Race Report – Protech Shocks Sport Specials Championship, 2016, 01 – Oulton Park
7th April 2016
The opening rounds of the 2016 Sport Specials Championship were thrilling affairs upfront, yet the return to Oulton Park in wet conditions also made for close competition all the way down the grid. It was the Mk2 Cyana of Rob Johnston that stormed to pole position in qualifying with more than two seconds in hand from second place starter Clive Hudson (Eclipse SM1). With John Moore (FRS Arrow 2) and Matthew Booth (MK Indy RR) behind and the Procomp LA Golds of Adrian Cooper and Stephen Lansley on row three, the first of the 2016 kit car-derived grids was as eclectic as ever.
At the lights extinguished, Hudson’s opening lap was the most successful; leading a pack that comprised Cooper and Moore ahead of Johnston, but it wasn’t a line-up to last. After duly dispatching Cooper and Moore within one lap, Johnston found himself ready to start hassling the Eclipse upfront. There he remained, kicking off his many approaches for the lead with a look down the inside at Old Hall.
Behind, Moore was initially in a close fight for fourth place with Booth, which became a battle for third once the pair overtook Cooper on lap four. In the MX150R category, there was a fight going on for class honours, with the cars of Stewart Mutch and Darren Griffin inseparable for the vast majority of the season’s first race. Mutch eventually made it past Griffin on lap five and stayed there until the flag, albeit with a scant margin.
By lap six Hudson had managed to pull a small gap from his rival upfront, with only some slithering through traffic looking like it could upset the Eclipse. Johnston was never far away though, and with what appeared to be a better exit from Cascades each lap, all he needed was some inconsistency from Hudson to reel him back in. That opportunity arose at Knickerbrook on the final lap, where Hudson appeared to take a little more kerb than usual and lose valuable tenths on the exit.
By the time the pair had reached Lodge, they were side by side for the lead, continuing on the run through Deer Leap and up towards the flag. With just 0.09secs spare, it was Hudson who nosed across the line first ahead of Johnston, with Moore taking the remaining podium place as well as Class A victory. Matthew Booth finished fourth overall and third in Class C after a consistent outing in his MK Indy RR. Class B honours went the way of Martin Buckland (STM Phoenix), with Mark Hextall (Westfield SE) second and Alan Robinson (Sylva Phoenix) third.
The second Sport Specials outing was an equally exciting affair, this time with Johnston on pole alongside Moore, with Hudson and Cooper looking on from the row behind. A poor start for Johnston meant that it was the svelte Eclipse of Hudson that came out of Old Hall first and led the field down Cascades, followed by Moore then Cooper and Johnston.
By the end of the opening lap Hudson had pulled a healthy lead from Cooper, but Johnston was just behind with Moore in his mirrors. The pair were followed by Booth from Landon and by lap three Johnston had dispatched Cooper to close back in on Hudson.
The action remained close up and down the field as the race progressed, with the trio comprising Bridgette Smart (Sylva Phoenix), Dave Roberts (Cyana MX500R) and Alan Robinson (Sylva Phoenix) embroiled in a mightily close battle across laps three and four. This gradually dissipated and ended with a spin for Roberts through Deers Leap next time around; the same lap in which Martin Buckland was forced to retire.
Upfront, Booth passed Landon with a great move on the eighth lap, and as the last lap board went out, Johnston had narrowed Hudson’s three second lead right down to less than 0.5 seconds. The Cyana driver not only had his sights set on victory coming out of Lodge on the final lap, but also the momentum to be in with a chance of taking it. As the pair dropped through Deer’s Leap it was neck and neck, with the finishing line not quite coming soon enough for Hudson whose exit from Lodge wasn’t as tractable as Johnston’s.
At the flag it was Johnston who took the win by a fractional margin from Hudson, reversing their race one fortunes and providing a thrilling conclusion as well as a welcome return to the top step of the podium for Johnston. Cooper placed third in his Procomp, with Booth, Collingwood and Landon completing the top six.
You can find the full results and a photo gallery from Oulton Park on the 750 Motor Club website at the links below:
Track Days / Test Days / MotorsportDays.com