Ryan Harrison bossed the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout round eight, sponsored by American Racer, at an action-packed Birmingham, with another emphatic final victory.
Celebrating his win with a series of donuts in front of the start/finish line it was Harrison’s fourth final victory of the season, his second at Birmingham.
The evening began with Tristran Jackson taking control of the 26-car heat one to score his second victory of the season, with Harrison making the most impact from the back to charge through to second place, ahead of Mat Newson, James Neachell, Ben Riley and Will Hunter.
Another 26 cars featured in heat two, with the yellow flags coming out on lap two after John Fortune was stranded on the racing line and Neil Hooper needed assistance.
Mark Adkins, making his first appearance in a BriSCA F1 this season, led the restart ahead of Aaron Leach and Alex Wass, but it was Leach who continued his fine form on Tarmac to take the win, his fifth of 2017. Todd Jones came through to finish second, ahead of Nigel Green in third. Stuart Smith Jnr finished in fourth place, ahead of Ed Neachell and Danny Wainman.
Adkins was straight on the pace in the 25-car consolation event to take the chequered flag. Micky Randell chased home Adkins in second, Michael Scriven finished third, with Michael Steward fourth ahead of Kelvin Hassell and Bradley Harrison.
The 29-car final was a hard-charging affair, with the race stopped after three laps when Frankie Wainman Jnr collected Steward, who clattered the fence side on hard in turn two. Adkins led the restart, ahead of Mark Sargent, Jackson, Wass and Randell, with Harrison already up to tenth place after a storming opening couple of laps.
Sargent soon picked off Adkins to take the lead, with Harrison moving Leach aside to move up to eighth spot just behind Todd Jones. Sargent began to pull away up front, with Wass on his own in second place, while Harrison forced his way past Jones and into third sport before halfway.
Further back the remaining Shootout contenders jostled for position with Green coming out on top heading the rest of the pack.
As the lap boards came out Harrison had moved ahead of the feisty Wass to pursue leader Sargent, with Jones next. Green had closed up rapidly to be on Jones’ back bumper, with Jackson on his own in sixth place.
Going into turn one with three laps to go Harrison made his move on Sargent, leaning on the leader to take the lead. A gallant Wass relinquished third sport to Green – who was now ahead of Jones – entering turn one with two laps to go, with an impressive Jackson now closer to the back bumper of Wass, who was now back in fifth place.
Harrison took the flag and another Birmingham victory, with Sargent a fine second, ahead of Green, Jones, Wass and Jackson. Smith Jnr finished on his own in seventh, ahead of Newson and Fairhurst. Wainman Jnr, who was having a difficult evening, finished in tenth spot.
“When we got to the yellow flags I knew I could win the race, I was that far up the grid after about three laps,” said Harrison. “As long as I didn’t make any mistakes and cleared the traffic in front of me there was no need to rush.
I knew how much I had underneath me with my tyres and that he couldn’t lean on his. Then suddenly I was taking six cars lengths on him on every lap
“I just had to pick my way through because I knew I was quicker than those in front of me.
“Mark Sargent was in front and he was starting to push harder. I watched him and he started to slide around a bit more and then a bit more.
“I knew how much I had underneath me with my tyres and that he couldn’t lean on his. Then suddenly I was taking six cars lengths on him on every lap.”
The Grand National fielded the largest grid of the night with 36 cars and was the most eventful race of the night, with plenty of bumpers flying in all the way through the field.
It was little surprise the yellows came out on lap two, after a pile up coming out of turn two, which left Anthony Lee and Neil Scothern stranded.
Hassell led the restart ahead of Jackson, Leach, Paul Carter, George Elwell, Wass and Jones. Ant Whorton-Eales was next, followed by Smith Jnr, Wainman Jnr, Newson and Green.
While Jackson was soon at the head of affairs, from Leach and Hassell, further back Smith Jnr was making an impact and was soon up to fourth, ahead of Green and Jones, but on lap five Smith Jnr drifted wide out of turn two, which allowed Green go up his inside at the next bend, followed by Jones and Wainman Jnr.
However, on the next lap and into turn one Smith Jnr successfully launched an audacious manoeuvre, shunting Wainman Jnr on to Jones, which left Green marooned on their outside. All three drifted wide and in one move Smith Jnr had passed three cars and created a gap down the back straight.
There was little time for the group to catch their breath, as immediately into turn three Jones tried his luck with a similar hit, sending Ben Riley piling into Wainman Jnr with Green at the front of the train, with all three drifting towards the Armco, but Jones failed to gain a position.
By this stage Jackson was out on his own in front, with Leach next. Smith Jnr was in hot pursuit, while behind him the bumpers were still going in hard in amongst the pack. Further back, Harrison, from the one-lap handicap, had closed in on the group and forced his way past Riley out of turn two.
Riley retook the position at the next bend, only to be on the receiving end of a big hit moments later into turn one from Harrison, sending him clattering into the Armco.
We got moving again and I got so far forward and then it felt like I had oil on the back tyres. I knew straight away the tyres were split. The car started going so loose
Upfront, the battle for the lead was hotting up with Leach close up behind Jackson, with Smith Jnr half the length of the straight further back. As the lap boards came out, Jackson then began to edge clear of Leach, who was being caught by Smith Jnr.
As Jackson took his second win on the night, Smith Jnr sent Leach wide on the last bend to grab second spot. Fairhurst came home in fourth place, ahead of Green, Danny Wainman, Jones and Newson.
“In the National, after five or six laps I thought “This is good. I’m moving, there are yellow flags. I’m on it”, said Harrison, who finished 11th.
“And then we got moving again and I got so far forward and then it felt like I had oil on the back tyres. I knew straight away the tyres were split. The car started going so loose.”
With another decent point haul, and with Harrison taking points away from his main rivals, Smith Jnr extended his lead after Birmingham in the Mintex National Points Championship Shootout to 379 points, 124 points ahead of Fairhurst in second place.
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley
Neil Randon 2017