CLEAL RETAINS THE ‘ MATTHEW PERCY’ MEMORIAL TROPHY RACE HELD AT CLAY PIGEON
It was a race where all weather options ( barring snow) were thrown at the competitors during the weekend. Hurricane strength winds on Friday reduced the practice option and indeed, for the majority, awnings were not erected. By Saturday, the winds had subsided and the awnings went up, just in time, as the rain almost reached torrential levels. The knock on affect for drivers that had rebuilt their engines for this race was that there was only a very small window of time in order to run / bed-in their engines.
The Matthew Percy Memorial Trophy race has been competed for since 1991 ( 29 years), where Ron Shone won the inaugural race and the current holder being Anthony Cleal. The gold trophy itself was donated by Win Percy ( father of Matthew) and has been competed for every year since in memory of Matthew, who died tragically in a Motor Traffic Accident. Matthew was an ardent competitor, as both a Junior and Senior driver, in the Two Counties Club Championship and has his name on several of the clubs’ annual trophies. The ‘Percy’ trophy itself is the exact one, won by Win Percy and Tom Walkinshaw in the European Touring Car Championship at Autodrome di Vallelunga
( Italy) in 1985. The original inscription is still on the actual Trophy, to add to the history and mystique of the event.
Sunday race day dawned dry and sunny, though the track was still damp. By the time the three lap official practice came round, most racers were on wet tyres, though a few chose slicks. With half an hour to go before the first heat, the dilemma of inters or slicks raised itself. There was approx a 50 / 50 split on the choice. As the race progressed it quickly became apparent that even though a dry line was appearing inters were the correct choice.
Throughout the series of three heats, the weather would play its part. In heat two, which started dry, by half distance, the rain came down with drivers slithering and sliding on their slicks up to the chequered flag.
Heat three passed by uneventfully, with the drivers racing to their perceptions of what was necessary to gain a good grid position for the Final.
By the time of the Final, the track had dried and slicks would be the required choice of rubber. As it was, Russell O’Neill secured pole from Anthony Cleal, with Robin Stoddart-Stones and Toby Cook positioned behind on row two. Ben Pearson and Rob Mortimore took up row three.
From the lights, Cleal took the lead followed by Russell O’Neill, and a rapid starting Ben Pearson. During the opening lap, David Goode passed Mike Bell for 7th place. Ron shone accounted for Paul Dible and his daughter Serita Shone. Paul Dible became involved in an incident demoting him to 15th place, which in turn caused Graham Dudley to take avoiding actions and slide off the track to re-join a lap adrift. At the end of lap one, Toby Cook returned to the pits with engine problems.
By lap two Ben Pearson was in second place and then set about trying to close down Anthony Cleal who was in the lead. Rob Mortimore passed a struggling Stoddart-Stones, whose choice of worn slicks proved flawed. Taylor Waldron passed Bell for 7th place. Behind, Robert Dudley was having an impressive start accounting for four drivers as he moved up to 11th spot. By lap three the situation at the front had stabilised , though Taylor Waldron passed David Goode and moved up to 6th place. Bell also took the opportunity to retake Goode. Into lap 4 and Cleal and Pearson were locked together and had eased away from Russell O’Neill, meanwhile Taylor Waldron passed Stoddart-Stones. By lap 5 Taylor Waldron continued his way forward passing Mortimore. Bell followed him and moved past Stoddart-Stones. The next action occurred in lap 8 where Goode made his move on Stoddart-Stones stick. Further back Kevin O’Neill and a recovering Dible overtook Nigel Vickery. Lap 12, and Bell moved up into 5th spot ahead of Mortimore. Dible, with Vickery in tow, passed Kevin O’Neill on lap 14.
The next dramatic incident occurred on lap 15, where Ron Shone, trying desperately to close down Stoddart-Stones, lost it going into ‘Billy’s blind’. Daughter Serita, directly behind, left the circuit taking avoiding action but Rob Dudley, who for the past 5 laps had been part of this mini-racing trio, chose the right line and set off after Stoddart-Stones. He caught and passed him on the penultimate lap to finish 8th. A very creditable result from a 15th starting place !
On to the flag with Cleal just holding off Pearson. A short distance behind Russell O’Neill claimed 3rd on the track. 4th was Taylor Waldron who was demoted to 6th after a nose cone infringement gave him a 10-second penalty. 5th over the line was Mike Bell, later to be promoted to 4th once Waldron’s time penalty took effect.
When the dust cleared and the start grid positions were taken into account, it was Anthony Cleal who had retained the Matthew Percy Trophy with Russell O’Neill 2nd overall, followed by Ben Pearson in 3rd place. Mike Bell and Rob Mortimore completed the front five.
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