National Championships 2012

Whistlin' Jack Smith >> National Hot Rods report: National Championship 2012

National Hot Rods

One month ago 9 Glenn Bell won the World Championship in wet conditions, although he wasn’t one of the favourites it wasn’t a complete shock – jump forward a month and it happened again. 115 Chris Haird qualified on pole during dry conditions, the race becomes wet and Glenn Bell takes the chequers.

A quality field assembled, which probably surprised the whingers that thought the formula was over after a few drivers moved on after the World Final. 911 Malcolm Blackman is banned, 303 Matt Simpson is racing on the circuits and 72 Willie Hardie is giving stock cars a go, barring those the big names were at Hednesford. 962 John Christie didn’t get beyond Friday practice after blowing his engine. Practice times were heading by 970 Shane Murphy followed by 41 Carl Boardley who was getting back to grips with the hot rods. A few late cancellations did bring the numbers down, two of those being returnees 85 Stu Carter and 976 Clive Richardson.

The qualifying heats on the Saturday were won by Murphy, Bell, 348 Shane Brereton, Boardley, 117 Rob McDonald (his first in the class) and 174 Jason Kew. Once the points were tallied up Haird would start from the front of the 32 car grid. Winnie Holtmanns didn’t take his place on the grid so first reserve Chris Stockton (from BTCC) would start the race.

115 970 95 940 348 960 278 961 271 66 39 615 261 629 39 963
41 9 174 996 162 117 994 76 67 100 10 871 31 444 209 28

The cars lined up and starting their five warming up laps as dark grey clouds formed above, Mother Nature done her best at electrifying the atmosphere but the thunder and lightning brought rain to the track. The grid was all set to start racing when the first drops fell, on the back straight the pack stopped behind the control car and all cars were given ten minutes to change to wet tyres - if they wanted! There was a mixture of all wets, all slicks or two or each. All wets was the correct option!

The race was cut down to 70 laps as another five warming laps was completed (although stated over the P.A this is the longest race of the year, that drop in laps makes the World a longer race based on distance travelled).

From the off Haird put his nose ahead but the wide line was adopted by Boardley who spent a lap in front until Kew cut inside on turn 1. Even in these difficult conditions no one went spinning out but there were visible differences in speed, most notably 940 Gary Woolsey who charged into the lead and pulled clear. Bell was expected to do well in these conditions; he took third place as the other fancied front runners fell back struggling on the wrong tyres.

Coming from the back and taking up fourth, fifth and sixth on the road were 271 Neil Stimson, 66 John V.D Bosch and 209 Kym Weaver. Weaver had started on the penultimate row and through the traffic he nicked fourth place, V.D Bosch moved back past him before Weaver retook that place. As the mid point closed the rain had stopped but no dry line formed.

Ahead of the that and significantly further up the track Bell had moved by Kew for second place but Woolsey had put a half a lap between his nearest rival. With 50 laps completed and 25 to run he lapped Haird for the second time. The gap between Woolsey and Bell remained pretty constant at half a lap but at one stage there were 13 back-markers between them. Woolsey was in another league, although his father and brother had tasted success in England Gary had never won a championship (probably a record for the most appearances from an Irish driver to never land a championship in England – estimated 20+). Woolsey easily lapped V.D Bosch and Weaver who were battling for fourth place.

Languishing in about tenth place Murphy got caught up with 261 David Casey, Murphy spun around and rested up against the Armco while Casey was in the middle of the track broadside to the traffic. There was a line to get through on the inside, though Boardley who had using the wider line on the wet track seemed like he would hit Casey squeezed through, Mark Heatrick was the only driver to drive around the back of Casey. Casey got himself to safety and the race continued with no need for yellows.

With the track clear it seemed Woolsey could coast home, so far ahead he was that most people had taken their eyes off him and missed his demise. Woolsey ploughed straight on at turn 3 when a tyre popped, was it self-inflicted from clipping a wall or just an unavoidable puncture? Whatever the reason the silver Tigra scrapped round the bend at high speed and was stopped by the retired car of Murphy that was clouted head-on, it was estimated that 83 cars were overtaken by Woolsey in the race! Bell was in prime position to take the lead and it was a healthy margin he had over Kew; Weaver and V.D Bosch who were now back on the lead lap.

Bell took his second major championship this season and for the 12th time the World-National double has been achieved. Kew took his first podium in a major championship followed by Weaver and V.D Bosch – easily the best performance in the modern era of a continental driver. Other noticeable places was Sammy Shudall’s seventh from 28th and Terry Maxwell in ninth from the back of the grid one place ahead of pole sitter Haird.

Heat 1: 970, 115, 996, 162, 278, 41, 100, 66, 117, 261
Heat 2: 9, 961, 209, 174, 271, 444, 95, 28, 67, 940
Heat 3: 348, 95, 9, 615, 76, 31, 278, 996, 961, 66
Heat 4: 41, 940, 115, 960, 970, 491, 39, 162, 74, 271
Heat 5: 117, 115, 41, 95, 970, 162, 76, 9, 871, 339
Heat 6: 174, 994, 67, 960, 940, 996, 348, 39, 10, 271
National: 9, 174, 209, 66, 271, 162, 444, 41, 963, 115

Although the race was called the Grand National the top 3 didn’t start with a lap handicap nor was the race a reverse grid of those in the National Championship. The track had started to dry out but the rain was back on cue for the start of this race. Haird got himself in front of V.D Bosch at the start and those two pulled clear in a quiet end to the meeting.

Grand National: 115, 66, 39, 95, 217, 996, 74, 41, 963, 629

Lightning Rods

Heat 1: 368, 781, 87, 937, 926, 355, 51, 730, 962, 633
Heat 2: 923, 926, 355, 633, 937, 314, 87, 974, 730, 962
Heat 3: 924, 240, 633, 355, 22, 962, 51, 78, 730, 781

355 926 87 368 781 962 730 314 974 339 67 947 346 24 823 526
633 937 924 923 240 51 22 9 78 92 992 259 84 271 8

After quickest lap times in Friday practice, Walker also scored the most points to secure pole position. The cars raced off but only made it to turn 4 when 923 Steve Emerson touched the back of 87 Frankie Cunningham spinning to the outside of the track, this created a huge pile-up that blocked the track leaving only the front six cars free.

The race was restarted but without Emerson, 730 Mike Daniels, 22 Mark Cooper Jnr, 314 Wayne Farrer and 526 Paul Strawson who all collected damage in the pile-up.

On take two 633 Rob Gamble stuck to the outside of Walker, he couldn’t pass and had 937 Ben McKee take another place off him before he brushed the wall. Gamble quickly fell back to about tenth place before retiring. The front two pulled clear while 926 Davy Hearst had to fend off 240 Lee Morrow. Morrow moved up and Cunningham followed through the same gap. Cunningham took third place off Morrow and set after McKee.

Cunningham did catch McKee and was fortunate to take second place as McKee was clipped by the spinning car of 8 Steven Clark. Cunningham dived to the inside of the melee that took out 84 Alan Conroy and 346 Andy Brown.

Cunningham had moved into second place but was never going to catch Walker who was the length of a straight clear by the end of the 35 lap race. Ben McKee was struggling and fellow countrymen Hearst, 947 Gordon McKee and 924 Mervyn Emerson all homed with eyes on the final podium place – Ben McKee held onto that place. Walker lapped up to ninth place with 18 cars making the distance.

Res: 355, 87, 937, 926, 947, 924, 240, 368, 781, 974

Grand National

If 24 Daniel King hadn't damaged his car enough in the main event crashing on the back straight was enough to finish the car off. This stoppage closed up the pack, 974 Gary Beggs now had 730 Mike Daniels and Gordon McKee on his tail. McKee quickly took up the lead and raced clear.

Res: 947, 22, 923, 730, 781, 240, 974, 355, 51, 526

Overall the Lightning Rods final was quiet – no penalties handed out, congratulations to Mick Walker on winning his first championship after many years in the formula. Probably the first time a blue grader has won this title, sitting 15th in the Spedeworth points it is unlikely he qualify for the World Championship. Walker was second quickest in the last meeting at Northampton – where the World Championship will be held on the 2nd September.

It is alarming that the class that should be the cheapest rod formula to race (at the National weekend) had the lowest numbers and only three heats on the Saturday. Not sure how each driver can be in 3 heats because that means driver A will start ahead of driver B twice, while driver B will start ahead of driver A once. Or driver A starts on the inside for 2 heats and the outside for 1 heat, or vice-versa. Not an entirely fair mechanism for gridding cars at such a prestigious championship event.

Stock Rods

Heat 1: 894, 95, 28, 3, 755, 658, 75, 197, 669, 172
Heat 2: 447, 192, 647, 41, 823, 83, 74, 97, 92, 171
Heat 3: 876, 168, 394, 75, 8, 658, 669, 755, 227, 251
Heat 4: 288, 211, 57, 900, 879, 730, 647, 192, 447, 74
Heat 5: 669, 829, 172, 168, 8, 876, 101, 136, 116, 75
Heat 6: 447, 25, 171, 83, 41, 151, 57, 647, 730, 74

447 168 647 192 75 83 288 211 171 658 755 394 74 900 823 101 97 136
669 876 57 41 894 8 25 829 172 95 28 3 730 151 879 197 227 92

447 Stuart Smyth led away the championship as the pack spat out 647 Jonathan Lattka on the back straight, he shot over the winners ramp backwards to damage his car.

A few laps in the bumpers went in causing both 669 Eddy Trofer and 876 Lewis Clark to run wide at the turn 1 and the pack to go inside. The pack did bunch up as they exited the turn and 75 Carl Sloan was tapped into a spin, he completed a complete rotation and carried on. No one hit him as he spun but cars did scatter and wall on the back straight definitely deflected a few cars back onto the racing line.

Possibly a spring detached during this incident (maybe 211 Grant McGowan) and started a journey of its own bouncing dangerously from the back straight around turns 3 and 4. This caused yellows to be aired around the track but before the cars slowed the debris had moved to safety so the track was safe to race on.

Smyth and 168 Andy Sturt had edged clear while the big battle was for positions four to seven, 25 Siobhan Martin was somehow spun out halfway down the back straight and clouted the inner banking. The yellows came out, Martin’s car was seriously damaged and she took a few minutes to catch her breath before leaving the wreckage.

The race restarted with Smyth leading Sturt, 192 Bill Daly, 57 Raymond Harper, 8 John O’Donovan, 894 Colm O’Sullivan and Trofer. Smyth put a few car lengths as the following drivers closed up. Harper really applied the pressure onto Daly but he unexpectedly put a move on Sturt to take second with Harper on his tail following through. Sturt seemed to now struggle falling back to sixth a few laps, 658 Chris Lattka took this position and he was really flying from the back. Sturt lost a few more places before pulling off to the centre of the track.

Harper took second place from Daly and had O’Donovan challenging him as the pack moved in and out of the traffic. When lapping 74 Tyler Collison he ran moved out to the outside line as Daly tried that line, O’Donovan cut back to the inside exiting turn 2 but there probably wasn't the space and he tagged the front of Collison that caused his car to spear across the track and clatter Daly who had now charged around Collison mid-way down the back straight. Daly slowed going into turn 3 and clipped by Sloan who was launched into the air, Sloan nose-dived into the wall which wrecked his car. Yellows came out with 10 laps to run.

The running order for the final few laps was Smyth, Harper, Lattka, O’Donovan, Trofer, Clark and 755 Mark Barber. Smyth moved clear as Lattka tried the outside line for second place but that opened up the door to O’Donovan. Lattka tried the line again and now Barber was able to prosper, going into the final corner Lattka had nosed ahead of Barber but a small nudge hampered him allowing Barber to take fourth place.

Smyth’s win means he is the first driver to win three Stock Rod National Championships at Hednesford. Irishman John O’Donovan was lucky to get through both incidents and take a podium place in his 16th attempt at this race!

National: 447, 57, 8, 755, 658, 876, 3, 394, 172, 151

GN: 95, 47, 658, 101, 136, 879, 3, 364, 447, 257

Classic Hot Rods

The stars of the past race

Chris Kew was a late replacement for Ricky Hunn in the Daz Owen car and took the chequers flag. Sadly the first ever winner of the National Championship Martin Morris was unable to race as his car didn’t arrive. For those that want a better report on this race will need to find someone who arrived on time!!!!

Res: 8 (74), 20 (128), 57 (994), 153 (391), 16, 351, 24, 88 (8), 445 (16)
Star drivers in brackets

Bill Morris Memorial

16 351 161 172 275 37 924 6 30 27 222 11
144 88 10 153 8 247 20 445 306 31 244

A drawn grid still had newcomers at the back on the back these being: 11 Colin Peacock in the all-white mini that had only raced at Wimbledon, 445 Graham Boyd in an A40, 244 Fil Gambone Escort mk1 (possibly ex-John Hendy) and 222 Shane Taylor in a yellow Escort mk1. George Polley made his second appearance of the day in the Polley replica while Lee Wood was back in the Barry Lee liveried Escort. Just to make things a little more confusing the Mike Oliver car was being driven by Stuart Wright whose Anglia was damaged in the stars of the past race. 23 cars made it the biggest field ever and the repainted car of 29 Stu Donald was still stuck in the pits, while Wright’s Anglia sat on the infield all meeting. The delivery of white Anglia meant there was 26 cars at the raceway.

After a big crash at Ipswich a few weeks ago 16 Pat Smith Jnr was all repaired and he led the start of the race. Wood spun out early on turn 3, to avoid this 275 Chris Caton and 10 Paul Bowring dived to the inside but clashed and had to retire. This spin was possibly caused by 27 Daz Green who was dumping fluid on the track as he smoked his way around.

Although the fans like to see more cars or track it is inevitable that damage will happen, the clash between 247 Graham McCabe and Peacock was probably caused by the huge difference in speed but the damage wouldn’t happened if the winners ramp wasn’t there. The second incident was probably avoidable when the leaders caught up with 31 Stephen Gooding, there was contact as going into the corner as the leaders became inpatient. That wasn’t the only contact as wheels collided exiting turn 2 that flicked Gooding into the fence head-on, 172 Colin Hitch and Smith had to limp off allowing 161 Dan Holden to win his second race of the day (he also won the Legends National Championship).

Res: 161, 8, 6, 20, 924, 30, 153, 445, 144

Bill Morris revenge

The allcomers race was cancelled due to time restrictions leaving just two races for the regular Classic drivers but after the damage for the previous race they probably need anymore. A quiet race that Wright led until Dave Fry passed.

Res: 20, 924, 6, 8, 30, 37, 445, 88, 244, 153

Overall the finals were a great spectacle but the damage cars received not so pleasant. The dreaded winners yet again caused damage and so did the raised infield, no matter what kind of show Incarace put on this is and will continue to be a sore point at Hednesford.

For the Classics the formula had been on a real high but this destructive meeting will have taken the shine off of the formula, Gooding’s unique Avenger “will not be racing anymore this year” and is probably not the only one. Is the formula reaching a turning point where too many cars will cause damage and slower cars are not part of the show but an unnecessary diversion?

National Hot Rods were again the star attraction, with Woolsey lapping the wet track at unbelievable speed, Glenn Bell proved though he is the real deal in hot rods and will be missed when both cars are eventually sold.


The National Championship weekend is a highlight for the purist hot rod fan, the weekend has gradually over the years removed the contact formulas for all non-contact. The weekend format was established in 1984 and included stock cars and bangers. The greatest amount of National titles held over one weekend is seven. The title being run this weekend is for National Hot Rods, Lightning Rods, Stock Rods and Legends. The Classic Hot Rods also race on the Sunday for the Bill Morris Memorial Trophy and their cars are being utilised for the stars of the past race.

What a lot of spectators don’t realise about the forthcoming meeting is the ability of the unknown name Chris Stockton. A lot of times drivers moving from one oval class to another are given a fanfare and a lot expectations is put on them. Chris Stockton is doing the unknown coming from the larger circuit to the ovals; he isn’t just any driver but spent three years in the BTCC racing alongside the likes of Matt Neal and Jason Plato. Although not a house-hold name his racing CV is better than any driver that has lined up in National Hot Rods not just now but in the whole history of the sport.

If Stockton can blitz the field is another thing as rules state he must line up at the back of his first three meetings. The qualifying heats on the Saturday will dictate the grid but providing a fast driver has no dramas they should obtain a decent qualifying position. The advantage of racing at a track like Hednesford is overtaking, the wider banked tracks allows the quicker drivers to overtake to obtain a better grid position for the final. Without going into the common who will win, who is actually the quickest around the track?

970 Shane Murphy 13.503 996 Stewart Doak 13.768
60 Mark Paffey 13.545 117 Rob McDonald 13.772
115 Chris Haird 13.607 174 Jason Kew 13.778
940 Gary Woolsey 13.625 31 Dick Hillard 13.779
911 Malcolm Blackman 13.625 219 Russell Wilcox 13.784
303 Matt Simpson 13.658 482 Jason Cooper 13.793
9 Glenn Bell 13.676 777 Les Compelli 13.800
962 John Christie 13.676 844 Billy Bonnar 13.807
994 Keith Martin 13.678 6 John Holtby 13.815
961 Tom Casey 13.687 14 Phil Spinks 13.815
95 Gavin Murray 13.721 92 Jack Blood 13.833
14 Phil Spinks 13.724 76 Adam Maxwell 13.835
209 Kym Weaver 13.735 72 Willie Hardie 13.844
261 David Casey 13.740 491 Colin Smith 13.851
67 David Brooks 13.761 66 John Van den Bosch 13.852

In the last 12 months of racing at Hednesford (including last year’s National Championship) there had been 67 drivers with recorded lap times. Their best times range from 13.503s at best to 14.209s, averaging 13.884s. Shane Murphy was the quickest year and without his puncture he would have won that title. It should be noted that the times were achieved at different meetings, conditions and times within a race – even with those factors included it is a good indication of form at this track.

The National Championship for National Hot Rods is the oldest title (first held in 1964) in hot rodding history, the first three titles were a points based championship before becoming a stand-alone race in 1967. Although some may consider Ormond Christie as the greatest hot rodder ever he never won the National championship, finishing on the podium four times. The title has been won 4 times by John Steward and Carl Boardley.

In 1985 Stock Rods were added to the weekend and consistently provide the biggest entry. This year is no different with potential winners from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The most successive driver is Brian Smith who won the title three times, though his first was the Spedeworth version in 1983.

Lightning Rods started racing for their National Championship in 1988 and the title was originally an all Incarace affair. Gradually the other promotions started sending over drivers for a truly national meeting. Spedeworth based drivers have not been that lucky in the meeting, the only winner being Mark Cooper in 2002; whilst the title has crossed the water to Northern Ireland five times and PRI have also tasted success. Incarace are really struggling for numbers with this formula, only 9 home based drivers are booked in for the event. This event marks the end of hard month's work of racing that has included the British, European and now National Championships.

The Classic Hot Rods will race on the Sunday only; the formula does not race for any major titles but has had the opportunity to race at the National Championship meeting for the past few years. The upsurge in numbers continues as Hughie Weaver and Fil Gambone are booked in for their debuts. This year will be the first stars of the past race. There is no prerequisite for the drivers taking part which has meant a few odd-balls will be in the line-up that have taken up the opportunity to race. Although regular drivers Stu Donald and Tim Foxlow would have been within their rights to race they have kindly given the opportunity to other drivers to race.

Star History Car Usual driver
Bryan Wright 43. Hot Rods 1970's Anglia 6 Graham Fulker
3rd World 1975
Ricky Hunn 639. National Hot Rods 1986 - present Escort mk2 8 Darren Owen
World Champion 1994
Bill Smith 16. Super Rods 1980's Anglia 16 Patrick Smith Jnr
World Champion 1987
Pete Winstone 128/ 428. Hot Rods 1975 - 1988. Escort mk1 20 Dave Fry
European Champion 1976 and 1977
9. Super Rods 1980's
World Champion 1986
Roger Wright Stock Rods Escort mk1 24 Roger Wright
John Aylward Unknown Escort mk1 29 Stu Donald
Colin Hall 66. National Hot Rods 1980/90's Escort mk2 32 Glen Moore
2nd National 1991
Martin Morris 00. Hot Rods 1960/70's Escort mk2 44 Richard Lowe
National Champion 1964 and 1967
Keith Martin 994. National Hot Rods 1985 - present Escort mk1 57 Mike Oliver
World Champion 2005
994. 1600 Hot Rods 1994 - 97
World Champion 1996
Paul Grimer 8. Hot Rods 1972 - 1990 Escort mk1 88 David Owen
3rd English 1984, 85 and 88
Deane Wood 302/ 305. National Hot Rods 1987 - 89 Escort mk2 144 Tim Foxlow
2. 1600 Hot Rods 1991
Spedeworth promoter
Kevin Hunt 391. 1600 Hot Rods 1993-94 Escort mk2 153 Sam Mitchell
Hughie Weaver 210. Stock Rods 1997 - 2000 Viva 210 Lee Wood
210. 2L Hot Rods 1999 - 2003
George Polley 306. National Hot Rods 1970 - 1990 Anglia 306 George Polley
World Champion 1976 and 1987
Barry Lee 351. National Hot Rods 1971 - 1988 Escort mk2 351 Lee Wood
World Champion 1973, 74, 77 and 78
Steve Dance 6. National Hot Rods 1980's A40 445 Graham Boyd
1/ 6. Super Rods 1980's
English Champion 1986 and 1989
Mike Chapman 876. Stock Rods 1985 - 2002 Anglia 924 Stuart Wright

Barring those 16 that have made the intention to race there were plenty of other names knocking about that could be in the frame by this weekend: Mick Shepperd, Neil Facey, Ronnie McKenzie, Pete Stevens, Norman Woolsey, Phil White and Steve Burgess.

For a race fan that doesn’t want to see the smash and crash of the bangers the National weekend is a must even if attending for the finals that take place on the Sunday, Hednesford is the fastest hot rod track in the UK and in many peoples eyes the 'home of hot rod racing'

Related articles
NHR National Championship roll of honour

Classic Hot Rod overview

Stock Rod National Championship roll of honour

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