The 4th and penultimate round of the UK Nationals took place at he Herts track, recently used for the European B Championships.
Heavy rain the day before the event left a lot of drivers questioning if the track would be ready come Saturday morning, yet the fears were unfounded as the track was almost perfect from the off. The usual track evolution took place as the surface dried and the grip would come. The Agama guys were running well early on in practice, but as usual at this venue the times are extremely close so mistakes are paid for heavily.
Qualifying saw Darren Bloomfield, Ollie Currie, Tony Truman and Jonny Skidmore all running very fast and setting top ten times in the opening rounds, but the star of the team on this occasion was Ollie Currie. Ollie seemed like a new man this weekend and his pace was genuine top 3 in the round in practically all rounds, but he would keep having small incidents with back markers which would cost him a few seconds. Still his speed was there for all to see and he would be right in contention as the meeting went on. Darren Bloomfield was there or thereabouts through the first few rounds as he searched for the right tyre pattern and compound. He was also focussing on improving his car through the bumpy sections. This all came together in round 4 where he opted for Soft Cubez and got the set up right, he stormed to the TQ time of the round, and indeed the meeting and even then there was time to find after a crashed car rejoined into the side of him and cost a few seconds. His car looked fantastic and Darren drove it very well to extract the time. Jonny Skidmore was continuing his year long good form and he was in the top 10 throughout the day as was Tony Truman. Tony was another guy looking particularly fast and was right in the mix for the top times. Callum Nibblet started with a tough round 1, but a re-set of the set up saw him back in the groove and setting good times and playing himself into contention as the meeting progressed. With the 5th and final round of qualifying set to take place on Sunday morning the team went to the overnight in good form and ready for the following day. Sunday morning started dry and the final round of qualifying was able to be completed just before the forecast rains appeared. The track seemed to become even more grippy in the morning and lots of drivers were struggling to cope with the traction on offer. Darren said afterwards that in hindsight he would have used Medium compound Cubez as he found Soft had so much traction and grip. Still it was BETA shod car that took TQ for that round, Kevin Brunsden who had been on the pace all weekend put in an excellent run to take that round win using his Cubez S to full effect. Darren was able to sneak into second which was enough to give him second overall and another vital point in the championship. Ollie Currie took an excellent sixth overall and felt that even more was possible if they got a final to race in as some of the old timers had cost Ollie dearly in quali by not moving out the way of his faster car. Tony Truman was eighth and slightly disappointed with that as his pace was a bit higher, and a great last round from Callum Nibblet saw him take tenth overall, with Jonny Skidmore in twelfth. We were delighted with 5 A215's and 6 Beta runners in the top 12.
Sadly when the rain came, it came hard as predicted and after a few finals had been run and many cars had failed, the organisation did the only sensible thing and called the meeting off with points to be declared on qualifying. It was a great shame as it was shaping up to be a great race with so many guys on such terrific pace.
So the Championship will go to the last round at Slough in September.
Ari Heinonen continued his great form since switching to Agama for 2015 by taking the TQ and victory in the latest round of the National Championships in his native Finland.
Ari was in great form throughout the event and was able to place his BETA shod A215 at the top of the pile.
Next up for these guys is the prestigious Nordic Championships where the top guys from across Scandinavia come together for their annual race to be top dog in Northern Europe. This year the event is being held in Helsinki, Finland on track Ari knows well so he is going in to the event full of confidence….
Another week and another great performance from the resurgent Robert Gustafsson. This time he qualified in the top 3, and took TQ in the last round of qualifying, saying his car was just ‘perfect’.
He would find himself in a race long battle for the podium with Svensson and Edvinsson, the three of them swapping places throughout, where an unfortunate late race mistake would cost Robert the time to drop him off the podium in fourth. Still he was delighted with the race and is pushing hard to take a qualifying place for the worlds….