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Formula One - 7 March 2018

Race Report

Coming out the other side of some unseasonable arctic weather on the south coast, we were a select bunch of just sixteen racers for the first round of our 2018 Formula One championship. A combination of exams, illness and traffic mayhem on the A27 meant a dozen or so WHO regulars were unable to join us at the Barn. Nonetheless, it was a memorable evening on a great track and we witnessed two dominant performances that delivered two first-time WHO medal winners.

A big thank you goes to the set-up crew for a rapid track build - helped greatly by Keith's new glasses! Mike joined us and supervised the finishing touches to the loop and flyover section of his take on the Oran Park Raceway in New South Wales. Although the layout looked quick on paper, in the flesh it was quite a challenge - certainly favouring the Mega-G+. It was the latest AFX chassis that dominated the grid with twelve out of the sixteen cars. Mike D and Andy Player were running older Mega-Gs, with Duncan and Andy Phillips battling it out for F1 Classic Cup points with their trusty Tycos.

After some big fields and busy evenings so far this year, it was a far more relaxed race night - just four groups of heats. On the track, things were pretty rapid. Both Mega-Gs struggled in their opening heats, Andy sitting fourth at half way and Mike D having to settle for sixth. Top the charts was Keith, two laps ahead of Deborah, who was just ahead of Terry and Andy. Jerome was top junior and rookie in an excellent eighth place.

The second round of heats really ramped up the pressure. Mike went in the first group - a huge 25.30 laps in yellow seeing him jump to fourth and an even more impressive 23.65 in the tricky blue lane putting him second. Next was Deborah, who absolutely smashed red and white to jump into pole position - a 24.8 and a 23.9 putting her two laps ahead of Mike. The third heat saw Andy wring two good scores out of his Mega-G, but he stayed in fourth, a lap behind Mike.

Now it was down to Keith, in the fourth and final group, to close out another pole position. A decent, but not sensational 22.8 laps in red really put him on the spot for his final run. He'd need something special in white to beat Deborah and 22.25 laps was nowhere near enough. It was a tense and tetchy two minutes and dropped Keith a third of a lap behind Mike D and very nearly into fourth behind Andy. However, although he missed out on pole, Keith was safely in the A final.


We had five full finals tonight, with the E final the scene of the F1 Classic Cup showdown. Duncan - last year's undefeated champion - had out-qualified Andy Phillips and picked the favoured red lane. Andy was left with the unfancied white lane. However, when Duncan took the lead from the start, Andy was his closest challenger. A small gap at 30 seconds had stretched to just over a lap at half way, with Peter finding some rhythm and challenging Andy for second. That change came with 40 seconds left on the clock and Peter set about chasing down the leading car. Duncan just about managed to hang on and his rapid Tyco came in a lap and half up on Peter. The second half of Andy's race was nowhere near as good as the first, but he still came home half a lap ahead of Corey.

Duncan stepped up into blue lane in the D final and was up against Mike McCann's Mega-G+ and two club cars in the hands of Matthew and Ash. It was a very close opening phase to the race, with Ash and Duncan swapping the lead between them. At half way, Matthew had come back into the frame, taking second from Ash and closing in on Duncan's Tyco. That was short-lived as Matthew's yellow club car almost immediately crashed down to fourth. It was Ash's turn to take the lead with 40 seconds to go - followed by Mike, Duncan and Matthew.

What had been a very close and tidy race suddenly turned into utter mayhem as we moved into the final 30 seconds. Three of the cars came together in the tight loop section and, crucially, Ash managed to slip through. The other three seemed to spend an age off the track and, when things settled down, the order was the same, but Ash had a two lap lead over the bunch. And that's how it ended.

Simon had chosen blue in the C final, which meant Ash moved up to white. The only all-Mega-G+ final saw Neil in red and Jerome having qualified top and taking yellow. It was Jerome that took the early lead and set a blistering pace, Neil hanging on in there and Simon and Ash struggling to keep up. Jerome and Neil were lapping within inches of each other, the gap through the line never more than a few hundredths of a second.

With ten second to go and still less than a foot apart, it was time for Neil to make a move for the win. Going into the loop section and lining up for the fly-over, Neil pushed just a little too hard and was off - the first time either of the front two had made an error. Jerome just had to keep his cool for another lap and he took the win half a lap ahead of Neil. Simon had driven an exceedingly good race in blue to finish a further lap and a half back.

After securing his first junior medal as well as the top rookie honours, Jerome stepped up to blue lane in his first ever B final. Andy powered off into the lead, followed closely by Terry. Daniel crashed on the first lap and Jerome settled into a steady rhythm. That's pretty much the story of the first half of the race. Terry was gradually chipping away at Andy's lead and, with around forty-five seconds to go, Andy came off going into the loop. Although it seemed a fairly innocuous crash, Andy's Mega-G wouldn't restart and that was the end of his race - a popped armature bushing.

By chasing down Andy, Terry had a very comfortable four lap lead over Jerome, who was another four laps ahead of Daniel. As the chequered flag fell, that gave our 2017 WHO rookie of the year his first ever A final appearance - an important milestone for any racer. Behind Terry, Jerome finished a magnificent fifth place overall - his best WHO performance by far.

That just left us the small matter of the A final. As the lights went green, Keith's car failed to leave the line. A quick push from the cameraman had him on his way, trying to chase down the other three. Deborah had the lead and Mike was having to push really hard round the quick sections to make up time lost through the slower bits. Mike had two early offs, which put him back in last place. After thirty seconds, Deborah was three seconds ahead of a rapidly recovering Keith.

Deborah didn't have the quickest car, but she was driving better that her rivals. The only thing holding her up was getting involved in other people's accidents. Fast and efficient marshalling saw her on her way again without too much drama. Mike got into a groove and was eating up the gaps to his Mega-G+ rivals, errors creeping into both Keith and Terry's races. As the clock ran down, Mike had Deborah's car in his sights and just enough time to seal the win. But he needed to get a move on.

Getting on the power just a millisecond too soon coming out of the final corner, Mike's Mega-G crashed spectacularly down the main straight. He was quickly back in the race, but another crash soon after put the race beyond his reach. Deborah was a picture of concentration, bring her car home safely just half a lap ahead of second-place Mike. Keith was exactly two laps behind our winner in third. That A final was a great one to watch.

It was a night of excellent performances through the field, with Terry and Jerome really standing out - as did another great run by Duncan, his Tyco valiantly taking the fight to the dominant  Mega-G+ cars. But there's no doubt who was the star of the show...

Deborah became the first woman to win a WHO A final in eight years. No-one could match her in those second two heats and she was the best all-round driver in the A final. The question now is not just whether Deborah can win more races, but can she convert that momentum into a first WHO championship?

A big thank you goes out to all sixteen racers for making it a very enjoyable evening at the Barn. We even had time for an extended testing session, before we packed away and were on the road by ten o'clock. Of course we missed all those who weren't able to join us and hope the various heath, study and traffic issues don't get in the way of you racing next time at the Barn.

- Andy P



Race Results

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