Snetterton 300 – 2/3 October 2021 Race Report, Images and ResultsPosted on: October 10th 2021 • Posted in: Race Results
Season Finale – Take your pick either “The rain song” or “Blinded by the light”
Rounds 11, 12 & 13 – Snetterton 300
As the curtain began to close on the 2021 season of the Creative Funding Solutions Sports 2000 Championships, we headed to Snetterton – the location where our 2020 campaign began in the earlier days of the COVID pandemic – long gone are those days now and we are grateful for what a stark contrast there is between the world we lived in at that time, and the world we live in now.
Tom Stoten came to Snetterton with one thing on his mind – becoming the 2021 Champion. While his points advantage seemed pretty solid, it would still require a lot of hard work and focus the scores he needed to lift the trophy. Josh Law had his eyes on the prize too, but would need some serious bad luck from his rival. The Pinto battle couldn’t be closer either – in the overall standings, Trevor Welsh and Ross Hyett come to Snetterton tied on 107 points, with the possibility of the result going either way over the weekend.
Testing would throw up a plethora of mixed conditions on the Friday so some drivers would get plenty of opportunity for track time but only in one, two or three-lap bursts. Fast forward to Qualifying and conditions were a little better, but the difference of not having to share the circuit with open wheelers was certainly getting positive reviews around the paddock.
Josh Law would go fastest by just under 4 tenths of a second from Tom Stoten, meaning the two championship rivals would share the front row. Michael Gibbins would be next up ahead of Dominic Lesniewski, David Houghton and Richard Johnson. Keith Mizen returned to the championship with 7th on the grid ahead of James Barwell, Giles Billingsley and Tim Tudor.
Jon Harmer would be sharing the number 27 Tiga with Marc Noaro and Don Francis this weekend, and started things off in the best possible way, grabbing pole position from Ross Hyett, Chris Snowdon and Trevor Welsh. With championship battles being wrapped up behind them, it’d be interesting to see what difference it made to the points, throwing another car into the mix.
Torrential conditions greeted the drivers before the start of the first race, so everyone would have to tip-toe their way around and just stay out of trouble. Everything would get under way with a rolling start after two green flag laps for drivers to get their eye in.
Down to the first corner it was just a pile of spray – rain lights were barely visible from the pit lane. Drivers fanned out to try and get the slightest slither of visibility, but those further back didn’t stand a chance. The patience and careful driving on display was abundantly clear from the off, meaning officials and race control had the potential of an easy afternoon.
David Gorst had a moment early on, losing it on the exit of Hamilton, before having to wait for the entire field to creep on by. Jon Harmer was absolutely flying on the opening circulation, overtaking some 4 Duratecs in his Tiga. Behind him in the Pintos – albeit “three Duratecs back” was Chris Snowdon, Ross Hyett and Trevor Welsh. Snowdon too would start carving his way through the pack as well, eventually reaching 14th overall by the end.
For the majority, lap times were just under 3 minutes early on, with Josh Law holding a lead of 3 seconds over Tom Stoten, with a charging Richard Johnson just behind – he had come flying through from 5th on the grid, making moves in the opening laps to get the better of Dominic Lesniewski and then Michael Gibbins. It was great to see he’d still got it after his years away from the championship.
The only retirement came after 4 laps as Roger Donnan carried a bit too much speed around Palmers and didn’t have chance to save the car once it had gotten on to the sodden grass. He backed the car into the wall, which didn’t do much other than bend the rear wing out of shape, but in the conditions it wasn’t safe to carry on.
Richard Johnson got ahead of Tom Stoten before long, with Gibbins following him through a lap later – Tom deciding to play it safe considering the championship situation, and Johnson was now unleashed to go chasing Josh Law for the overall lead. But, before he could mount a proper challenge, the race was decided after 7 Laps. Law pulled off a stunning drive to maintain a strong lead and take his 3rd win of the season.
Johnson was a very impressive 2nd, with Gibbins scoring another podium to help his championship charge against Lesniewski. However, 4th place for Tom Stoten meant that with drop scores considered, he could not be caught in the title race, so was now the 2021 Creative Funding Solutions Sports 2000 Duratec Champion – a very well-deserved achievement after turning a rocky 2020 campaign around to become to model of consistency this year.
James Barwell grabbed 5th ahead of Lesniewski, Houghton, Tudor, Chittenden and Billingsley. All of them jostled throughout the race as gaps opened and closed like an accordion due to the conditions.
Jon Harmer laid down a real gauntlet for the rest of the field, winning the Pinto race outright by some 36 seconds from Snowdon, who was beaten to the line by Nick Bates’ Duratec by less than 0.2 seconds overall. Ross Hyett was 3rd ahead of Peter Needham with Trevor Welsh in 5th. This meant that Ross had moved closer to taking the title but it would still be all to play for the next day.
On the Sunday morning, drivers, teams and just about everybody in the paddock was happy to see that the sky was much brighter and it looked like there was no chance of rain. This meant that everyone needed to get their cars sorted for dry conditions and try to find a rhythm quickly, as all of the running so far had been in torrential rain or cold, greasy conditions.
Again it would be Josh Law from Tom Stoten with Gibbins and Lesniewski behind. Then it was Johnson and Barwell on row two ahead of Houghton and Mizen. Don Francis would start from the front of the Pintos, taking the reins from Jon Harmer for this one, with Trevor Welsh joining him on the front row. Ross Hyett and Chris Snowdon lined up on the second row, but whether Ross was alongside Chris or Chris was alongside Ross was something they couldn’t determine beforehand.
A solid start from Tom Stoten would see him bolt away leaving Josh Law to fend off Lesniewski and Gibbins – Dominic getting ahead in the opening lap as they tried to hold everyone else back. Giles Billingsley moved up to 5th place ahead of Houghton, but the big surprise of Lap 1 was Richard Johnson’s drop down the order, falling to 9th place by the time they broke the timing beam.
Don Francis made a great getaway in his Tiga but unfortunately lost the back end going round Riches. He managed to get it back together but the car spat him back off to the right hand side into the barrier. The car would require quite a lot of work to be back out for the second race of the day. This meant that Chris Snowdon inherited the lead after a fantastic early scrap with Trevor Welsh and Ross Hyett, the former staying ahead for the meantime.
After what looked to be a slow start, the number 77 car of James Barwell crawled its way into the pit lane. The team later reported a misfire which was connected to a fuel leak. With the leak fixed they sent the car back out but the misfire was still there – an unfortunate and out-of-the-blue (pardon the pun) DNF for the MCR.
It was very clear after a few laps that Josh Law was going to do everything in his power to keep newly-crowned Champion Stoten honest. The gap fluctuated time and time again between 1 and 2 seconds, going down to 1.1 seconds at points. Behind them, Gibbins had cleared Lesniewski for 3rd place, but the real battle that was going on involved David Houghton, Tim Tudor, Giles Billingsley, Keith Mizen, Andy Chittenden and Richard Johnson – the sextet crossing the line in that order to complete Lap 6.
Snowdon and Hyett started having fun at the head of the Pinto pack, with Chris able to stay ahead down the straights. It seemed his Tiga just about had the legs over Ross’ Lola, but the two were fighting incredibly in the twisty bits of the infield section. Trevor Welsh was only a couple of seconds back though, so they’d have to be careful not to risk tripping over one another and giving places away. Fellow Pinto driver Mike Fry would end his race early after his Tiga cried enough – he had been running 4th up to that point, putting pressure on Hyett.
Tim Tudor was on a flyer, moving ahead of David Houghton before too long – a great showing of pace after the miserable luck at Brands Hatch which saw the car badly damaged a few weeks prior. Unfortunately it wasn’t plain sailing for everyone though – Andy Chittenden had an issue with a couple of laps to go and lost ground after a race-long dice with Keith Mizen. He would eventually finish 13th – where he started – after a great climb up well into the Top 10.
On the final lap, real drama would affect the fight for 3rd overall in the championship as Trevor Welsh’s engine let go right as Lesniewski was lapping him, and it caught Dominic out – he spun off from 4th place and would eventually cross the line in 9th! This handed a bunch of points to Gibbins ahead of the final encounter.
At the very front though, Tom Stoten would hold on to claim his 6th win of the season from Josh Law, who just couldn’t live with him in the closing stages. Gibbins scored an important 3rd place and 4th place would end up going to Tim Tudor, with Houghton 5th, followed by Billingsley, Mizen, Johnson, the aforemention Lesniewski and Roger Donnan would round out the Top 10.
Chris Snowdon took the overall Pinto win but only by 0.3 seconds from Ross Hyett after a titanic battle. This result for Ross would confirm him as the Pinto Overall, Pinto A and Pinto Endurance Champion of 2021 – a fantastic and entertaining campaign to add to a long career of much success. Clive Steeper would get a podium with Joshua Needham 4th – an unfortunately attritional race for the Pintos meaning that just over 50% of the field finished.
But now it wasn’t time for rest – it was time for yet more hard work. Teams and drivers prepared for the final race of the season, and had a long time to do so, which meant that we were in for a barnstormer of a final encounter.
The wait for the final race of the season felt like an absolute age, but eventually with the sun setting (a future problem), the scene was set for the third race. Stoten would be on pole ahead of Law, with Gibbins and Tudor behind. Chris Snowdon and Ross Hyett looked set to continue their epic battle from Race 2 into the next one from the front row of the Pinto field. The main problem for the drivers would be the dangerously-low sun, which was right in their eyes, almost as if the star itself was camping down at Riches.
With a number of drivers holding one arm in the air so they could see, the race got under way. A usually quick start from Lesniewski in 9th got him in trouble though. Keith Mizen – who started on the row just in front – got away and had to move over to the right, due to advances from other cars. Due to the narrow nature of Snetterton’s straight and the two-by-two grid, they came together and Mizen’s car was pushed along the pit wall for some distance. Dominic got out of the throttle and was lucky not to get collected as he peeled out from behind.
Unfortunately Keith’s car was badly damaged and leaking fluid so his day was done and he wouldn’t take the restart. Quite comically, the Pintos were sat for a while wondering what comes next, as their start was planned with a 10-second delay. It would turn out to be much longer than that while the clean-up operation began.
Eventually we would get things under way for good, this time all clean and safe. Stoten held his lead despite a slower initial launch than Josh Law, while Gibbins followed in 3rd. Giles Billingsley gained a place on Tim Tudor – who was disappointed about the restart as he made a lightning getaway the first time round. Richard Johnson also moved up a spot after starting in 7th, but the best first lap was definitely done by James Barwell, gaining 7 spots in the Duratec field! Clive Steeper and Marc Noaro gained a lot of ground in the Pintos too, coming through 2nd and 3rd at the end of the first lap behind Snowdon – Steeper’s sudden turn in fortunes coming as a result of changing his gearing between races.
After a titanic scrap inside the Top 10, with 5 cars being covered by just over 2 seconds, Johnson finally overtook Billingsley, who was now followed by Tudor, Lesniewski and Houghton. A few places back, Ash Law was moving up the field, overtaking Chittenden and then John Owen. When thinking back to his debut run at Snetterton in 2020, it was fantastic to see so much improvement in just over 12 months.
All of a sudden, after saying the gloves were off for the final race, Ross Hyett pulled over to one side on the exit of Palmers. His engine had let go and decided it didn’t want to carry any oil any more – luckily he managed to enter the paddock from the back gate and it didn’t really put anything down on the racing surface, but it was a shame his weekend – and season – ended this way after securing multiple titles the race before.
Out front though, Tom Stoten was holding station ahead of Josh Law, but that’s not to say that Josh didn’t get close. At the end of the penultimate lap, the gap was only just over 0.2 seconds, so now would be his chance to take the lead and potentially his 4th win of the season. Gibbins was running 3rd with a handful of places over Dominic Lesniewski which would give him 3rd in the overall standings.
The battles raged on throughout the Duratec field, but before long the race was drawing to a close and it all paled into insignificance when considering the consistency and domination of Tom Stoten this year – he took another race win just ahead of Law to wrap up an amazing 2021. Gibbins clinched 3rd in the race and the championship which was a good consolation after a very difficult year plagued with DNFs.
Johnson would finish 4th ahead of Tim Tudor – both of whom had a great weekend’s racing. Lesniewski was next up ahead of Barwell after a storming drive through the pack, then it was Billingsley in his last Sports 2000 race for the foreseeable (and one that he certainly enjoyed despite being overtaken). Nick Bates and Grant Gibson rounded out the Top 10. The latter having a really pleasing turnaround after no running on Saturday.
Chris Snowdon rounded out an almost-perfect weekend with another Pinto Overall win from Marc Noaro and Clive Steeper – well deserved podiums for both and a top-three lockout for Tigas! Joshua Needham and Mike Fry concluded the running order. As mentioned though, the Overall, Pinto A and Pinto Endurance championships went the way of non-finisher Hyett, with Trevor Welsh taking the Pinto Historic title in his lovely red Lola.
…and that would be all for 2021. It was another phenomenal year with big grids, great racing, fantastic entertainment and the usual positive, infectious, family-like vibe throughout the paddock. We had plenty of race winners, class winners, deserving champions and some very happy officials, as the series had once again proved that you can have close, exciting racing without the need for many stoppages, safety cars and additional delays.
As I (Chaz) write this though, I’d personally like to thank everyone in the series for the amazing warm welcome I had back to the paddock after only being able to attend two race meetings this year, due to other commentary commitments. I extend these thanks to series secretary Roger Donnan who commissioned me to write these race reports and everyone who sent me information and insights to bulk up the details and make it as if I was still there.
I’d also like to congratulate all of our drivers on their respective results this year as we’ve seen a number of people really raise their game and challenge for higher positions than in previous years – it’s some of the best racing I’ve witnessed, for a slice of the budget you’d spend in other series, and sincerely hope I get to attend more events next year to commentate on them and write about them.
We all hope you’ve enjoyed our 2021 season, however you have gone about keeping track of it all, and look forward to bringing you more of the same next time around.
Have a fantastic winter and we will see you in 2022!
Many thanks to Chaz Draycott for this report and his kind words.
Below are some images credit to KJG Photograpy. To view the full set or purchase copies visit https://www.kjgphotography.co.uk
Round 11 Images
Round 12 Images
Round 13 Images