Wimborne MCC organised a huge Grasstrack festival last weekend as they ran the historic ‘Whoppa’ event for the 39th
time in the club’s history, at their superb Corfe Mullen venue. It was a Grasstrack with all the trimmings as a funfair, a plethora of stalls and exhibitions, a bouncy castle, a sizeable food and drink quarter, a DJ and live music made the whole event feel like something very special indeed. On the track, the racing was fast and extremely fierce as riders vowed to put their name to this established title.
From the very first practice session, held in the early evening, it was obvious that this circuit was extremely fast. The racing would soon prove this as several world class racers showed their skill and mettle to try and become the Whoppa champions for 2019.
In the 500cc sidecar class, Josh Goodwin/Sam Heath took first honours of the evening. They made a tremendous start and led their arch-rivals Mitch Godden/Paul Smith all the way to the flag. However, disaster would strike Goodwin/Heath in their second heat, which would eventually cost them victory. Their machine actually caught fire as it came past the finish line. Clearly, a terminal issue with the machine had stopped their race in its tracks. Goodwin/Heath duly won their third ride. Godden/Smith were not defeated again after their opening ride. They looked in sensational form once again. Newcomers to the class, James Hartley/Shay Minihane capitalised on the issues of Goodwin/Heath by winning the race. This would prove crucial later on in the evening. British Champions Shaun Harvey/Danny Hogg, who had been racing earlier in the GT140 class, won their first ride, but pulled out of the event heading into the third race having picked up an injury.
The 1000cc sidecars were very competitive, though two crews rose above all of the others. Gareth Winterburn/Billy Winterburn and Mark Cossar/Robbie Simmons won all of their races convincingly, setting up a tantalising head-to-head in the final. The rest of the pack, however, squabbled and fought over all of the other placings, with no real crew shining above any other. With the front two removed, any of the remaining ten outfits could have won a heat, it was that hotly contested. Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards had just about nosed in front of the rest by the third leg, having managed to finish second twice.
The 500cc solos saw some world class clashes. Defending Whoppa champion Edward Kennett started his defence off well, winning ahead of former World Longtrack Champion Matthieu Tresarrieu, who had also been beaten by Paul Cooper, who was in excellent form himself. Kennett would follow this up with another strong win in his second ride, once again serving a beating to the Frenchman.
Cooper, on the other hand, would win his second ride, battling with impressive returnee Callum Walker to claim a victory. Following this, Cooper won his second race, taking the scalp of Andrew Appleton, who had suffered bad luck in his opening ride when a fuel line came adrift.
Local racer and former European Champion James Shanes had two wins himself. He had been the only rider to have beaten Kennett all night, as he led him home in the final heat. Shanes’ defeat, however, had come in the form of a rider on something of a resurgence in 2019. Former European champ and two-time Whoppa champion Paul Hurry had two excellent wins, beating Shanes, Appleton and flying Dane Kenneth Hansen in a fantastic ride. A third place in Hurry’s final race behind Shanes and Kennett, however, would prove important later on.
Sadly, an environmental curfew had been put in place for the event, and the time was rapidly running out to finish the meeting. The 500cc sidecars raced their B Final, and it produced a great win for Dan Berwick/Josh Russell. The pairing, who have been racing in the 1000cc sidecar class for most of 2019, made a jet-propelled gate and never looked like being caught.
The 500cc solo B Final produced one of the races of the night. French ace Matthieu Tresarrieu and Danishman Kenneth Hansen went head to head in an absolute barn-burner of a race. Despite the fact that both would qualify for the A Final, they went at it tooth and nail before Tresarrieu tragically pulled up on lap 3, ending this spectacular duel between two riders well out of their comfort zones on a traditional British Grasstrack. Appleton inherited the second place behind Hansen.
The 1000cc sidecar B Final would bring the evening to a close when it was stopped on lap 2. During a fiercely contested opening lap, one of the outfits shed its fibreglass fairing and it lay in the track. As the machines came back round on the following lap, the leading outfit, Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters had to take avoiding action to miss the bodywork. Two other outfits ran the fibreglass over and the race was immediately stopped. Sadly, the curfew had been reached, and visibility was of slight concern also, meaning that the difficult decision was made to stop racing and declare results on points.
The 500cc sidecar result was clear-cut, with Mitch Godden/Paul Smith claiming the win having only been bested once. For Godden, whose father had won the Whoppa three times in the 70s, it was a momentous title to claim. James Hartley/Shay Minihane’s excellent showing had given them a surprise second place. The newly formed team were clearly delighted with achieving such a feat. Goodwin/Heath’s machine problems in their second ride cost them the win. Two victories and a DNF secured third for the former European Champ.
Gareth Winterburn/Billy Winterburn and Mark Cossar/Robbie Simmons had not met in the heats, and had both won their races by a good distance. However, the Winterburn brothers had been clocking significantly quicker race times in the heats and this was used to award them a successful defence of Gareth’s title. Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards were repaid for their consistency by claiming an excellent third.
The 500cc solos was declared a draw between James Shanes, Paul Cooper and Edward Kennett, with each having won two races and finished second in the other. The trio decided to share their winnings and the title for 2019. Paul Hurry, who had beaten Shanes in the heats, would just miss out by one point.
A disappointing end to proceedings, but until this point, it had been a triumph for the Wimborne club and something to build on for 2020. The countless hours of promotion and organising looked to have paid off as spectators flocked to the venue. The atmosphere was electric all evening. In reality, the event was just three races from being touted at one of the best Grasstrack events for many many years. A huge well done must be sent towards the Wimborne club and all of the hard-working folk that made this happen. The 2020 Whoppa is sure to be simply unmissable.