Here we are again, and about time too some might say. After two weekends of meetings being cancelled due to the extremely wet weather that has been experienced across the country, the 2017 Autograss season finally got underway at Nottingham Autograss Club. Despite the weather that has prevented the season’s start, the track conditions were superb, with the water cart even making a regular appearance throughout the meeting to keep the dust at bay. Who would have thought it! This meant for close racing from the start.
With this being the first opportunity for anyone to test their cars, as the Scunny Shakedown was cancelled twice, it was a very busy meeting with 161 drivers signed on. Not only were there plenty of drivers but spectator land was also full of people who had made the journey to get the first glimpses of the cars we have all seen pictures of. With plenty of switches of class and a number of new cars, it was set to be an interesting day.
The first win of the season went to the class 1 driver, Simon Hawthorn (R76). This stands him in good stead as last year it was Nottingham driver Mat Howard who took this crown and went on to win his club championship. We hope to see Simon making this same feat in 2017.
One of the big talking points since the Autosport International Show was Andy Holtby’s (SC61) new class 7 which was on display on the NASA static stand. Andy always turns out an impressive looking car and one that is always in contention at the front of the pack, proving this with 3 National titles over the last 4 years, including the 2016 title. So, myself along with the rest of sport, were waiting in anticipation to see how the 2017 car would perform. Over the course of the day there was no denying the speed of Andy and the car, the only problem was that in all 3 races he was last out of the starting blocks and was playing catch up. Personally I reckon if he can get the starts, then we could very well be seeing Andy taking his fourth title in August.
However, he looks to have some very strong competition, and this is just from the handful of cars that were at Sunday’s meeting. The stand out driver and car combination over the day was the most decorated man in our sport, Phil Cooper (ARC5), returning to the class with a Mini Pick-Up. Taking both heat wins, with no real challenge, and finished first on track in the final, again with no real threat, however collecting a green flag along the way. Phil is always one to watch, no matter what car or class he is driving, but the battle between Phil and Andy will definitely be something to watch out for, especially come the beginning of August at the Men’s National Championships.
The closest races throughout the day came from the class 6 boys. In each of the races there was a number of position changes, and also a number of drivers that stood out, including: this was a Lloyd Elliot (N200), Brad Ellison (Y1), Ben Gadsby (P7EM), Jorden Hampson (P70EM), Jordan Spavins (SN451) and Dave Gilder (R61), to name just a few. What Sunday showed us with this class is that the competition is growing ever stronger and that the 2017 titles will be wide open for the taking.
One of the closest finals of the day was the class 8 A final. Going into the final Simon Reeve (N8), the Nottingham chairman, would have been a firm favourite, having won his two heats convincingly, with no one seeming to match his pace. Although come the final, he did have some close competition from Mitch Wells (IK356). Mitch had improved over the course of the two heats and when it came to final it was clear he would be a contender for the win. Hot on Simon’s heels from the start, it was a close battle between the two, with the positions switching over the laps, but it was Mitch who battled past in the end to take the victory.
Well done to the Nottingham Team who put on a smooth running meeting, a great way to kick off the 2017 season. Hopefully we will be back at some point over the year.
Thank you to Ted Shillitto for the use of his photos. For more of Ted’s images check out the Nottingham Autograss Facebook page, where there is an album full from Sunday’s meeting.
At the moment the next meeting I will be attending will be Round 1 of the British Touring Cars at Brands Hatch at the beginning of April. But who knows what can happen in the meantime.