On a gloriously sunny day the trees around the East Park track kept things pretty cool in the pits, including the atmosphere for much of this, the penultimate round of the 2015 series. The track preparation was top class and although first impressions suggested a slippery surface, and there were a few slides, most of the happy gang got it sorted smartly with no problems.
Once again considering the Midlands venue, numbers were down but that didn’t deter our diehard southern cousins Eddie Ridley, Martin Hollebon, Paddy Wenn, Pete Chant and Kevin Greaves from attending, simply phenomenal support from these boys.
As in previous rounds we ran two side-by-side formats, the first accommodating the Over 40s in a ten-rider programme based on the standard 16 heat Indy formula, and the same layout for the combined Over 50s and 60s. Unfortunately that meant a few occurrences of two and the odd one-man race, but it all carves out evenly at tot-up time.
I can’t remember now which group led off, so I’ll start with the 40s where Mark Winwood continued his fantastic run of first places after shooting from the gate, as we’ve come to expect now. Norman Venson held off the pressing challenge of Mick Knowles. There was a shock in heat 2 when the World Champion, Craig Marchant, slipped coming out of turn 2 and gave up first place to the watchful Jason Keith with Dave Meanley chasing. Heat 3 saw an almighty scrap between eventual victor Martin Hollebon, Pete Chant , Paddy Wenn and Eddie Ridley, finishing in that order.
One ride each and a familiar pattern already emerging, but there was even worse news for the Champ in his next ride when he was deemed to have moved at the tapes, the Referee having no hesitation in pointing to the pit gate! With Pete and Mark out there it should have been a corker, but the meagre gaggle of onlookers (six of them there to support Northumbrian Jim Graham!) was denied.
Mark went on to complete a flawless maximum while Craig’s total wasn’t enough to get him into the “A” Final this time. Meanwhile Martin and Jason kept banging in big scores to finish on 18 with Pete and Norman claiming 16 each, Dave, Craig and paddy next best.
So to the kiddies’ finals, and Mark again blasted away to keep a clean sheet and win the meeting comfortably in the “A” Final followed by Martin, Norman (in on countback over Pete) and Jason. The “B” Final saw another great race with Craig making no mistake to win it followed by Pete, Dave and Paddy, who is now considering the switch to big tyres like the majority of the enemy use these days.
Next up the 50s and 60s action (note both matches ran concurrently, one heat from each de-da de-da as usual). With Bob Prince looking sharp, regardless of his apparent rib damage, Paul Timms almost back to full strength and Stevie Hodgkinson in magnificent form lately, those three were odds-on for today’s silverware. However, Phil Hemming and Joe McLaughlin had other ideas, both in great form today and there were some great scraps in this one to decide the finalists.
Bob dropped his only point to Joe after squeezing past Paul in his next to finish top on 19. Behind him were THREE riders on 18 points – Joe, Paul and Phil! Behind them also, Kevin and Terry were tied on 15 each.
That left Stevie muscled out of the “A” Final this time, which could prove crucial in the final reckoning. Bob duly won it from Paul who kept Joe and Phil at bay to the flag. Steve made no mistake in the “B” Final doing all he could to keep the gap as slender as possible between himself and Bob, while Kevin comfortably kept Terry behind until Mick Aris made a brilliant pass to grab third spot.
The Over 60 “A” Final would have been a complete anti-climax with Bob just doing enough to stay ahead, were it not for that man Mick again who once more swooped under a slightly disinterested Northumbrian to claim runner-up spot with Fred Rothwell just behind.
Jim Graham was awarded a Man of the Match prize, and I think that was in recognition of his crowd-pulling ability!
Thanks to all at East Park for their preparation and smooth running of the event.