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Winning Made Easy

27.09.14 931 (640x363) Rival problems give Grice and Mackenzie an easy path to the Class Seven titles.

The fact that Mark Grice was Phil Cooper’s closest challenger last year meant that he was the automatic favourite for this year’s title in Cooper’s absence.
Karl Mosley returned to the sport for the back half of 2013 after competing in BriSCA F1 Stock Cars and has contested a full season this year. Despite the kind of strong and consistent run you’d expect from him, the black flags he received at Cwmdu and Stroud have hurt his challenge. He came into the final round in second place though he was a little way adrift of Grice, and to take the title from him was a big ask. Then when he blew an engine and was unable to complete anything more than one heat, his weekend was over.
Grice started the weekend with a win and continued in the same vein, safe in the knowledge that Mosley’s absence meant the title was his. This left Andy Holtby, Mike Mackenzie and Tom Lewis to fight amongst themselves for the runner up spots, with Holtby in particular desperate for an overall BAS victory.
Holtby has put in many a top performance this year and has been among the top qualifiers many times, but a couple of black flags have also halted his progress in the important races. A trio of heat wins put him at the top of the table again, and for a few exciting seconds in the final it looked like he might be on course for the result he’s been wanting.
The national champion was ahead as the pack dived into turn one, with Grice initially on his outside. With an incredibly nimble manoeuvre Grice switched the angle of his car in mid-bend and accelerated up the inside of Holtby, the two then ran side by side up the finish straight with the York driver perfectly placed to take the lead into the next corner. Grice naturally then ran a little wide in the pits bend which allowed Holtby the opportunity for a retaliatory cutback manoeuvre, but Grice was wise to the Scunthorpe driver’s tactic and blocked his path.
His performance at this year’s nationals underlined his status as one of the tidiest, cleverest and most patient drivers, and he stayed on Grice’s tail for five laps examining all angles. However, on the exit of the pits bend at the start of lap six came a rare error from Holtby. A half spin not only allowed Grice an untroubled run to the flag and the title, but also let Phil Barleyman through into second place.
Barleyman had taken a wide line in the first half lap which enabled him to cut across Mackenzie’s nose and take third as they went into the pits bend, forcing Mackenzie to back off and readjust his line to avoid contact with the class one winner. The two then enjoyed a brief battle with each other in the subsequent few laps until Barleyman broke away and then subsequently inherited second place from Holtby. Matthew Kitching, who has been impressive this season with the smart single-engined machine, had a few opportunities to close up on Mackenzie and Barleyman but had to settle for fifth in the end behind the Spalding driver.
Further back on the first lap, Kerry Pope also tried a wide line but only succeeded in relegating herself to seventh, which then became eighth by the end of the race. Tom Lewis ran as high as fifth during the race but slipped down the order to seventh behind Jake Lee.
Holtby’s third place on top of an unbeaten run in qualifying moved him from fifth to second place in the standings, with Mosley dropping to fifth after his engine woes. Mackenzie and Lewis – final winners at Cwmdu and Stroud respectively - remain in third and fourth overall.

Coming into the final round, the situation at the top of the table created an exciting head to head between Nicola Mackenzie and Jo Thompson.
Separated by six points, it could have gone either way; Mackenzie had a 35 point lead based on the top 16 scores but Thompson had the maximum 220 points to use as her double, compared to 191 for her rival. The fight stayed alive in the first heat when Mackenzie took a win and Thompson a second, but when Thompson was a non-starter in heat two the situation swung in Mackenzie’s favour.
That was Thompson’s only score of the weekend as she received a black flag in heat three. When Mackenzie took a second heat victory and a third place in heat three to put herself into the final as second qualifier, the title was hers before the race was run.
In the final, Pam Blackburn was in a clear lead by the time they reached the first corner but came under increasing pressure from Charlotte Pugh as the laps counted down. The pair were nose to tail in the end, but Blackburn’s tidy style was conducive to successful defence; Pugh assessed different lines but was unable to find a way past the local lady hugging the tight line and the pair crossed the line separated by little more than a car’s length.
Cath Weston has had a great first BAS season and placed third in the final here to secure her fourth place in the standings. Mackenzie held sixth behind Jodie Faulkner initially with Sarah Tateson in fourth place throughout. However, Faulkner dropped to seventh by the race end and was replaced in fifth by Chamelle Clayton, who has become an increasingly racy driver this season in the ex-Kerry Pope machine.

Main: Grice took a maximum score at round five, and had an easy run to the title after Karl Mosley suffered engine trouble. Above: Pam Blackburn's quick but tidy style was effective in keeping Charlotte Pugh at bay (photos: Dan Moffatt).