Monday 1 April 2013, Grimley

On Monday April 1st Grimley Raceway played host to the season opener for the 2013 Grand Prix Midgets season, its has become modern tradition that the first race meeting of the new season is held at the warm welcoming and ever improving Worcester track. Many new and improved changes to the stadium greeted the drivers as they pulled into pits, including a new race control, additional hard core layed down in the pit area to reduce water build-up and improved safety catch fencing between the race track and the spectators.

As the cars were offloaded from there respective trailers and transporters and were scrutineered ready for the 1pm start time it gave everyone a chance to have a look around to see what modifications the drivers had done to there machines over the winter break and see what competition they would be up against. The first car to catch the eye was #44 Dave Dollin's Jet fuels sponsored Sparton Ford winner of the smartest car award 2012, Dave had meticulously cleaned the car from the ground up and despite making the usual tweaks the most noticeable change was the addition of a new rear spoiler that he had purchased from ex-GP Midget world champion and current JEDI racer #10 Rob Sayell. #77 Neil Clarke's Stealth had gone through a complete metamorphosis over the winter period although it was not easily noticeable to the naked eye the entire rear suspension had been completely re-worked by Steve Walford Motorsport not only improving the cars geometry but also saving an astonishing 15 kilos in weight. Current world and points champion #31 Jonathan Pooley was also in attendance with his brand new Pooley Motorsports built Scorpian and #83 Darren Clark was out with the ex-#28 Derek Hawes Dastle.

The drivers took to the track for heat 1 with #17 Jack Hodges (son of GP Midget racer #5 Mark Hodges) lining up on the pole, this is only Jack's second ever race meeting having competed for the first time at the GP Midget 2012 season finale at Birmingham Wheels Raceway back in November. #77 Neil Clarke was all on his own in the yellow grade whilst #16 Andrew Bilby and #83 Darren Clark occupied the front row of the blue grade with local hero #8 Pete Dorrell behind. The red's were headed by #23 Cliff Bunn the reigning front engine points champion and alongside him #32 Daniel Pooley, father Gordon Pooley #33 and 2012's best newcomer #44 Dave Dollin completed the line up of the red grade drivers. Starting directly behind the red graders was reining world and points champion #31 Jonathan Pooley and the grid was rounded off with #46 Tom Keep opting to start the race from the rear of the field and along side him was newcomer #63 Keith Minshall in the ex-#99 Peter Perry Fireball Mk3.

The two formation laps under waved yellows was complete and the cars returned to there starting positions for a clutch start with engines revving high in anticipation of the green flag, the start marshal gave one final check of the raceway before letting the green flag fly and the start of the 2013 Grand Prix Midget season was away. #17 Jack Hodges got a good clean start and lead into turn 1 from #77 Clarke but at the other end of the field the engine of car #63 Keith Minshall had stalled leaving him stranded in the exit of turn two, a stationary yellow flag was held and the approaching cars took avoiding action with car #23 and #44 arriving at the stricken car side-by-side but on the last second #44 dropped back and gave #23 enough room to slot past in single file. Keith managed to get the car to safety of the infield after the flurry of cars had passed leaving #17 Hodges in lead with #77 Clarke closing in.

Five laps into the race and #77 Clarke made his move on #17 Hodges to take the lead but Hodges showing sensational car control did not let the #77 car pull away from him, whilst Hodges swapped from lock-to-lock as if it was second nature as he powered his way onto the straight in pursuit of the #77 car the Pooley brothers Jonathan #31 and Daniel #32 had made there way into third and fourth position respectively with Dollin #44 and Clark #83 battling for fifth and sixth position. The Pooley brother caught Hodges and relegated him down to fourth position and into the clutches of Dollin and Clark's battle, the five laps to go board was shown to the leader #77 Neil Clarke who now had his mirrors full of world champion Jonathan Pooley and his chance of victory was looking less and less likely. For the next three laps Jonathan tried to pass the lead car of Clarke but no matter which way he tried inside or outside lines Clarke keeped him behind, #32 Daniel Pooley was now all over the back of his brother Jonathan's car and could not find his way past either. As they crossed the line the next time round the starter showed Clarke the final lap board with Jonathan Pooley directly in his wheel tracks the third place man #32 Daniel Pooley took to the outside, they hurtled down the back straight and charged into the final bend #32 Daniel Pooley was able to carry his momentum and pass his brother and as they emerged onto the home straight it was a drag race for the line between #77 on the inside and #32 on the outside. #32 pulled alongside the #77 car as they crossed the line but Neil Clarke had done enough to take victory by a nose from the hard charging Daniel Pooley who had to settle for second with Jonathon Pooley crossing the line in third virtually pushing the cars in front, #17 Hodges was able to breakaway from #44 Dollin and #83 Clark to come home in fourth place with Dollin fifth and Clark sixth. #16 Andrew Bilby finished in seventh and #33 Gordon Pooley got the last points scoring place finishing in eighth position.

After a return to the pits for refuelling and any necessary tweaks to the suspension the cars re-emerged on track for heat 2, with the grid remaining the same as it was for heat 1 #46 Tom Keep had again opted to start from the rear of the grid as he was still unsure on how his revamped engine was going to perform at full race speed. #63 Keith Minshall also joined Tom Keep at the rear of the grid after fixing the problem with the clutch system which had caused the car to stall in heat 1, however as the cars started the two formation laps the #63 car refused to start at all despite best efforts from the driver and was pushed onto the infield, the cars completed the formation laps and once again took up there grid positions for the clutch start. All cars got away clean as the race got under way and #17 Jack Hodges once again took up the early lead followed by heat 1 winner #77 Neil Clarke, at the back of the field the Pooley brother were making quick progress and had already overtaken #23 Cliff Bunn and there father #33 Gordon Pooley. #77 Clarke caught and passed Hodges earlier than he had done in the first heat and was pushing hard to build up a lead over the pursuing cars of #83 Darren Clark and #44 Dave Dollin who had both passed car #17 to take up second and third positions respectively, the order stayed much the same with each driver only able to make small amounts of ground on the cars in front until the half way point when #32 Daniel Pooley came charging through to mount his challenge for the lead. Daniel passed #17 Hodges, #44 Dollin and #83 Clark weaving between them from inside to out pushing the car to its limits, he then caught and passed car #77 to take the lead of heat 2. Further down the field three of the front engine cars #8 Pete Dorrell, #23 Cliff Bunn and #46 Tom Keep were locked in battle for seventh, eighth and ninth positions, the local driver #8 Pete Dorrell is no stranger in the art of keeping cars behind him and was showing no sign of relenting to the challenges from #23 and #46. In the closing stages #31 Jonathan Pooley moved himself up into 2nd position but had no chance of catching his brother Daniel who had dominated the second heat, #17 Jack Hodges retired to the infield earning himself his first DNF of his racing career, the chequered flag fell for car #32 Daniel Pooley who won heat 2 in style with brother Jonathan #31 finishing in second place and #83 Darren Clark an impressive third. Dollin #44 crossed the line in fourth place with heat one winner #77 Neil Clarke finishing fifth, #16 Andrew Bilby finished in a strong sixth place and #8 Pete Dorrell held off the challenges of #23 Bunn and #44 Keep to take seventh place with #23 Bunn picking up the last points scoring position of eighth place.

#17 Jack Hodges did not take part in the final as his engine was only firing on three cylinders #63 Keith Minshall also loaded his race car which was still suffering with clutch and engine problems and #33 Gordon Pooley broke a drive shaft in heat two which also put him out of action for the final. Daniel Pooley #32 had to move to the rear of the red grade after his heat two win moving #44 Dave Dollin forwards to start alongside #23 Cliff Bunn at the front of the reds, Dollin's results were improving as the day went on and hoped his new improved grid slot could be key to keeping the fast paced Pooley brothers behind him in the final. With #17 Jack Hodges not making the grid this left #77 Neil Clarke to lead the start of the race with #16 Andrew Bilby, #83 Darren Clark and #46 Tom Keep giving chase, Dollin #44 wasted no time getting himself in front of #23 Cliff Bunn to lead the red graders in the opening stages. #32 Daniel Pooley was making quick progress as he had done in heat two, passing the #23 car of Cliff Bunn with the #31 car of Jonathan Pooley following closely in the tyre tracks of his brother as they chassed down #44 Dave Dollin. Daniel went to his favoured outside line as he exited turn four and brushed the wall with his outside rear tyre sending him sideways onto the infield and directly into a concrete filled marker tyre, the yellow flags were immediately brought out and the cars came to a stop. The tracks medical staff checked on Pooley as he emerged uninjured from his car and the race was resumed after Daniel was in the safety area of the infield and his stricken car was moved out of harms way, by this time #83 Darren Clark had moved into the lead of the race and on the restart pulled a large gap out over second place. Jonathan Pooley moved himself into second place and began to real in the leader, #46 Tom Keep #16 Andrew Bilby and #77 Neil Clarke battled it out over fourth, fifth and sixth position meanwhile #8 Pete Dorrell and #23 Cliff Bunn were once again racing each other hard for seventh and eighth. As the race entered the closing stages Jonathan Pooley had now caught up with the long time leader #83 Darren Clark and he moved himself to Clark's outside and made the pass for the race lead, #44 Dave Dollin's tyres were now coming good by the end of the race and looked to be quicker than the new race leader but time had ran out and too much ground had been lost for him to improve upon his third position. The chequered flag greeted #31 Jonathan Pooley as he crossed the line to win the first meeting final of the 2013 season with #83 Darren Clark and #44 Dave Dollin rounding off the podium positions, #46 Tom Keep brought the Cheeta home in a remarkable fourth place considering the car has never preformed brilliantly at Grimley. #77 Neil Clark scored himself another fine fifth place finish with #16 Bilby a respectable sixth, #8 Dorrell once again held off #23 Cliff Bunn to finish seventh and eighth respectively.

And so drew a close to the first meeting of the 2013 Grand Prix Midget season with three different race winners, Jonathan Pooley taking the final win and the points lead going into the next meeting at Birmingham Wheels Raceway in just five days time ! Dave Dollin, Daniel Pooley and Neil Clarke are all in joint second position in the points standings and #83 Darren Clark heads the front engine points championship table. See you Saturday on the 6th of April.

Heat one:1st 77 Neil Clarke, 2nd 32 Daniel Pooley, 3rd 31 Jonathan Pooley, 4th 17 Jack Hodges, 5th 44 Dave Dollin, 6th Darren Clark, 7th 16 Andrew Bilby, 8th 33 Gordon Pooley

Heat two: 1st 32 Daniel Pooley, 2nd 31 Jonathan Pooley, 3rd 83 Darren Clark, 4th 44 Dave Dollin, 5th 77 Neil Clark, 6th 16 Andrew Bilby, 7th 8 Peter Dorrell, 8th 23 Clifford Bunn

West Country Challenge: 1st 31 Jonathan Pooley, 2nd 83 Darren Clark, 3rd 44 Dave Dollin, 4th 46 Tom Keep, 5th 77 Neil Clarke, 6th 16 Andrew Bilby, 7th 8 Peter Dorrell, 8th 23 Clifford Bunn