HRP November 4th - A Report
Added Monday 6th November 2017
A cold but dry November evening greeted drivers, teams and a large crowd of race fans as they gathered at HRP Lochgelly Raceway for the final meeting of the 2017 Scottish Stock Car Season. A fantastic five-formula line-up had gathered in the pits with Superstox, 1300 Stock Cars, Stock Rods, National Hot Rods and Back to Basics Bangers on the programme of events. Several issues still had to be settled and it was down to business at the earlier than usual start time of 5pm.
The first race of the night was for the 1300 Stock Cars and the focus of attention in the bumper brigade was the 2017 Track Championship with just one point separating Craig Haxton (Leven) and Andrew Mathieson (Lochgelly) as the green flag dropped on heat one. Jason Cutler left it late in 2017 but managed to make his first appearance of the season amongst a reasonable grid of cars. Eddie Corr had recently returned from a knee operation and looked like he hadn't lost any of his speed and underlined this as he took a fine win in heat one ahead of Dean McGill with Mathieson and Haxton third and fourth - meaning they were neck and neck going into heat two. Things did not go well for Haxton in heat two as he posted a non-finish but Eddie Corr would have been delighted to take his second win of the evening and securing a return to red grade for the next grading period - Mathieson posted a fifth-place finish which meant there would be just six points between him and Haxton going into the final race of the season - the Track Championship was going to the wire! As always, the 1300 Stock Cars delivered with plenty of bumper-work going on lower down the grid as Dean McGill had got a flyer from the front of the reds with the likes of Haxton, Andrew Mathieson, Euan Mathieson and Jock Whyte trading blows on every corner. McGill soon found himself in the lead; but all eyes were on the battle further back with Haxton and Andrew Mathieson in close proximity to one another and the pivotal moment came late in the race when Mathieson spun Haxton out which put paid to Haxton's fantastic challenge although he did recover to pick up 8th place, however, Mathieson claimed 6th spot and the 2017 Track Championship. The controversy did not stop there as McGill was docked two places for jumping the start which gave Paul Ford the feature final win ahead of Jock Whyte and McGill. Brilliant stuff from the 1300 Stock Cars!!!
The National Hot Rods were back in action after a long absence for the sixth round of their World Championship Qualifying Series (the halfway point) and the battle at the top between Ian Donaldson and Robert McDonald would continue throughout the evening. It was also fantastic to see 2016 World Champion Adam Maxwell making the trip from Northern Ireland, as he had done last year, to make an appearance at the final meeting of the year. Donaldson held the lead as the even started but McDonald took full advantage of a non-finish for Donaldson as he claimed the win in heat one ahead of Maxwell and Roy Anderson. The second heat saw Maxwell take the win ahead of Donaldson with McDonald in third place which meant McDonald led the series but only by a couple of points. Disaster struck for Donaldson in the early stages of the feature final as his car pulled up on the infield on the back straight at the same time as McDonald was taking over the lead of the race. As the laps wound down, Maxwell had reduced the gap between himself and McDonald; but he had to settle for second with Ian McGuigan in third. McDonald will take a reasonable lead into the second half of the series in 2018 sponsored by Dechmont Forklift Trucks.
The Stock Rods also had the destiny of their Track Championship on the line with brothers Jonathan and Chris Lattka vying with one another for the title after both have picked up other major titles this season. Two drivers also made their debuts in the form of Kevin Forrester and former-Superstox racer Stuart Bannatyne. Heat One saw a relatively routine win for a fast-moving Alan Cuthbert who claimed victory ahead of Andy Grant and Chris Lattka. Heat Two saw another yellow top winner as Pete Thomson took the win on an all-too-rare appearance for the experienced 184 driver who will hopefully be seen more regularly in 2018 with heat one winner Cuthbert second and Jonathan Lattka in third. These results meant that Best in Britain and Scottish Champion Jonathan Lattka entered the feature final with a slender two-point lead over National Points, European and British Champion Chris Lattka. Ross Finlay led the early stages of the race but was overhauled by a train of cars including Andy Grant, Gary Dean and Darren McAlpine. As soon as Grant was clear of the pack, he set about extending his lead and drove a great race to take the win ahead of Alan Cuthbert and Gary Dean while Jonathan Lattka's fifth spot and brother Chris' non-points finish secured the Track Championship. 2017 has been a great year for the Stock Rods with more expected in 2018.
The Superstox events began with a special lap of honour as 2017 World Champion Barry Stephen made his first appearance at his home track since claiming the gold roof and was accompanied on his lap by his daughter, the gold roof car plus the car he won the race in which was now to be taken over by its owner Chris Hay. HRP Lochgelly raceway was also delighted to welcome English visitor Richard Mead and Lee Davison from Northern Ireland. Stephen's homecoming was met with great applause from the fans and this clearly motivated the World Champion as he managed to take the win in heat one after a fantastic race which also saw National Points Champion David Frame (3rd) and former World Champion Stuart Gilchrist (2nd) feature prominently. Heat Two was a Gilchrist masterclass as he stormed to the win ahead of Frame and a resurgent Kenny McKenzie. The feature final delivered a brilliant race which was fitting for a formula that has been in top form throughout the season with the bumpers being used to full effect throughout the pack while Paul Dunn sped off into the lead pursued by Zak Gilmour and Steven Ballantine. Eventually, Dunn was overhauled by Gilmour and Ballantine but all eyes were on Gilchrist who, despite a first lap skirmish with Davison, had surged through the field to third and he was looking for more as the laps wound down. Gilchrist passed Ballantine and then Gilmour in relatively short order, but both these drivers deserve immense credit for their efforts and were rewarded with podium places with Gilmour in second and Ballantine third behind the victorious Gilchrist to bring the curtain down on a fantastic season of Superstox racing.
The final formula on show were the Back to Basics Bangers which featured an eclectic mix of cars including a Corsa van, Nissan Bluebird, Ford Puma and Nissan Sunny among the decent entry. The nudge and spin heats saw victories for Robert Davidson and Michelle Murdoch before William Ewart took the chequered flag in the final dash. The end of the dash heralded the start of the demolition derby which saw some big hits from the likes of James Dillon and Lee Kopacz - with Kopacz notably running with just three wheels by this time and it was a thrilling end to the 2017 season as Kopacz and Campbell ended the DD with a huge hit and an honourable draw!!!
A fantastic conclusion to a brilliant racing season at HRP Lochgelly Raceway with many already looking forward to 2018!!!