The final act

15.09.15 IMG_0171 (640x426) York's final round to decide several thrilling battles.

It is always with slight heaviness of heart that we talk about the final round; even though there’s still a lot of racing to be done post-BAS, it’s always a shame that the Series has to draw to a close. But this year has been especially good.
We said numerous times last year when previewing 2015 that it could be one of the best ever seasons, and then continued the same remarks as the year has gone along; partly as a kind of celebration of each round’s success, but then with a little bit of trepidation as to whether the momentum could be sustained by each host. We haven’t been let down.
That we’re now going to the York club fills us with confidence for a successful climax, too. One of those clubs that needs no introduction, and in whose ability to run a big meeting we have great faith.  The last time we visited, for round three in 2013, it was almost dry and dusty, and almost uncomfortably hot. This weekend it seems we are in for what could be near perfect conditions.
If you saw the video on the club’s Facebook page you’ll see the track itself looks to be in great shape. The UKAC had their fourth round there, but any bad comments about that meeting can largely be ignored because the poor condition of the track then was because of a huge amount of pre-event rain. True, there is rain forecast this week, but seemingly only an amount that will serve to bind the track together and provide an even grippier surface. There’s always the chance that it will become polished and incredibly dusty as the weekend progresses, but there should be nobody to whom this will be a surprise.
Traditionally, the final round attracts a smaller entry than the other events – for this venue in particular some would argue that it’s a long way north to travel if you’re not in with a shout of some silverware – but that only serves to strengthen our prediction that this could be another great event: slick organisation on a well prepared track, with an even more manageable number of competitors resulting, potentially, in an early finish on both days. There are some dedicated personnel within the club; well-known names keen on putting on a good show, who will undoubtedly work hard and harmoniously to end the Series on a high.
The racing will surely provide an exciting end to the Series, too, because nearly all the classes are still to be decided.
We make no apology for starting with Class Seven, because the Mark Grice vs. Andy Holtby head-to-head has been fascinating to follow. Of course, this is Grice’s home circuit so you’d immediately think him to have an advantage, but Holtby is a regular visitor to the venue too.
Class Four is closer than it has been in previous seasons, with Rob Corbett not enjoying the same kind of dominance as in previous years. The rivalry between him and Huw Jones for many seasons is era-defining; both have two final wins to their credit and are separated by only 34 points. It’s a similarly close story in Class Five, with multiple champion Jabez Smith being headed by Matthew Manning by a small margin, creating a fascinating situation to be resolved.
In Classes Six and Eight there are a few points separating the respective protagonists, and, while Phil Cooper has pretty much wrapped up the Class Nine title already, he is in a close points battle too with Liam Evans for the Class Ten win.
Reigning Ladies Class Five champion Sarah Bateman is in a position to repeat her title – and add to this year’s Nationals win – but Sarah Farrar’s good form this season means that defending it will be tricky. Tricky, too, for Gina Fackrell and Angela Evans in Class Six to stop third-placed Sarah Haigh’s ascension through the ranks: Haigh has missed two rounds but been dominant elsewhere. Similarly impressive has been Michaela Dance in her first season back in Class Seven. She can be caught by Sue Herdman in the points, but Dance’s consistency, plus the fact that Herdman needs to be mindful of defending her second place from Nicola Mackenzie, means that she starts the final round as the favourite for another title.
Both Junior classes are close as always. Matt Owen leads the Junior Specials from Aidan Taylor, despite a hat-trick of final wins by the latter, and sit a little way ahead of another close battle for third and fourth between newly crowned National champion Joey Matthews and Ash Howard.
James Bubb and Ollie Stevens are equal at the top of the table in Saloons and it’s difficult to predict which way the title could go – a notion that could be applied to several other classes too, to guarantee both a memorable final round and whole season in hindsight.