On a Knife Edge

25.09.14 IMG_3097 (640x426) Class One results decided on single performances.

At the top of the table was an incredibly close battle to be decided between Tom Roberts, Ash Robinson and Jonny Milner, but in the end the title went the way of the Welshman.
As Milner floundered in midfield in the first heat and both his rivals took a second and a win respectively, it became clear that he was out of the race for the title, a notion that was further supported by another fifth place in heat two where his two rivals both took victory.
This created an increasingly exciting situation for day two, especially when Roberts and Robinson were drawn in the same third heat race. It turned out to be a crucial point in their title challenge.
Robinson led the third heat race with Roberts a little further back, which carried a useful points advantage; however, the Welshman worked his way to second and then made a move on his rival sending them both wide, allowing the chasing pack through. Robinson and Roberts dropped to fifth and sixth respectively and out of the two only the former made it to the final.
A second place in the main race for Robinson put him at the top of the table in the points based on the top 16 scores; however, a ten point doubled score advantage for Roberts puts him four points above the Spalding driver, making him this year’s champion.
In the final we had an unexpected winner in Phil Barleyman. Opportunistic, tidy and quick, the Pennine driver initially held second place behind an incredibly fast starting Arron Sharp.
Sharp had broken away from the pack by the first turn, with the rest of the field line abreast behind. Will Henry was nudged sideways into the first corner which then sent him towards the outside line after some corrective lock. He lost little momentum however, as when the pack went into the pits bend for the first time he and second placed Barleyman were side by side and made brief but rough contact as they both went for the same line. The Pennine driver had the advantage on the inside though and claimed second, with Henry forced wide again on the exit of the turn.
At the end of the first lap Sharp had a lead of at least three car lengths and immediately looked like the favourite, though his advantage quickly dwindled due to a misfire than slowed him at the start of the third lap.
Barleyman was the immediate beneficiary and had extended a safety cushion of his own over Ian Ullathorne and Matthew Scourfield who were fighting for third, so when Sharp slowed, Barleyman’s lead was a comfortable one and he simply ran away at the head of the field to take the victory.
The chasing pack quickly came upon Sharp’s ailing machine on the exit of turn one; Ullathorne, taken by surprise by Sharp’s slowing pace, had to take evasive action and he nudged the back of Scourfield’s car which sent the Camarthen driver sideways across the circuit. Henry and Robinson battled briefly as they passed the recovering Scourfield but took each other wide allowing the Welshman back through into third.
Ullathorne held second for a few laps but Scourfield and Robinson were bearing down on him. With the race nearing its end, both drivers tried an undercut manoeuvre but Ullathorne cut across Scourfield’s nose in defence, and in doing so also forced Robinson to take evasive action to stop himself hitting the Welshman. With only half a lap left there were no more opportunities for promotion on circuit, but after the chequer Robinson inherited second place as Ullathorne and Scourfield both received a green flag, dropping them to fourth and fifth respectively.
Danny Hobson had held fifth but was another to receive a green flag, which put sixth placed Ash Thompson up into third place past the other demoted drivers, and also promoted Henry to sixth too. Henry had been running well, but a nudge from Hobson had sent the Radford driver fishtailing and after a beautifully controlled recovery he dropped to the tail end, which is what earned Hobson his penalty.
Sharp struggled to the end of the race and picked up points for eighth which was an unfortunate end after a great run through qualifying and a strong couple of opening laps in the final.

In a year of consistent scoring and two wins at the nationals, it’s no surprise that Alice Bevans took this title too by a fairly comfortable margin.
Ashlea Cowperthwaite has also been one of the season’s best performers and moved up to second in the standings after becoming the season’s best qualifier at Stroud. Bevans may have taken that status away from her this weekend with an unbeaten run in the heats here too, but nevertheless, Cowperthwaite has been one of the cleanest and most consistent drivers this year.
Because of problems with her own car, Cowperthwaite bought Rachael Davis’s machine ahead of the final round, and despite the setup of the new machine being totally different to her own she was still second qualifier behind Bevans with another excellent series of runs in the heats. However, at one point she had been equal with Bevans.
As the championship leader continued to secure her position, Cowperthwaite had to concentrate instead on defending her second place from Katie Wilson. As had been the case with Robinson and Roberts, there was another championship-changing scenario here based on a single race result, and the pair’s fortunes switched because of a third heat rerun.
Cowperthwaite had won the race on the first attempt which would have kept her in front in the standings, but then when the race was rerun Wilson was the beneficiary and took the victory with the Solway driver behind. Their subsequent results in the final – third for the local driver, fifth for the latter – meant that with her third heat victory in the rerun, Wilson stole second place from Cowperthwaite by three points in the end.
In the final, Bevans pulled ahead of her rivals and was first into turn one, though she understeered fractionally wide which allowed Hayley Empson a look up the inside.
The pair exited the turn side by side but Empson was best placed to take the lead into the pits bend with Bevans behind, closely followed by Wilson on the inside and Missy Moseley out wide. From this point on the pack settled into single file and Empson was unchallenged, holding on to the lead to take her first BAS final victory.
Cowperthwaite slotted into fifth from the beginning but was under huge pressure from Alice Hughes throughout. Driving with characteristic verve in the unfamiliar machine, Cowperthwaite defended the position well. Hughes too put in a great drive to try and get past, trying to undercut the Solway driver a number of times, and the pair were almost side by side as they crossed the line with Hughes still in sixth, ahead of Nikki Shepherdson in Thompson’s Micra.
Amy Carter had a good run in qualifying and took three second places, but toured round the outside of the circuit in the final with a sick car.

Main: This was the incident in the third heat that made a difference to Ash Robinson's championship run. Above: Alice Bevans took her third title of the year here (photos: Sam Barrett).