Twelve riders turned out to contest both Division One and Two competitions raced within the same 12 man programme using the standard 16 man formula. That meant the first three races had four riders followed by the remainder with three only.
Our old friend, veteran Scottish International racer Alan Douglas did the draw for us and we all stood around in total shock and utter disbelief as the list of names was randomly pulled off one of last year’s practice match programmes while Alan drew the exact same numbers for those exact same riders out of the hat (well, the TK Trophy actually). There must have been some dark forces at work here, it just defies explanation.
Heat one saw three of the potential Division Two title challengers facing each other. With Terry on grid one it was Shane who gave chase followed by Keith and Jordan. Two big hitters out next saw Dan Wharrier battling with Jason for the first few laps until the title favourite eased away with Daniel Thompson third and Bradley fourth. Next out was Lee who took a comfy win from the gate while wily old Ashie held JP and Paul behind with his tight line choice paying dividends.
Dan W and Terry met next, the younger gating his ancient opponent from the outside and resisting a late inside challenge with Paul behind. Lee beat Keith and Dan T in the next before heat seven saw JP take a great win with a slow-starting Jordan overhauling Bradley very late on. Jason headed home Shane and Ashie in the eighth and with all riders having had two races Lee and Jason were unbeaten on 8 points with Dan W and Terry on 7 followed by Shane and JP with 6 each.
JP took advantage of a tired-looking Terry in heat nine then Dan W headed Keith home while Jason and Lee took further easy wins. Three rides each and Jason, Lee, Dan, JP and Terry were into double figures.
Terry and Jason won their fourth rides while Dan was pegged back by Lee, Shane taking heat 16. So with one ride each to come Jason and Lee were still unbeaten, Dan and Terry were locked on 14 with Shane just one point behind. Heat 17 was to decide the title, and while Lee got a great start off grid one with Jason on two, he was slowed by his handlebar grip slipping and pulling the end plug out. The resultant clatter saw Jason just get the advantage to emerge as 2017 Champion as Lee hit the kerb, these two leaving Terry for dead as they produced a close scrap all the way to the finish. As far as I recall Ashie had the only tip-off while leading his last race, mysteriously. Had he held on for the win he'd have been the Best of the Rest which I'm sure would have pleased him in his current state of health.
Dan Wharrier won the last heat to clinch third spot on 18 points and it came as absolutely no surprise that a run-off was needed somewhere along the line. This time it was for second and third in the Division Two Championship after Lee had already claimed the title with his superb performance overall. So we had Keith, Shane and JP lining up to sort out the minor placings as the rain began to fall at 2:50pm.
A slightly superior start by Shane off grid two saw JP on one back off when reaching the first turn with Keith heading for the boards as he always does to grab second place. JP tracked him for three laps, determined not to let go, while Shane made good his escape. Leaving the pits turn for the penultimate time JP sneaked through on the inside to draw level with Keith as they crossed the starting grid and stuck with it as the unlucky Keith ran out of legs.
Once again the event provided plenty of good racing with everyone trying their hardest. The presentations were almost washed out as we huddled within and without the partial shelter of the container. Chairman Keith Dyer presented the glassware and perpetual trophies to the lucky winners while everyone else just got wet.
It’s not easy for me to try and select my unofficial “Man of the Match” but I will anyway and I have to share it between JP who has been a revelation as a rookie at his age (I know he won’t mind me saying that, touch wood!), Shane who rode with a damaged back after a strain at work and looked very good indeed (possibly the new helmet’s lightness providing a boost!), and Lee who looked better than ever this afternoon staying right up there with the Skipper when they met in the decider and really gating superbly.