World champion is made to suffer
A FAST, dry track meant that the three classes racing at Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich on Saturday evening were seen at their very best.The National Hot Rods topped the bill for round one of the 2008 World Championship Qualifying Series and, with around 30 cars attending, it is clear that the chase for a place in next July's World Final is going to be as fiercely contested as ever.
A FAST, dry track meant that the three classes racing at Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich on Saturday evening were seen at their very best.
The National Hot Rods topped the bill for round one of the 2008 World Championship Qualifying Series and, with around 30 cars attending, it is clear that the chase for a place in next July's World Final is going to be as fiercely contested as ever.
It was the unfancied Rob Hadfield who won both the opening heats. Chris Haird, who was runner-up in this year's World Championship, got a good second place in heat one, while Ipswich's rising star Jamie Austin made second in heat two to confirm his growing reputation as a serious contender in this most competitive of formulas.
He went one better in heat three, holding on to take the win ahead of some much more experienced drivers, although the big Ipswich name, reigning World Champion Carl Boardley fared less well, making eighth and seventh in his heats.
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He retired from the final after a collision with Terry Hunn left both of them with damaged cars, while Austin spun out and retired as well.
However, all eyes were on Phil Spinks, whose drive in the Allcomers race at July's Spede Weekend was widely regarded as the best of the year.
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He made second in that one with a stirring “round the outside” charge which he repeated on Saturday, only this time it was even more impressive.
He started 18th on the grid but by the end he was almost alongside race winner Dick Hillard in a mass finish with Colin Smith and Matt Simpson, where all four cars flashed over the line with less than a second between them.
The Sierra Lightning Rods were part of an attractive back-up programme and, as usual, there were very few dull moments as the big field of cars battled it out.
Although this is a non-contact formula, they do tend to have far more accidents than they should and, while some of it is down to size, speed and sheer numbers, the standard of driving isn't always what it might be.
Still, it makes for very exciting racing and contributes to the formula's enduring popularity.
Shaun Copland and Darren Goudy won the heats, which had their moments, although nothing like as many moments as the final where a mass pile-up early on accounted for several cars and, by the end, only 15 of the 28 starters were still going.
Peterborough's Mike Walker took the flag ahead of Copland and Graham Kerry, who did well to come back from a big crash in the opening heat which left Fred Kinsella's car perched on Graham's window opening.
The Superstox completed the programme, with Lee Cruddock winning the opening heat with a flag-to-flag win, but he spun himself out of heat two early on, which featured an exciting finish when David Miles grabbed the win from Duncan Adams as the pair came off the last bend.
However, Adams wasn't to be denied in the final, keeping it much tighter on the last bend this time, to get there just ahead of Gary Burch and John Smith on a night when the superstars failed to achieve their customary dominance.
Results from Foxhall
National Hot Rods
Heat One: 1 Rob Hadfield (Buxton), 2 Chris Haird (Newmarket), 3 Andy Steward (Great Bromley).
Heat Two: 1 Hadfield, 2 Jamie Austin (Ipswich), 3 Dick Hillard (Long Sutton).
Heat Three: 1 Austin, 2 Hillard, 3 Haird.
Final: 1 Hillard, 2 Phil Spinks (Pinner), 3 Colin Smith (Southend).
Heat One: 1 Shaun Copland (Costessey), 2 Mick Walker (Peterborough), 3 Sam Pettitt (Norwich).
Heat Two: 1 Darren Goudy (Bacton), 2 Pettitt, 3 Michael Lane (Sudbury).
Final: 1 Walker, 2 Copland, 3 Graham Kerry (Rushall).
Heat One; 1 Lee Cruddock (Eastbourne), 2 Sean Smith (Marlow), 3 Mac McCutcheon (Spalding).
Heat Two: 1 David Myles Jnr (Eversley), 2 Duncan Adams (Felsham), 3 Gary Burch (Swaffham).
Final: 1 Adams 2 Burch, 3 John Smith (Dereham).