Sunday 9th December saw the 3rd round of the Nemo Racing Winter Series held at the ever popular Stoke-Nitro track in the Midlands. With light rain in the morning stopping just as the sunlight came through for the first heats to head out onto the track was almost perfect timing. Once again the Nemo series and Stoke-Nitro had a near full attendance of just under 60 drivers for shortened winter race days in the UK.
It was also great to see a full heat of truggies and there definately seems to be an up turn in the class numbers in recent months, a great thing to see. Onto Qualifying and the buggy class was as close as ever all the way through the three rounds. Jon Howells whould control his RC8.2/RB the quickest to take pole closely followed by Graham Howards S-workz which was now Bullitt Powered, 3rd place would be taken by Kong Mckenzie and his smooth looking Nova powered Kyosho MP9 and 4th was grasped by another Bullitt powered S-workz in the hands of Glen Howard.
Rich Taylors Losi would line up 5th and Colin Brennan's X-ray in sixth and Mugen's Ash Owen in 7th with another Mugen of Dennis Holding in 8th. Again this goes to show what a great mix of buggy chassis and engines are available and competative with each other. Risa Racing would have three of their FTW shed buggies straight in the A-Main and all drivers going well at the meeting. Qualifying just outside of the top 10 would be two of the young drivers mentioned in our round 2 report as ones to watch. Lewis beach and his Bullitt/Agama would qualify 11th and Dominic Nunn would place his HPI powered Hotbodies D8 in 14th spot, great runs by these young racers.
Truggy Qualifying would be taken by Jon Howells and his Associated/RB combo and lining up behind Jon would Lloyd Pitt and his Associated/RB truck. 3rd place on the grid was a close run with John Taylor's Serpent, Risa/FTW's Jim Boulton's Mugen and Steve Price's Kyosho all in with a shout with it eventually going to John and his 'Green' bodied Serpent.
Starting off with the buggy finals first we had the 'D' final which would see a return to racing for Kevin Bourne with a new Hotbodies buggy powered by his trusty Reedy engine, great to see him back racing again and enjoying his day with a new buggy. Kevin would take the win in this final with his average lap almost 2seconds quicker than anyone else. Lee Ball would take his Bullitt powered buggy into 2nd place and secure the last bump up spot into the next final. Finishing third would be Duncan Neil and his JQ buggy. Another young talent is Pro-rc's Craig Meakin who really does deserve a mention. Craig is improving rapidly and led the final with his Fastrax powered RC8.2 until about third distance when an unlucky incdent damaged his buggy and what looked like a damaged shock held him back from progressing further on the day, Craig drove very well to limp his buggy home in 6th place after a number of pitstops.
'C' Final, what an entertaining race ! Risa/FTW's Jim Boulton would lead every lap and finish a comfortable winner, but behind him it was all happening, frantic racing, positions changing constantly on each lap, it was great to watch and even pit for. The battle for 2nd and 3rd place was between Ashley Jones who we will talk about next time a little, Mark Thornewill and Gareth Oldfield. In the second half of the final Ashley would have the last bump up spot until 2 laps from the end when his buggy failed to appear on the timing screen, not sure what happened but we will find out for next time. Ashley is another racer whom people need to watch out for and even caught the attention of Jon Howells. Mark Thornewill had 2nd place then and only the last lap did Gareth and his Mugen take the place and a move into the next final, Mark finished 3rd just under 2 seconds infront of Kevin's Hotbodies from the previous final, it is that close.
'B' final time and the last chance to make it into the A-Main. who will hold their nerve? Who will crack under pressure? Who will take it to the line? From the start the two youngsters would have very different first laps, Lewis Beach would take his Agama/Bullitt to an early lead on lap 1 where as Dominic Nunn would have his Hotbodies used as brake several times and complete lap one near the back with a lot of work to do in close,fast company. Jim Boulton would make a great get away after his bump up to get away with the leading bunch along with James Bullivant's X-ray and Dave Blakley's and Dave griffiths JQ buggies.
Constant action in this final made it more nail biting than watching Helen Flanagan doing Jungle trials for food! On lap 5 Dave Blakley took the lead from young Lewis and the pair looked comfortable but the chasing pack were swopping positions like bee's round a honey pot. On the final lap Lewis would re-take the lead to win at the flag from Dave's JQ. Dave Griffiths would bring home his JQ in a well driven 3rd place just under 5seconds in front of bump up Jim Boultons Mugen. Really great drives from all these drivers.
A-Main time, the top 10 had been waiting a while to get back on track and it had now changed a little with the traction going away as the sun had gone in, however no more rain had fell, but the temperature had! Off the line and Jon Howells would push his RB/Associated out to the front closely followed by the Agama/Bullitt combo of Lewis Beach who had driven a smart first lap to gain places. Kong was 3rd, Graham 4th, Ash up to 5th and Colin 6th but all in very close conatct with each other. lap 3 and Ash would retire with an electrical problem at the far end of the track and Kongs Kyosho and Graham's S-Workz would move up places together as Lewis moved back a couple of places. Graham would pass Kong on lap 4 but the two were wing to bumper everywhere and again a lesson for many to watch how to race closely and cleanly with each other without crashing.
Lap 9 would see Kong re-take 2nd spot from Graham and the two were at it like jack rabbits all over the track, fantastic racing to watch. Risa/FTW/Rc-Bits driver Dennis Holding had his Mugen just behind these two followed by Colin's X-ray. Lap 14 would see Jon Howells retire with electric issues from the lead which handed the fight for the lead to Kong and Graham. The next 8 laps would see both racers drive brilliantly, Graham would push Kong as hard as he could take it, but Kong was having none of it and drove a classy lead in the tricky conditions. A minor mistake would see Graham nip his S-Workz past Kong's Kyosho only for Kong to sit right behind him. Into the last lap and everyone was watching, we even had one racer pull over on the track to watch the last lap battle!
Graham held his Nerve for the win as Kong 'sang' his Nova to within 0.4 seconds over the line behind, or rather alongside Graham. Colin would take his X-ray to the final podium position just 1 secong infront of TLR's Rich Taylor. Such close racing again and its what we have come to see at this series and what the great track at Stoke-Nitro delivers. Another Epic race to report on which ended with applause from spectators and pit crews as the two drivers left the rostrum smiling and lauging shaking hands.
Truggy final was up next and Current UK National Campion Jon Howells would make amends for his buugy final with a convincing win with his RB/RC8T followed home by team mate Lloyd Pitt. Lloyd drove a great consistant race to take the runner up spot infront of the quickening Serpent/Bullitt combo of John Taylor. The front three held the same positions all race long, but any mistakes would have been costly by any of them, great driving to see on a track full of truggies. With a full heat of truggies and more coming in the new year it is great to see a little resurgence and more than likely to see two heats of them again.
With the choice of tyres being limited for astro racing in this class it was interesting to spy some new development rubber being tested. The tyre we spied photo'd (not sure if the driver knew!) had a tread pattern similar to the popular astro buggy tyre, similar to an angle spike or spiral, but slighter softer rubber and may be avaialble in different compounds when eventually realeased. The tyre showed little wear and looked to give great forward drive. we will keep our eyes peeled for the next round for sure !
Once again, we would like to thank Nemo Racing for supporting the Winter series, Stoke-Nitro for hosting the meeting and the hard work by the club that goes into putting meetings on in poor weather, race control for running a great meeting and finishing in daylight. Rc-Bits and Pro-rc for trackside support and of course all you racers who attend to make the meetings and series what it is, great racing and good fun, after all...........it's why we do it !
Report by Blakey.