Nigel Green catapulted to his third final win of the season when taking full advantage of a battle between Tom Harris and Ryan Harrison on the last lap of the final at King’s Lynn on Saturday night.
In a dramatic finale to the race, Green swept through to take the lead after the two leaders tangled into turn one, having clashed on the previous bend.
The meeting began with a whites and yellows heat, with a perfectly observed minute silence prior to the race as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena bombing, which was followed by the release of pink and yellow balloons on the start/finish line.
Richard Woods led for most of the race until tangling with Nigel Harrhy, as the result of the front bumper of Russell Cooper with two laps to go. This allowed Elliot Smith through to take the win, with Cooper second and Chris Farnell third.
Heat one fielded 21 cars and it was Harris who made up lumps of ground in the early stages who came through to take an emphatic win, ahead of Karl Hawkins, Frankie Wainman Jnr and Ben Riley. Luke Dennis and Lee Fairhurst, in his newly revamped shale car rounded out the top six.
Unfortunately for Fairhurst, an oil leak put paid to any further participation in the meeting. “It was a leak on the front crank seal,” Fairhurst said. “We’ll have to wait until we get back to the garage but we’ll put a different one on and hope it’s OK at Belle Vue on Monday.”
The 19-car heat two was won by nearly half a lap by Chris Brocksopp, but all the action was happening behind the easy winner, with Stuart Smith jnr and Craig Finnikin trading places throughout the 16 laps. Finnikin used the front bumper to good effect on the last bend to take second place from Smith Jnr. Mark Gilbank was fourth, ahead of Will Hunter and Green.
The consolation fielded 19 cars and was led by Woods until James Morris took over before halfway to go on the take the flag. Bobby Griffin finished second, ahead of Paul Harrison, Danny Wainman, Mark Woodhall and Woods.
The Mo Jones Memorial Final lined up with 31 cars, with Fairhurst a non-starter, along with Elliot Smith, who pulled off prior to the start.
Woods led from the green flag, followed by John Wright and Robert Plant. Wright soon passed Woods, with Mick Rogers and Brocksopp chasing, before Rogers took over from Brocksopp and Chris Worrall.
Behind these Mat Newson was the leading star, Harris and Finnikin were close up, with Ryan Harriosn, in his new shale car, going well behind them.
Brocksopp tried to move Rogers aside into turn three on lap six but took both out of the reckoning, which gave Worrall the lead, from Griffin.
A lap later and Newson looked to slip up the inside of Worrall entering the home straight but got pinched and had to avoid a marker tyre, which allowed the charging Harris through to second with Ryan Harrison following.
At the same time Finnikin got hooked up with Griffin and as they drifted across the start/finishing they clipped Smith Jnr, who nearly spun. As they unhooked, Finnikin moved back on to the racing line just as Wainman Jnr was passing, who rode over the side of Finnikin car and out of contention.
The result of the chaos left Morris in a sizeable lead at halfway, but was being closed down by Harris, who was coming under increasing pressure form Harrison, with a gap back to Newson in fourth.
With seven to go Morris’ lead was cut back top nothing as he got caught out in a turn four melee, and Harris went to pass the leader just as the yellow flags came out.
After the track was watered, the order was Morris, Harris, Harrison, Newson, Paul Harrison, Paul Hines, Smith Jnr, Green, Gilbank and Danny Wainman.
Soon after the race went green again Harris took the lead on a slippery track. Harrison was chasing hard behind, with the race seeming to be between the top two. Behind, Newson was in a battle with Smith Jnr for third place, as the two swapped places, with Green now close up in fifth and Paul Harrison sixth.
With two laps to go, the front two were nearly the length of the straight ahead of the chasing pack. Ryan Harrison found more grip than Harris coming out of turn four and into turn one was within striking range.
Barrelling down the back straight for the penultimate time Harrison launched at the Harris back bumper, making contact and turned Harris into a spin. Harrison’s momentum straightened the Harris car back in the right direction but the two leaders hooked up entering the home straight.
As the last lap board came out Harris and Harrison managed to unhook themselves but as they past the start/finish line Newson and Green, who had passed Smith Jnr a lap earlier, were now right with the leaders.
Newson hesitated as the leaders unhooked, went to the outside, while Green dived for the inner. Harris momentarily led into turn one but Harrison had another bite at the Harris back bumper. The outcome left Harris sideways and Harrison nowhere to go.
Green shot into the lead, with Paul Harrison climbing up to second as Smith Jnr was momentarily held up after spinning Newson aside.
Green took a surprise victory, with Harrison holding off the last-bend challenge of Smith jnr to claim second place. Hines was fourth, ahead of Brocksopp and Newson.
After a breathless finish to the final, the 28-car Grand National was a more straightforward affair, with Smith Jnr taking the lead by halfway and winning unchallenged, ahead of Newson and Finnikin. Danny Wainman was fourth ahead of Harris, with Green an excellent sixth from the one-lap handicap.
Green had a quiet start to the meeting, having made the wrong tyre choice in his heat. “I had a new Kuhmo tyre on for the heat I wanted to use because they are getting knocked on the head,” said Green. “I tried it and it basically blistered to bits as there was too much tread on it.
For the final I used a Pirelli with less tread on it. My car was just coming good at the end, to be honest. It was going well and it panned out good for me in the end
“The car was good for about three laps until the tyre overheated and then I was just driving round with no rear grip whatsoever. So it was not the most convincing fifth place but we learnt from it and moved on.”
The car was transformed in the final and improved as the track dried out, although Green’s task was made harder by his starting position.
“For the final I used a Pirelli with less tread on it,” Green explained. “My car was just coming good at the end, to be honest. It was going well and it panned out good for me in the end.
“I came from a few back to get there. I was fast enough to win but I start last all the time at the moment – I’m not sure how that works – so when there’s six superstars in the race and you’ve got the likes of Tom Harris at the front of them, and obviously they are all good lads, it’s hard work.”
“Tom and Ryan got tangled up on the last corner, so they must have had a bit of sport, and then they freed themselves and I was racing with about a bunch of four.
“Those two acted like a roadblock and so everyone didn’t know what to do and I managed to keep my foot in and get on with it. And on the next corner they spun each other out and so I just drove underneath them and I was gone then.”
Despite the disappointing end to his final, Ryan Harrison was delighted with the performance of his new shale car.
“The new car was on it straight out of the box,” said Harrison. “With the new panelling style, the engine was running slightly warm, so I didn’t go out for the National. I don’t want to risk anything. We can fine tune a few things ready for Sheffield next Sunday.”
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley