HRP August Speed Weekend - A Report
Added Tuesday 14th August 2018
Two days of very different weather, some explosive racing action and no small matter of controversy was the recipe for a monumental weekend of action at HRP Lochgelly Raceway this past weekend. The event was headlined by the A1 Performance Products 2.0 Hot Rod Championship of the World plus the Service Central UK Superstox European Championship and the UK Oval Track Legends European Championship â all these major international title events took place at Scotland's premier stock car venue on day one of the HRP August Speed Weekend!
Twenty-seven of the top drivers from the UK and the Republic of Ireland were in the pits for the event but sadly, the continental drivers were not in attendance. The drivers drew for grid positions for the three heats which would see each driver compete in two of these races to determine their starting places on the grid for the battle for the gold roof. Scotland's own Gordon Alexander went into the meeting as defending champion and has travelled far and wide showing off that gold roof and deserves huge credit for that. Alexander started the event as one of the favourites along with fellow home drivers William Hardie and Billy Bonnar while England's best hopes lay with former multi-champion Paul Wright with Adam Best and Allen Cherry being the most talked-about drivers from Northern Ireland. However, Bonnar's engine blew during practice, giving his team plenty of work ahead of the first race. Heat One was typically frenetic as the drivers at the front looked to make the best of their advantageous starting position in the race with a very popular victory for Scotland's Jim Pitcaithly who really looks to have gotten to grips with the car taking the win ahead of Hardie and Wright. Heat Two saw half of the drivers from heat one joined on the track by the final group of drivers and it was a dominant win for a very rapid Adam Best whose car was absolutely flying around the tight confines of the HRP Lochgelly Raceway circuit as he was victorious with Scottish duo Gerry Hendry and defending champion Alexander in the other podium spots. Heat Three was the final chance for some drivers to improve their positions and it was obvious from the start that Hardie had a problem as his car scraped around the corners - the 72 driver was not circulating at his normal pace and finished a lowly tenth a few laps down as Englishman Damon Wellman took his car to victory lane with Cherry and Ryan Morgan completing the top three.
So, the three heats were done and dusted and as daytime gave way to night the scene was set; the Championship of the World was about to begin. The grid looked fantastic under the floodlights as drivers made their final preparations with a scare for Jim Pitcaithly who barely made the grid after a clutch issue while lining up! Damon Wellman had qualified on pole with Scotsman Gerry Hendry alongside while defending champion Alexander would begin the 40-lap race on grid position three. Fancied runners Cherry on grid six, Hardie on grid nine and Bonnar on grid eleven. The drivers took the two rolling laps slowly as the tension built up on track and on the terraces before the green flag fell and the race was on! Wellman shot straight into the lead while it appeared that Hendry left a gap for Alexander to get down the inside of him on the first corner - a coming together between these two saw Hendry's hopes wiped out on the first corner of lap one! Wellman settled into the lead and the long race ahead while the likes of Alexander, Morgan, Best and Hardie soon made their way to the front. A stoppage at around halfway bunched the cars back together and the crowd was at fever pitch cheering for their favourites. Alexander tracked Wellman's every move but did not attempt and outside pass - hoping that he could pressurise Wellman into a mistake presumably. If anyone in the stadium thought that the race was over they were very much mistaken as what happened in the last two laps will live long in the memory of those that were there! As the top three drivers got closer to one another, they all saw their opportunity for gold with Alexander managing to get ahead of Wellman with Best looking to do the same before a fantastic move saw Best at the head of the field going into the last lap. As the top three headed into turn one; Alexander appeared to make contact with Best's car which saw the Northern Irishman relinquish the lead to Alexander who crossed the line ahead of Wellman - but only just - while Best came home in third. The action was not over as Best shunted into the side of the Alexander car after the chequered flag before Alexander made contact with Best's car with the red flags out. Absolute chaos with nobody sure of who had won given the fact that several penalties were issued during the race.
An official result has yet to be confirmed at this stage; but Wellman was given the win ahead of Hardie and Morgan while Alexander and Best were disqualified for their various misdemeanours. The controversy does not stop there as there are reported issues with one of the cars in the top three - we await an official result pending check.
The Open Scottish Championship sponsored by A1 Performance Products for 2.0 Hot Rods was held on the Sunday with a rather depleted field of seventeen cars after damage the previous evening. The weather could not be more different as warm sunshine had given way to driving rain and occasional drizzle; but the drivers performed brilliantly and put on a great exhibition of racing. England's Ben Furness and Scotland's Billy Bonnar took the heat wins with Bonnar taking pole for the main race and he underlined his dominance of the day with a faultless victory to take the Open Scottish Championship ahead of Gerry Hendry and Furness.
The Service Central UK Superstox European Championship saw around thirty cars in attendance with all the top drivers in the pits and raring to go. The random nature of the out of the hat draw for grid positions threw up a very interesting grid with Northern Irish visitor Kyle Beattie on pole position with Declan Salmon alongside him. Defending champion Jordan Aylward would start from grid three while other notables included Scottish Champion Bryan Forrest on grid six while National Points Champion David Frame would start 15th, Stuart Gilchrist 17th, World Champion Barry Stephen 18th and British Champion Jason Cooper in 24th. The grid was formed after a parade lap and the drivers readied themselves ahead of two rolling laps. As the green flag fell, Aylward used his front bumper to full effect but a misfire seemed to plague him during the race as hr fell back and eventually pulled off. The likes of Forrest, and Dan Roots looked very quick; but Gilchrist and Cooper had made blistering starts to get themselves in the reckoning. After a good number of laps; former multi-champion Gilchrist hit the front and powered away from the chasing pack with Cooper looking to slice through them to begin his pursuit. Cooper managed to get through and eventually overhauled Forrest for second place; but nobody had an answer for Gilchrist who took his second European crown to huge cheers from the crowd with Cooper in second and Forrest third. Two subsequent heats saw some great racing with victories going to Englishman Dan Roots and Scotsman Dean Johnston.
Sunday's action saw most of the cars from the previous evening return while Campbell Scott chose a busy meeting to make his debut as the drivers would contest the RCE Superstox Open Scottish Championship as their first race. What ensued was an incredible race with numerous leaders and incidents; but it was the now ex-European Champion Jordan Aylward who came through to take the win as some compensation for the loss of the European title with Aaron Riddell and Barry Stephen claiming the other podium spots. Two further heats followed, and both were won in impressive style by Lewis Willacy.
The UK Oval Track Legends made their way north for their annual Scottish Speed Weekend with the European and Open Scottish titles up for grabs. Saturday's heats saw wins for Damien Wright and defending European Champion Dan Holden. The points put Holden on pole and he went on to retain his European crown but was kept honest by a rapid Mark Dews all the way to the chequered flag with Tim Hudson completing the podium. Sunday's Open Scottish Championship saw Holden and Wright share the heats once more before Holden took another championship victory with Wright and Dews rounding out the podium. The Legends are an incredible sight with their small American-style hot rod bodies while the shrill of their superbike engines bombard the senses. Some great racing from the pocket rockets.
Support formulas during the weekend were the CC Rods with the wins going to Brandon Gourlay and Craig Watson in the heats ahead of a Lee Wotherspoon final victory while the Ninja Kart races saw wins for Jake Wilson in the whites and yellows race ahead of heat wins for Josh Bruce, Charlie Hardie and Bailey Millar.
While many will dwell on the controversy surrounding the 2.0 Hot Rod World Championship, the on-track action all weekend was absolutely fantastic with all drivers, teams, staff and fans deserving huge credit for their contributions.
This Saturday at HRP Lochgelly Raceway sees Championship Fever continue as the 1300 Stock Cars and Back to Basics Bangers both contest their Scottish Championships events - support for this one comes from the CC Rods and Ninja Karts in what should be another great night at Scotland's premier stock car venue â HRP Lochgelly Raceway from 5:30pm.