Heat 1 Gets Serious

“Today Matthew I’m Going To Be …… Lewis Hamilton”

The 2007 RAF Motor Sports Association Karting Series takes place country-wide over 6 rounds. Round 3 of the series was held at Little Rissington on Sunday 1st of July and incorporated the RAF Individual Karting Championships 2007. This traditional race has been held at Little Rissington for over 30 years and the winner of the final is crowned RAF Individual Karting Champion for that year. Attendance in 2007 was down on previous years with only 10 drivers contesting the event. Whilst the number of RAF Kart racers has been quite healthy over the past 2 or 3 seasons, this year’s small number indicates a somewhat worrying trend.

Nevertheless, the competition was of an excellent standard. Last year’s 3rd and 4th place finishers, Luke Bourne (Kart No 2) and Pete Beer (96), were back, as was past champion and Mr RAF Karting himself, Liam Britten (80). Back too was the kart and engine of last year’s overall race winner Phil Hill, this time driven by Dave Hole-Lollis (11), the returning RAF Novice champion of 2006. Series organiser and regular Kev Meynell (4) was also there and rounding out the ten were Cliff Blofeld (14), David Hancock (59), Vince Lewis (52), John Watson (69) and Matt Wesley (38 and the only novice).

As ever the format would be 3 heats, the results of which would determine each driver’s starting position for the final. The question was however, which races would be dry and which would be wet. The weather was proving highly unpredictable but, for the time being at least, the track was dry and the sky relatively bright.

Heat 1 was a cracker. In the early stages the entire field was nose to tail, drivers desperately looking to make up places and keen to establish an early psychological advantage. Kev Meynell had established himself up front and was lapping fast and consistently; he had already set the race’s fastest lap on lap 2. Vince Lewis too was having an excellent drive on his way to a superb 2nd place. In the pack, however, the race was beginning to unfold. Beer, who had started last and slowly, was now on the pace and looking to steal places from the battling Hole-Lollis, Bourne and Hancock. The racing was intense, with occasional contact and frequent swapping of places characterising a highly entertaining battle. On the last lap Hole-Lollis and Hancock tripped over each other into the tight and slow dog-leg chicane and Beer took advantage, taking the hole-shot around the outside and scraping through into 4th place just before the high speed double right hander. Meynell held his nerve and his pace up front to win convincingly followed by Lewis and then Britten who had kept his nose clean and defended perfectly throughout.

Heat 2 Hots Up! Heat 2 was once again a slick shod affair on a bone dry track. Beer took off from pole but failed to convert this advantage into a race lead. The fast-starting Hole-Lollis grabbed the lead with an aggressive Hancock forcing through into a strong 2nd place. Beer was now 3rd with Blofeld 4th and the quick Bourne 5th. Two laps in though and it was all change, Hole-Lollis going off just after the difficult infield left-hand hairpin. Hancock now led but Beer was all over the rear of the No 59. It seemed only a matter of time before the lead changed hands. At the far right-hand corner Beer took a wide-line as Hancock tried to hug the right-hand kerb. Carrying a touch too much speed however, Hancock drifted marginally off-line sufficient for Beer to cut back through and into the lead. Beer would not be headed again and went on to grab his first win of the day and 40 points towards his final grid position. An excellent and consistently quick Blofeld took a well-deserved 2nd and Bourne, who set the quickest dry RAF lap of the day, finished off the podium positions.

Heat 3 Race for Honours Heat 3 was yet another highly charged and competitive affair. Bourne was quickest again, topping a 50mph average lap for the second time that day. Little Rissington has one very slow and at least 2 medium speed corners which gives an indication of the top speed of the karts in order to achieve a 50mph average. Beer started 5th but was tagged in the early stages, dropping to 7th and with all to do. This was made somewhat easier when Hole-Lollis clashed with Meynell on the run down to the dog-leg on lap 2. Hole-Lollis was out immediately whilst Meynell limped on only to retire on lap 5. This elevated Beer to 3rd and another pass on Hancock put him 2nd behind Bourne. Bourne was uncatchable however, returning the race’s fastest lap on the final lap and sending a clear message to Beer that he was going to be a hard man to beat if the track stayed dry. Hancock got his first podium of the day finishing 3rd and Watson his best finish in 5th.

Start of the Final The RAF Individual karting final was a wet race. Bourne’s clear, dry weather advantage was effectively wiped out when ten minutes before the start of the Final the heavens opened. As the RAF drivers waited on the dummy grid the downpour continued. Saturday’s practice had been wet too and Beer’s kart had the right balance for the treacherous conditions. Beer’s 4th, 1st and 2nd place finishes had allowed him to claim the pole with Bourne’s 6th, 3rd and 1st good enough for the outside of the front row. Meynell would start 3rd and Blofeld 4th. As the karts fired up for the parade lap, however, Beer’s engine spluttered and then died. The rain had got in and for a moment it looked as if Beer’s final would not even start. With great sportsmanship and presence of mind, however, Meynell began to push Beer’s kart from behind and onto the track. Clearly this would not work for the race but with some forward momentum the engine fired on the button at the third time of asking. Beer was now running and took up his position at the head of the field as the rest of the pack rounded the second to last corner on the parade lap. With the start imminent Britten was struggling with the slow pace of the parade lap, his air cooled engine unable to clear itself. As the tension built the field was forced to go around again which gave Beer a better chance to assess the conditions and seek out the grippy parts of the track.

Round they came again and this time it was a clean start. Beer immediately grabbed the advantage at the green light, scything across to the left hand side of the track to cut off Bourne before turn one. Beer’s wet practice had paid off and, whilst not overly entertaining for the spectators, he was never headed, returning the race’s fastest lap on lap 5 and taking the chequered flag 6 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed Bourne. Drive of the day went to the perennially quick and consistent Britten who, from a lowly 7th, came through to claim the last place on the podium. Top novice and winner of the Wally Pape Trophy was Matt Wesley, another magnificent drive from last place to 7th overall.

RAF karting has an established core of competitive drivers, both serving and associate (ex-serving or dependents of serving personnel), the majority of whom would be willing to offer advice to anyone wishing to get involved either as a driver or mechanic. Karting is a relatively affordable form of motor sport too so if you are interested in starting karting or would just like to find out a little bit more about it, please contact Squadron Leader Pete Beer on 95221 Ext 7276, Flight Sergeant Liam Britten on 95461 Ext 7845 or alternatively visit the RAF Karting website at www.rafkarting.co.uk

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