Orlowski keeps his title hopes alive
Michal Orlowski fends off Neil Cragg’s title ambition till round 5
The Stotfold Model Car Club was the host for round 4 of the 2022 BRCA 1/10th Off-road National Championships on the weekend of July 16th and 17th. The circuit is located about an hour north of London in rolling farmland just outside the village of Hinxworth. The track has been in situ since 1983 and the club in its current configuration has been running primarily 1/10th off-road since a revamp in 1997. The club hold racing on a weekly basis during the summer and all that regular racing has allowed some very fast local racers to develop their skills to the top level. We arrived at the event knowing that Neil Cragg had secured enough points so far that another win in 2wd would secure him the series title – so pressure is on the remaining top drivers to defend. The task at hand for all drivers was made even more challenging considering the heat wave which was passing over the UK with predicted temperatures on Sunday of 34 degrees C.
It was a glorious Saturday morning as drivers arrived at the track and started their preparation for practice and qualifying. You know it’s going to be hot and sunny when you see factor 50 SPF being applied at 7am! The mercury already showing 20 degrees. As two rounds of practice got underway, and it was clear to see that the track had lots of hidden bumps which were camouflaged and could unexpectedly throw the car off the track if a driver pushed too hard.
2022 BRCA 1/10th Offroad National Championships
Round 4 – Stotfold – 16/17 July 2022
The club had laid a track with many of the complex sections in areas far away from the drivers stand, which added to the overall difficulty of the circuit. The track doesn’t really have jumps in the traditional sense, and instead they have several shallow tabletops which can be used in various sequential combinations to dial in or out difficulty. 21 second laps seemed to be where you needed to be for a sharp end result and local men Alex Carter & Joe Howson were there with Neil Cragg, Lee Martin, Dom Nunn and Paul Crompton. The bulk of the midfield achieving 23 seconds laps.
2wd qualifying was close, with Neil Cragg, Joe Howson and Michal Orlowski taking rounds 1, 2, and 3 respectively. The track’s pace was fluctuating as the temperatures rose, and then a breeze would introduce itself cooling the track again, before subsiding and allowing direct sunshine to raise the temperature again. The pace of the track didn’t seem consistent for the men at the sharp end – some went faster in the cooler conditions, some went slower. Separately to the weather conditions, the track was biting back as well. None of the top drivers were having clean runs by the end of round 3. It is quite a spectacle to see so many of Europe’s best become so frustrated as their cars leave the circuit due to very little fault of their own. Hidden bumps and pushing the limits of stability being the main culprit.
Michal Orlowski put in a fast run during heat 9 of round 4, with only one mistake, to provisionally sit into pole for the A Finals. But his main challengers – Neil Cragg & Joe Howson – were unable to respond granting the Polish visitor the top spot after qualifying. The pace of the local talent is very evident with three drivers in the A Final.
2wd Top 10 after qualifying:
|1||Michal Orlowski||14/ 310.09||0 [(3) (3) 0 0]|
|2||Joseph Howson||14/ 310.45||2 [2 0 (7) (14)]|
|3||Neil Cragg||14/ 313.02||2 [0 2 (2) (6)]|
|4||Lee Martin||14/ 316.10||6 [4 (6) (4) 2]|
|5||Kit Jones||14/ 316.08||6 [(7) (5) 3 3]|
|6||Charlie Ware||14/ 317.10||10 [(6) (23) 6 4]|
|7||Jamie Hall||14/ 317.57||13 [(16) 8 (10) 5]|
|8||Paul Crompton||14/ 317.04||14 [(9) (10) 5 9]|
|9||Luke Holdsworth||14/ 317.74||14 [5 9 (31) (29)]|
|10||Tommy Hall||14/ 318.05||15 [(11) 7 (8) 8]|
The finals commenced in boiling conditions. The sunshine beating down on the drivers with temperatures now elevated to 30 degrees Celsius. Many of the drivers and mechanics were uncomfortable in the knowledge that temperature wise, Saturday was very much just the warm-up for Sunday.
2wd A Final Leg 1 started on a furious pace with second spot man Joe Howson tucking in behind pole sitter Michal Orlowski straight away. Orlowski able to take the finger jump at the top left-hand side of the track just a little bit tighter than Howson, relieving any initial pressure as a small gap between the two grew. Over the remainder of lap one, Howson’s car was visibly more settled and faster and coming onto the straight for the first time, he had Orlowski back under pressure. Neil Cragg after initially being gapped by the lead two was now closing the gap. For the following two laps, Orlowski kept Howson at bay as Cragg rolled up on his gearbox. In response, Howson moved from attacker to defender which allowed Orlowski to separate himself slightly at the front. With two minutes down, Orlowski still led with a battle raging between Howson and Cragg behind. Howson’s car looked by far the best, but he was having trouble on every lap with the fingers jump in the top left of the circuit. On every lap, Orlowski and Cragg were just a little bit better through that section.
Everything would change at the mid-point of the race. Firstly, Howson oversteered at the hairpin before the centre tabletop which let Cragg through into second. Then a lap later, Michal Orlowski turned in too early in the middle of the circuit on a fast right-hander, catching the track marking which forced him up onto two wheels and over into a barrel roll. The marshal attended to his car very quickly, but Cragg and Howson were through. Cragg led with Howson just behind and Orlowski in third before a landing off the circuit for Howson gave Cragg a break and a chance to push with no pressure on. Howson made a valiant effort to close the gap before another mistake in the same place saw him drop to fifth – the new running order Cragg, Orlowski, Martin, Jones, Howson. And apart from Howson and Jones swapping positions, that is how the race would end several laps later. Cragg’s Leg 1 win would mean that he only needed one more to secure the 2wd series.
2wd A Final Leg 2 started in the same was as Leg 1 – in furious style. Orlowski away from pole position again was pushed straight away by Howson and Cragg. Howson looking for a gap on their way into the hairpin before the banked corner was denied by Orlowski and then Howson’s second attempt through the tabletops before the straight ended in disaster when he suffered a bad landing followed by a barrel roll – dropping him down the field before lap one was complete. Cragg taking up second with Lee Martin in a close third. Orlowski had about a one-second lead and over the next two laps, Cragg would reel that in till they were nose to tail. Martin a further second behind. By the midpoint there was very little change. Cragg running close to the back of Orlowski, but not close enough to execute a pass as Orlowski controlled the pace and shut every door firmly. Over the last two laps you could see Neil Cragg trying out different lines and different routes through the jumps in an attempt to set up a passing opportunity. He very nearly unsettled Orlowski and at one point got up beside him, but he couldn’t make it stick. A last lunge before coming onto the finish straight also didn’t pay off and Orlowski took the win by just 0.03 seconds. The contest was going to leg 3.
All eyes were on the start of 2wd A Final Leg 3. Could Neil take the title? Could Orlowski take it to a level points in Round 5 of the series or even a win in Round 6?…. pressure was on! The race got away without incident. Howson had a couple of small bobbles on the first lap to allow Orlowski build a gap and Cragg, Martin and Jones bunched up behind him. On the third lap Orlowski’s advantage evaporated when he had a bad landing off the middle tabletop and pirouetted on his ‘D’ hanger to luckily end up on the line facing the correct way when eventually all four wheels made it back to ground. The twirl which only took a split second felt like 30 seconds as the movement of the car was so slow. The first five cars – Orlowski, Howson, Cragg, Martin & Jones – now breaking away. The five cars ran in that order and in close succession till Orlowski started to break away again. Out of view, Cragg got past Howson just before the race mid-point, and he put the hammer down cutting big chunks off Orlowski’s lead going into the second half of the race. For the proceeding 3 or 4 laps, Orlowski and Cragg ran very closely – every bobble and bounce counting if a passing opportunity was to become a reality. Cragg’s car had a bit more pace, especially on corner exit, but not enough to get by Orlowski. At the four-minute mark, the race had developed into a very high-speed game of cat & mouse – there was nothing between them. Cragg searching for an advantage carried just a little too much speed into the hairpin before the banked corned and oversteered into the apex requiring the marshal’s assistance to free the car – this allowed Lee Martin through to second. With only a lap to go, there were no more opportunities available – final order; Orlowski, Martin, Cragg.
The win in Leg 2 and Leg 3 hands the overall 2wd victory to Michal Orlowski. This opens up the championship a little bit, with Orlowski requiring another TQ and win at Torch to keep Cragg’s title claim at bay. The next round of the series is at TORCH near Southampton and the flat Astro track will be a great leveller for the field.
Overall 2wd results:
|1||1||Michal Orlowski||2 [ 2 1 1 – 14/ 315.03 ]||22.50|
|2||3||Neil Cragg||3 [ 1 2 3 – 14/ 316.09 ]||22.58|
|3||4||Lee Martin||5 [ 3 4 2 – 14/ 316.69 ]||22.62|
|4||5||Kit Jones||8 [ 5 3 5 – 14/ 319.53 ]||22.82|
|5||2||Joseph Howson||8 [ 4 5 4 – 14/ 319.50 ]||22.82|
|6||6||Charlie Ware||13 [ 6 7 8 – 13/ 303.67 ]||23.36|
|7||7||Jamie Hall||14 [ 8 6 10 – 13/ 302.82 ]||23.29|
|8||10||Tommy Hall||15 [ 9 9 6 – 13/ 302.02 ]||23.23|
|9||9||Luke Holdsworth||15 [ 10 8 7 – 13/ 304.08 ]||23.39|
|10||8||Paul Crompton||16 [ 7 10 9 – 13/ 306.80 ]||23.60|
There were a couple of regulars missing from Stotfold – James Halliwell, Chris James and commentator Mark Musgrove just to name a few. James joined us for 4wd only this time, and we are looking forward to seeing Chris and Muz trackside for Round 5 in Torch.
After a well-deserved night of rest, the drivers returned to the track at the crack of dawn on Sunday. It was 24 degrees at 7am trackside and the usual dampness or need for a jacket first thing was not the case this time. There had been several late cancellations for the 4wd section of the meeting and only 9 heats progressed into practice instead of the usual 12. The track is a more interesting layout for 4wd. There is a triple tabletop section after the banked corner which will take precision and pace – a tricky combo. In practice, Orlowski and Cragg were visibly quicker on track, although actual fastest laps in practice went to Tommy Hall and Matt Thomson. Hall, the recently crowned European 2wd Champion, has the smoothness to do well here as long as he is not unsettled by one-lap wonders from behind.
In 4wd qualifying it was “same again” as clean runs were more important than outright fastest runs. Very few of the drivers having a clean run with bad bounces and bobbles the order of the day. The first driver to show outstanding pace was Paul Crompton in heat 8. Crompton’s car looked excellent, but at the same time, his 102% driving style would not work here, and he was continually hampered with bobbles and bounces. Crompton with obvious front row potential only managing 6th on the grid. Ben Smith finished up 4wd qualifying just behind Tommy Hall – both drivers on only 4 points which is quite low for 4th and 5th as both drivers had double 2nd in round – it was tight at the top! A back in form Lee Martin and Neil Cragg claimed a TQ each to secure 2nd and 3rd on the grid, but yet again, Pole Position went to Michal Orlowski who took round 1 and round 4.
2022 BRCA 1/10th Offroad National Championships
Round 4 – Stotfold – 16/17 July 2022
4wd Top 10 after qualifying:
|1||Michal Orlowski||14/ 310.42||0 [0 (11) (4) 0]|
|2||Lee Martin||14/ 313.31||3 [(8) 3 0 (5)]|
|3||Neil Cragg||14/ 316.24||3 [(6) 0 3 (16)]|
|4||Tommy Hall||14/ 314.69||4 [2 (4) 2 (11)]|
|5||Ben Smith||14/ 319.75||4 [(3) 2 (77) 2]|
|6||Paul Crompton||14/ 320.02||7 [4 (7) (38) 3]|
|7||Ben Pugh||14/ 322.23||10 [(10) 6 (7) 4]|
|8||Tyler Liddle||14/ 323.39||12 [(78) (10) 5 7]|
|9||Richard Barton||14/ 323.55||12 [(26) (34) 6 6]|
|10||Lloyd Storey||14/ 323.05||13 [5 8 (16) (20)]|
4wd A Final Leg 1 got underway just as temperatures peaked at 32 degrees C – a very hot day for the UK. Orlowski led the field away and all cars looked settled and performing well, especially Lee Martin’s. Orlowski initially made a small break, but a bounce off the hose mid first lap put Martin close to his back bumper – Cragg in a close third. On the second lap a mistake from Martin in the triple tabletop area let Cragg though and gave Orlowski a heathy gap at the front. Martin marshalled quickly to recover to third –the order of the lead group back to Orlowski, Cragg, Martin and Ben Smith. Michal Orlowski then settled in and produced an outstanding display of speed and accuracy with Neil Cragg holding his ground some three seconds adrift. There was a heart stopping moment at the end of the straight at the midpoint when Orlowski went up on two wheels for what felt like forever, managing to get it back down safely without losing too much time. Cragg at this point was on a hard charge, taking a few tenths out of Orlowski on every lap. Cragg got to withing 1.5 seconds of Orlowski before catching a hose and putting his car onto its roof – requiring the marshal. This killed off any hope Cragg might have had for the Leg 1 win. Final finishing order – Orlowski, Cragg, Martin.
4wd A Final Leg 2 got off to a furious start, and by midway through the first lap Michal Orlowski had already made significant inroads into gapping the field. By lap three, Lee Martin had responded and was looking really quick with Neil Cragg and Ben Smith on tow – Orlowski’s lead settling at the 1 second or just less mark after being out to 1.5 seconds at the end of the first lap. Martin and Cragg would now offer the most significant battle on track as they both kept one eye on Orlowski out front. As with all battles, this left the unchecked Orlowski to get the hammer down and reopen up that advantage. At the four-minute mark, Michal Orlowski’s lead was significant and there was little sign of him being caught. He cruised around for the final minute and as the buzzer sounded, he dropped his pace to half speed ensuring no mistakes and the Leg 2 win. This is Orlowski’s second A Final Leg win which secures 4wd for him and the “Double” for the weekend. Behind Orlowski was Lee Martin as Neil Cragg had made a mistake letting Ben Smith through to take 3rd.
Michal Orlowski sat out 4wd A Final Leg 3 – staying out of the battle for the remaining podium positions. Lee Martin led the field away closely followed by Neil Cragg. Lee’s car looked a bit flat – lacking the initial drive of Cragg’s car but overall, there was no significant performance deficit. Over the first couple of laps, Cragg trailed Martin by a few metres before his car oversteered at a hairpin, trapping his car, and subsequently leading to a collision with Tommy Hall. This let Martin off the hook with a good lead. A couple of laps further in a bad bounce off the jumps before the straight put Martin onto his roof needing the marshal and let new leader Tommy Hall through. A three-way battle ensued – Hall out in front followed by Martin and Cragg in close succession with two minutes to go. Over the remainder of the race Hall led on a good pace with Martin fighting his car behind and Cragg looking for an opportunity to pass. Halls advantage disintegrated as Martin and Cragg put the hammer down and drew up onto his back bumper with a minute to go. Martin managed to get up the inside of Hall coming onto the straight and a drag race followed. Towards the end of the straight, Martin hit a bump going fully airborne as Hall turned in just in front of him – they touched, pushing Hall into a broad side drift across the track and causing Martin to run wide. This allowed Cragg at full chat and on the line to come through – unfortunately collecting a recovering Martin on the way. The collision gave Tommy Hall a 1 – 2 second lead just as the end of race buzzer sounded. Martin making a hard charge to catch Hall grip rolled off the berm at the back of the circuit and needed the marshal meaning Tommy Hall was unchallenged for the Leg win. Final order – Hall, Martin, Cragg.
Overall 4wd A Final results:
|1||1||Michal Orlowski||2 [ 1 1 10 – 14/ 312.46 ]|
|2||2||Lee Martin||4 [ 3 2 2 – 14/ 315.54 ]|
|3||4||Tommy Hall||5 [ 5 4 1 – 14/ 315.00 ]|
|4||3||Neil Cragg||5 [ 2 5 3 – 14/ 315.47 ]|
|5||5||Ben Smith||7 [ 4 3 4 – 14/ 316.54 ]|
|6||7||Ben Pugh||12 [ 8 7 5 – 13/ 300.64 ]|
|7||9||Richard Barton||12 [ 6 8 6 – 13/ 300.75 ]|
|8||8||Tyler Liddle||14 [ 7 9 7 – 13/ 305.07 ]|
|9||6||Paul Crompton||15 [ 10 6 9 – 13/ 304.76 ]|
|10||10||Lloyd Storey||17 [ 9 10 8 – 13/ 313.02 ]|
Another excellent event from the BRCA. With only two rounds left both championships are available and will be hotly contested. For the next round we move to TORCH near Southampton on August 5/6.
2wd B Final Winner: Ben Pugh
4wd B Final Winner: Phil Sleigh
Great performance: Joey Cockill – 15th in 4wd Q1
First A Final: Charlie Ware
Driver of the day: Reuben Russell
RacewayOne helpers: Ryan Clarke & Alex Carter – many thanks to you both!
Overall 2wd Championship standings after round 4
Note: M. Orlowski 390pts after 3 rounds. L. Martin 383pts after 3 rounds.
Overall 4wd Championship standings after round 4
Note: M. Orlowski 389pts after 3 rounds. L. Martin 386pts after 3 rounds.