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Standing Tall

09.10.14 1205 (640x427) Post-race scrutineering changes the outcome of the Junior Special title.

After another season of close competition, the title battle came down to a head-to-head between Abi Shields and Matt Owen. Owen is the 2014 champion, but that’s not how the series initially ended at the final round.
A second after qualifying and a fourth in the final gave Shields the title at the time, but it was when the engine was stripped after the race that the cylinder head was found to be non-compliant, and so began a few weeks of uncertainty that culminated in Shields’ title being taken away.
Shields explained the problem thus: “The part that was deemed illegal made no enhancement on the car’s performance, which we clearly showed when we took the car out at Nottingham a few weeks later with a different standard head and it was still competitive.
“ The car was bought with this modification already made and at the time there was no ruling for it - also the first time we knew of this was when the car was stripped after the last BAS round.”
It hasn’t been a straightforward season for Shields; certainly she hasn’t been dominant, instead just consistent all year and has driven intelligently at crucial moments. She deserves credit for an excellent performance and will remain one of the best female drivers in the history of the class.
In saying that, we don’t want to take any of the shine off the fact that it is now Owen’s title, because the North Shropshire star is a thoroughly deserving recipient. That it is his third title of the year is particularly impressive; he took the National win at Penhow and also the British Championship at Evesham a few weeks ago – a title that should have been run at the cancelled MAP Open.
However, Owen didn’t finish his campaign off with a victory at the final round; it was Joey Matthews who was the winner.
Rhys Griffiths was the top qualifier but got squeezed out of contention into the first turn in the final by Owen, who in turn was beaten into the bend by Matthews. It was an incredibly tidy and mature drive by the latter and he withstood incredible pressure for most of the race from Owen to earn his reward.
Matt Wright was second at the beginning of the race but dropped to third at the end of lap three where he stayed until the end, his position never threatened by fourth placed Shields as she spent most of the race fending off Griffiths, with Dan Morris, Ryan Appleton and Jordan Arrowsmith in the subsequent positions.
Shields wasn’t the only one whose engine was found to be non-compliant; Liam Nicholls’ was excluded after the Nationals, which also meant his BAS points were taken away too. The result of this is that Griffiths moved up from fourth to second in the championship, Arrowsmith moved to third and Matthews up to fourth, with Dan Morris rounding off the top five.