Shaun Traynor proved he is the man to beat this season, notching up another pair of dominant victories as the championship made its first visit to the fast and challenging Croft circuit in North Yorkshire.
Morning qualifying saw a superb 32 cars take to the circuit, including the westyphotography.com / Simon Quinn #67, despite limping to the circuit with just 3 wheels remaining on the trailer!
It was Traynor who went quickest, planting the no. 27 Mk2 on pole with a time of 1:41.11. Just over 0.2s behind was Alex Knight in a Rogue Motorsport Mk2, the ex-Legends competitor one of only two on the grid who had raced this circuit before.
Martin Farrelly put his similar Rogue Motorsport Mk2 in a best-ever third – the Kent-domiciled Irishman now recovered from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the first two rounds of the year – with Kris White alongside in fourth in the first of the Hennessy Motorsport Mk2s.
Jim Davies was fifth with Cam Walton’s stealth matt black Mk2 joining him on row three. Nigel Ralphson and Bill Gallacher made up row five with Ben Rowe – after a mammoth 15 hour journey from deepest Cornwall! – and Stuart Nicholls completing the top ten, Nicholls just pleased to be in the top ten around a circuit not suited to the less powerful Mk3 Roadster. Dave Hemingway set the fastest lap of the two class A Mk1s entered but engine failure during the session left Merill Readett upholding the honours of the original shape MR2.
The first race of the day became a Shaun Traynor benefit as the 44-year-old from Winchester streaked away from the lights to lead by 2s at the end of lap one, and took the chequered flag after eight more tours with an 8s gap to the rest of the pack. Behind Traynor, the battle was intense as Knight and Farrelly went toe to toe for the minor podium places. Martin was having probably his best-ever outing and got past the Glasgow-based restaurateur on lap three, only to fluff a down-change into the Complex next time around and spin harmlessly onto the grass. He rejoined down in 12th, improving to ninth by the flag but rueing his error.
Further back, despite a great start, the westyphotography.com #67 touched a wheel on the grass after the chicane, causing a huge spin that ended with a heavy shunt into the tyre barrier, breaking Simon Quinn’s front suspension, and ending his race weekend.
Knight’s next challenge came from Davies, the reigning class C champion now in a Rogue Motorsport Mk2 and getting to grips with it nicely. He tracked Knight for several laps but just couldn’t find a way by the experienced racer in front. Walton was also having an excellent race, dicing initially with Davies before dropping behind him and White on lap four. He overtook Kris on lap seven, Davies a lap later and managed to stay ahead to score his first podium finish in the championship, despite being hampered by a misfire late on in the race. Davies held his fourth place from White whilst sixth went to Ralphson in another of Russ Hennessy’s Mk2s. Gallacher put in a solid performance to come home seventh, just 0.5s behind Ralphson after sticking with him all race long. Tim Heron made good progress after qualifying down in eleventh, an eventful race saw him avoid two accidents and Farrelly’s spin on his way up to eighth. Behind Farrelly in ninth, Rowe brought his battered black and gold Mk2 home in tenth, a legacy of the first lap collision with Northampton’s Mark Barber after the Devonian’s brakes didn’t quite work as expected at the Hairpin. Barber was spun around but continued well down the field, only to be harpooned again a couple of laps later at the Complex by newcomer Paul Cook! Both cars continued to the end, Cook finishing 13th, Barber just behind in 14th.
In the classes, the competitive Mk3 Roadster division went to a surprised Paul Hutson, the ex-1980s F3 racer – and the only other driver to have raced previously at Croft – in his first season with the newer car after several campaigns in an older Mk2. Mick Nicholls was second in class, 19th overall and one place behind Hutson after going wide out of the Complex and dramatically hitting the tyre stack, whilst Mick’s daughter Maxine Nicholls claimed her first trophy for third in 22nd overall. As for the usual class frontrunner, Stuart Nicholls made a rare mistake on lap four when he misjudged his line just fractionally at the Chicane and clouted the tyre bundle hard, damage to the left front suspension and bodywork causing his immediate retirement. He did pick up a consolation point though for setting the class fastest lap. Readett was unchallenged in class A after Hemingway’s demise in qualifying.
Race two once again saw Traynor get the best start to lead into Clerveaux, Hawthorns and away into the distance, another comfortable 8s victory in the bag plus the fastest lap in 1:41.24. The championship leader was beaming from ear to ear when he was interviewed for the TV coverage once again, something he’s clearly becoming accustomed to this season. Knight looked like being the runner up once again but White wasn’t going to let his testing time go to waste and pounced on the red and white machine on the third lap. He managed to hold the gap at around a second for the remaining laps to finish in second place. The battle behind now involved Knight, Ralphson, Davies and Farrelly. It should have also included Heron but a mistake on new un-bedded brake pads saw him lock up into Tower on lap one and spear off into the barrier, out of the race. Also missing from the front was Rowe who should have started from tenth on the grid but his car was found to be too badly damaged after the first race to continue. The Ralphson / Davies fight was a good one, hard but fair with plenty of sideways action from both men. Farrelly got past them both on lap five and set about Knight, trying to make amends for his error in the earlier race. As the pair raced down the start finish straight and into Clervaux for the final time, both cars slewed sideways, Knight catching his slide and just skimming the gravel but Farrelly did a full 360 degree spin through the gravel trap, was just missed by Davies but hit on the rear bumper by Ralphson. He was able to continue and finished fifth, behind Davies in fourth and Knight in third whilst Farrelly, after another spin at the chicane with suspected bent suspension, brought his hobbled Mk2 to the flag in ninth. Walton was on course for another top ten finish but a coolant leak sadly stopped him two laps from home. Barber made amends for his scrappy race one – none of which was his fault, incidentally – to bring his Mk2 up from 14th to sixth at the flag. Wayne Lewis also went well, 13th to seventh with Gallacher, Farrelly and debutant Cook rounding out the top ten. Remarkably, the Rogue Motorsport team patched up Stuart Nicholls’ Roadster well enough for him to claim a class C win in 13th overall, ahead of his father Mick (15th) and Hutson (17th). Readett took the class A win once again.