MUR­RAY SPRINGS A SUR­PRISE S

North­ern Ir­ish­man tops the reg­u­lars at Fox­hall Heath. By Gra­ham Brown

Motor Sport News - - Thunder 500 - RE­SULTS Na­tional Hot Rod Thun­der 500 When: June 18 Where: Fox­hall Heath, Ip­swich Starters: 24 Photos: mkpics.net

hane Mur­ray pro­duced some­thing of a shock win in the tra­di­tional World Fi­nal warm-up event, the Mo­tor­sport News Thun­der 500.

The Ul­ster­man took a heat and fi­nal dou­ble which helped him to lift the ti­tle for the first time.

He was kept ex­tremely hon­est by Billy Wood, who bat­tled hard with the even­tual win­ner through­out the 40 laps. English and Euro­pean cham­pion Carl Waller-bar­rett even­tu­ally claimed the other podium after Brett Wal­ter been handed a penalty after the fin­ish.

The meet­ing at­tracted the usual cos­mopoli­tan en­try as­so­ci­ated with the event. Com­pris­ing cars from all over the UK re­gions and the con­ti­nent too, they in­cluded a num­ber of driv­ers who haven’t qual­i­fied for the up­com­ing World Fi­nal in any case and for­mer 2.0 Hot Rod world cham­pion Mur­ray was per­haps the most no­table of those in­ter­lop­ers.

With the rain that struck Fri­day’s press and test day gone, the grid took up their drawn-for grid po­si­tions on a bone dry track for the open­ing heat.

They’d barely come un­der starters or­ders be­fore a mis­un­der­stand­ing about whose bit of track was whose meant Kym Weaver slammed into the bar­ri­ers dur­ing the in­stal­la­tion laps. This was dou­bly un­for­tu­nate as Weaver must have been fan­cy­ing his chances from the in­side sec­ond row.

In­stead it was pole man Ste­wart Doak who grabbed the lead with Ja­son Kew dart­ing past Jaimie Mccurdy to go sec­ond. Wood fol­lowed him through as Mccurdy was forced back­wards.

The bat­tle for the lead con­tin­ued with Doak un­der pres­sure from Kew, Wood, Dick Hil­lard and Mccurdy. The van­guard swelled to eight cars with the ar­rival of Brett Wal­ter – look­ing par­tic­u­larly sharp with re­peated swoops up the out­side line – Shane Bland and Keith Martin, the lat­ter hav­ing a run in the ex-john Christie car.

Wal­ter’s un­prece­dented show of pace had car­ried him all the way up to third when Kew fi­nally made his own move onto Doak’s out­side. That put the first four cars into two pairs in side-by-side mode as they took the five lap board. Kew claimed the lead as they ex­ited turn two and Doak was rel­e­gated to fourth as Wal­ter and Wood got through in the en­su­ing scram­ble as well.

Wal­ter was clearly still up for a go at Kew’s lead too but they’d run out of laps by this point. And, although Wal­ter had raised a few eye­brows, many had also no­ticed Mur­ray’s speedy climb through the pack from the back of the grid to sev­enth place.

Heat two was slightly less dra­matic, with the re­versed grid putting Mur­ray al­most at the front and look­ing a likely win­ner.

He was ac­tu­ally beaten away by Aaron Dew but Mur­ray soon forged through on Dew’s in­side at turn three when the leader let him see an inch or so too much day­light.

After that Mur­ray just got fur­ther in front and in fact the only in­ter­rup­tion to the leader’s run was a cau­tion pe­riod thrown after a cou­ple of cars spun to a stop on turn three.

Wal­ter’s fifth spot in that sec­ond heat en­abled him to beat Mur­ray’s ag­gre­gate per­for­mance and an­nex pole for the fi­nal. But with the Ul­ster­man right along­side and row two oc­cu­pied by WallerBar­rett and Wood, there weren’t go­ing to be any easy wins on of­fer here.

Wal­ter clearly knew just how much of a threat Mur­ray rep­re­sented – par­tic­u­larly from the out­side front row, which has been giv­ing bet­ter starts at Ip­swich for a while now – and edged his ri­val so wide at the green that he al­most al­lowed Waller-bar­ret past the pair of them into the first turn.

The ma­noeu­vre forced Mur­ray back to fourth as CW-B and Wood both went by him but had con­se­quences for Wal­ter, who got pe­nalised out of a podium spot at the fin­ish.

In the mean­time though, Wal­ter had the lead, al­beit with Wood and Mur­ray hard on his heels. WallerBar­rett had briefly passed by Colin Smith be­fore Smith’s car cried enough and he was out.

Wood’s per­sis­tence in look­ing for a way down the leader’s in­side was even­tu­ally re­warded leav­ing turn two, Mur­ray ea­gerly fol­low­ing Wood through and wast­ing no time go­ing for a pass of his own on the out­side. When that didn’t work, he tried a cut-back leav­ing turn four in­stead that nearly did, the dice al­low­ing Wal­ter and Waller-bar­rett back into con­tention too.

There fol­lowed a bout of tight side-by-side rac­ing with Mur­ray inch­ing ahead of Wood on the straights only to have him fight back again in the turns.

Even when what looked like the in­evitable came to pass and Mur­ray fi­nally got ahead, it still wasn’t over, with Wood stick­ing to him like glue and thorny groups of back­mark­ers pro­vid­ing ev­ery chance for a last-minute up­set.

The leader did man­age to eke out an ad­van­tage of a few feet go­ing into the last two laps to take a wel­learned vic­tory over Wood and Wal­ter, although Wal­ter’s two-place penalty would el­e­vate WallerBar­rett to third and Shane Bland to fourth place.

Wood (l), Mur­ray (c) and Waller-bar­rett (r) Hot Rods per­formed to a packed house

Mur­ray was on form all night

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