The BRCA calendar stalwart of Southport Radio Car Club hosted round 4 of the National Championship on the weekend of June 24/25. The track which has been in situ since the nineteen nineties is as popular as ever and both classes were filled to capacity over the two days. The club presented a different track design for each day – the 2wd track was fast with lots of sprint sections with the infamous back section dealt with in one sitting. The 4wd track was more intricate with back section divided into two parts at different stages of the lap.
2023 1/10th Offroad Nationals Round 4
Southport [UK] – 24-25 June 2023
As usual drivers were given 2 x 3 minute practice sessions first thing on Saturday morning for the 2wd section of the meeting and the track was quite clean and consistent on the racing line. It was expected that the locals would be quick as Southport is one of those tracks where practice makes perfect – so no surprises when Round 1 of 2wd Practice was topped by Luke Holdsworth with another local, Paul Crompton in second. The sun came out and the track slowed up a bit for Round 2 and the same two were again fastest but in reverse order – Neil Cragg and Tommy Hall leading the chasing pack. There was a clear difference between Holdsworth’s and Crompton’s cars to the chasing pack – they could touch off curbs and track markers as well as get bad bounces and the cars would just settle quickly and move on, whilst other’s cars would ricochet and roll off the circuit. Holdsworth’s car was expected to be heavy and full of brass, but actually it wasn’t and it was just the setup which gave it such a good footing.
Qualifying started in earnest mid-morning and all eyes were on the top three heats to see who would emerge as a potential runner for pole position later in the day. The weather was settled and warm with the ambient temperature hovering at about 24°C with track temperature in the thirties. The dust was starting to come up through the artificial grass and the grip levels were dropping. The pace was sharp at the front with the top 20 drivers spread over a lap which is considerably more than normal in this competitive series.
Holdsworth recovered from being pipped by Crompton in Practice Round 2 to completely dominate qualifying – four TQ’s from four. The display was impressive, and Luke could attack the track with confidence in a way that none of the others could. Even Neil Cragg who qualified second joint on points with Paul Crompton could not carry the same levels of speed as Holdsworth on some of the trickier corners. Holdsworth developed a qualifying advantage of around 5 seconds over the afternoon – total domination!
Crompton, Lee Martin and Ben Smith all looked like they had the pace to disrupt at the front the A finals, but all suffered from bumps and bad bounces which dragged their average laps down.
In an interview before the first A final, Luke Holdsworth appeared calm and collected and confident that he could control the pace in the finals as there was very little opportunity to pass on the circuit. Also calm and collected was second place qualifier Neil Cragg who confident that he could apply the pressure in the finals and he was in at good odds for the win.
Leg 1 of the 2wd A Final started in glorious mid-afternoon sunshine. Neil Cragg spent the first lap drawing up on the back of Luke Holdsworth. Crompton in third lagging a little as Cragg launched his challenge up front. On the second lap Crompton hit a curb stone hard and rolled off the track at a pinch point – momentarily holding up Lee Martin and the chasing pack. This let Holdsworth and Cragg away to do battle in an isolated fashion. It was interesting to see the difference in style between the two drivers. Holdsworth hard on the brakes at the apex, rapid rotation and firing it out of the corner. Cragg more progressive with his braking, carrying more speed at the apex and smooth out of the corner on a wider line. If you watch the video, I’m sure that you will agree that its hard to work out which approach is faster. With three laps down, Luke Holdsworth settled in and began to open the taps. He rapidly pulled away from Cragg and was noticeably quicker through the back section than anyone else. The field was quite spread out at the race midpoint with Holdsworth about 3 seconds ahead of Cragg, Lee Martin a further 2 seconds behind and Ben Smith, Josh Holdsworth, and the Hall Brothers at all similar intervals. To prove that he’s human, at the three-minute mark Luke Holdsworth got a bad landing off the tabletop and barrel rolled off the track – quickly marshalled he lost very little time and retained the lead. A second mistake in the back section cost Holdsworth more time and he now saw his lead reduced to just one second over Neil Cragg. Holdsworth tidied his performance in the final minute and again pulled away from Cragg to secure the win in Leg 1. Cragg was fast and consistent in second and Lee Martin 3rd.
2wd A Final Leg 2 presented the fields last chance to halt Luke Holdsworth dominance of the day so far. The sun was starting to become low in the sky and the shadows were lengthening making it tricky to track the cars from direct sunlight into the shadows under the trees. From the start of the race Luke Holdsworth ran at a high pace and gapped the field – pulling out a two second gap on Neil Cragg before Neil made a mistake dropping him down the order and progressing Crompton to seconds and Lee Martin to third. Through the mid-section of the race, Crompton started to make up time on Holdsworth with Lee Martin in tow before he touched a curb stone causing a spin. Martin promoted to second and three seconds in arrears. The battle for second between Martin, Crompton, Jamie Hall, and Ben Smith was now the main attraction on track. Luke Holdsworth having developed a lead of 6 seconds had not checked out with a minute to go. Just before the buzzer, a mistake from Martin let Crompton through. Final order, Luke Holdsworth, Paul Crompton, Lee Martin.
A win in Leg 1 & Leg 2 of the 2wd A Final means that Luke Holdsworth takes the 2wd win for the weekend. He didn’t need to prove anything further but decided to start Leg 3 of the 2wd A Final and go for absolute dominance. Again, from the outset, Luke Holdsworth had a pace advantage and started to gap the field from the start tone. The battle for second between Cragg and Crompton being the main attention grabber for the spectators watching. Crompton attempted a couple of clean moved on Cragg but was denied. Cragg then got the hammer down and left Crompton behind whilst chasing down Holdsworth – helped by a mistake from the latter which dropped the deficit to just one second. At the race midpoint, Cragg had a mistake, rolling at the hairpin at the end of the straight letting Crompton through – Holdsworth now restoring his comfortable lead. Lee Martin in third and Josh Holdsworth in fourth, Cragg reduced to fifth. The battle between Martin and Josh Holdsworth was intense. After several laps of nose to tail action, Martin got a bad bounce coming down from the banked corner before the straight and was collected by Josh Holdsworth and Cragg – all needing marshalling. Ben Smith took advantage and put himself into third briefly before being taken by a recovering Josh Holdsworth. Smith reacted quickly, but a bit too heavily and launched his car at the backside of the tabletop resulting in an impossible landing attempt and resultant barrel roll. Things settled down a bit for the final lap and Luke Holdsworth made it three from three A Finals. Crompton second, Josh Holdsworth third and recovering Neil Cragg in fourth.
An all-round excellent result for Luke Holdsworth – total domination. Crompton has the speed, but not the temperament at the moment. Cragg was fast enough to win it, but just seem to get every bad bounce possible. Lee Martin also at the races but missing that little bit of luck and confidence perhaps.
We were surprised to see the Hall brothers not feature so much at Southport. We know that they were some of the only people not to participate in pre-event testing at the track and that may be evident on the day. Both Halls have been front runners in the previous three rounds, so may not get the run-away championship podiums once predicted – however going back to RHR for Round 5 will be very welcome I imagine.
2wd Podium: 1st Luke Holdsworth, 2nd Paul Crompton, 3rd Neil Cragg
As the drivers assembled for the 4wd portion of the meeting on the Sunday morning, the news was not good. A bad spell of weather including heavy rain and thunder was forecast for around 1 to 2pm. The forecast was so ominous that it was a possibility that the event would be halted before qualifying was completed. A reminder regarding the rule came from section chairman Martin Owen; Two rounds of qualifying must be complete to call a result. Several Southport locals were overheard to confidently announce that “It may not rain at all – we have our own micro-climate” – only time would tell.
After the driver’s briefing, 4wd practice set off at pace to ensure that no unnecessary delays were incurred. The first driver to show his intent was Neil Cragg going fastest in practice round 1 with Paul Crompton, Lee Martin, and Tommy Hall all very close behind. Neil was again fastest in Round 2 improving on his first session time – he was particularly quick through the double apex bend coming onto the straight – the car tracking very well at speed.
2023 1/10th Offroad Nationals Round 4
Southport [UK] – 24-25 June 2023
4wd Qualifying was very close all day. Tommy Hall and Jamie Hall put in perfect runs in round 1 to occupy the top slots with Jamie taking TQ by only – 0.23 seconds. Jamie came off the rostrum a bit surprised that he had set the pace. In round 2 it was the locals turn with Paul Crompton setting a quick time even though he did have an error in his run – perhaps more to come from him – and Neil Cragg was second in round only a fraction behind. It was at the start of Round 3 of 4wd qualifying that the heaven opened. A deluge of heavy rain with the rumblings of distant thunder made the conditions tricky. The organising committee warned that if the conditions became hazardous for marshals the event would be stopped – so everyone was being very careful with their footing!.
Round 3 of qualifying continued through the heaviest of the rain and subsequent lighter showers. Once again, Neil Cragg was ready for it – setting the fastest time in Round 3 all be it nearly 2 laps slower than his dry pace. Ben Smith was another driver primed and ready for the change in conditions going second and Josh Holdsworth went third. It was touch and go whether the event would be abandoned at the end of round 3. An organisers meeting was called, and the decision was made that as it was still safe for marshals and that the meeting would continue. And it was the correct decision as through Round 4 of qualifying the rain subsided and the sun reemerged and started to dry the track contrary to the forecast. On the drying track, Paul Crompton went fastest and retook pole position from Neil Cragg at his last opportunity. Tommy Hall bumping to third on the grid after a second place run in Round 4. Tommy Hall’s pace had improved all day and he was definitely a contender even though he was starting from third.
Everybody in 4wd A Final Leg 1 took a cautious approach at the start of the race. Nobody knew exactly what the grip levels were, and the race was on to work out how quickly you could push the car. Lee Martin appeared to be the first person to ramp up the speed. Crompton out front had everything to lose and was taking it easy which slowed Neil Cragg’s progress and caused the first 5 or 6 cars to bunch at the front. With two minutes down, Crompton’s car looked to move around a lot in comparison to Cragg and Martin’s who looked planted but didn’t have enough of an advantage to set up a pass. A further minute in, Cragg oversteered on the cobbles and let Crompton away but only by a second or so. Going into the last minute and half, Cragg drew Crompton back in but didn’t have enough pace to make a move on him. The order stayed the same till the end – 1st Crompton, 2nd Cragg, 3rd Tommy Hall.
The track had dried significantly during the finals on the leadup for 4wd A Final Leg 2, but as the grid was formed rain started to fall again. Crompton led away but was put under pressure by Neil Cragg straight away in the opening lap. Then Crompton responded and gapped Cragg by 0.9 seconds in a couple of corners. A train of 8 cars now backed up behind Cragg after he had a few little errors on consecutive corners. Tommy Hall in third now looking to challenge Cragg for second place. With three and half minute down, Tommy Hall executed the pass of the day. Coming off the banked corner Cragg’s car fish tailed on exit, which allowed Hall to get onto Cragg’s outside. Cragg went wide to make it hard for Hall, but he was thinking fast and dipped to the Cragg’s inside. Going into the next corner, the double apex onto the straight, Cragg was offline and pushed wide, allowing Hall through on the inside. Cragg cut back to try and retake the position, but Hall had already opened the taps on the straight and was gone. They drag raced down the straight, Cragg behind but on a better line, but there was no opportunity to retake second place. Half a lap later all of Tommy’s hard work was undone when he got the back section wrong and tumbled into the undergrowth requiring marshalling. Cragg back in second with minute and half to go. Cragg put the hammer down to catch Crompton, but with tons of pace and three second advantage there wasn’t much of a chance without a mistake from Crompton. That mistake never came and Paul Crompton took his second leg win and the 4wd meeting.
The sun started to set, and the shadows were long and dark for Leg 3 of the 4wd A Final. Paul Crompton had secured his second 4wd National win and now was the time to determine the remaining podium positions. Crompton made the decision to run in Leg 3 which is something that has crept back in as winners used to always sit out the third leg in fear of incurring and obscure penalty and risking their overall win. Perhaps this is a practice which should be reintroduced.
The race got off to a similar start as the other two legs. Crompton leading with Cragg and Tommy Hall close behind. The chasing pack being led by Lee Martin after a small mistake from Jamie Hall cost him three positions. The track had dried significantly at this stage and some corners were basking in sunshine. The grip and the pace were up. With a minute down Tommy Hall was all over the back of Cragg. He looked to pass coming onto the straight, and then again at the end of straight – denied both times. He looked for a way around the outside off the tabletop but was denied. Cragg then got a tank slapped on after landing off the backside of the tabletop. This caused him to go wide, and Tommy Hall was through. Crompton had a healthy lead over Hall till he cut in too early through the back section and rolled. He ended up on his wheels and continued in first, but Hall was now on his back bumper with Cragg just behind. The lead three were running very close and you could easily see where the different cars were faster and slower in places. Tommy Hall was considerably quicker than both Cragg and Crompton through the cobbles – he used this advantage to draw alongside Crompton over the tabletop and drive around him on the outside at the hairpin just after. Hall’s second amazing move of the afternoon. Once passed, Crompton seemed to turn the dial up to 105% which never works! His car squirming and moving all over the track – it looked very hard to drive all of a sudden and a disaster was imminent. Coming off the straight, Crompton’s car lost traction twice, slowing and breaking sideways – dangerous when someone of Neil Cragg’s calibre is behind and looking for a way through. After the second slide, Cragg tagged the bad of Crompton causing a brief entanglement which resulted in Cragg moving up to second and Crompton facing the wrong way against traffic. At the midpoint of the race, it was Tommy Hall out in front with a recovered Neil Cragg a couple of seconds behind and Lee Martin in third. With a minute to go, Cragg was making good inroads into Tommy Hall’s lead until and error on the back section stifled his advances. Final leg result – 1st Tommy Hall, 2nd Neil Cragg, 3rd Lee Martin.
The leg three win advanced Tommy Hall into 2nd position on the podium which is very good news for his championship ambitions. Neil Cragg rounds out the podium in 3rd.
4wd Podium: 1st Paul Crompton, 2nd Tommy Hall, 3rd Neil Cragg.
The BRCA have yet again put on a very high standard event with tough competition. The Southport Club did an excellent job as you would expect, and their facility is going from strength to strength. Thanks to all!
The Euros are looming in the middle of July, and we have one more National to get under out belt before then. We return to RHR near Doncaster for Round 5 of the Series on July 8/9 – see you there!
Current 2wd Championship standings
|13||Mark Anthony Jones||F2||Senior||436||96||111||114||115||–||–|
Current 4wd Championship standings
|20||Mark Anthony Jones||F2||Senior||421||107||99||105||110||–||–|