SPARKS FLY IN WORLD FI­NAL

North­ern Ir­ish­man fends off the reign­ing champ – just. By Gra­ham Brown

Motor Sport News - - News - RE­SULTS World Hot Rod Fi­nal When: July 3 Where: Fox­hall Heath, Ip­swich Starters: 34 Pho­tos: mkpics.net

dam Maxwell took a pop­u­lar maiden win in the Na­tional Hot Rod world cham­pi­onship af­ter a close fight with de­fend­ing champ Shane Mur­phy.

Their duel ended in con­tro­versy as a clash be­tween the pair left Mur­phy in the wall, but the stew­ards had no hes­i­ta­tion con­firm­ing Maxwell as the win­ner af­ter de­ter­min­ing he had no case to an­swer.

South­ern Ir­ish­man David Casey claimed sec­ond ahead of English points cham­pion Carl Waller-bar­rett, while Danny Fiske’s drive through to fourth from grid po­si­tion 25 was one of the high­lights of the race.

Although fan­cied to do well by many prior to the event, Maxwell’s dream re­sult had be­gun to look more likely af­ter Satur­day’s hot laps. It seemed for a long time as if reign­ing champ Mur­phy might have an­nexed pole with a 14.67s lap. But Maxwell’s sec­ond lap time of 14.66s would have been enough to beat it, while a third tour 0.09s quicker set the seal on it. Maxwell was in fact the penul­ti­mate driver to qual­ify while Mur­phy’s draw had forced him to go fifth and run on the still rel­a­tively green and un­rub­bered track.

In­deed the three quick­est times all came from the last 10 driv­ers, Maxwell’s rival in the NI points cham­pi­onship, Derek Martin, claim­ing the out­side front row with a 14.62s, while two-time win­ner Chris Haird got grid po­si­tion three with his 14.66s.

While much of Satur­day’s rac­ing was dogged by heavy show­ers and not all fore­cast­ers were pre­dict­ing a dry world fi­nal race on the Sun­day, in fact the day dawned with clear blue skies and hot sun­shine beat­ing on the track.

Dur­ing the typ­i­cally fran­tic open­ing gam­bits, Martin got the best launch from his out­side berth. He man­aged to stay along­side Maxwell through turn one, along the back straight and, with his car al­most but not quite ahead of Maxwell’s, he tried to cut down to the in­side line en­ter­ing turn three. Not sur­pris­ingly, Maxwell was hav­ing none of it and the pair col­lided go­ing into the bend, Martin some­how saved the spin and manag­ing to stay in sec­ond.

But the other aces were queue­ing up to pounce. Mur­phy edged ahead of Martin at turn one and Haird fol­lowed suit just be­fore the yel­low flags were waved on lap four for a multi-car fra­cas all over turns one and two.

By the time hos­til­i­ties re­sumed, Martin was down to fifth, hav­ing lost an­other spot to Casey.

And the Bri­tish champ Casey was clearly on the move too, as he darted un­der Haird com­ing off turn two. To be fair, Haird did not ap­pear to re­sist the pass very stren­u­ously and when he stepped aside for Martin as well a lap later, it was ob­vi­ous the dou­ble champ was in trou­ble. In fact, a grad­u­ally seiz­ing mo­tor would even­tu­ally lead to his re­tire­ment on lap 43.

But with Casey al­ready quite a long way adrift, it was be­com­ing clear that this was prob­a­bly just go­ing to come down to Maxwell v Mur­phy; young pre­tender versus the reign­ing monarch.

For many laps the pair cir­cu­lated to­gether, with Mur­phy just sit­ting back and wait­ing for his chance. And when Maxwell fi­nally started to en­counter the re­ally sticky traf­fic, Mur­phy sud­denly closed up those cou­ple of yards and be­gan nib­bling at the leader’s bumper.

As Martin called it a day al­most un­no­ticed, Mur­phy piled on the pres­sure.

Maxwell con­tin­ued to ne­go­ti­ate the back­mark­ers neatly and safely, but a mo­ment’s hes­i­ta­tion was all it took for Mur­phy to dive for the open­ing in­side line.

He was along­side down the back straight and ahead as they closed fast with an­other lapped car. As Mur­phy tried to cut back to the out­side to pass him, he found Maxwell al­ready started on the boxing in ma­noeu­vre, the re­sult­ing im­pact turn­ing the gold-roofed Ti­gra straight into the wall.

That was game over right there. From that point on, Maxwell just had to keep up a rea­son­ably steady pace while count­ing down the laps and pray­ing that the car kept go­ing…it did.

Casey was too far back to mount any kind of challenge (and now fast run­ning out of laps in which to do so any­way) with Waller-bar­rett a fur­ther quar­ter of a lap down.

Those who’d been able to tear their eyes from the lead­ers had been treated to a su­perb climb up the field by Fiske, the son of the 1975 cham­pion Derek.

Near­ing the fin­ish he fi­nally caught the dice for fifth through to eighth place and bat­tled his way to the front of that too to even­tu­ally claim a thor­oughly de­served fourth po­si­tion.

By then there were only eight cars left on the lead lap as Maxwell headed for home, the pop­u­lar North­ern Ir­ish­man tak­ing the flag be­fore per­form­ing the cus­tom­ary dough­nuts and then head­ing for the win­ner’s cir­cle, where the right-rear tyre went down. That was be­fore the cham­pagne was even un­corked.

Richard Petty once said that if he could be lucky or good, he’d rather be lucky.

On this day Adam Maxwell was cer­tainly both. ■

Mur­phy side­ways, Maxwell pow­ers through Maxwell was un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure

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