Todd Jones took full advantage of his A-grade starting position to trounce a top-class field in the final at Skegness on Sunday, July 9.
Jones, a regular star-grade driver, drove his Tarmac car to its second Skegness final victory of the season, after Jones’ mechanic, Harry Steward, sensationally won the UK Open in the same car in May.
The afternoon started off with 21 cars in heat one with Joe Gladden, driving a Mat Newson hire car, winning his second race of the weekend. Nigel Green charged through to chase down the C-grader and went for an audacious last-bend attack but missed his target. Jones finished third, ahead of Jacklyn Ellis, Luke Davidson and Daz Kitson.
“I didn’t quite make contact,” said runner-up Green. “Another lap would have been enough but it was good to see him win in a hire car, which proves the Newson cars are competitive enough to win.”
Heat two feature 21 cars, with BTCC racer Ant Whorton-Eales upgraded overnight from C- to B-grade. And it was Whorton-Eales who took up the running for the majority of the race, battling with Drew Lammas, who eventually took the win, with Stuart Smith Jnr getting through late on for second place. Whorton-Eales finished third, ahead of Will Hunter and Murray Jones. Frankie Wainman Jnr was up into fifth place but failed to finish after losing his outside rear wheel.
In the 20-car consolation Steve Whittle survived a last-bend attack from Colin Goodswin and won the sprint to the line, with Mat Newson third, ahead of Wainman Jnr, Lee Fairhurst and Joff Gibson.
The final for the Frank Hughes Trophy lined up with 29 cars. From the green flag Richard Howarth took up the running from Gladden, Ellis and Phoebe Wainman, when the race was stopped after the opening lap. On the restart Howarth led until Gladden took over, with Phoebe Wainman holding off Whorton-Eales for second place before going in too deep into turn one and relinquishing that position after a couple of laps.
As the race developed Gladden held on to his lead from Whorton-Eales, while Jones was making rapid headway and had made it past Whorton-Eales and into second place into turn one.
The yellow flags came out before halfway after Ryan Harrison and Stuart Smith jnr tangled in turn two leaving Harrison stranded and on the restart Gladden continued to lead, from Jones, Danny Wainman, Whorton-Eales and Newson.
Gladden pushed on after the restart, but went wide into turn one two laps later allowing Jones to take the lead, with Wainman and Newson also forcing their way through ahead of the feisty white top.From then on Jones was able to maintain his lead over Wainman and Newson to take the victory.
Fairhurst finished fourth ahead of Bradley Harrison and Wainman Jnr.It was a welcome return to form for Jones, who has not had the best run of luck in recent weeks. “I was off the pace at Ipswich but I thought it was going well at Northampton the next day,” said Jones.
“But I only managed to do the heat because we found the diff was leaking. We took it all out and sealed it back up, but the studs had pulled out of the axle and there was no way of fixing it at the track, so that was game over.”
The Farnborough driver then struck problems at Skegness on Saturday evening. “I was going OK in the heat but I came up behind a white top and was undecided whether to hit him or let him decide to move out of the way,” Jones said. “I hit him as he was going sideways and he spun and hit me under the side rail and squashed all the exhaust.
I don’t like starting from blue. I’d rather be at the back and then you feel you’ve earned it
“And it took literally all the way up to the Grand National to fix the exhaust. We had to cut it all open and the weld it all back up again. To be honest, I thought that was going to be the end of the weekend.
“In the National it wasn’t going too bad – and then I got a puncture. I was going to blame it on the car being painted green!”
“Then on Sunday I was third in the heat – not a very good third – the brake bias fell apart on the pedal so the brakes were playing around. So we got that sorted out and obviously it was a lot better for the final.”
“I don’t like starting from blue. I’d rather be at the back and then you feel you’ve earned it.”
The 27-year-old still had to keep Danny Wainman and Newson at bay for two-thirds of the race, which he maintained wasn’t a given, considering his style of driving.
“I have a habit of over-driving the car and wearing the tyres out, if I’m honest,” Jones admitted. “I do that quite a lot. I go mad at the start and then at the end of the race there’s nothing left, but this time I managed to pace myself.”
Green returned to winning ways in the 26-car Grand National, surviving a last-bend bid by Whorton-Eales to take the flag. Davidson finished third, with Gladden rounding off an excellent weekend in fourth place, ahead of Smith Jnr and George Elwell.
“Ant took a bit of getting to,” said Green. “I caught him up with two laps to go and there was a parked car in the middle of the last corner. What I should have done was hit him hard to put him round the back of it, but I was a bit too fair with him really.
“So I left it a lap and into the last-but-one corner I drove underneath him. He lifted off trying to give me room, wanting me to take the lead, but I lifted off as well to sort of let him go.
“So I kept the car up the side of him, so I didn’t overtake until I got into the corner and I drove up on to the kerb so he couldn’t push me into the parked car.
With no yellow flags during the race, Jones came through from the one-lap handicap to finish in a commendable 12th place.
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley