British Speedway Premiership Roundup: Aces on top, Wolves make a statement, highs and lows for the Witches and the Stars off the mark

The Belle Vue Aces moved to the top of the Speedway Premiership, following an excellent 45-45 draw at Ipswich up with a bank holiday double header that saw them draw at home to and win away the Peterborough Panthers.

Dan Bewley scored 29 from 30 available points last bank holiday Monday as a rescued 45-45 at the National Speedway Stadium was bettered by a 50-40 win at the East of England Arena.

That performance came after a solid 11 point haul away at Ipswich, with Foxhall a track that Bewley traditionally does not ride well at, leading his side to two away points.

Belle Vue host Ipswich tonight with the Suffolk side depleted with injuries as Jason Crump broke eight ribs in a crash at Wolverhampton, with Jordan Stewart injuring his collarbone, shoulder and ribs while doubling up with Redcar in the Championship.

The Witches’ injury list lengthened when Cameron Heeps suffered a shoulder separation during the home defeat to King’s Lynn, with Ipswich calling upon the ousted King’s Lynn Number One Craig Cook to guest in place of Crump while Berwick rider Aaron Stewart deputises for Heeps.

A narrow 44-46 reverse at home to the Stars compounded a poor week for Ipswich, who were smashed 62-28 at Monmore Green after having previously soundly beaten the Sheffield Tigers 51-39 the previous week.

Sheffield marked their long awaited returned to Owlerton with a 49-41 success over Wolves – particularly impressive considering the visitors’ aforementioned score over Ipswich coming just three days after they annihilated King’s Lynn 32-58 in Norfolk.

The Stars responded to that by releasing Craig Cook after just two meetings, and signing up Richard Lawson in his place, and have since replaced Ryan Kinsley and Lewis Bridger with Connor Mountain and Ricky Wells.

That proved to be the difference when they went to Foxhall looking to avenge opening day defeat by Ipswich, with Lawson top scoring with 13 points including a final heat 5-1 to swing the match in favour of King’s Lynn, who go to Peterborough on Monday in more derby action.

The Panthers will be looking to make up for lost time after having their opening match at Sheffield postponed because of the weather, and have ridden only twice against Belle Vue so far this season.

An excellent 45-45 draw at Belle Vue was followed by home defeat, and Peterborough will be desperate to land their first victory of the season at home to their local rivals, before another derby day at Ipswich on Thursday.

Position Team PL Points
1 Belle Vue Aces 4 10
2 Wolverhampton Wolves 3 7
3 Ipswich Witches 5 7
4 Sheffield Tigers 3 4
5 King’s Lynn Stars 3 3
6 Peterborough Panthers 2 2

British GT – Igoe and Keen steal a march in GT3, while Century Motorsport have a day to remember in GT4

Michael Igoe and Phil Keen started their season with the victory as fans were welcomed back to the British GT Championship for the first time in over a year.

The series returned with another revised calendar following the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic, with the traditional Easter opener at Oulton Park not scheduled until the penultimate weekend of the season.

The WPI Lamborghini duo of Igoe and Keen dominated at Brands Hatch to take the lead of the GT3 and overall lead of the series at this early stage.

Beachdean Aston Martin duo Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam were second having started on pole ahead of Barwell’s Lamborghini driven by Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, who kept Adam more than honest for large parts of the race.

Defending champions Pro-Am Yelmer Buurman and Iain Loggie were fourth in RAM Racing’s Mercedes ahead of Richard and Sam Neary, who topped the Bronze-Am class.

Gus Burton and Will Burns picked up the GT4 spoils after Charlie Robertson hit strife late on to give perennial challengers Century Motorsport victory in the BMW M4, Century helping themselves to a 1-2 finish courtesy of Pro-Am class winners Chris Salked and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.

Burton and Burns had led the first stint, but being a Silver Crew instead of a Pro-Am pairing they had an extra 20s added to their pit stop time, which ended any chance of them leading after the stops when the second safety car period bunched the field up.

Burton picked his way through the field in the competitive BMW and was given a huge slice of luck when the leading Ginetta had to pit.

James Kell and Jordan Collard took third behind Ginetta ranks graduate Salkeld and Gordon Colebrooke, in Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren.

Salkeld was himself involved in one of the early Safety Car incidents, contact with a Toyota terminally ending Scott McKenna’s and John Ferguson’s race.

The result means that Century take an already significant lead in the GT4 teams championship, 42 points clear of any other team after the opening weekend of 2021.

Next up, the championship heads to Silverstone in 5 weeks time to take on the crown jewel of the British GT season, the 3-hour Silverstone 500 race.

*Image courtesy of Dan Buckel, via the British GT Gallery

British Speedway – Crump marks comeback with Ipswich Witches victory, while Belle Vue edge out Sheffield

Three-time World Champion Jason Crump marked his returned to speedway with a win  as the Ipswich Witches took bragging rights in the East Anglian derby with a 47-43 away win over the King’s Lynn Stars.

Crump, riding after an absence of nearly a decade, returned to competitive action with two falls and seven points on eventful evening for the 45-year-old Australian.

Track conditions were difficult at the start of the meeting after a heavy shower at the Adrian Flux Arena forced a delay of nearly an hour, and the Suffolk side adapted to the conditions better than their Norfolk hosts.

Man-of-the-match Anders Rowe scored 12 points paid 14 for the visitors, backed up nicely by captain Daniel King on 12 and Crump.

King’s Lynn consoled themselves with stopping Ipswich leaving with all four away points, with three 5-1 heat advantages cutting the gap from 16 to four points at the end of the meeting.

Craig Cook top scored for the hosts with 11 points, and three successive victories after a nervy start by his own admission.

Meanwhile in the other match on Monday night, Sheffield Tigers star Jack Holder dropped just two points from seven rides on Monday night as the Premiership newcomers took a consolation point from defeat at Belle Vue on Monday night.

The Owlerton outfit went down 47-43, with an away defeat by less than six points earning teams in the Premiership a losing bonus point.

25-year-old Holder, also riding in Poland for Torun, scored 19 points in the absence of Adam Ellis, who was missing after Covid regulations in Poland barred him from flying back this week.

Two early 5-1 heat advantages for the visitors saw them lead 29-25 at Heat Nine before they were pegged back by Richie Worrall and Brady Kurtz, with home reserve Jye Etheridge also a constant threat.

Belle Vue began to kick on and but for an unlikely 5-1 in Heat 14 from Holder and Justin Sedgmen, it looked like the Tigers may fail to build on that early start.

But Kurtz and Dan Bewley got Belle Vue over the line on a 4-2 in the final heat to seal the victory in the end for the Aces.

*The PitCrewOnline is aware that this is an old image, and we are working to secure the best, latest images from the sport*

British F3 – De Pauw fastest in first test session

Belgium’s Ulysse De Pauw was fastest in the first official BRDC British F3 test session at Snetterton.

De Pauw, whose relationship with Douglas Motorsport continues for a second year in the series, led home Jordan Dempsey of Chris Dittmann Racing and Guilherme Peixoto of Carlin Motorsport, both of whom looking to make their British F3 debuts in 2020.

The returning Benjamin Pedersen was fourth at a damp Snetterton ahead of British F3 debutants Ollie Clarke and Josh Skelton.

American Kaylen Frederick is back at Carlin for a second season and was seventh ahead of the improving Josh Mason in eighth for Lanan, while a glut of potential debutants in Manaf Hajjawi, Louis Foster and Bart Horsten filled out positions nine to 11.

Kiern Jewis, one of the favourites for this years championship, was 12th for Douglas Motorsport ahead of more debutants in Christian Olsen and Piers Prior, with Nazim Azman 15th having joined Carlin from Chris Dittmann Racing and Mexican Sebastian Alvarez in 16th.

 

IMAGE: Jakob Ebery (JEP)

W Series: David Coulthard – I’d like continental based W Series Championships

David Coulthard has said that he would like to see more, regional W feeder Series in the future ahead of the launch of W Series season two later this year.

Coulthard, 48, has played an active role in the series since it was announced back in 2018 and believes it is important that the championship that acts as a feeder series to Germany’s DTM builds on a successful first season.

“I personally would like to see a North American Championship, an Asian Championship, a number of championships which could then come together for one world championship over a number of races.

“We have tapped into the available talent that recognised W Series in its first year and grown from that, but actually having a feeder championship, that would be good as longer term view. Right now, we’ve got to focus on this championship and grow the reach we have and continue the journey. The year one foundations we currently have in place, we’re very happy with.”

During the first year there was a gap between those who had more single seater experience such as Jamie Chadwick and Alice and those without much single seater experience such as Esmee Hawkey and Caitlin Wood.

“We can do the selection process, which was done fantastically and Alex Wurz is an FIA affiliated selection processor and we felt that we gave everyone as fair an opportunity as possible to really show themselves before getting behind the single seater wheel, of course those that have been doing the single seaters will have an advantage.

“It is a little bit like my journey, when I started at 17 in cars I had no experience of cars and I was going up against people who had three or four years experience but we can’t drive the cars for them, we can’t control what they do away from the championship.”

The 13-time Grand Prix winner is of the belief that those who are quick enough will gravitate towards the front of the grid while suggesting some drivers may decide to test other single seaters.

“This is a free to enter championship, any funding they build up they can put into their programme or test in other cars. Some may choose to invest that in other forms of racing in conjunction with W Series. It is up to them to make that decision, but they have got to make that decision and if you believe in cream rising to the top through hard work, endeavour and all the rest of it then in the same way that Max Verstappen ended up in Formula One at the age of 17.

“That was not by accident it was because of a whole series of testing and planning and having everything set up for it. You’re never going to have it completely fair in terms of the experience they have and how many miles they have done because there is that age discrepancy.”

Hoggard: GT and single seaters on the table for 2020

Sunoco Whelen Challenge and Aston Martin Autosport award winner Johnathan Hoggard says he has interest from a variety of series for 2020.

Hoggard, who was also runner up for Fortec Motorsport in BRDC British F3, suggested he wasn’t far from confirming his plans for 2020.

“Nothing has been confirmed just yet but we are in talks with a variety of teams and we have different options including single seater, but off the back of the Autosport Award there has been a few GT offers. It’s down to me to decide what to do and what is best for my future.

“I enjoyed both at the Autosport challenge, so anything is good for me.”

While he is used to short sprints in the British F3 series and previous junior formulae, Hoggard has suggested that there are more similarities between the LMP2 car that he will drive in January at the Daytona 24 Hours and single seater formulae.

“The Sunoco Whelen Challenge includes a fully funded Rolex 24 Hour drive in the LMP2 category at Daytona. I’m really looking forward to the race and experience. The British F3 and the LMP2 are quite similar in that they both have a lot of downforce but the LMP2 car obviously has a lot more power. Obviously having a roof over your head and there is a lot more adjustability with things like traction control and power steering so you work more with the car than against it.”

And there are few more obvious challenges to overcome driving in a 24 Hour race, and Hoggard has admitted that long runs have been in short supply in testing.

It is mainly getting used to finding the different reference points and getting used to the lack of visibility that comes with night time driving. Daytona is very well lit so that shouldn’t be as much of a problem. We have had a few issues which have limited running to 7 laps at the Raw event, but they should hopefully be out of the way now.”

 

James Gornall joins Trade Price Cars Racing and says: I spent New Year’s watching BTCC pole position laps

James Gornall has rounded off Trade Price Cars Racing’s BTCC line up for 2020, and has confessed to a somewhat unusual way of spending New Years’.

“The first thing I did before I went to sleep at New Year was watch the pole position laps at every single circuit in 2019.”

Gornall joins after winning the Mini Challenge UK series in 2019, and confesses he will be taking as much advice as he can ahead of making the step up.

“I’ll ask Bobby as many questions as I can think of and take any advice he can give me, same as any other friends that race in this series. There’s always a lot that you can learn. When I go back to my British GT days I used to watch onboards of all the cars I was racing against to see what their characteristics were like so I could see where to best lunge at them or find an advantage. I’m going to do the same stuff here.”

While he has been racing in other series, notably in the British GT series, the British Touring Car Championship has been an itch that Gornall has long wanted to scratch.

“We’ve been talking about Touring Cars for a few years now as I feel it has always been my destination. We came back into saloons and did the Minis last year to learn front wheel drive ahead of a move into the Touring Cars.

“I spoke with Dan (Kirby, team owner) a year ago about this when he launched the team and I am happy that we made it happen as I did say to him then that I would win the Minis and the come and race for him.”

While he wanted to use the Mini Challenge to help prepare for a full British Touring Car programme, Gornall acknowledges that the schedule will be totally different even if he is now more used to his machinery.

“I’d say Minis are completely different. I did it to learn the car characteristics or a similar car characteristics but the Touring Car weekend is certainly light years ahead and in on-make championships like the Minis you do get a bit of rough and tumble, no-one really is planning to have rough and tumble but it’s nice see how that is in that environment. It’s been good preparation, this is something completely new and I will be going for it.”

 

British GT: Adam – I want to return to the British GT

Current British GT champion Jonny Adam admits that he isn’t sure where he’ll be racing in 2020.

The Aston Martin works driver has won the British GT championship the last two years with Flick Haigh and Graham Davidson and is eager to return to the series in which he has won the most races with 14.

“We’ve sold a lot of cars and we’ll wait and see where I am next year as we haven’t yet been assigned a programme for 2020. We won the championship in a car that was very new to everyone in March, second year round we know where to make the car nicer but it is a BOP championship so you can’t have the fastest car out there. That makes it easier to driver and makes it better all round. I’d love to be doing British GT next year.”

The flying Scotsman spoke about his coaching of Am drivers, a tool useful in a championship where professional racing drivers are usually paired with so called “gentleman drivers”.

“When I play golf I always go to the driving range before the first tee. The reason I do this is because of muscle memory, and it is the same when you’re racing these cars. You can’t test much because they cost an awful lot of money to run. The cheapest and easiest way to test the car and improve as a driver is by using the simulator. The sim model we have at base for me as an Aston employee is perfect because it’s got the same brakes, the same tub and it’s within a couple of tenths of what we do at the weekend.”

While there were some differences between Haigh and a hard-charging Davidson, Adam went back to basics with both drivers when he started to work with them.

“You change quite a lot (From Flick to Graham). Every customer driver wants to win, I have always been lucky in that the level of Am  that I have had is always at a nice level and always have the aspiration to win the championship.

“I actually put both of them in a go kart in January and February because it is a great training tool anyway but also, these guys won’t have driven anything with an engine for three or four months in anger so it flushes out the cobwebs.

“It is all about the personality though and what information they will take onboard from coaching, and I don’t know that until I meet the person. My method always changes, even depending on the race weekend and the weekend before to make sure I get their confidence up. My coaching technique has not changed and I’ve been coaching now for five or six years, though I have been an instructor since 2003.

“For sure Graham is one of the fastest Ams out there and it is plain to see from the lap times, but the key with GT racing is being consistent. If you finish fourth in every race in the British GT Championship you’re in with a chance of winning the title so the days where you are looking at an awkward manoeuvre are the days where you sit and take the points. Sometimes it is about communication, I always like to speak to the driver as well and give them information, not too much but enough detail at the right time.”

Belgian GP: Anthoine Hubert’s death in Belgium reminds us that these drivers are gladiators. Let’s show them some respect

Anthoine Hubert’s death at the age of this weekend in that ill-fated F2 Belgian Feature race shocked the motorsport world.

Not since 2014 has a Formula One race weekend seen an accident that would claim a driver’s life when Jules Bianchi hit that tractor at Suzuka in awful conditions.

Not since Ayrton Senna in 1994 has a Formula One driver died at the circuit.

This weekend, a paddock lost a competitor. Drivers lost a friend. And a family are contemplating their son’s death.

The racing public and the wider world forget just what risks these men and women take for their thrill, and our entertainment.

Conveniently, we forget about the warning on the back of every single ticket to a motorsport event anywhere in the world about motorsport being dangerous.

“Well yeah it is, but there’s so many safety measures now, they’ll all be fine. There’s almost no risk.” That phrase is flippantly thrown out everywhere you go.

Wrong.

The sheer fact of the matter is, no matter how many measures you take, driver cars at speeds of well over 100 miles an hour will always be inherently dangerous.

Experts and the powers that be are always, and will always look to learn lessons from relatively minor accidents, to shunts such as Robert Wickens’ at Pocono last year in Indycars, right through to Billy Monger’s freak accident at Donington Park in British F4 in 2017 and Bianchi’s accident in Japan.

Charles Leclerc, a man who has now lost two close friends to racing-related accidents following Hubert’s passing, showed why Halo despite its aesthetic challenges is a necessity at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

A year on, Pierre Gasly told Leclerc to win a race for their fallen friend.

Lewis Hamilton, one of hundreds of racing figures to pay tribute to Hubert following Saturday’s tragic events, also outlined those foolhardy attitudes from many not sitting in the cockpit.

Hamilton also crashed in Free Practice on Saturday, to raucous cheers from the grandstand above.

Indeed, for a far from small minority, viewership of Formula One has no longer become about supporting their favourites, but about hoping their rival, the enemy, hits mechanical failures, or spins, or crashes.

There is among some a hope that Vettel/Hamilton etc do not complete the 190-odd miles that entails a Grand Prix distance.

It could be naivety stemming from the fact the drivers walk away from the heaviest of shunts nine times out of ten. It could be tribalism, as there is for some, nothing more important than the enemy suffering at the track in one shape or another. It’s likely a mixture of both.

It’s unlikely that much change of any form will come out of Hubert’s accident. It happened at a part of the circuit that is the fastest, the scenery around it is a forest and so the tyre wall cannot be moved further back to allow larger run-off area – indeed the gravel removed long ago would probably have helped matters.

The layout through Eau Rouge and Radillon will not change, and no changes to the cars are likely to have made much of a difference to this outcome. The powers that be will simply include this is another incident to note and examine.

While they are no longer sitting on the mobile bombs that those in the 1970s were driving, what Hubert’s death should highlight is that the driver across any forms of motorsport that risk their lives for the entertainment of the public are still modern-day heroes.

To be able to compartmentalise an event like this and go out to do it all over again not even on day after a horrifically sad event such as this puts them above mere mortals like you or I.

It is therefore time for certain sections of the viewing public to realise this, to remember and understand exactly what is unfolding before their eyes or on their screens, and show more respect to those gladiators.

Because that is what they are.

British F3 – Simmons races to victory ahead of Jewiss, Novalak closes in on the title

Ayrton Simmons beat a frustrated Kiern Jewiss to Race Three victory to complete a fine Sunday performance.

The Chris Dittmann Racing man was fourth in Race Two after charging through the field in wet conditions, and passed Jewiss off the line in Race Three where he was never more than mildly uncomfortable in the face of a fierce Jewiss challenge.

Neil Verhagen recovered from a tough run of form to take third place and underline his top-five championship credentials, while in a potentially key move regarding the destiny of the British F3 championship, series’ leader Clement Novalak took fourth ahead of second-placed Johnathan Hoggard.

Hoggard had started third on the grid but lost out in a battle with Ulysse De Pauw to lose ground early on lap one, and the man from Lincolnshire failed to recover from there.

Hampus Ericsson climbed to sixth to put a difficult weekend behind him ahead of Belgium’s De Pauw, with Lucas Petersson’s eighth place cemented this weekend as the Swede’s strongest of 2019 for Carlin Motorsport.

Another man who will be pleased with his pace this weekend is Josh Mason.

The Lanan Racing driver took ninth place in Race Three at the circuit where he won last year after showing solid midfield pace all weekend, while Kaylen Frederick will best remember this weekend for an overtake around the outside of Race Two winner Manuel Maldonado to finish tenth.

Nazim Azman was twelfth behind Maldonado, with Nico Varrone 13th and Pavan Ravishankar a disappointing 14th place. Kris Wright and Ben Pedersen were 15th and 16th after receiving penalties, and Sassakorn Chaimongkol was 17th after a collision with Pedersen on the opening lap.