Stuart Smith Jnr scored his second successive Mintex National Points Championship Shootout final victory at the Adrian Flux Arena, his sixth final victory of the season, to dominate round seven of the series and extend his lead to 105 points ahead of second-placed Frankie Wainman Jnr.
“We had done a lot of work on the car during the week – a massive amount,” said Smith Jnr. “We had the front and back axles out and we really went through the car and put it all back together as precisely as we could.
“It was quite a big operation and we spent quite a few nights doing it. And it paid off.”
The meeting began with a whites, yellows and Dutch race with a sizeable grid of 24 cars, and it was Jack France who led from flag-to-flag, extending his lead to nearly half a lap at the chequered ahead of Chris Brocksopp and Nigel Harry. Dutchman Rick Wobbes finished fourth, ahead of Martin Chadwick and Romke Kroondijk.
Heat one fielded 23 cars and was led for most of the way by Chadwick, who only succumbed to world champion Nigel Green on the last lap. Brocksopp finished third, ahead of Neil Scriven and Ben Riley.
Heat two was a reasonably straightforward affair for eventual winner Craig Finnikin, who caught leader Mark Woodhull after halfway and eased clear to win ahead of Smith Jnr and Mark Gilbank. Wainman Jnr was fourth, ahead of Woodhull and Danny Wainman.
“I had an issue in the heat,” said Smith Jnr. “We put an axle chain on the nearside rear too short, so as I entered the corners it was picking the wheel off the ground and so it was mishandling. We noticed it straight away.”
The consolation featured 23 cars and it was Aaron Cozens who took the race by the scruff of the neck to win going away from the rest for his first BriSCA F1 victory. Mat Newson was second, ahead of France, Mark Sargent, Dutch star Gert Jan Klok and Frankie Wainman Jnr Jr.
The final was a lively affair and was completely restarted after Sjaak Kenite rolled, but the race featured another roll over after two laps when Bobby Griffin was tipped over into turn two.
The track was watered prior to the restart with Chadwick leading from Cozens, Yoren Winands, Brocksopp, Sargent and Michael Scriven. Cozens pulled off before the restart, with Shootout contenders Newson, Lee Fairhurst, Paul Hines and Danny Wainman all retired to the infield.
It was Sargent who soon had the lead, which he held for the majority of the race. Smith Jnr passed Finnikin and Green in front of him to give chase. Smith Jnr caught the leader with three laps to go, pushing him wide to take the lead and the victory.
Nigel was on my tail for quite a few laps and I just edged away ever so slightly. As the track dried it came to me, really and I gained half a straight on him by the finish
Sargent finished second ahead of Green, with Finnikin finishing in fourth sport. Sargent, however, was docked two places for jumping the restart promoting Green to second and Finnikin third. Sargent was given fourth, ahead of Wainman Jnr and Will Yarrow.
“At the start of the race I had Craig Finnikin and Nigel Green in front of me and I knew my first job was to clear them,” said Smith Jnr.
“Nigel was on my tail for quite a few laps and I just edged away ever so slightly. As the track dried it came to me, really and I gained half a straight on him by the finish.
“Mark Sargent was winning for a while. He was going alright really. But I knew I could catch him.”
The Grand National featured the biggest field of the night with 34 cars with Smith Jnr taking the one-lap handicap.
The race was stopped after three laps, with France leading from Chadwick, Sargent and Cozens.
The race was stopped again by halfway after Sargent had a fire under his car, with Wainman Jnr leading, ahead of Newson, Wayne Marshall, Brocksopp and Smith Jnr, who had made up a huge amount of ground in fifth place.
The race was stopped again with seven laps to go due to a marker tyre on the track, with Wainman Jnr at the head of affairs, with Newson second and Smith Jnr now third. On the restart Wainman Jnr pulled clear of Newson, whose car was smoking badly, with Smith Jnr passing him in the closing stages.
Wainman Jnr took the flag for a comfortable victory, with Smith Jnr ending the night with a huge stack of points in second. Newson failed to finish, with Finnikin taking third sport, ahead of Gilbank, Danny Wainman and Gert Jan Klok.
But the reason I struggled behind Mat after the restart was his car was like Dick Dastardly as he put a smokescreen up. His car was smoking that badly, I couldn’t see!
“It was a bit of a funny race really,” Smith Jnr said afterwards. “I was behind Mat and Frank and I didn’t want to take Mat out because he has always raced fairly with me.
“So I thought I’m going to have to pass him as soon as I can, trust him and try and catch Frank. They watered the track two laps into the race so it made the racing line quite high and so it was hard to catch somebody when it’s like that.
“But the reason I struggled behind Mat after the restart was his car was like Dick Dastardly as he put a smokescreen up. His car was smoking that badly, I couldn’t see!
“All I could see was his nearside rear tyre and bumper corner and I was just aiming for that all the way round.
“On one corner he pushed on a bit and I nipped up his inside and I could see then! But Frank was off into the distance.”
Smith Jnr amassed 61 points during the night to extend an already healthy Shootout lead to 348 points, with Wainman Jnr on 243 points. Fairhurst lies in third place on 234 points, ahead of Green on 216 points.
Smith Jnr heads to round eight at Birmingham and the penultimate round at Northampton as the red-hot favourite to take the National Points title this season.
People are racing pretty fairly at the minute, but if someone wants to wreck me enough so I can’t use my Tarmac car I’ll just go out in my old bulldozer at Northampton!
But the coveted silver roof is not won yet, as Smith Jnr is more than aware. As a precaution the Milnrow superstar is taking his shale car with him to both meetings as a backup.
“If I blow my engine in practice at Birmingham I’ll have my shale car with me,” Smith Jnr said.
“People are racing pretty fairly at the minute, but if someone wants to wreck me enough so I can’t use my Tarmac car I’ll just go out in my old bulldozer at Northampton!”
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley
Neil Randon 2017