Shaun Webster didn’t let the rain spoil his parade on Saturday night as the 34-year-old from Sheffield romped away to his first final victory at Northampton’s first meeting of the season.
A deluge prior to the meeting left standing water on both bends, but track staff did an exceptional job clearing away the water before the meeting began.
The rain eased before the 19-car opening heat and it ended with a Davidson team 1-2 with Luke Davidson taking the lead before halfway, with Tom Harris a fast-closing second. Nigel Green was third, ahead of Lee Fairhurst, Ben Hurdman and Frankie Wainman Jnr.
The track was still wet and greasy for the 19-car second heat and it was Frankie Wainman Jnr Jr was adapted best to take the lead after five laps. Ben Riley was the main danger in the closing stages, and went for a last-bend attack on the Wainman Jnr Jr rear bumper.
Riley’s efforts were not enough to take his younger rival out, however, and in a drag race to the line it was Wainman Jnr Jr who scored his first win of the season. Fairhurst finished third, ahead of Ryan Harrison, George Elwell and Mat Newson.
The sun came out for the 19-car heat three and as a dry line began to appear, former V8 Hotstox driver Tristan Jackson, making his first appearance in an F1 stock car, led until three laps to go when a flying Harris stormed past. Harris won by the length of the straight ahead of Danny Wainman, Davidson, Newson, Harrison and Webster. Jackon finished a credible seventh just in front of Stuart Smith Jnr, who was out in his shale car.
Jackson led the 26-car final until former saloon stock car racer Webster took over. Bradley Harrison took up the chase, with Fairhurst the main threat from the back of the grid, but Webster always had the race under control, and was never threatened all the way to the flag.
Fairhurst took over second place from Harrison with four laps to go. Harrison then held on to the final podium slot despite pressure from the fast-finishing Harris, who went for a last-bender but didn’t make enough contact and had to settle for fourth.
Webster was celebrating his first final success, having raced in saloons for 16 years prior to making the big step up to F1 stock cars in a Frankie Wainman Jnr-built car he bought from Craig Uttley.
“I went to Holland last year and ever since then it clicked and I’ve going well since then,” said Webster. “But I keep getting punctures or something will go wrong with the car, so I’d get a good result in one race and then maybe not finish the final.
“My first meeting this year was Birmingham and I went well there in my first race but a brake pipe came off when I was leading and then I had a few shenanigans with Nigel Hahrry and ended up in the fence.
The car has been going well but little things have been letting me down. Tyres play a big part. You can put a different tyre on and it can transform your car
“I got a second place in the consolation at Skegness last Saturday night. In the final I was racing with Chris Fort and I’d just got into the lead when I came out of the first corner a bit sideways. Chris tried to come up the inside but we ended up tangling and he t-boned me.
“The car has been going well but little things have been letting me down,” Webster added. “Tyres play a big part. You can put a different tyre on and it can transform your car.
“During the Skegness weekend, I went alright but it wasn’t where I knew it could be. I kept altering the car, but when I got home I was looking at the tyres I had put on and I thought to myself, “You know what, I think I have got a dodgy tyre here.
“Luckily, Dave Riley said he had a few K6s I could buy off him. So I used the tyre for Northampton and although it was wet for the first few races I put all my dry set up on for final and it just gripped.”
While Webster discovered the secret to success through his tyres, it was a similar story for Bradley Harrison, who had his best result of the season with third place in the final.
“For the third heat we literally just swapped from rally tyres for the wet to Tarmac tyres and adjusted the shockers on the front,” said Harrison. “Even though I wasn’t very fast it was doing everything right, so we tried it in the final.
“In the final it felt really good! I think it was Lee and Tom’s experience that helped then catch me in the last quarter of the race.”
Fairhurst was pleased with how his car went on the night. “Yes, old Trigger wasn’t going to badly tonight,” he said. “I decided not to go out in the National as I didn’t want to risk getting any damage and having to work on the car all the next morning before racing at Buxton.”
Smith Jnr, who managed four top ten finishes in his shale car, had worked into the early hours throughout the week to get the car set up for Tarmac.
“We really wanted it to be dry tonight,” Smith Jnr said. “We changed the car as much as a car can be. There was so much work to do, we missed practice – even with 1.00am finishes during the week.
“By the National we were only just off the pace, so hopefully it will be better at Buxton. I think we deserve something there after all the work we have put in.”
The 20-car Grand National, in which Webster started from the one-lap handicap, became a Davidson benefit as the Tarmac specialist took the lead by halfway and scored his second win of the night. Newson was second, with Harris third.
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley