One of the biggest Grasstrack events on the calendar took place last weekend at Lower Stanton St Quintin in Wiltshire as Bristol GRC hosted the ACU British Masters Qualifier. The top 8 solos and top 10 sidecars at the end of the day would see their paths to the British Masters cleared. But with so many talented 500cc solo and 1000cc sidecar competitors racing for the placings, nothing was clear-cut.
The day began with unfortunate circumstances. Sidecar racer Richard Jenner and passenger Richard Webb span their machine and turned over, causing concerning injuries for Jenner. A lengthy delay ensued as Jenner was cared for. All thoughts were naturally with the fallen rider. After the delay, the meeting commenced and the clerk of the course made the sensible decision to cut racing to three laps. It meant that the meeting unfolded at breakneck speed in so many ways!
The sidecar competition was a ferocious as ever. Heading into the semi-final stage, Kieran Hicks and Kieron Ivy had been in sensational form, only being beaten once by the super impressive combination of George Penfold/Bradley Steer. Penfold/Steer had seen off Hicks/Ivy in the previous heat, so it appeared that these two were the in-form favourites heading into the semis.
With points scored right through the racing, including the semi-finals, a poor performance in the semi could cost any outfit the meeting victory. Returning racer Myles Simmons, with son Robbie in the chair were in good form. They cruised into the semifinals, winning two of their four heats and never falling out of the top 2. The same can be said for Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards. They had won this event in its previous guise as British Clubman’s Championships for the last two years and were once again in a good position to claim the win for a third year.
Former British Masters champion Paul Whitelam and passenger Alan Elliott had also ridden consistently. Their only result outside the top two came in their final heat, where they had met Cossar/Rickards and Simmons/Simmons . Matt Fumarola/Gareth Williams’ day had started below par after a poor start in their opening race. After this, the determined Midland crew gained three top 2 placings.
Fumarola/Williams continued their rise in form in the semi-final stage. They took an emphatic win, with Simmons/Simmons second. A disastrous start from Penfold/Steer saw them having to pick their way through the pack, despite looking like the fastest outfit on the circuit.
There were no mistakes from Hicks/Ivy at this stage however. The youngsters made a fabulous start and headed into the final four points clear of their rivals.
So in the final, it would take a monumental turn of events for the young Cornishman and Kentish passenger to not be crowned the winners. However, they produced yet another emphatic win, taking the meeting win with it. Penfold/Steer once again started slowly but fought hard to get into third, nearly grabbing second on the line. They will be a force to be reckoned with if they can iron out some of the startline gremlins.
In the solo class, heading into the final stages, it looked like former multi-British 350cc champion Tony Atkin would be the favourite. He had been untouchable in the heats, winning all four comfortably. His closest rival was Charley Powell. The former Eastbourne Eagles regular won his first three races, but his chances of equalling Atkin’s display were scuppered when Stephen Green finally got things together to win a brilliant fourth leg ride.
Returning young rider Callum Walker, who’d had a break of nearly two years from competitive action, had steadily improved as the day progressed. Despite not winning a race, he had consistently finished in the top three, whereas some of the others were having some torrid rides.
Daniel Winterton was also riding consistently. He had to wait until the third leg to win his first race, but had finished second in his previous two rides, putting him in amongst the leaders on point. Realistically, it looked like a two-horse race between Atkin and Powell heading into the semi-finals and the pairing duly delivered. Atkin won his semi-final comfortably, as did Powell and the meeting headed into a final race showdown between the pair.
In the final, it was Callum Walker who leapt out of the gate and lead into the first bend. But by the time they exited the bend, Powell had pushed his way to the front and started to pull away. Atkin, however, had made his only bad start of the day. He was stuck in fifth with work to do. He rode a tremendous race to get himself up to second by the commencement of the race, but he wasn’t going to catch Charley Powell. A memorable win for Powell.
With the title of British Clubman’s Championship dropped, the focus was all on qualification into the Masters. The top 8 solos made it through and will be joined by 4 ACU chosen wild cards and 4 wildcards chosen by the organising club. These riders will join last year’s top 8. With such quality in the line-up just for the Qualifier, the final list for the Masters will surely be something special.
The top 10 sidecars saw their way into the Masters, with room for 2 wildcards. Two crews finished equal 11th
and will have to wait to see if they will be granted to the two wild cards into the event.
The British Masters will take place at Dig Dog Lane, Frittenden, Kent on Sunday 11th
August. It is the pinnacle of the domestic calendar and one not to be missed. The Bristol club did a sterling job presented the British Masters Qualifier and have set this year’s grandest meeting of them all up brilliantly.
In memory of Jack Jones, a former promising youth Grasstrack rider who was taken from us at a young age in a road traffic accident, the club included a Youth Intermediate class to the day’s proceedings. After winning the first heat, reigning British champion Mickie Simpson looked in tremendous form until disaster struck at the start line in his second ride. Simpson looped the machine and landed heavily, taking no further part in the event. The stage was set for another reigning British Champ, Cameron Taylor, to pick up three impressive victories and the meeting win overall. The other riders squabbled and fought over the other positions in every race. Despite dropping his machine in his first ride, North Devon youngster Kai Ward finished second in his remaining three, narrowly clinching second overall.