Halifax Touring Car National Report 2018

10th Electric Circuit

Despite the fact two of the three classes contested at the nationals were all but settled by Halifax round four of the series still attracted a full quality entry. Halifax is our annual trip north and given that the bulk of the national touring car entries come from drivers in the midlands and the south of the UK this meeting for many is one the long-haul events of the season

 

Weather Conditions: Wet Am, dry in the afternoon

Blinky stock and boosted stock titles were already as good as settled in favour of Colin Jackson and Zak Finlay but in the modified class it had turned in to a two horse race for the title between Elliott Harper and Olly Jefferies, for Jefferies a win here would seal the defence of his title and out scoring Harper would be the goal for the weekend, for Harper it was case of the come back kid after a terrible start to the season at round one he was now seen as the one with momentum after wins at Stafford and West London

Alex Hagberg had not contested a national meeting since round one but mathematically he could still be in with a shout of the modified national title, Alex was back after a strong ETS result and was expected to be mixing it at the top end of the time sheets, mathematically six drivers could still win the modified class but it would need Jefferies and Harper to trip up badly for that to happen, but given their current form this looked unlikely

Halifax is one of the fastest venues not only on our calendar but probably one of the quickest tracks in the UK and to be competitive here you need a balanced car with plenty of straight line speed. Last year at this venue we were struggling with issues with the old Sorex control tyre, Halifax had highlighted some issues with the Sorex tyre and it possibly was the nail in the coffin for the tyre that had provided such good service over many seasons, coming into the national this year there were a few mumblings behind the scenes regarding the replacement Sweep control tyre, maybe this is more about the extreme speed of the cars on the straight and through the corners than the tyres themselves, are we now are expecting too much from a very small contact patch of rubber given the constant development and increase speeds provided by developments in cars and electrics. Gluing might have been an issue and Sweep suppliers CML had provide drivers with glue and activator to ensure there was no issues at Halifax.

The Schumacher BTCC had taken place as always prior to the Halifax national and traditionally is the warm up race for the national series. The BTCC seemed to indicate X-Ray were back on form and saw wins for Zak Finlay, Markus Askell and Olly Jefferies, results they would very much like to replicate, in particular Jefferies who could wrap up the defence of his modified title with a win here

My report was going to kick off with a weather reference, as the souring summer temperatures engulfed the UK in the week leading up to the Halifax national I was ready with my “hottest national since records began” line, but as drivers left home and headed for Halifax all weather reports were reading “bring your wet car”, this forecast not good news for drivers who had missed the BTCC and were hoping to do their set up and practise work on the Saturday as the forecasts were saying rain was going to be a factor both days.

Saturday and practise got underway under sunny skies, but that was not to last as early afternoon a down pour of biblical proportions left the track soaked, the track did dry but now drivers were left chasing a track which seemed to be changing on minute by minute basis

Qualifying Sunday Morning

Heavy rain was forecast for Sunday and the forecast was spot on as qualifying got underway.

As always, the first group to hit the track on Sunday morning was the blinky stock drivers, Colin Jackson already had the title in his pocket but this didn’t prevent all the front running drivers making the trip to Halifax, the battle was now on for the remaining podium places in the championship and the battle for these converted places was a really open affair with Markus Askell Billy Fletcher both in the hunt. Tony Broad showed he is not just a carpet master by taking round one of blinky qualifying ahead of Markus Askell, making a return to the series was Luke Hobson and he completed the top three in round one

Like blinky the boosted title was all but done and dusted, Zak Finlay was now looking to win on a perfect score something a win here would give him, Zak made a perfect start to achieving his goal with fastest time in round one ahead of James Hart, Paul Pinkney who has enjoyed a good 2018 in boosted stock completed the top three

The modified championship was a cat and mouse struggle between Elliott Harper and Olly Jefferies, these two would need to be on top form if either was going ease out an advantage, TQ and a win in both finals would seal it for Jefferies where as if Harper could take both finals the fight would go on to Bedworth and it was Elliott who took first blood taking round one of qualifying, Jefferies led at half way but faded towards the end of the run, Alex Hagberg was third in round one

Round two and still the rain came down and at this point drivers now accepted it could be like this for the whole day. A new name at the top of the Blinky times in round two was Jamie Hickin showing he was quite comfortable in the wet conditions, Markus Askell was second and looking the most consistent of the championship contenders, of the other usual front runners Colin Jackson was struggling a little and Billy Fletcher was lacking track time at Halifax and that was affecting him a little at this point, showing that experience counts in these conditions was Jason Butterfield who was looking strong in the challenging conditions

Finlay made it two out of two in boosted stock with the Schumacher of James Hart second again, James and Zak had enjoyed some good battles at Halifax in the past and it was looking like we were in for another at this point, third for Pinkney once again, Finlay must have felt the Schumacher team were ganging up on him as behind Paul Pinkney at this point was another Mi6 in the hands of Chris Gunter

Second round of modified qualifying and the X-Ray of Jefferies topped the times with Harper second, third and a great performance in the wet by nitro ace Alex Thurston who was using his Halifax knowledge to great effect, a good run to fourth for Dale Burr in round two would do his challenge for an A final place no harm at all

With the rain still coming down in various amounts round three got underway, in Blinky Jamie Hickin once again was fastest, Billy Fletcher seemed to be getting used to the track and he posted second fastest time with Jason Butterfield a delighted third

Zak Finlay made it three out of three in boosted stock securing pole for the A final, Mikey Mansell put in a great run to snatch second in round three ahead of Daniel Blake, at this point there seemed to be a drop off in the rain, the track was still very wet but drying slowly

By the time the top modified heat hit the track it was borderline slick territory, was anyone going to take a gamble, well with nothing to lose after two borderline disastrous runs Team Associated threw the dice and didn’t it ever pay off, Alan Bickerstaff took the fastest time ahead of team mate Matt White and Chris Grainger third, all three were back in the hunt as Bickerstaff and White were not in the A final after the first two runs and the relief in the Associated camp was clear to see.

The final round of qualifying and top Blinky driver in 2018 Colin Jackson waited until the last round to show his pace taking fastest time by two tenths of a second ahead of Alex Brocklebank and Chris Condon, for Condon it was a score that would get him into the A final. By virtue of his strong runs in the rain Hickin would be on pole for the A final ahead of Tony Broad and Markus Askell, finals that were looking more and more like they might be run in dry conditions

13.5 Blinky

Pos

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

R3

R4

1

Jamie Hickin

   

2

8

1

1

23

2

Tony Broad

   

4

1

3

5

21

3

Marcus Askell

   

4

2

2

13

4

4

Colin Jackson

   

5

4

8

23

1

5

Alex Brocklebank

   

7

5

6

6

2

6

Jason Butterfield

 

12 / 317.92

7

9

4

3

13

7

Luke Hobson

 

12 / 318.04

7

3

5

4

7

8

Billy Fletcher

   

8

6

28

2

22

9

Chris Condon

   

12

13

9

10

3

10

Mark Buonaiuto

   

12

7

14

9

5

Boosted stock and a quick run from Paul Pinkney saw him take the round four from James Hart by half a second Chris Gunter was third giving Schumacher a 1-2-3 in the round, fourth for Dominic Carter saw him steal an A final place at the death

13.5 Open

Pos

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

R3

R4

1

Zak Finlay

   

2

1

1

1

24

2

Paul Pinkney

   

4

3

3

8

1

3

James Hart

   

4

2

2

25

2

4

Chris Gunter

   

7

5

4

11

3

5

Daniel Blake

   

8

25

9

3

5

6

Darren Lee

   

8

4

11

4

21

7

Mikey J Mansell

   

9

9

7

2

7

8

Adrian Bidewell

   

10

6

5

5

6

9

James Robinson

   

12

12

6

6

8

10

Dominic Carter

   

14

13

12

10

4

In modified things were far from decided and at the sharp end and there were some nervous looking drivers as they made there way up to the final round of qualifying, with no dry running all day and now on a green track round four set up and tyre prep was as much about guess work as than anything else

Jefferies dug deep and took round four giving him TQ, the X-ray driver has now an impressive run of modified TQ’s going back to the start of last seasons series, but TQ was only worth a few feet on the grid and behind Jefferies was a determined Elliott Harper who knew that to stay in the hunt for the title he would now need to win both legs

Modified

Pos

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

R3

R4

1

Olly Jefferies

   

2

2

1

5

1

2

Elliott Harper

   

3

1

2

30

2

3

Alan Bickerstaff

   

4

13

28

1

3

4

Chris Grainger

 

15 / 300.16

7

4

5

3

13

5

Alexander Hagberg

 

15 / 300.39

7

3

16

4

29

6

Matthew White

   

8

31

13

2

6

7

Alex Thurston

   

9

7

3

6

24

8

Stefan Chodzynski

   

9

5

6

7

4

9

Dale Burr

   

12

8

4

16

20

10

Chris Ashton

   

14

17

20

9

5

Qualifying at Halifax was one of the most exciting of the year so far, when it rains it levels the playing field and opens up opportunities to others, watching the day unfold was gripping as drivers worked hard to keep their cars  on the black stuff while at the same time beating the opposition, truly impressive to watch and notably done in great spirit, some excelled and benefited from the weather while others struggled, but everyone did it in great spirit and with great skill and commitment, I have been watching RC racing for many years and what we saw at Halifax was truly inspiring, no feet stamping in frustration when it went wrong but a lot of back slapping for those that excelled and an acceptance that it wasn’t their day for those who had not done as well as they hoped, hats off to you all.

Two Leg Finals

First up of the A finals was the blinky guys. In the wet Tony Broad was quick now on a dry track he was showing he was not just a carpet expert and on tarmac he was quick in all conditions, Tony took leg one ahead of Colin Jackson and Markus Askell, Billy Fletcher’s tough day at Halifax continued when he lost his pinion on the way to the grid, A great run from Condon saw him get up to fourth from the back of the grid

Zak Finlay looked comfortable up front as he blasted away from pole in the boosted stock final, Paul Pinkney gave chase but we are used to seeing Zak win from the front and today he looked in great form and duly took the win ahead of Pinkney, the top were as they started with Hart third Gunter fourth and Dan Blake fifth

As the cars sat on the grid for the first of the modified A finals five drivers were still capable of taking the title but at the buzzer it looked like it was only going to be between Jefferies and Harper, these two pulled an impressive gap by half way over the rest of the field, Jefferies looked in control up front but Harper was on his tail and giving him no respite a challenge Elliott kept up to the buzzer but the X-Ray driver stayed in front and took the win, now only two drivers were in the hunt for the title, Alex Hagberg was third a full five second back, testimony to the two front runners up ahead that they can leave a European touring car champion in their wake in their hunger for national honours

Leg two of the blinky stock final and Markus Askell took an early lead, he has been up front a few times this season and misfortune has robbed him of a good result but today in leg two it was a good day for the X-Ray driver and he took a narrow win over Tony Broad, the more running Luke Hobson had the quicker he got and this showed in leg two as he made his way up to third Place

13.5 Blinky - A Final Result Overall

Pos

Car

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

1

2

Tony Broad

   

3

1

2

2

3

Marcus Askell

   

4

3

1

3

7

Luke Hobson

   

9

6

3

4

5

Alex Brocklebank

   

9

5

4

5

4

Colin Jackson

   

10

2

8

6

1

Jamie Hickin

   

12

7

5

7

9

Chris Condon

   

14

4

10

8

6

Jason Butterfield

   

14

8

6

9

10

Mark Buonaiuto

   

16

9

7

10

8

Billy Fletcher

   

20

10

10

A win in leg two of the boosted stock final saw Zak Finlay take the overall win and take the championship on a perfect score, the opposition huffed and puffed but once again Finlay frustrated them not putting a wheel wrong all weekend, given that Finlay was on top form second for Paul Pinkney has to be seen as a great result in a season when he has possibly moved ahead of Hart and Gunter in the Schumacher team and the man to take the challenge to Finlay

13.5 Open - A Final Result Overall

Pos

Car

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

1

1

Zak Finlay

   

2

1

1

2

2

Paul Pinkney

   

4

2

2

3

4

Chris Gunter

   

7

4

3

4

3

James Hart

   

9

3

6

5

10

Dominic Carter

   

11

7

4

6

5

Daniel Blake

 

17 / 300.37

13

5

8

7

7

Mikey J Mansell

 

17 / 302.03

13

8

5

8

6

Darren Lee

   

13

6

7

9

8

Adrian Bidewell

   

18

9

9

10

9

James Robinson

   

20

10

10

Leg two of modified A final and Jefferies now had a sniff of the title, now Elliott’s job was more difficult but as the pair left the grid it was clear Harper was not giving up this and from the off he was right on the boot lid of the X-Ray, the pair were pretty well matched early on but by the midpoint Jefferies had eased into what must be considered at this level a reasonably manageable gap, a gap he held to the end. Watching these two top drivers battle it out this season has been one of the highlights of our championship, two top equally matched racers showing how it should be done, but for this season the championship goes to the defending champion.

Modified - A Final

Pos

Car

Name

Member Type

Tie Break

Points

R1

R2

1

1

Olly Jefferies

   

2

1

1

2

2

Elliott Harper

   

4

2

2

3

5

Alexander Hagberg

   

6

3

3

4

6

Matthew White

 

18 / 300.86

12

7

5

5

10

Chris Ashton

 

18 / 306.84

12

5

7

6

8

Stefan Chodzynski

   

12

6

6

7

3

Alan Bickerstaff

   

13

9

4

8

4

Chris Grainger

   

14

4

10

9

9

Dale Burr

   

16

8

8

10

7

Alex Thurston

   

19

10

9

Where do you start to summaries Halifax, easily one of the best meetings of the year and one that drivers I think will talk about for many years to come, the driving standards were incredibly good and the manner in which the drivers dealt with the conditions reflects really well on the series and how drivers have bought into the championship and its current mind set, I personally cant remember so many smiling drivers in the pits and watching the on track action, the series is really in a good place and that reflects in the fact with the championship classes all secured we still have a full entry for the last round at Bedworth, but before moving on to Bedworth a few thanks

Halifax club gave us a great facility that if we had been anywhere else the meeting may have had to be called off, everyone in the pits stayed dry, no electrical issues given the amount of water around and a well-run meeting, top job John Russell and his team. Michael Ball of MB models did a great job liaising between the club and our section and massive shout to him for sacrificing racing at his local club to help out at the national, thank you Balley

A massive well done from me to Chris Betts who now has really got a great handle on the role of race director, early in the season he was finding his feet in the role and now seems to have struck the right level of control over proceedings, thank you Bettsie for your efforts here and at the earlier rounds, thanks also to Dale Burr for his contribution at the weekend who worked hard and still manged to slip into the mod A final

So on to Bedworth, for a many of you this may be a new venue, for us who have been there I can tell you that you are in for a treat, great new venue for the club and a total contrast to what you experienced at Halifax, expect a cosy more intimate national on a billiard table smooth track, me personally I can’t wait, see you there

Full results from Halifax and current championship positions see link below

https://www.results-brca.org/sections/10ec/2018/Nationals/R4_Halifax/

A final videos will be on the touring car Facebook group soon