Hednesford 2 .11.14-14

“The Dark Lord Dominates as Donut celebrates Points Win with Donuts!”

The final round of the National Series for the majestic Classic Hot Rods for season 2014 signed off in style with nineteen competitors exhibiting some stunning racing in front of a large Hednesford crowd at their popular end of season fireworks meeting.

With the weather being what can best be described as ‘kind’ for the time of year, the drivers were busy in the pits, many having arrived early and grabbing hallowed ‘near track’ pit space normally reserved for the National Hot Rod racers when they are in town. Fortunately, Incarace had indicated equal status to the their ‘old skool’ brethren and a hot rod camaraderie was enjoyed by all! Having enjoyed pre-meeting banter and undertaken many pre-racing checks to their cars, many drivers were subjected to the attentions of CHR TV with interviews! This ‘onerous task’ however was clearly eased by the interviewer being the delightful Nicole Howland, Ant Whorton-Eales’s better half and a really enthusiastic fan of Classic Hot Rods in her own right. The interviews were conducted lightly, but very professionally as Nicole warmed to her task and it is hoped that this will become a regular addition to CHR TV in 2015.

With all nineteen cars out on track for heat one, the one race the CHR drivers would actually get on this day in daylight, the cars revved in anticipation of the drop of the green to this all clutch start meeting. It was a clean start with 159 Mick Caton getting the drop on Scotland’s 247 Graham McCabe. Mick, an experienced former Incarace Banger driver,who hadn’t raced in some years, was inspired by his brother Chris’s enjoyment of Classic Hot Rods to decide that he too should join the formula. At the wheel of the former Dave Holden crossflow powered Mk1 Escort, which Mick had revived this spring as best as his budget would allow, Mick repeated his impressive performance that he displayed in September at Hednesford Hills. In the late Summer Mick had held off his brother to take his first ever CHR race win, could he do it again in the cool Autumn chill?

The race was to prove itself to be a ‘classic.’ Mick Caton did indeed take the early lead but the race developed in to a fascinating three, then ultimately, four way battle for the win, which had the whole crowd engrossed. 422 Ant Whorton-Eales provided an incredible sustained challenge to Mick’s lead. The Clio Cup Racer, who cut his teeth growing up on the ovals, strongly believes that continuing oval racing keeps his reactions sharp for long circuit racing. Equally, Ant revels in the challenge that rear wheel drive racing gives him. Having passed McCabe, Whorton-Eales reeled in the 159 car and attempted to power drive round the outside which many older fans would see as a classic George Polley manoeuvre. In Ants attempts for the lead, 159 and 422 went side by side lap after lap with 275 Chris Caton right with them looking to pounce on the first mistake either driver were to make! Whorton-Eales was on the limit of adhesion taking the outside line on this damp and greasy surface and ultimately Chris snuck through to second on the inside line. 192 Ken Marriott had undertaken an impressive charge from the A grade and had eaten away into the lead that the first three had enjoyed, and using all of his guile and crafty experience, he too nabbed a position of from Ant in the final laps. Although Whorton-Eales fought back, Ken grabbed third place and crossed the line immediately behind the Caton brothers. Mick had kept a cool head throughout, maintained his speed and held his line to take a superb race win. His daughter Lorna, the on track trophy presentation lady for the day was clearly delighted in presenting her dad with the winners trophy and accompany Mick on his lap of honour. More interest was to follow Mick and Lorna in the pits as a photo journalist from the local paper, the Express and Star, was on hand in the pits to photo and interview the Catons with the angle of ‘local race hero makes good.’

Heat One results: 159, 275, 192, 422, 198, 333, 22, 8, 121, 58

If heat one was a treat, then more was to follow in heat two. It was completely dark now and the atmospheric feel of the colourful Classic Hot Rods, shining under the track floodlights simply enhanced the spectacle. McCabe and Mick Caton once again lined up at the front nd the question was asked, could Mick Caton win again or could brother Chris and Whorton-Eales get the better of him this time?

In fact at the drop of the green on this clutch start twenty lap race, 247 Graham McCabe put up a far more spirited challenge to the Dark Lord that is 159 Mick Caton (so described due to his car’s jet back paint scheme with silver stripe!) The Scottish driver who debuted an incredibly smart Chevette racer for season 2014, had faded early in heat one, but in this race he challenged Mick hard in the early laps, diving to the inside to look for a gap and try and unsettle the Midlander. Graham’s challenge however was quickly usurped by that young man in the Red Arrow Mk1. Once again, Ant Whorton-Eales was braving the outside line with his eyes surely focusing like organ stops as he sought the narrowest of gaps in the floodlit glow. Sweeping past McCabe, Whorton-Eales chased down Mick Caton with Chris Caton and Jamie Johnston following suit passing McCabe both inside and outside in the subsequent laps. Once again, the 422 pilot brought his all red racer alongside the back machine of Caton to dice for the lead. Side by side they fought, on the limit for two to three laps, until this time Ant just managed to out drag Mick and just get to the corner ahead. Ant made it stick and this time the Polley manoeuvre worked and Whorton-Eales took the lead! As Ant raced away, brother Chris out foxed Mick to nab second up the inside. He was followed by 271 Jamie Johnson. Johnson, who had retired from heat one due to starter motor trouble, looked very on song in this race with his re-built Crossflow 1700cc singing sweetly and looked very impressive indeed as he swept past Mick Caton on the outside. So a great win this time for Ant Whorton-Eales in heat two, a feat made to look all the more impressive by his clean style of driving. Indeed, the racing so far today had been fast, clean and exciting all round. This great meeting was brewing nicely in readiness for the twenty five meeting final.

Heat Two results: 422, 275, 271, 159, 192, 198, 247, 20, 22, 101

The Final, the last race of season, was in a word – EPIC! One could not have hoped for a more tremendous race to finish the season with. It had everything a race fan could wish for with speed, style, panache and showmanship. Letting out their clutches the engines roared and the tyres spun and then bit for grip and 159 Mick Caton, the Dark Lord, was feeling that The Force was with him as he surged away. McCabe could offer no response this time, and as the battling trio of Johnstone, Caton and Whorton-Eales swamped him, the Scotsman was soon to retire. With Mick Caton away like a scalded cat, the focus of the crowds attention was the fascinating three way fight for second. There was simply nothing in it for speed between 271, 275 and 422. Whorton-Eales was once again proving himself to be the most entertaining driver of the day as he raced at the ragged edge on the outside line. He was side by side with Johnston many a lap, then, as grip faded he was out manoeuvred by Chris Caton with a crafty move on his inside, only for Whorton-Eales to change tack and use the inside line himself to take the place back! The three way fight allowed the higher graded drivers in the form of 192 Ken Marriott, 198 Andy Steward, 22 Rob Montagner and 333 Lee Wood (with his neon lit wheels shining brightly!) to close in setting the race up for a climatic finish. To the dismay of many, as the Dark Lord of 159 Mick Caton readied himself for a dominant first Classic Hot Rod Final victory, brother Chris had to dive to the in field as his bonnet pins had snapped and the bonnet could have ripped off! Such a pity, but in the final laps, Johnston and Whorton-Eales continued to fight side by side with Steward forcing his presence inches off Johnston’s back bumped with Marriott and Wood in line as well! Under intense pressure from 198, 271 slipped wide on the approach to the back straight and Whorton-Eales ran out of room! He clipped the fence, wrenching his rear axle links but incredibly carried on! Mick Caton crossed the line for his emphatic victory, Johnston held on for second, Marriott spun Wood on the final bend as both fought Steward for third place! Ken was to be removed from the results by the meeting steward but it did not detract from a fantastic race and indeed a perfect climax to the season itself. For many this was the meeting of the season!

Final results: 159, 271, 198, 22, 422, 8, 101, 121, 445, 444
In time honoured style, the Classic Hot Rod drivers paid tribute to an appreciative crowd by executing burn outs and donuts and indeed the best donuts came from Donut himself, 198 Andy ‘Donut’ Steward, who celebrated his majestic clear victory in the 2014 Classic Hot Rod National Series Points Championship. Andy will proudly display his achievement in 2015 with the silver roof adorning his race car.

Andy and Mick were not the only drivers celebrating as a perfectly wonderful trophy was presented by former driver Neil Edwin to the driver he considered to have been the Trier of the Year. Neil had no hesitation in presenting the trophy to a driver who tries hard on a budget all season and has competed in nearly every meeting. He pleased many fans by his unexpected but delightful Final win that he took in the spring at Northampton. That driver being 31 Steve Gooding. Congratulations to you Steve, you deserved it.

So that caps an excellent season for the CHRs in 2014. We will be back for more in 2015, with new cars, new drivers, and if we keep our fingers very tightly crossed, maybe even a new track to race at?

Rob Hughes

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