The 2017 Men’s National Autograss Championship

The National Championships are the most prestigious event on the Autograss calendar and over the last few years we have seen the racing step up and extra gear for the weekend. The 2017 Men’s Nationals was held by Cwmdu Autograss Club.

Each of the 40 competitors in each class had to earn their right to be competing by qualifying from their own league. This, not surprisingly means that there are plenty of ‘big’ names missing from the entry list.

A mix of weather conditions made it interesting when it came to who would qualify for the finals. However by finals time on Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining and the conditions were good.

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Class 1

Before the final got underway there was a run off between James Jess CA75 and Dan Keddie 6F for the last qualifying spot, with Keddie taking the win.

Off of the start it was an even break from the all Mini final, with the grid going side-by-side into turn one. It was Michael Winkworth C211E who made the early break and came out of turn one in front, whilst the pack behind him were still bunched up. Over the opening laps Winkworth built up a gap leaving the others to fight it out behind. Conner Griffiths SV101 was the one who came away from the pack next and then set his sights on chasing down Winkworth. For the remainder of the race it was the two favourites, both unbeaten in the heats, fighting for the title. Once Griffiths caught Winkworth he tried every which way to make his way past, but it was on the final bend on the last lap that he managed to find a gap on the inside of Winkworth and then win the drag to the line to take his second Nationals title, with Winkworth, despite leading the race till the end, having to settle for second. Behind these two the pack remained close throughout, Jason Saunders WS20 made his way into third place early on and managed to keep the rest at bay for the rest of the race, whilst the final trophy position was being swapped throughout. It was Alex Hill SN164 who claimed this across the line, closely followed by run-off winner Keddie. Tom Roberts PAC57, Steve Edwards R137 and Ashley Robinson were hot on their heels in sixth, seventh and eighth.

1st SV101 Conner Griffiths 2nd C211E Michael Winkworth 3rd WS20 Jason Saunders 4th SN164 Alex Hill 5th 6F Dan Keddie 6th PAC57 Tom Roberts 7th R137 Steve Edwards 8th SP43 Ashley Robinson

Class 2

Paul Meli S6 took the lead from the start and once he had broken away from the battle for second he started to pull a good lead. The battle behind him was between Daniel Heath P56EM and Callum Hallinan MA19, however contact between them saw Daniel Robins SN34 sneak through into second place. Hallinan made ground on Robins and as they were swapping positions up in front Meli spun out from the lead and was left stranded on the infield, this left Hallinan to take up the running and the title, with Robins finishing second. Lee Evason SR54 held onto third place from Josh Holden 1F in fourth, whilst Heath had dropped back down to fifth place. Behind them was Chris Barrett SP9 and Matty Barber A36 in sixth and seventh.

1st MA19 Callum Hallinan 2nd SN34 Daniel Robins 3rd SR54 Lee Evason 4th 1F Josh Holden 5th P56EM Daniel Heath 6th SP9 Chris Barrett 7th A36 Matty Barber NF S6 Paul Meli

Class 3

Going into the final Ged Power SC87 was unbeaten however for most people Sam Gould NS334 was the favourite to take the championship.

Turn one was messy and we saw Gould turned round and then Adrian Joyce WS22 was put into the marshal’s post at turn three and we saw the red flags.

On the rerun we were missing Ed Lloyd C85 and Viv Cole CM4 who both encountered problems in the first attempt. Coming out of turn one Adrian Herbert S26D found himself in the lead and pulling away from the battling pack behind. Over the first few laps it was Power who was in second chasing Herbert but Gould found form and made his way up to second,  whilst Power dropped down to fifth. Up the front Gould was on a mission to claim that title and catching Herbert on the final laps wasn’t enough, with a drag to the line seeing the closest of finishes but Herbert just had his nose in front. Power managed to work his way back up to third, whilst John Napier WS82 finished fourth and Adrian Joyce fifth despite the damage he picked up in the first attempt. Dave George SN269 had an uneventful race and rounded out the field in sixth.

1st S26D Adrian Herbert 2nd NS334 Sam Gould 3rd SC87 Ged Power 4th WS82 John Napier 5th WS22 Adrian Joyce 6th SN269 Dave George NS C85 Ed Lloyd NS CM4 Viv Cole

Class 4

Going into the final it was defending champion Rob Corbett PAC3 who was unbeaten as was Adam Henley Y777. Corbett got the lead going into turn one but round the outside came Jamie Williams M58 and just had his nose in front. The two of them were running side-by-side when the red flags came out on lap two.

On the rerun it was Darren Grasby E220 who got the best start with Henley running alongside him, however on lap two Corbett came past to take the lead where he would pull away and claim his fifth national’s title. The battle for second remained between Grasby and Henley, with Grasby just having his nose in front across the line to claim second. Rob Lancaster R47 couldn’t quite get involved with these two but came away with fourth place. Williams had got hung out to dry in turn one and had ended up at the back of the pack, but managed to pick his way back through to fifth ahead of Nick James C14. James Almack YD177 took seventh ahead of Dorian Davies TA12.

1st PAC3 Rob Corbett 2nd E220 Darren Grasby 3rd Y777 Adam Henley 4th R47 Rob Lancaster 5th M58 Jamie Williams 6th C14 Nick James 7th YD177 James Almack 8th TA12 Dorian Davies

Class 5

This was another class with a run off and we saw Mike Sullivan C11E and Tom Ellis S33D, struggling with the conditions on the day saw Sullivan miss out on the final and Ellis go through. The defending champion, John Wilde CY7, had picked up where he left off the year before going into the final as the only one unbeaten throughout the heats.

We saw a red flag on lap one, with Gary Cheetham N17 receiving a black flag. On the next attempt we saw the race go almost full distance when we saw the red flags again, this time Colin Thorndyke IK2 clipped the tyres on the start line turn which saw him spin round and collected by Wilde. Some would say third time lucky but not in this instance when we saw Wilde and Ellis touch off of the start line and Wilde heading into the fence. Up until this time, Ben Reade YS32, who had been a reserve for the weekend, had been leading each of the attempts. However this time out he was further down the pack and whilst running side-by-side with Wilde they touched and Wilde was spun round, red flags again and this time Reade was excluded.

The fifth go of the final saw the chequered flag, with only four cars left. Off the start it was Lewis Richards TA451 who took the lead with Jenny Shepherd SS22 taking it out of turn one. They ran three-a-breast with Wilde going into turn three with Wilde coming out in front of Richards then Shepherd. After this the race settled down and the four spread out, with the race finishing in the above order and Ryan Jones C3 claiming the last trophy in fourth.  

1st CY7 John Wilde 2nd TA451 Lewis Richards 3rd SS22 Jenny Shepherd 4th C3 Ryan Jones NS IK2 Colin Thorndyke BF N17 Gary Cheetham NS S33D Tom Ellis BF YS32 Ben Reade

Class 6

The red flags came out on lap one when Dave Mcconnell Y444 headed backwards towards the armco on turn three.

The rerun saw Barry Holloway E6 charge off the line to take the lead, whilst Martyn Janes N10 came through on the inside to claim second. A lap in and Dalton Thomas CM8 came through to take up the running, once in front he stayed there and pulled away to take a comfortable win. Janes snuck up the inside of Holloway to take second place, with Holloway picking up a mechanical problem dropping him out of the race. The battle was then behind, with Ben Gould NS434 starting the race at the back picking his way through to take third place on the line from James Sinnott CW174. Tom Hall SN12 picked up fifth place ahead of Jordan Tinker Y35 who was the last of the finishers.

1st CM8 Dalton Thomas 2nd N10 Martyn Janes 3rd NS434 Ben Gould 4th CW174 James Sinnott 5th SN12 Tom Hall 6th Y35 Jordan Tinker NF Y444 Dave Mcconnell NF E6 Barry Holloway

Class 7

One of the closest classes and hard to pick a winner and this was proven by the fact that there was no one unbeaten going into the final. We also had another run off between Guy Thomas BC8 and Mike Mackenzie CA12. Mackenzie was looking to be the only non-mini pickup in the final but missed out with Thomas going through.

The red flags were soon flying after Phil Cooper ARC5 pulled a wheelie off the line causing Rob Schofield Y70 to become stranded on the line. After the flags come out we also saw Cooper and Andy Holtby SC61 come together.

The rerun went without Cooper and we saw top point scorer Liam Evans NS120 take the lead, however he soon dropped down the running order. Cameron Mills C9 and Thomas were the first two past with Thomas taking the lead. Holtby came out of turn one near the back but as usual he picked his way through the field one-by-one until he was battling with the top two. The three of them then pulled away from the others and heading to the last lap flag Holtby made his move into the lead with Mills also sneaking past Thomas. Coming out of the last bend we saw a drag to the line between Holtby and Mills, with Holtby collecting his fourth Nationals title, with Mills second and Thomas third. Marc Clayton SC99 picked up the last of the trophy positions ahead of Schofield. Evans ended up finished sixth, whilst Lee Almond ARC27 was the last of the finishers after spinning out at the start.

1st SC61 Andy Holtby 2nd C9 Cameron Mills 3rd BC8 Guy Thomas 4th SC99 Marc Clayton 5th Y70 Rob Schofield 6th NS120 Liam Evans 7th ARC27 Lee Almond NS ARC5 Phil Cooper

Class 8

After a messy turn one the red flags were flying, but on the rerun there was a clean start with the two unbeaten from the heats coming out in front, by turn three Dan Mackenzie CA44 had got the lead and was pulling away, going on to take the Nationals title. Ian Stephenson WR20 settled into second and again pulled away from the pack behind but he didn’t have the legs to keep Mackenzie in his sights. The battle was for the two remaining trophy positions, with Stephen Mills C10 and Nathan Rees S57 running nose to tail throughout, with Mills taking third and Rees fourth. Dave Newby SC811 ran well in fifth battling with Chris Pope SP8 finishing sixth. Raymond Carey MA43 claimed seventh after Dan Thomas PHD47 picked up a green flag, dropping his down to ninth.

1st CA44 Dan Mackenzie 2nd WR20 Ian Stephenson 3rd C10 Stephen Mills 4th S57 Nathan Rees 5th SC811 Dave Newby 6th SP8 Chris Pope 7th MA43 Raymond Carey 9th PHD47 Dan Thomas (GF)

Class 9

There was no clear favourite going into the final, which was clear when they all went into turn one side-by-side resulting in all bar two coming together. This caused the red flags to come out. On the rerun we were missing Mike Liddiatt 309F and Jack Joyce WS2. Highest point scorer, Jimmy Smith LUD80 took the lead at the start, and kept this position to take the title unchallenged. The battle was behind, Steve Lindsay PHD1 initially had second until he spun out on the bottom corner just as he was catching Smith, he re-joined at the back a fair way back from the rest of the pack. It was then a battle for second, third and fourth with four cars involved initially it was Marc Paskell H250 who was holding the other off, until James Bowe YD182 came charging round the outside from fifth to take second place. The two remaining trophy positions went to Mike Buck R252 and Jason Richardson P5EM in third and fourth. Lindsay was able to catch the pack up and he just beat Paskell to the line to claim fifth, with Paskell sixth.

1st LUD80 Jimmy Smith 2nd YD182 James Bowe 3rd R252 Mike Buck 4th P5EM Jason Richardson 5th PHD1 Steven Lindsay 6th H250 Marc Paskell NS 309F Mike Liddiatt NS WS2 Jack Joyce

Class 10

Going into the final it was Lance Bowen BC22 who had been unbeaten throughout the heats, and he was the first to show off the line along with Phil Cooper ARC9.  These two were running side-by-side, when defending champion, Lee Seagreaves ARC1, spun out of the battle for third and was left stranded on the racing line in turn one, which resulted in red flags.

The rerun went without Seagreaves and Bowen, this left Cooper as the favourite. However Andrew Hornshaw Y7 wasn’t going to let it be easy for Cooper. In one of the closest battles we saw in the finals, the two made a break from the rest of the pack, running alongside each other the whole race. Cooper had the initial advantage, but Hornshaw found a way up the inside of him to lead the last laps. However Cooper wasn’t done and coming round the final turn he snuck up the inside and won the drag to the line to take another Nationals title, leaving Hornshaw in second. There was another drag to the line for third place, with Vinny Gibbons LM170 and Gary Morris C28 having their own battle throughout the race, with Gibbons taking third and Morris fourth. Darren Cornwell IK77 took fifth place ahead of Ciaran Smyth DA82, the last of the finishers.

1st ARC9 Phil Cooper 2nd Y7 Andrew Hornshaw 3rd LM170 Vinny Gibbons 4th C28 Gary Morris 5th IK77 Darren Cornwell 6th DA82 Ciaran Smyth NS BC22 Lance Bowen NS ARC1 Lee Seagreaves

Champion of Champions

Scattered around the track, the class one of Conner Griffiths SV101 was leading. Rob Corbett PAC3 made quick progress in catching and passing both Griffiths and the class two Callum Hallinan MA19 and Dalton Thomas CM8 wasn’t far behind doing the same. Corbett and Thomas were running side-by-side when Thomas picked up a problem and pulled over. Dan Mackenzie CA44, like in his final was flying and made short work of catching Corbett and going over the line and collecting the last lap flag he took the lead, with Corbett finishing second ahead of Phil Cooper ARC9 and John Wilde CY7 who was the last of the finishers.

1st CA44 Dan Mackenzie 2nd PAC3 Rob Corbett 3rd ARC9 Phil Cooper 4th CY7 John Wilde NF SV101 Conner Griffiths NF MA19 Callum Hallinan NF S26D Adrian Herbert NF CM8 Dalton Thomas NF SC61 Andy Holtby NF LUD80 Jimmy Smith

A fantastic event put on by Cwmdu and 2018 sees the turn of the South Wales League.

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Border Counties 3 Day Festival

On the August bank holiday weekend, the Border Counties Autograss Club was host to their three day festival. Perfect weather conditions over the course of the weekend meant for some of the fastest racing of the season on one of the best tracks in the sport.

Saturday was the quietest day of the three, but it was still very well attended, with many more turning up throughout the day. Whilst Sunday and Monday saw many more cars enter. With the BAS round following there were many contenders testing out the track, which meant there was even more fast and furious racing.

Over the course of the weekend we saw some standout performances from a number of drivers. In class one it was the North Wales Yaris’ that were the strongest over the weekend, with Rich Owen NW15 taking wins on Sunday and Monday, whilst Dave Owen NW97 took the win on Saturday. Stuart Deacon S60D in class five took the final wins on Saturday on Sunday, where on Sunday he beat one of the fastest in the country Jabez Smith LUD8. Martin Bugg M14 was flying over the weekend, with wins on Saturday and Monday, and a third place on Sunday in a damaged car. Katie Addyman Y6 fresh from her nationals win, was quick around here taking two wins over the weekend.

One of the things that I think that makes this weekend great are the shootouts. These are the Super Saloon Shootout, newly named the Gareth Thomas Shootout, and the Super Specials Shootout. These take place over the weekend, with the top four of each race going through to the next round. We saw the first rounds on Saturday, where there were six saloon races and eight special races. Sunday saw the quarter finals and then the semi-finals and finals were on Monday, with the finals ending the weekend. Below are reports on the quarter finals through to the finals of each of the shootouts.

The first race of the saloon quarter finals saw only 5 make the start, all of which were class seven’s, and would mean we would only be losing one going into the semi-finals. Unsurprisingly it was Andy Holtby SC61 who took the lead at the start, but mechanical problems that he seemed plagued with over the weekend appeared coming up to the last lap flag and we saw him retire. Behind him they had been fighting it out for the remaining places. Liam Evans NS120 took over the lead from Holtby, with Lee Almond ARC27 coming home second ahead of Simon Bentley BC59 and Pete Bott S47D. Race two saw Neil Wright SC121 take the lead from start and he held onto the position until the flag, behind him was Y29. The battle was behind for third and fourth positions with Sean Stanley H33 coming out best ahead of NS46. Race three saw a great battle at the front. Guy Thomas BC8 took the lead at the start and pulled away, however he was chased hard by Michael Barrett Y12 and Rich Lee SC700 with Barrett snatching the win on the line. , while the class four of Rob Corbett PAC3 hold off those behind to claim the last qualifying place. The last of the quarter finals saw Bill Bradford BC15 take the win after leading from the start. The battle was behind for the remaining qualifying positions, second place went to the class five of Stuart Deacon S60D ahead of Mike Hockly 62F and Dave Watkins BC82.

The first of the semi-finals saw a great battle for first place, with Evans and Thomas fighting hard and swapping places throughout the race, with Evans taking the win ahead of Thomas. There was another battle behind for the next two qualifying places and it was Wright that took third and Bradford fourth. The second semi-final saw Almond take a dominant win, leading from the start. Behind him the positions were settled into after the first couple of laps with Deacon taking second ahead of Lee Price H80 in third whilst Corbett takes the last final place.

The Gareth Thomas Shootout saw one of the most supported and cheered for wins I think I have ever seen, son of Gareth, Guy, was the spectator’s favourite. Coming out of the top bend in front Thomas was in control of the final from then on and pulled away from the battling pack behind. There was a close three car battle for second, but Almond spun out and dropped to the back, whilst Evans was able to pull away and start his chase on Thomas, despite reeling him and ending up on his tale, Evans ran out of laps to make the move. Bradford came home in a comfortable third, with Deacon in fourth closely followed by Price in fifth. Corbett couldn’t compete with the front runners but was able to keep Wright and Almond behind him.

The first of the special quarter finals came to an early end with the red flags coming out after a coming together on the top bend. There was no rerun and we saw Jake Herdman YS7 take the win, whilst the other qualifiers for the semi-finals were,
The second race saw Laura Blaber A12 take the lead at the start and hold onto the win. Behind was a four car battle for the remaining three places, and it was Karl Bennett NW26 who took second ahead of Daniel Talbot SL6 and Luke Bennett NW62. Race three was also won from the start, with Martin Bugg taking the victory, behind him though places were swapping and changing for the qualifying places and it was Dave Newby SC811 who took second with Jay Jones NW106 third and Paul Johnson SC235 fourth. The last of the quarter finals saw Sam Perry G8D take the lead off the line and hold onto it despite NW trying to fight his way past. Matt Duffell L1 secured his place in the semi-final with third place ahead of SL7.

Both semi-finals saw a red flag on their first runs. The first of them went to a second rerun after Talbot rolled. On the final attempt it was Blaber and Bugg who were first to show and Blaber took the lead, however a charging Herdman came through the pack to take the win ahead of Perry, with Blaber and Bugg finishing third and fourth. The second semi-final saw a battle for first and second between Johnson and Karl Bennett with the result finishing in that order despite Karl trying every move to find a way into the lead. There was another battle behind with three cars fighting for the two remaining spots in the final, and it was Dan Barnard SC181 who came third with Josh Reid CS22 joining him in the final.

Reid took up the running of the final but was soon passed by Herdman before the red flags came out for a stranded car on the track. On the rerun Herdman picked up where he left off and took up the lead at the start, he held this position and pulled away from the rest of the pack. Johnson came out of the pack into second place where he held this position unchallenged throughout. The battle came for the next positions, Duffell was promoted into the final through dropouts and was sitting third for the first half of the race that was until the charging Bugg came through to take the position, and he was also followed by Blaber who knocked Duffell back to fifth. Blaber couldn’t make the move on Bugg where he finished third and Blaber fourth. Behind Duffell was Perry and a mistake earlier in the race saw Reid drop to the back of the field finishing seventh.
This weekend is one of my favourites of the year, if not the favourite, and leaving this weekend back in August I was already looking forward to doing it all again. So August bank holiday weekend this year we will be returning to the Border Counties club for the 2018 3 Day Festival, it was the first one into the diary.