Graham Hill Memorial Trophy
9th April 2005, Birmingham Wheels, report by Andrew Goldsby

Only an hour after the favourite horse, Hedge Hunter, won the Grand National the Grand Prix Midgets rolled into the second city to contest one of the clubs most prestigious trophies, the Graham Hill Memorial, in round two of the Grand Prix Midget AWS Racewear National Points Championship. The bookies favourite had to be Rob Sayell, but would a visit to the notoriously tricky Birmingham Wheels circuit prove this event to be the same lottery that Aintree usually dishes up.

Heat one ran under rain threatening clouds and saw a grid of thirteen cars. A restart due to the number 3 car of Ben Pashley stalling on the line could only add to the tension of a lot of the grid as several drivers made their first start of the season including Birmingham's own Daz Rycroft, the very fast Gary Bonner, Midget debutant Martin Lamb and defending Graham Hill Memorial Champion Barry Goldsby, who on the drop of the green flag promptly fell asleep allowing Cliff Bunn to take up the early initiative. Once the initial two lap jostling had settled down the obvious on track battle was shaping up with a four car tussle between Daz Rycroft, fellow Brummie Neil Clark, Rob Sayell and his championship main contender Alan Buckland working through the field nose to tail. The lead seized by these four meant that Rycroft only had a few laps to hold off a great attempt from Clark, who in turn, had his mirrors full of Sayell and Buckland. Crossing the line the top four could have been covered by a blanket as Daz Rycroft took his first win of the year. Clark second but out of the meeting after suspension damage caused tagging the infamous inside rumble strips, Sayell third, Buckland fourth, The first front engine of Ez Walker fifth, debutant Martin Lambs stunning drive from back to sixth, followed over by Andrew Bilby and the quickly developing Cliff Bunn rounding off the points paying positions with a solid drive to eighth. Defending Graham Hill Trophy winner Barry Goldsby out of the meeting with a suspension failure meant a new name would adorn the coveted prize….Race on.

A very soiled track after the traditional Banger race deposits welcomed the drivers to heat two. Hoping to get his night off and running Steve Baker, the joint points leader after round one, was looking to improve upon his bad first run but it was the other front engine gazelle on the grid driven by newcomer Martin Lamb that took up the mantle. A better start from Ben Pashley hinted that race two may be a front engine affair when he showed his genuine pace up front. It took a while for the chasing pack to haul him in, emerging that Martin Lamb was in the box seat followed by the usual suspects of Buckland and Sayell. A well driven win from his natural starting position from the blue grade by Martin. Alan Buckland taking second, Rob Sayell third. Daz Rycroft slipped from top slot heat one to a creditable fourth, Ez walker made fifth again, Andrew Bilby sixth. The spectacular driving style of Andrew Hinch gained his first points of the night took seventh and a great run for Ben Pashley rounded off the top eight.

Lining up for the meeting final and the Graham Hill Trophy all eyes were now focused on the hard charging Alan Buckland and Rob Sayell. A twenty lap final would surely favour these two star drivers, but would they get it all their own way? Getting quicker each race Ben Pashley took the initiative with a good half lap lead over Cliff Bunn. The blue grade drivers had no time to settle into any kind of rhythm as Buckland and Sayell descended upon the almost immediately. The congested battle involving the likes of Daz Rycroft, Andrew Hinch and Andrew Bilby was eventually resolved by Buckland who now had stolen half a straightway over Rob Sayell. Gary Bonner had taken the biggest advantage having already escaped the tussle to track down Bunn and Pashley and open out a considerable lead. But by half way it was becoming clear who this race would be settled between. Hauling Buckland back in with a stunning mid race showing Sayell could have taken advantage of the lap traffic of the two Andrews, Hinch and Bilby. Buckland choosing the outside line behind Hinch, Sayell inside behind Bilby. Holding firm Buckland was able to control the outcome round the outside and again snatched a four car length lead over Sayell. Again eating into the lead time was now running out, another five laps and the outcome may have been different but Alan Buckland took the black and white to win the Graham Hill Memorial Trophy followed over the line by Rob Sayell. A great third place was Gary Bonners award. Martin Lamb proved his race win was nothing to do with luck as he took fourth ahead of Ez Walker who by now should have been getting bored of fifth place! Andrew Bilby, Steve Baker and Andrew Hinch settled the rest of the points. Defending points champion Rob Sayell remains top of the rankings but the season really starts to heat up with Alan Buckland snapping at his heals in second.

Off and rolling the season will rumble on into East Anglia next with Round Three and the Gerald Smith Memorial Trophy up for grabs at Swaffham on 16th April. And with a large grid tipped to make the trip any one can guess who will turn out the winning performance.