SUPERKART CHAT by Gary James, Freelance Superkart Reporter & Commentator

Lee Harpham and Liam Morley shared the honours in some close fought racing at Donington with Harpham picking up the number 1 plate, while Morley secured GP win number ten. Lee Plain retained his British title in F250 National while the GP went to Kirk Cattermole. Kosta Kyritsis secured the F450 British Championship, but a late error handed the GP to Ollie Ridout. Shane Stoney was unbeaten in the F125 Open class, but Jack Tritton had sufficient points to claim the number one overall.

The final rounds of the season had attracted 56 entries for qualifying with all four classes taking to the track. It was going to be key to get a time in early as traffic would be a problem during the short ten-minute session. All eyes were on the joint Division 1 championship leaders to see who would make the first move. Morley established himself at the top with a lap in the mid 1m 30s before improving to a 1m 29.657s. However, on the next lap he pitted. Was this a similar strategy previously used to sit it the pit lane and respond if anyone went faster? “No, the brake pedal went to the floor, so I had to pit” explained Morley. Fortunately, no one else got below 1m 30s. Lee Harpham was chipping away at his times and got down to a 1m 31.544s but on the next lap collided with Richard Connick on the Exhibition Straight when the Team Wizard driver moved into his path avoiding some track debris. At that point Harpham was second quickest but Tom Rushforth put in a 1m 31.225s to secure the final front row slot. Carl Hulme also relegated Harpham a position when he leapt up two places on his final lap with a 1m 31.502s.  Andrew Gulliford (1m 31.657s) headed row 3 with Carl Kinsey alongside on a new Anderson chassis following his first corner at Anglesey three weeks earlier. Dean Forward was having his first Superkart outing of the year, having been busy driving classic sports cars, and wound up seventh quickest. He was joined on the fourth row by the quickest of the F250 National’s, Samantha Hempshall. She had seized three THR engines in testing on Thursday, but a re-think for Saturday worked out well. Her first quick lap (1m 35.482s) was deleted due to exceeding track limits, but next time around the 1m 34.530s was good enough for the class pole. Lining up behind were Paul Platt and Lee Plain whose new tyres didn’t come on. There was a glut of Silverstone chassis in the F450 class and Superkart returnee Ollie Ridout took pole position by 0.608s from teammate Catherine Foster, both using Yamaha engines. Kosta Kyritsis was using KTM power in his Silverstone chassis, and the championship leader ended up third quickest, 0.135s slower than Foster. Ami Jerger only managed one flying lap for fourth fastest before her KTM engine blew up and her weekend was over. Shane Stoney was quickest in the F125 Open category for a slot on row 12, but a piston cracked and seized in his DEA motor after 4 laps. Connie McCormack was having a rare outing in an F125 and claimed second spot in class just ahead of Jack Tritton by 0.018s. The championship leader was up on his lap delta but got baulked at the Melbourne Loop and then missed a gear.

The first race on Sunday morning was held in sunny dry conditions. Harpham had endured a major rebuild job overnight after the MS Kart chassis had been snapped, the axle bent and the exhaust damaged following the collision in qualifying. After two warm up laps, the lights went out and Morley led down to Redgate. Harpham locked a front right under braking, his chassis not perfectly aligned, but managed to slot into second place ahead of Kinsey and Gulliford with Rushforth not making the most of his front row slot and dropping to fifth. The lead changed hands a couple of times on the opening lap but as they crossed the line for the first time Morley led by 0.347s from Harpham. Rushforth had recovered and led the third-place train with Kinsey and Gulliford tucked in his slipstream. Carl Hulme had a disastrous opening lap when a clutch issue on the warm-up lap meant he couldn’t clear the engine at the start. The VM ran for three quarters of a lap on one cylinder before chiming in and he had dropped back to 20th on the road. Despite his MS Kart chassis not at its best, Harpham took the lead at the Melbourne Loop on lap 2 and extended it over the next few laps. But on lap 5 the leaders encountered the first of the traffic. Somehow, they managed to pick their way through two big groups of slower drivers on consecutive laps and Morley closed the gap to 0.232s starting the last one. It looked as if it was advantage Harpham in the championship during the final lap, but at the Fogarty Esses Harpham came across a much slower kart and hit it, while the rapid deceleration caused Morley to run into the back of the MS Kart. Both sustained nosecone damage but continued. At the Melbourne Loop for the final time Harpham locked up as the nosecone was rubbing the front right and Morley dived inside to take the lead. The pendulum had swung and Morley took the win by 0.783s and a five-point lead in the championship heading into the final race. Third place was in dispute throughout. Kinsey dropped out with a big end failure leaving Gulliford to just hold off Rushforth and a recovering Hulme at the flag. Ross Allen came through from the back of the grid after a wheel came off in qualifying and picked up sixth in class just ahead of Dean Forward.

There was plenty of drama on the opening lap in the F250 National class. Plain got the jump on Hempshall at the start and led the THR driver through the Old Hairpin chased by Tom Hatfield and Paul Platt. But two corners later there was contact and Hempshall ended up in the gravel trap and out of the race with Platt facing the wrong way on the track edge and joined by Luke Plain They both got going and trailed around at the back of the field. Platt got up to ninth in class but was later excluded for receiving outside assistance. Up at the front Lee Plain had a trouble-free run and reeled off the eight laps to win by 14.677s. The 25 points secured the British Championship for the second year running. There was a close contest for second place in the early laps before Jack Bliss, the short-circuit 0 plate winner, created a gap that was sufficient to claim the runner-up slot. His Raider chassis was over 8 years old and able to hold off Hatfield on much newer equipment by 0.929s. Parker Motorsport drivers also filled the next two places with Tom Baldwin fourth and Shaun Lombardo fifth.

In the F450 National four-stroke class it was a battle of the Silverstone chassis. Catherine Foster pitted at the end of lap 1 with braking issues and left Ridout and Kyritsis to fight it out at the front. Kyritsis took the class lead on lap 4, but there were never more than eight tenths of a second between them for the remaining half of the race. Kyritsis took the win and the British Championship by 0.673s.  

Shane Stoney had to win in the F125 Open class to stand any chance of taking the title. From the off he was already up to 18th on the road and mixing it with 250cc twins and singles. Passing and re-passing, he hassled some of the drivers with more powerful machinery right to the flag and a valuable 25 points. Jack Tritton’s TM motor lacked the pace of the DEA, but he brought it home in second spot, 11.463s adrift, to keep his title aspirations alive.

Race 1 Results

1st Liam Morley          Anderson VM

2nd Lee Harpham        MS Kart Harvey VM

3rd Andrew Gulliford  Anderson VM

4th Tom Rushforth      Spyda VM

5th Carl Hulme             Anderson VM

6th Lee Plain                Anderson DEA (F250 National class winner)

15th Kosta Kyritsis      Silverstone KTM (F450 National class winner)

22nd Shane Stoney      Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)

With the grid positions for Race 2 determined by a drivers fastest lap from the previous outing, it was Liam Morley who had pole position with Harpham alongside. Hulme was on his own on row 2, as Kinsey’s engine failure ruled him out for the remainder of the meeting. Allen and Gulliford occupied row three. After two warm-up laps, the field sprinted down to Redgate and Harpham took the lead from Morley and Gulliford. But then drama. Morley spun on the exit of the corner, completing a full 360 and kept the engine running. He rejoined in the midfield just as Alan Flewitt (F450), Jon Plaskitt (F250N) and Samantha Hempshall collided. The red flags lights were thrown and fortunately there was no serious damage to karts or drivers, although Flewitt didn’t take the re-start. A let off for Morley as the grid for the re-start was in the original order.

Harpham once again took the lead at the start of the shortened ten-minute race and a big lock-up into Redgate showed his intent, although it couldn’t have done any good for the handling. Hulme took second place from Morley, Rushforth, Allen, Gulliford and Forward. At the Old Hairpin Hulme made a slight mistake and Morley was through. It was two by two at the end of the lap with Harpham 0.275s ahead of Morley, Rushforth up to third from Hulme and Allen holding off Gulliford. Allen’s race ended two laps later when a con rod went through the bottom of the cases and was then collected by a spinning 250 National at Coppice while touring back to retire. Morley hounded Harpham for the lead and on lap 4 they ran side by side down to Redgate. With an exchange of paintwork from the sidepods the 0 kart took the lead. Morley scampered away and set the fastest lap of the race as Harpham couldn’t respond. The British Championship looked to be heading to Carnforth. But entering the Fogarty Esses on lap 6 there was suddenly a trail a water coming from a top hose on the leading kart. A circlip had broken and Morley was in trouble. Starting the last lap he had an advantage of 1.417s and continued at the same pace. Down through Craner Curves for the final time Morley lapped a slower kart but behind him it all kicked off. The backmarker slowed and Harpham hit him, ending up sideways across the kerb at over 120mph. Somehow he avoided spinning as Hulme jinked past while Rushforth wasn’t so lucky. He took to the grass and spun but kept the motor running and rejoined. Unaware of what was happening behind him, Morley continued in the lead but at the exit of the Fogarty Esses the VM motor cried enough and he pulled off. The title challenge was over. Out of all the mayhem, Hulme emerged as the leader and took the flag for a ‘surprising win.’ “I thought I’d finished second as I didn’t see Liam pull off,’ explained the Wirral man. Harpham crossed the line 0.698s later and with Hulme not registered in the British Championships the maximum points went to the MS Kart driver and the number 1 plate. “I was struggling with understeer and then a bent axle after hitting the backmarker which caused a lot of vibration,” said the new British Champion. Into third place at the finish came Dean Forward. More used to driving 7 litre McLaren Can Am cars, he was overjoyed with the result, this being his first Superkart meeting of the season. Andy Gulliford dropped back in the closing stages to take fourth spot with Rushforth claiming fifth after his trip across the grass on the last lap.

In the F250 National class it wasn’t quite so dramatic. In the re-started race Jack Bliss led the early laps from Lee Plain with Hatfield and Baldwin in line astern. Hempshall and Platt made good progress from the back of the grid and were already up to 18th and 19th on the road by the end of lap 2. Hatfield had a camber bar break on lap 3 and when he tried to turn in at Coppice the kart spun and he made contact with the touring Ross Allen. The Parker Motorsport driver continued but dropped back to 8th as the race unfolded. Plain took over at the front on lap 3 and managed to stretch it to a winning margin of 2.673s at the flag. Bliss drove another brilliant race to claim second spot with Kirk Cattermole finally sorting out engine issues with his TM to secure third place. Hempshall set the class fastest lap as she dispatched Baldwin on lap 6 but was too far back to challenge Cattermole at the flag. Platt’s progress wasn’t quite so rapid as the THR driver and he ended up 6th in class at the end.

Kosta Kyritsis took the lead at the start in the F450 class as Ollie Ridout lost ground. Just after half distance the gap was 4.724s but a series of faster laps by Ridout reduced the distance to 0.781s at the flag. Ronan McClintock took third in class after John Busby struck trouble and pitted on the final lap.

It was still all to play for regarding the British title in the F125 Open class. Stoney had to win with Tritton third or lower to take the championship. In the early stages they were both mixed up with groups of 250’s and 450’s, but Stoney was able to open up a sizeable gap over his rival. This he maintained and after an enjoyable race mixing it with more powerful karts took the win by 12.755s. Tritton passed Peter Crossen on lap 2 to take second spot but they were in amongst the bigger capacity karts. Crossen was still within striking distance to take away valuable points, but Tritton held his nerve and claimed the title by 0.590s.

Race 2 Results

1st Carl Hulme             Anderson VM

2nd Lee Harpham        MS Kart Harvey VM

3rd Dean Forward        Anderson VM

4th Andrew Gulliford  Anderson VM

5th Tom Rushforth      Spyda VM

6th Lee Plain                Anderson DEA (F250 National class winner)

15th Kosta Kyritsis      Silverstone KTM (F450 National class winner)

18th Shane Stoney       Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)

The grid positions for the Grand Prix were decided by the finishing positions in the two earlier races and resulted in Lee Harpham claiming pole position with Carl Hulme alongside. Gulliford and Rushforth were on row 2 while Morley ended up on row 8 due to his non-finish and Allen was three rows further back. Hulme was busy fitting new clutch plates and springs prior to the race and it paid off at the start as he made the perfect getaway to lead into Redgate for the first time chased by Harpham and Gulliford. Morley also made a lightening start and was already into sixth place as the field streamed through the Old Hairpin. Hulme crossed the line at the end of lap 1 with a handy buffer of 0.694s over Harpham. Rushforth was next through with Morley up to fourth and looking menacing. He passed the Spyda driver into Redgate and then chased after Harpham gaining a place over his rival before the end of lap 2. But Harpham fought back and the swapping of positions allowed Hulme to increase his lead. Backmarkers were now an issue and Hulme was a bit hesitant on lap 6 as they came across two on the exit of Coppice in a yellow flag zone. Morley saw an opportunity and took the lead, setting fastest lap in the process. Hulme couldn’t respond and an engine issue on the final lap dropped him back. Morley took Grand Prix win number 10 by 2.177s. “I had to make up places in the early laps to stand a chance of victory. Traffic has played a big part all weekend and I’m just glad to have finally secured my tenth victory after coming so close last year.” Harpham’s chances of retaining his GP plate evaporated after half distance. His MS Kart chassis had suffered a beating over the weekend and was unable to keep pace with the two ahead. Rushforth crossed the line in fourth spot 2.901s behind Harpham but he was docked a lap for overtaking under a yellow flag. This was subsequently rescinded after an appeal, and he was re-instated into fourth place. With quite a few karts littered around the track, Gulliford took fifth spot from Allen who’d picked up a slow puncture in the closing stages.

Lee Plain was looking to make it a clean sweep of wins in the F250 National class starting from row 3. But it was Jack Bliss who was keen to add the GP plate to his short-circuit 0. He led the first four laps from Plain until his Honda motor nipped a piston and he pulled off at McLeans. That handed the lead to Plain, but he was being caught by Cattermole using a 1998 TM motor and Paul Platt who had started from row 17. Cattermole took the class lead on lap 6 as Plain struggled with straight line speed while Platt was homing in trying to retain his GP plate. On the penultimate lap he set the fastest lap and passed Plain on the final tour. Encountering traffic in the final corners, Cattermole held on by 0.324s from Platt. “The win is for my dad who has worked so hard to get me here,” said an emotional Cattermole. Plain hung on for third spot with Hatfield a long way back in fourth. Samantha Hempshall started from row 14, but an incident on lap 1 dropped her to the back of the field. She had pulled through to 8th spot before the chain broke ending a frustrating weekend.

Kevin Ridley was not on track to defend his F450 GP plate but was hoping that one of his Silverstone chassis would get the victory. Kyritsis and Ridout started side by side on row 7 and it was the Greek driver that took the advantage from the lights as Ridout’s new tyres weren’t working and he had understeer issues. By lap 6 Kyritsis had a lead of 8.321s and looked certain to add the GP plate to his British title. But on the penultimate lap he spun at the Fogarty Esses. Ridout couldn’t believe his luck when he saw his rival in the gravel trap and crossed the line to claim the GP plate in his first meeting since October 2019. Kyritsis managed to get going but lost a lap although still crossed the line second in class. To add insult to injury, he was subsequently excluded as the exhaust outlet on his KTM engine didn’t conform to the technical regulations. Ronan McClintock was the only other F450 finisher and was elevated to second spot.

After missing out on the F125 Open British Championship, Shane Stoney was determined to get the GP plate and emulate his father who picked up four victories between 1987 and 1995. Starting alongside Morley on row 8, Stoney dropped behind Tritton on the opening lap as things got a bit busy. On lap 2 the positions were reversed, and Stoney edged clear of his rival. It was just a matter of reeling off the remaining laps. After scrapping with Ridout’s F450 he crossed the line to repeat the win that his dad got back in 1987. The winning margin 10.472s over Tritton. Tom Riley was the only other unlapped F125 runner in third spot.

Grand Prix Results

1st Liam Morley                      Anderson VM

2nd Carl Hulme                        Anderson VM

3rd Lee Harpham                     MS Kart Harvey VM

4th Tom Rushforth                  Spyda VM

5th Andrew Gulliford              Anderson VM

6th Ross Allen                         Jade IAME

7th Kirk Cattermole                 Raider TM (F250 National class winner)

16th Shane Stoney                   Anderson DEA (F125 Open class winner)

17th Ollie Ridout                     Silverstone Yamaha (F450 National class winner)

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