After the recent spell of roasting hot weather that the UK has been experiencing it was all change for the annual RYA British Sprint Championship which took place at the Stewartby Water Sports Club near the traditional English market town of Bedford.
Overcast skies and a stiff breeze greeted the thirteen Formula Two drivers that were all trying to stop Malcolm Goodman from retaining the title he won some twelve months ago. They soon found out that even though he was using his second choice propeller, after the one he used to good effect at the Lowestoft Grand Prix had developed a small crack, he still went out and set the fastest time in qualifying.
In the first of the three heats two restarts were needed after Ian Wright broke down on the racing line, then Graham and Matt Palfreyman had a coming together that resulted in Matt sitting out for the rest of the weekend. Goodman went onto win the opening heat followed some six seconds later by Steve Hoult, who in turn had the former three times F2 World Champion Colin Jelf swarming all over his gear case as the pair crossed the finish line.
Heat two proved to be just as close, though this time Colin Jelf did managed to pass Hoult but was unable to stop Goodman from claiming another 400 points. Meanwhile Owen Jelf, who the weekend before had finished in fifth place at the Italian Grand Prix was giving his recently purchased BaBa hull its British debut. After a wrong propeller choice in the early stages of qualifying then conditions taking a turn for the worse later on, he was left well down the grid and took a hard fought fifth place. “I’m just too far down the grid to be competitive at the first turn” he said “the weather caught us out which was a shame because I was really hoping to do well here this weekend.”
As the drivers left the start dock for the third and final heat it was Colin Jelf who made the best start rounding the top mark with a slender lead over Goodman. He soon began to pull away and in doing so set the weekends fastest lap time. Then as he was making his way through the right hand chicane his Molgaard slowed and he pulled off the course. “As I was coming through the chicane there was so much vibration I just knew the propeller had shed a blade” said Jelf. “Up until that point I was having a great weekend. It’s been the first time that I’ve managed to get the Optimax to fire and get off the start line cleanly. You have to remember that I’m three years behind some of these drivers in terms of technology, I’ve got a lot to learn and adapt too” he said.
With Colin Jelf sidelined Goodman now just had to hang on to retain his title, but knew that Hoult and Scott Curtis would be pushing him hard. Try as they might they both knew that closing Goodman down would be a tough ask, plus they both knew that they had done enough in the previous two heats to lay claim to a podium spot. As Goodman crossed the line to a ripple of gentle applause his thoughts turned to his old friend Jeri Lamba, whose memorial trophy the drivers were all competing for. “When I first started racing in the J250 Jeri would always be there to help me out” said Goodman, “so it’s a real honour to be receiving the trophy today. It’s been a tough weekend I think like most of the drivers we are still trying to get to grips with the new Optimax engines, plus running into this wind the DAC can get a bit wild, still its all good practice for Nottingham. Last year everyone warned me about the Nottingham curse and then I got bitten by it, I’m certainly going to make sure that it doesn’t happen this time round.”
Third place did in deed go to Scott Curtis which after all the mechanical issues he’s had to cope with this season is at least some reward for his perseverance. “I think we’ve now finally sorted out why the Optimax was over heating, but as for any hopes of doing well in the Powerboat GP series I think realistically they have all but gone now, which is a shame. I now have to concentrate on getting the set upright with a view to competing at some of the World Championship rounds next year.”
Second place went to Steve Hoult, who is using the ex-Laszio Kovacs Molgaard to great effect not only in the Sprint Championship but also in UK’s Powerboat GP series where he’s currently in third place in his first season of racing F2. “Maybe we are just lucky and I’m riding that luck at the moment but our set up seems to be giving me some great acceleration off the dock” said Hoult. “I’ve never raced with an SST120 engine so I haven’t had to change the way I approach the starts. I’ve come from racing the old style F4 where it’s always been close quarter racing so I’m well used to going into the turns side by side. I damaged a propeller in qualifying so I was forced into using one I’d never raced with, so maybe I am the luckiest guy in the pits.”
Ian Andrews and Malcolm Goodman are both expected to join Owen Jelf as the three British drivers prepare to take on the foreign challenge at the forthcoming British Grand Prix taking place later this month in Nottingham.