Stuart Smith Jnr extended his lead in the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout with a heat and final Round Three double at King’s Lynn.
It was a highly productive evening for the Milnrow superstar, who also finished fourth in the Grand National despite losing his aerofoil after halfway. Frankie Wainman Jnr also had a successful night at the Adrian Flux Arena with a victory in the consolation and Grand National and a second-place finish to Smith Jnr in the final.
But while Smith Jnr and Wainman Jnr piled more Shootout points to their overall tallies, new world champion Nigel Green had a night to forget after a paltry nine-point haul during a frustrating evening to lose ground on the leaders.
The meeting started with King’s Lynn whites, yellows and Dutch race, which also included Dutch drivers. Martin Spiers led the 20-car race from flag-to-flag, ahead of Aaron Cozens and Nigel Harrhy.
Heat one featured 24 cars and was led for much of the race by Geoff Nickolls until the yellows came out after halfway. At this stage Nickolls led Harrhy, Jelle Tesselaar, Mark Tesselaar, Mat Newson, who was driving the Mark Sargent shale car, Craig Finnikin, Glenn Scott and Dan Johnson.
It was Finnikin who got a great start to blast his way to the front, to win from Jelle Tesselaar, Johnson, Newson, Paul Hines and Billy Johnson.
The 20-car second heat was led by Spiers until lap two when the yellow flags came out. Cozens was second, ahead of John Dowson, Paul Hopkins, Joff Gibson (who ended the race blowing his engine) and Mark Woodhull. Green was already a lap down after tangling with Wainman Jnr out of turn one. Wainman Jnr pulled off on to the centre, where he joined with Lee Fairhurst and Wainman Jnr.
Once the race was under way again, Smith Jnr made short work of those in front of him to take the lead from Spiers and the victory. Cozens finished third, ahead of Woodhuall, Bobby Griffin and Danny Wainman. Green retired before the finish.
The consolation field 19 cars with Sam Jacklin leading from Austin Moore and Thomas Hollingworth when the yellow flags came out. Wainman Jnr, in sixth place, soon blasted his way to the front to take the victory ahead of Fairhurst, James Morris, Green, Jacklin and Mark Tesselaar.
With last-gasp axle repairs Green managed to get back on track prior to the start of the 30-car final, with Spiers leading from the green flag from Jackson. Wainman Jnr had moved Smith Jnr wide early on and looked in the best position of the Shootout drivers, having a decent gap between him and Smith Jnr – who was beginning to close as the race got to halfway – with Finnkin next. Already Green was way back in the field, and unable to make much progress.
Soon after, however, the yellow flags came out and the race was stopped. This allowed the track to be watered and after the restart it was clear Smith Jnr was handling the changed conditions better than most and soon forced his way by Wainman Jnr.
I knew if I got up his inside I could squeeze him out and run away with it. And that’s what I did – it all went to plan
“It was me and Frankie who got away at the start and got through all the trouble,” said Smith Jnr.. “He just got me on to a slower car going down the back straight and got half a straight in front of me. It was pretty clear at that stage the race was between me, Frank and Craig Finnikin.
“We were just getting settled into a race of endurance, really. I was just starting to pull him in when the yellows came out, and then they watered the track.
“My car as good in both the wet and the dry, so I was really happy with it. So I just pushed Frank into the first corner and he hopped over the front wheel of a car. I knew if I got up his inside I could squeeze him out and run away with it. And that’s what I did – it all went to plan.”
Once Smith Jnr had shoved Wainman Jnr wide the race was his for the taking and the Shootout leader was able to maintain the gap to the flag. Wainman Jnr took second place, but Finnikin retired, allowing with Fairhurst to take third place ahead of Newson, Ben Riley and Danny Wainman.
The Grand National featured 26 cars, with Smith Jnr taking the one-lap handicap. The race was stopped after six laps with Harrhy leading, from Jackson, Morris, and Russell Cooper. Wainman Jnr was already up to fifth, with Woodhull, Riley and Green next.
The race restarted with Harrhy maintaining his lead ahead of Morris with Wainman Jnr closing fast, when further back Fairhurst went straight on out of turn three, clattering the fence.
As those behind manouvered to get passed, Fairhurst crawled around into the home straight, before the car suddenly turned left in front of Danny Wainman and Smith Jnr.
Wainman slipped by but Smith Jnr got caught out, clipping the stricken Fairhurst car, and leapt into the air and straight into a marker tyre.
“Everything had been going all right,” Smith Jnr explained. “I was picking my way through the traffic and I was just thinking to myself after the stoppage that I could just do with getting to the finish with no damage and a top-five finish…
I was in mid-air so had no brakes and ended up hitting a marker tyre flat out. The car just came to a sudden stop, so it was a bit of a neck stretcher!
“I was behind Danny Wainman when Lee Fairhurst’s steering snapped in front of him. So Lee had no steering coming out of the corner and he hit the wall really hard.
“And as me and Danny went to pass him up the inside on the home straight just under the starter, Lee suddenly veered left. Obviously he had no steering and Danny just got passed but I clobbered him with the front wheel and I hopped over his car.
“But it veered me on to the infield. I was in mid-air so had no brakes and ended up hitting a marker tyre flat out. The car just came to a sudden stop, so it was a bit of a neck stretcher!”
The impact sheered all four bolts on the wing, and as Smith Jnr got going again the aerofoil fell off down the back straight.
“I was a bit winded but I knew I had to carry on,” he said. “Everyone has been saying the yellows came out for my wing but they weren’t. I remember hitting the tyre and looking and seeing the yellow lights flashing on that corner.
The car felt really different without the wing. It was really loose. The car wouldn’t go into the corners straight the way I wanted and it affected the car in every way
“So, either the stewards have got the reactions of Usain Bolt or they may have been on for Lee Fairhurst. So unbeknown to me I went down the back straight and the wing fell off and hit the fence.”
Harrhy led the restart before Wainman Jnr swept by to take the race with brother Danny in second place. Harrhy finished a fine third ahead of the wingless Smith Jnr. Frankie Wainman Jnr Jr and Jelle Tesselaar rounded out the top six, while world champion Green popped a tyre early on and failed to finish.
“I was pretty lucky to get a fourth place,” said Smith Jnr. “The car felt really different without the wing. It was really loose. The car wouldn’t go into the corners straight the way I wanted and it affected the car in every way.”
Round four of the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout takes place this Sunday at Sheffield’s Owlerton Stadium. There is also an additional incentive for Shootout and non-Shootout drivers as the meeting is the first step towards next year’s fight for the gold roof by being the first qualifying round for the 2018 F1 World Championship.