REPORT: CHAOTIC BEST IN BRITAIN HOT RODS FROM WIMBLEDON
Gavin Murray rose from fifth over the line to eventual winner of a typically controversial Best in Britain event after a raft of penalties were imposed across all the other leading drivers.
With the event being the last ever Best in Britain likely to be held at the seemingly doomed South London venue, emotions were already running high in any case.
That the race came on the day which had seen the death of Hot Rod legend and first ever Best in Britain winner, Mick Collard ( see left), simply piled poignancy on top of sadness.
With the field sensibly split up for three heats, 16 cars took to the track for the opening race.
Shane Bland got away first and seemed set to leave the rest in his wake. That reckoned without Rob Mcdonald however. The Scot quickly made his way past Stuart Mclaird to chase down the leader.
Passing half distance, Mcdonald appeared poised to launch his attack but that faded away, along with his handling, to allow Bland an unopposed victory. Mcdonald got disqualified in any case for a first-lap altercation with Paul Gomm, elevating Murray to second place.
Lee Pepper was first to break in heat two but soon lost out to a charging Billy Wood. Wood extended his lead for the rest of the way with Pepper keeping him in sight but eventually giving best to Layton Milsom for second.
Heat three featured a similar runaway win for Steve Dudman. Once he’d shrugged off Colin Hitch, Dudman was always just increasing the gap between himself and the rest.
‘The rest’ were putting on an entertaining display though, with Jaimie Mccurdy, Jason Kew, Adam Maxwell and Kym Weaver conducting a lively places scrap for most of the race. Mccurdy got home second but picked up a contact penalty, handing the position to Kew and elevating the world champion Maxwell to third.
With 21 cars still fit for the final, a hard-fought race was always in prospect and it didn’t disappoint.
With Wood on pole and Kew to his outside they looked likely to be vying for the lead into turn one. But that reckoned without a demon start by Maxwell from row two, which almost helped him squirm his way to the front entering the first corner. He didn’t quite make it and was forced to drop back to fifth, but this was just the start of the action.
Wood led with Kew and Bland disputing second until Kew got away from Bland and attacked Wood’s lead, the two clashing as they exited turn three. This slowed them up and allowed Bland to rush in, the trio running the back straight three-wide before Wood went spinning at the other end of the track.
Bland got through to lead beyond the mid-point with Kew and Maxwell still very much in it.
Kew was mounting another lead challenge just as they were interrupted by yellow flags, thrown after Wood and Terry Hunn clashed, Hunn spinning into the fence and Wood getting black flagged for putting him there.
By this point, seven of the first eight cars had attracted black crosses (which means their conduct would be investigated after the race), so it was already looking like the result might well be decided in the stewards’ box after the race.
Leader Bland pressed on with defending champ Kew keeping Maxwell at bay all the way to the flag.
But it was to be fifth-placed man Gavin Murray – the only frontrunner without a black cross – who eventually collected the spoils.
The sixth-placed car home, the Ginetta of Bradley Dynes, inherited second while Bland suffered the displeasure of the stewards, along with Kew, Maxwell and Mcdonald, who were all pushed down the order.
However, after a raft of appeals, the results remain provisional until all cases have been examined. Result Heat one: 1 Shane Bland (Vauxhall Tigra); 2 Gavin Murray (Vauxhall Tigra); 3 Billy Wood (Vauxhall Tigra); 4 Jason Kew (Vauxhall Tigra); 5 Stuart Mclaird (Vauxhall Tigra); 6 Chris Lehec (Vauxhall Tigra); 7 Jaimie Mccurdy (Vauxhall Tigra); 8 Layton Milsom (Vauxhall Tigra). Heat two: 1 Wood; 2 Milsom; 3 Lee Pepper (Peugeot 206cc); 4 Lehec; 5 Adam Maxwell (Vauxhall Tigra); 6 Bradley Dynes (Ginetta G40R); 7 Paul Gomm (Vauxhall Tigra); 8 Dick Hillard (Vauxhall Tigra). Heat
three: 1 Steve Dudman (Vauxhall Tigra); 2 Kew; 3 Maxwell; 4 Mccurdy; 5 Kym Weaver (Vauxhall Tigra); 6 Bland; 7 Rob Mcdonald (Vauxhall Tigra); 8 Terry Hunn (Mazda RX-8). Final: 1 Murray; 2 Dynes; 3 Bland; 4 Kew; 5 Maxwell; 6 Mcdonald; 7 Mccurdy; 8 Milsom; 9 Pepper; 10 Mclaird.