Mervyn Emerson kept the red and yellow roof in the family as he took the 2011 ORCi Lightning Rod European Championship on Saturday night at Birmingham Wheels Raceway in a dramatic climax to one of the best Lightning Rod races witnessed for a long time.
The Bangers were in town too as an addition to the programme following the cancellation of the Incarace vs Startrax team event and they served up some excellent racing (See report below).
And if that wasnt enough, the Hot Rods also gave us some excellent close action, including action from Classic Hot Rod 153, Sammy Mitchell.
With reversed grid heats being run for the Lightnning Rods over 25 laps and a mammoth 40 lap Championship race it was never going to be a foregone conclusion.
Frankie Cunningham and defending Champion Stephen Emerson traded practice times during the afternoon in changeable conditions, with Cunningham topping the chart by a mere 8 thousandths of a second.
The Pre-meeting practice time sheet was headed by Emerson as Cunningham decided to leave the car in the box. Andy Brown was second quickest and returnee Lee Parsons third.
Heat one was a cracking race to start off proceedings as defending Champion Emerson stamped his authority on the night with an emphatic win (albeit from the front group), from a fast charging Frankie Cunningham and Lee Parsons, from the second group.
Result 923 87 81 53 924 411 73 541 633 346
Heat two soon became a battle between current World Champion Lee Skoyles and another Irishman, Gordon McKee, who hounded the 636 car until he eventually got past in an incident that did catch the eye of the Steward of the Meeting, but ultimately without penalty. The two of them were well ahead at the flag, but the shock of the race was the retirement of Stephen Emerson with gearbox problems on lap 9 was his crown slipping?
Result 947 636 51 78 9 21 553 781 503 81
A reverse grid system means you have to achieve either two reasonable heat finishes or at least a top 3 in one of the heats to get into the front group. It was Lee Parsons (81) that took the pole with two solid finishes in his heat from Gordon McKee (947), Frankie Cunningham (87) and Mervyn Emerson (924) on row two and Stephen Emerson and 636 Lee Skoyles filling those last two places in group one they all deserved their position at the head of a class field of cars and the podium positions were more than likely going to come from that top group but were they?
At the green flag, pole man Parsons appeared to push on into turn one defending the inevitable outside challenge from Irishman McKee, but his mid track position in turn 1 left a gaping hole on the inside which Cunningham gratefully received and even more grateful was Stephen Emerson who had gained 2nd position in less than half a lap with Parsons recovering to third, Lee Skoyles to 4th, McKee 5th and Mervyn Emerson 6th. It was a stunning first lap, if only the other 39 laps could be as good? Well they almost were!
The immediate, relentless pressure from Emerson on Cunningham took just three laps to crack the defence of the 87 car and Emerson was recorded as the lead car at the conclusion of the fourth racing lap incredible for a driver that has failed to finish one of his qualifying heats! One further lap and Parsons was up to 2nd with the 87 car now down to 3rd, but already Emerson was pushing on and simply increased his lead. Cunningham lost a number of places during lap 8, but it was the 923 car that everyone was focused on 10 laps gone 3 seconds ahead! Emerson was now amongst the backmarking traffic, and at lap 15, not only was his lead up to almost 4 seconds, he had three backmarkers between himself and Parsons, with McKee up to third, Mervyn Emerson up to fourth, a fast charging Harry Skoyles (541) to 5th with the recovering Cunningham in sixth. It was now up to Parsons to break the tow of the chasing pack, get free and push on to catch the flying Emerson - far easier said than done!
At the halfway stage the lead was still approaching 4 seconds, so who was going to be second to the superb defending Champion? For a short while, the sights turned to the battle for 2nd place, which has to be said was far more entertaining to watch, but, it was at this time that the 923 car suddenly was within the grasp of the 81 car, which the timing system proved with an 18.6 on lap 23 and a 16.2 on lap 24 from the 923 car which was clearly ailing badly and a sad, sad retirement from the race with the 2nd gearbox failure of the night for the popular Irishman.
With 15 laps to go Lee Parsons was in charge; Mervyn Emerson briefly took over 2nd place from countryman McKee, but this only lasted a lap and then Cunningham was up to 3rd to set up a pulsating finale to the race it literally was bumper to bumper for the top three, with less than a second covering them.
5 to go was anyone going to challenge the 81 car for the Championship? As the drivers took the 3 lap to go board, Parsons put the Santry backmarking car between himself and Cunningham going into turn one, but inexplicably, the 368 car slammed the door shut on Cunningham as he tried to follow the 81 car through and this created contact from the 368 car with the rear quarter of the leading Parsons. The ensuing melee through turn 2 re-wrote the lap sheet at 38 with Mervyn Emerson heading the field now from Harry Skoyles in 2nd place, Gordon McKee 3rd and the recovering Lee Parsons in 4th and a punctured Cunningham 5th but he soon slipped further behind with Phil Manning Jnr (28) now up to 5th place and thats how it stayed until the chequered with only the Steward to review black crosses handed out during the race.
Gordon McKee was docked to 5th position for contact earlier in the race with 81, which aptly promoted Parsons onto the podium, but he was so incensed with the incident with three laps to go, he disappointingly tarnished the end of a superb race by refusing his trophy and excluded himself from the result.
With the docking of McKee, this promoted Phil Manning Jnr up to third from 16th on the grid. Harry Skoyles was confirmed a superb 2nd from 11th on the grid and of course Mervyn Emerson a fantastic winner he may not have been the quickest out there, but he was in the right place at the right time to pick up those pieces and he was the first driver to complete the 40 laps.
So, many congratulations to Mervyn Emerson, a worthy winner, Harry Skoyles and Phil Manning Jnr for 2nd and 3rd respectively with current World Champion Lee Skoyles a creditable 4th.
Result 924 541 28 636 947 781 87 53 73 411
This was a great advert for Lightning Rod racing sincere commiserations to Stephen Emerson, but to finish first, you must finish and also to Frankie Cunningham who went well all night finishing an eventual 7th through no fault of his own.
Well done to all and bring on the National Weekend!
The Bangers were an addition to the night following the cancellation of the Incarace vs Startrax team event scheduled for Coventry on the same evening and they provided some fantastic action.
The racing was fast and furius and with the added bonus of an overall £500 purse, split across winners and entertainers all drivers really did get into it!
It was also unique to see that all turned out in their intended team colours, each car in black and white - it was a strange sight and must have provided that added curiosity between drivers of who they were actually contacting with it seemed to create mutual respect and some cracking action between the drivers
So, congratulation and thanks to all Banger drivers that competed, and well done to race and entertainer winners.
The DD also gave the crowd something to think about on the way home which ended with a real dog fight between Mark Sutcliffe and Trevor Perry with Trevor the eventual winner and Mark collecting both the Runner Up and Most Destructed award, which no one could argue with.
Well done everyone for a cracking nights entertainment from the Bangers.
Heat 1 31 Shaun Starr 134 294 162 94 333 267 62 85 201
Heat 2 201 Gary Chapman 333 164 31 113 94 8 162 308 83
Final 164 Daniel Laight 471 Trevor Perry 31 Shaun Starr 85 267 294 113 56 1 NOF
DD Winner 471 Trevor Perry Runner Up 113 Mark Sutcliffe Most Des 113 Mark Sutcliffe
The Hot Rods complimented the show well with some very keen and close action
The association with the Buxton Raceway Hot Rods now means a much healthier grid of cars with a fairmixture of cars, both 8 and 16v, plus a guest appearence this time for Classic Hot Rod driver Sammy Mitchell in his crossflow Anglia.
The 16 valves are handicapped by almost a lap, starting in front of the 'pole' grid of 8 valves, with the Classic Hot Rod starting between the two.
The handicap proved absolutely perfect in Heat 1 as ex Lightning Rod driver Simon Hutt drove his 8 valve Hot Rod to a flag to flag win, with Ian McGuigan's 16 valve in very close attention at the chequered, followed by a potential terminal smoke trail from the winner.
Result : 7 17 97 136 28 217 153 154 258 5
The number 7 car of Simon Hutt failed to take to the track in Heat 2 and the McGuigan made reasonably light work of his first win of the night, with Ivan Grayson a good 2nd and Rich Sillito 3rd
Result 17 136 28 154 153 217 55 258 5
The final was an exceptional race with some superb action, particularly down the field between Simon Hutt and Sammy Mitchell who traded places and must have enjoyed their battle. Ian McGuiganreigned supreme with his second win of the night, with Sean Cusack coming through for 3rd place, having been robbed earlier on in the meeting of good finishing position with the unusual occurrence of his dashbooard coming loose!
Result 17 136 97 154 217 153 7 55 22 5
So a great night all around thanks to everyone.