Two weekends ago, Round 2 of the championship was hosted by the Mendip Club in Weston Super Mare. It is noted as round 2 since the first round was cancelled. However, after a drivers vote it was decided that the best course of action would be to scrap the first round and therefore the championship would become best 6 results from 8 rounds. The weekend was again sunny so no risk of using the wet tires which were evident many times last season. With an entry of around 42 drivers, with a good number of top drivers present, it would make for a fascinating fight up front. Also the midfield runners would have separate battles for supremacy within their respective GP2 and GP3 Championships.
Saturday started with low grip but this soon changed as cars hit the track. The top drivers were mainly working on chassis setup and checking to see if they can complete a 5 minute run without a fuel stop. This year with the change to 16% fuel, there is a greater tolerance in being able to make 5 minutes against ultimate speed. The majority of the drivers are now using 8.5mm carb inserts but some fast boys have decided to run 8mm inserts which clearly demonstrates the actual difference is marginal and in actual fact could make the car easier to drive and therefore produce better lap times and overall consistency.
Sunday arrived with a dry track and a low ambient temperature which would make the engines perform better and possibly allow for the customary ‘rocket run’ but balancing this against the low grip conditions may prove opposite.
In Heat 5 Round 1, the standard increased a notch with Shepherd driver Richard Waters taking the spoils ahead of teammate Karl Dransfield both with very respectable 19 lap results which would put them in with a good shot of making the main event final. Michael Walton was steadily getting to grips with his new Serpent / Sirio combination after a long day of running in, his new engine on Saturday. Also it was good to see Giorgio at this race and hopefully look forward to seeing him at other races during this year. In heat 5, the pace increased to another level with the Serpent Trio of Frost, Hicklin and Carr showing the true pace of the new 977 chassis and setting very quick 19 lap runs which at this stage was a very good banker time and in any other year a comfortable final place but with such high level of competition on show, a safe bet would be 20 laps this time around. In heat 6, Green and Branson easily produced 20 laps runs and would fight it out for TQ throughout the day. Behind them there was almost a lap gap to Pete Hastings, Diver and North which put into perspective just how quick the previous heat was.
So into Round 2, and in Heat 5, it was a Serpent domination again with Carr recording a slightly faster time from Young gun Alex Thurston and Frost. In Heat 6, Branson TQ’d the round with another 20 lap result which was slightly slow than Green so he remained 2nd overall. Wood and North improved on their previous best along with Andy Hastings. The overall positions where becoming very close with only 6 seconds separating the 3rd to 12th place.
Round 3 In heat 4, It was Dransfield who was on the move with a respectable 19 lap result which would put him in with a shout of a main final place. In heat 5, Frost just missed out on the magical 20 lap run with Hicklin in second and Carr in third. In heat 6, North won the heat after problems for both Branson and Green but a collision between Andy Hastings and Tim Wood with 2 laps to go prevented Hastings from a clear improvement and a definite top ten place.
Round 4 and Heat 4 witnessed no improvements but heat 5 saw regular main finalist Neal King and Bancroft record times to put them in with a chance of making the main final with quick 19 lap results. In the final heat, it was Branson who dominated the race but the times were ultimately slower due to the higher track temperatures. North again improved to guarantee a main final position but the unlucky drivers to miss out were Diver, Hastings, Dransfield, Waters, Simons, Acanfora and Walton.
The top ten were as follows:
1. Mark Green – Serpent / Novarossi / Sanwa / Exceed – 20 Laps 307.272 secs
2. Kyle Branson – Mugen / IDM / Contact / Sanwa – 20 Laps 307.274 secs
3. Tim Wood – Serpent / Exceed – 19 Laps 300.1 secs
4. Jason Frost – Serpent / Novarossi / Exceed – 19 Laps 300.9 secs
5. Richard Hicklin – Serpent / Novarossi / Exceed – 19 Laps 301.1 secs
6. John Carr– Serpent / Mega / Exceed – 20 Laps 301.52 secs
7. Andy North – Mugen / Sirio /Contact – 20 Laps 301.59 secs
8. Neal King – Mugen / Sirio / Contact – 20 Laps 302.8 secs
9. Alex Thurston – Serpent / IDM / Contact – 20 Laps 304.07 secs
10.Daniel Bancroft – Motonica / Vox – 20 Laps 304.09 secs
The main final blasted away in grid order with Green and Branson opening up a very comfortable lead. In chase was the Serpents of Wood, Frost, Carr. Hicklin was dropping back slightly and was passed by the Mugen’s of North and King who were having their own little battle for sixth position. Up front and Branson was suffering from handling problems probably caused by hitting the barrier during the warm up period and this allowed Green to take full advantage and create a race winning lead. Branson with enough lead back to third cruised around to take second and valuable championship points at this early stage in the season. The battle was then on for third with Wood getting the better of Carr by 3 seconds with North taking fifth on the same lap. This was a fantastic race with no retirements. The result means that Green is leading the championship by 2 points.
Full results are as follows:
1. Mark Green – Serpent / Novarossi / Sanwa / Exceed – 114 Laps
2. Kyle Branson – Mugen / IDM / Contact / Sanwa – 111 Laps
3. Tim Wood – Serpent / Exceed – 110 Laps
4. John Carr– Serpent / Mega / Exceed – 110 Laps
5. Andy North – Mugen / Sirio /Contact – 110 Laps
6. Jason Frost – Serpent / Novarossi / Exceed – 108 Laps
7. Neal King – Mugen / Sirio / Contact – 108 Laps
8. Richard Hicklin – Serpent / Novarossi / Exceed – 103 Laps
9. Alex Thurston – Serpent / IDM / Contact – 95 Laps
10.Daniel Bancroft – Motonica / Vox – 95 Laps
Thanks to Andy North for the report.
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