Jordan Derrick all had a win to their name. So the last heat would decide the winner. Bristol youngster Jordan Derrick looked to have everything under control when disaster struck and he ploughed into the fence exiting the bend. The race would be rerun and Kai Ward would take the win and the meeting victory over all. Eli Meadows, who had looked very impressive early on, had suffered machine failure in his opening ride. Once again, Essex racer Vinny Smith’s consistent, tidy riding earned him second spot. He and Ward were the only two to finish every race, giving Smith second overall
The quad class was stacked full, with two heats of four-wheeled racers ready to do battle. They put on some excellent racing throughout the day as Grasstrack quad racing continues to grow. Pre-meeting favourite Nick Wright saw his hopes dashed in his opening ride. After getting out in front, the Lincolnshire racer’s bike came to a grinding halt, putting an end to his day. His brother, Chris Wright, inherited the lead, and went on to complete a maximum going into the final.
In the final, it was Wright who had got himself into the lead before more disaster struck for the Wright family. Chris’ quad stopped going into the top corner whilst he had a clear lead. Evergreen quad racer John Elliott took over the lead and fought off the attack from Geoff Glover to claim an emphatic win. There’s no stopping the 79-year-old!
The Old/New sidecar class seems to have gathered a few more numbers this season, providing two heats of riders. Cornishmen Mark Courtney/Leon Torres continued their domination of the class, however, with a flawless performance. After winning all of their heats, they duly won the final convincingly. Former British Masters and European Champion Liam Brown took to the bars for the first time and got to grips with the machine enough by the final to claim and excellent second place, crewed by regular old/new racer Dillon Newton.
A fine day again at Bridgwater. Well done to the club and all involved in a good day’s racing.