Round 4 Report - Hethel
For the second time in as many events it was Anthony Lidster that claimed the accolade of setting the fastest time of the day and winning Class D, this time in round four of the Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series at Hethel on Saturday 28th June. He achieved it on the very last run of the day, stealing the top spot by 0.81secs from Gary Hayward.
Once again, Class C was the domain of Paul Allin, who continued his unbroken run of victories this season. In contrast, Class B honours fell to Ross Walker for the first time this year, with Class A seeing Ian Fleming another to pick up the trophy for the second time in succession.
The 2.2-mile track at Hethel is not only a popular sprint venue, but also the proving ground for Lotus Cars, the circuit situated behind the famous sports car company's factory in Norfolk. The MLR event utilised nearly all of its 2.2-miles of FIA quality asphalt, which features a mixture of fast straights and tight technical sections.
After the recent spell of dry weather, competitors arrived at the track hoping that the rain would hold off for the day. But with Wimbledon and Glastonbury Festival taking place over the same weekend, the chances of completely dry conditions were somewhat optimistic.
Once again, the day began with the morning's practice runs, the usual slick organisation coupled with drivers putting in a series of clean and well-judged runs, meant that everyone had the opportunity of five preliminary outings during the morning. Initially it was Brad Sheehan who set the pace in his Evo IX, but by the end of the practice sessions it was Lidster who topped the time sheets in his now familiar bright red Evo VI.
Both Allin in his Evo V and Walker in his Evo VI showed the shape of things to come by setting the fastest practice times in Classes C and B respectively, whilst in Class A it was David Forbes driving his Evo VI who was the man on form in the category for cars that are closer to standard specification.
After a short lunch break, the time sheets were reset for the first of the competitive sessions and, so far - although the clouds had become more prevalent - there was no sign of any rain.
Having missed the first run, it was Hayward who set the fastest overall and Class D time on the second and he was now 0.48secs ahead of Lidster - a considerable margin in MLR Sprint Series terms. Allin and Walker carried on from where they left off from practice in Classes C and B, whereas - in his usual style - Fleming had turned up the wick in his Evo II for the competitive runs and was immediately fastest of the Class A field.
Ready to fight back, Lidster was frustrated to find that, when it came to run three, the weather had turned and it had started to rain - albeit only lightly. Needless to say, the levels of grip plummeted - as did the times for all of the drivers - many of them opting not to go out as there was next to no chance that they would be able to improve on their earlier performances.
However, much to the delight of many, after less than an hour the rain stopped and the track started to dry out. Having missed runs five and six, for Lidster it was now all down to the seventh and final run of the day.
Summoning up everything he had to re-capture the lead in Class D, he put together the perfect run and stopped the clock at 1:16.30. It was a time that was good enough for Lidster to snatch FTD by a margin of 0.81secs from Hayward and claim his second Class D victory in a row.Allin also saved his best till last and set his Class C winning time of 1:20.92 on run number seven, to finish 0.58secs ahead of his closest rival Barry Jordan in his Evo VIII. Conversely, Walker set his Class B winning time of the first of the competitive runs and chose to sit it out during the more moist conditions hoping he had done enough to claim the category spoils - which he did by 0.76secs ahead of Steve Peel in his Evo VI.
Fleming's Class A winning time was achieved on the second run in the afternoon and he too took a rain check for run number three. But although he had set the benchmark for the category, he was put under pressure by Forbes, who came as close as 0.36secs to Fleming's time - also on run number two.
Whilst the changing conditions made for a challenging day for all concerned, once again the MLR Sprint Series proved to be a closely fought affair, with positions throughout the classes far from decided until the final run of the day.
The fifth round sees the series head north for the annual trip across the border to Kames near Muirkirk - around 30-miles south of Glasgow - and the prospect of competition on the Scottish venues' demanding narrow tarmac roads on Saturday 19th July.
The 2014 Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series is sponsored by: Pace Ward performance insurance, SuperPro suspension parts, AP Tuning, Ross Sport and HKS Europe.
Round 4 Class Winners
Class Sponsor Driver Car TimeA SuperPro Ian Fleming Evo II 1:28.27B AP Tuning Ross Walker Evo VI 1:22.84C Ross Sport Paul Allin Evo V 1:20.92D (FTD) HKS Europe Anthony Lidster Evo XI 1:16.30Class leaders after round 4
Class Driver Car PointsA Ian Fleming Evo II 295B Steve Peel Evo VI 375C Paul Allin Evo V 400D Anthony Lidster Evo VI 395