In his first outing since finishing second in the World Final at Ipswich last month, Ryan “The Boss” Harrison scored his second Mintex National Points Championship Shootout final victory with a well-executed last-bend move on long-time leader Mickey Randall at round six at Skegness.
Harrison had made the best start out the Shootout contenders but once in second place it took him time to close the gap on Randall, due to an under-performing rear offside tyre, before the leader allowed Harrison an opportunity to connect into turn three on the last lap.
With a celebratory smoking of the tyres, Harrison sprinted to the line to take the flag ahead of Shootout points leader Stuart Smith Jnr and Paul Carter, who was having his best results of the season.
The meeting began with 26 cars in heat one, in which Neil Scothern and Jacklyn Ellis tangled and spun on to the inside kerb into turn one on lap two, where they stayed for the remainder of the race.
Aaron Leach made short work of getting to the front, and remained there through to the chequered flag, with Phoebe Wainman in hot pursuit in second. Bradley Harrison was closing down the leaders in third, with Ryan Harrison fourth, ahead of Rob Cowley and Luke Davidson.
Heat two fielded 27 cars and was led by Derek Brown before the yellow flags came out for the first time during the evening when Steve Malkin Jnr hit the fence on lap three into turn three.
World champion Nigel Green pulled off before the restart as Brown led from the green flag. The C-grader maintained his lead for three laps until Shaun Webster caught and passed him into turn three and then a lap later Paul Harrison moved Webster wide in turn four to take over the front-running spot.
Webster remained just out of reach of Harrison’s rear bumper for the rest of the race, with Smith Jnr just a couple of car lengths back in third at the flag. Randall finished fourth, ahead of Lee Fairhurst, who was struggling with a brake issue, and Carter. Frankie Wainman Jnr slowed during the second half of the race with a puncture, dropping down to 12th at the finish.
A grid of 25 cars come out for the consolation event, during which a huge pile-up on the first bend took out five cars, including Paul Hopkins, who rolled, bringing out the yellow flags.
After the restart Jacklyn Ellis got tagged coming out of turn two and shot across the track and into the fence at the end of the back straight and was collected by Steve Whittle, which brought out the yellows once more.
John Fortune soon took over the lead from Malkin Jnr, while Green was already up to fourth after a lap. Two laps later Green was in the lead, which he extended to half a lap by the flag. Craig Finnikin came through late on for second, with Michael Steward third, but Steward was demoted to fifth for jumping the restart, with Fortune upgraded to third and Colin Goodswen fourth. Frankie Wainman Jnr Jr rounded out the top six.
The 32-car final was set at a furious pace, but was yellow-flagged after a couple of laps after a six-car pile-up in turn four and Harry Steward spun on the entrance to turn one after tangling with Fortune. Stranded in the middle of the track Steward was then hit by Wainman Jnr and then by Cowley.
Green was forced to retire with a flat tyre, a result of clipping Steward on his way past. Randall led the restart, ahead of Carter, Goodswen and Leach, with Daz Kitson next, followed by Webster, Ryan Harrison and Ben Riley.
Randall continued to lead by halfway, with Carter next. Harrison and Riley were in hot pursuit followed by Smith Jnr. As the laps peeled off and the lap boards came out Harrison had moved up to second place ahead of Carter and it was a case of whether Harrison had enough time to close the gap on the leader.
Smith Jnr forced his way past Carter to take third, while Riley was coming under pressure from Webster and Wainman Jnr, before being moved aside into turn two with four laps to go. Wainman Jnr then took fifth spot away from Webster into turn three.
It wasn’t a bad last-bender, to be fair. But I don’t know what he was thinking, he didn’t go defensive enough. He almost gave me a free shot, so I let him have it
Going into the last lap Harrison was still a good three car lengths adrift heading down the back straight for the final time but closed enough to go for a last-bend lunge.
Harrison made his move to perfection, tapping Randall into a spin and slipped up the inside to take the flag. Smith Jnr finished close up in second, with Carter taking third. Wainman Jnr followed in fourth, ahead of Fairhurst and Riley. The unfortunate Randall failed to finish in the top twelve.
“It wasn’t a bad last-bender, to be fair,” said Harrison. “But I don’t know what he was thinking, he didn’t go defensive enough. He almost gave me a free shot, so I let him have it.”
“I was struggling though. My right rear tyre was split. I tried to push on one lap and lost two car lengths on him. So I went back to cruising. The tyre was one that was iffy that I daren’t run in the World Final. I’d scrubbed it and thought I had to run it at some point as it was sitting there and it was a waste.
“I should have been able to reel him in quicker but I was struggling and being patient to try and time it right.”
Another 32-car grid lined up for the Grand National, with Harrison taking the one-lap handicap. Another fast and furious race was led early on by Carter, who was able to stretch his lead.
It was a frustrating meeting really. We got a puncture in the National when I was absolutely flying – the car was on fire
Final winner Harrison pulled off with a puncture before halfway, much to his disappointment. “I got two or three laps in and I thought if the yellows come out I’m really getting involved here, because the car was the best it felt all night.
“But a piece of metal that had been welded on the front of Paul Hines’ car fell off and put a five inch hole in my right front tyre, hit the side of the bonnet and then hit the windscreen.
“It was a frustrating meeting really. We got a puncture in the National when I was absolutely flying – the car was on fire.”
As the raced progressed, with no yellow flags, Riley and Green led the chasing pack and by the last lap Riley was on Carter’s tail. Into turn three the Shootout star just managed to connect with Carter’s rear bumper, who drifted slightly wide, enough for Riley to dive up the inner.
In a grandstand finish to an excellent night’s racing, Carter held on to win by whisker from Riley in the sprint to the line, ahead of Green, Webster, Smith Jnr and Wainman Jnr.
With a 39-points haul during the night, Smith Jnr once again extended his Shootout points lead with 287 points, 59 points ahead of Fairhurst, who is on 228 points. Wainman Jnr is third on 205 points, followed by Mat Newson on 195, Danny Wainman on 194 and Green on 184.
Round seven of the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout takes place this Saturday at King’s Lynn. There are currently 48 cars booked in for the meeting, which starts at 5.30pm
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley
Neil Randon 2017