Back to the valley

11.08.15 SV101 Round four goes to the fast, favourite Withington venue.

Before the Nationals, Severn Valley’s Withington venue had not been used since round four of the BAS in 2013, and their successful running of the event just over a week ago puts us in line for another potentially strong BAS round.
One of those venues that tops the list of favourites for many a driver, this weekend’s event could be huge, perhaps the biggest of the year, depending on the extent to which its reputation as a car-breaker at the Nationals has preceded it, and also on a wet pre-event weather forecast. There are many who expressed their excitement months ago at the prospect of returning to Severn Valley, and for whom the excitement will remain undimmed. But the undulating nature of the soft surface for the Nationals and the number of retirements as a result may have made a few drivers think again about returning. Straight after the event it was good to see the track being worked on, but the extent to which it can withstand a potentially larger entry than the Nationals remains to be seen. Add to that the fact that the weather forecast for Friday looks poor, and it adds extra doubt as to how the venue will fare, so keep an eye on the BAS and NASA Facebook pages for any late information that may be posted regarding the event and the effects of pre-event rainfall.
Aside from the quality of the track arguably falling a little below par, the rest of the venue is as spacious and well laid out as it ever was – or at least for the BAS you can bet this notion will apply to it in its entirety. Space was tight on the field at the top of the hill where a makeshift car park had been formed which meant exiting the venue – and indeed trying to go back down the hill to the camping area – was chaotic; but, while you can expect a decent turnout of spectators because the venue is so good to sit and watch at, there won’t be a repeat of the Nationals gridlock. The enormous number of spectators and the fact that space was at a premium also meant that Brandon were unable to get their vehicles close to the toilets for them to be cleaned; but again, greater accessibility this coming weekend will mean more pleasant facilities, and the fact that the universally praised Telford Toilets will be supplying them too guarantees that everyone will leave happy and fresh on Sunday.
Thinking back to when we visited two years ago, we enjoyed some of the best races there that we saw all year; it’s one of those tracks on which a driver can explore a number of different approaches, spacious enough for a variety of lines and angles to be used to create exciting racing and separate from the rest the thinking drivers with an intelligent race craft. There’s no doubt too that it’s entertaining for a spectator seeing the cars bouncing over the uneven surface – a few drivers were certainly caught out by the displaced loose and an unexpected bump or two with a variety of results – but to think of it purely in terms of spectator pleasure is to disregard the enjoyment and expense for the drivers, and there were some costly repair bills from the Nationals. You can bet the track will have been rolled and worked in the intervening period between the events to ensure our meeting runs as successfully as possible, and will continue to be worked throughout the weekend, so to a certain extent what will be will be. However well the track holds up over the two days – you can bet that to be top of people’s list of moans if necessary – take a moment to consider that the club will almost certainly have made it as good as it’s possible to be.
This point in the season is when many of the classes start to become even more exciting to watch; the closeness of the battles creating a necessity for top results among the best drivers, making the final few rounds potentially the best of the year, with dropped scores starting to become an important, if a little complicated, factor at times as drivers try to work out what is necessary to either overtake their rivals or defend the points leads from their closest challengers. The difference between this circuit and the polished, more technical track at York is also an interesting paradox on which to conclude a championship.
Classes Eight and Ten are finely poised with the points at the top of the table close between a number of top drivers. A Liam Evans/Phil Cooper head to head for the latter title is always a fascinating proposition, as is the battle between Matt Manning and Jabez Smith in Class Five where the former leads by just 18 points. The new Grice vs. Holtby era of Class Seven, with Craig Bagley a new interloper, is also an interesting one to follow with Grice leading at present. Add to that the good form of Craig Kampschulte and that youngest ever Class Seven National Champion Jake Roberts is within striking distance, and it’s no wonder the class is such a crowd-puller.
Ladies class eight never fails to provide a high entry and the series has changed leader three times already. Nicola Jesse has enjoyed a successful return to the class this season but prefers the more technical tracks, so maybe this will be the round when close rival Aly Ashmore can regain control at the top of the table.
Points remain close at the top of the Junior classes too with the top three in each class just starting to break away from the pack. Saloon leaders James Bubb and Ollie Stevens failed to score in their final at round three so will need a strong result this weekend; while in the Specials Aidan Taylor comes off the back of two final wins and is in striking distance of series leader Matt Owen.

If the final two rounds do turn out to provide an exciting conclusion to this year’s Series, then we will undoubtedly have a landmark year to be proud of. Both Severn Valley and York are old hands at staging a big event; the necessary work to pull off a successful meeting will be handled with ease. With what will surely be an excellent Ladies and Juniors Nationals at Yorkshire Dales – remember how good their BAS round was last year? – in between the final two rounds, preceded by a strong choice of fixtures on the bank holiday weekend, we are set for a strong series of events to begin winding down the season.