European Championship
26th June 2005, Buxton

The Grand Prix Midget European Championship at Buxton on June 26th was probably one of the best spectators have had for several years. So often the winner has qualified in pole, led from the flag pulled off into the distance and won by a colloquial mile. Not so this year instead it was a two horse race the outcome of which could have been either way but was ultimately decided by a back marker.

 

Rob Sayell qualified on pole (from points accumulated in the season's non-feature races to date) with Alan Buckland alongside him. The reigning World championship was first away and was well clear in turns 1, 2 and 3 but from that point on was caught and hounded by the defending titleholder Buckland.

The hard charging pair soon left Neil Clarke and Jonathan Pooley (3rd and 4th respectively) several cars adrift as Sayell led Buckland nose to tail through the opening laps. As they met the first of the back markers around lap 6 the pair passed either side and Buckland momentarily slipped by Sayell but the lead was snatched back almost immediately within the same lap and the status quo and battle for the front was restored for around 20 more laps. In the meantime new boy Jonathan Pooley pressured old hand Clarke and was eventually rewarded with third from an inside move about one third distance. Such was the pace of the lead two that they lapped up to and including third placed Pooley by two thirds distance, the back markers generally taking good notice of the many blue flags and not holding up progress.

It was as they met Daz Rycroft (year 2000 European Champion) for the second time that Rob Sayell met his downfall. Rycroft indicated Sayell to the outside line but as he went round left the door wide open on the inside which Buckland was only too happy to take. Sayell stuck with the slightly longer route past Rycroft lost out by a split second Buckland snatching the lead and 6/7 laps later the flag thus successfully defending the title. Sayell unusually the bridesmaid on this occasion, Jonathan Pooley albeit a lap down came in a very creditable third in what is still only his first season. Neil Clarke who had dropped back from Pooley had made up ground in the closing stages to finish a reasonably close 4th with Andrew Bilby finishing 5th despite an epic battle with Hoosier's Martin Lamb who took 6th ahead of five times European Champion of the 90s Harry Sayell and Club Chairman Barry Goldsby taking the final points scoring place in 8th.

The first of the two supporting heats saw a repeat of the Bilby/Lamb battle but up front this time with grids returning to normal. Alan Buckland appeared keen to consolidate his success making some quite adventurous overtaking moves to scythe his way through the field from the back row. Lap 8 saw a degree of mayhem with Clarke making contact with Mark Hodges in the pit turn who spun as a result collecting Harry Sayell who was hit in turn and was stranded against the wall just after the turn exit. As the leaders came round they met the orange Arrow causing the pack to compress Rob Sayell jumping up in the air as his car jumped wheels with Lamb. This allowed Buckland up to second and dropped Sayell back to fourth behind Lamb. Bilby was going very well and Buckland had no easy time of it similarly Sayell struggled with Lamb but both eventually got their man Buckland taking the lead with around 5 laps to run. Another couple of laps later Sayell wore down Bilby to move into second but it was just too late at the flag and Buckland notched up his second win of the day.

The final saw Evan Stone's best race to date taking the lead and holding it for the first 6 laps with yellow grade Bilby again putting the old VW through its paces eventually taking up the running from Stone and giving Rob Sayell's nimble BMC quite a run for his money over the next few laps. Alan Buckland was clearly hoping for a hat trick and was again throwing his car into the bends with considerable faith and commitment. Bilby however was no kinder to the newly crowned champion than he had been to Rob Sayell and once up to third Buckland was unable to pass until two laps to run. Sayell was anxious for at least one chequered flag and despite a large ditch attempt by Buckland on the final turn Sayell came out in front. Andrew Bilby was a comfortable third from a well-placed Stone and a well-behaved Clarke finished 5th ahead of Rycroft and Hodges.

The points championship continues to be a Sayell/Buckland battle with double points on the main event giving Buckland a 4 point gain in the first race, but with a win and runner up place each in the heats this was all he did gain the gap now 15 points. The competition therefore is shaping up to be one of reliability and consistency but "settling for points" is not something either of these drivers appears to be comfortable with and the competition looks likely to go right down to the wire. Gary Bonner's absence allowed both Neil Clarke and Pooley Junior to move ahead with Andrew Bilby overtaking Harry Sayell to move into sixth overall. (Sayell Senior now missing two meetings and likely to drop even further, so don't get rid of the red paint yet Ez!!)