Ledbury MCC Spring Leader Grasstrack

cory

Report and Pix: Ben Falconer

AUSTRALIAN speedway star Cory Gathercole put in a perfect set of rides to take the premier class win at Ledbury MCC's Spring Leader event.

It was only the Plymouth team rider's fourth outing on the grass surface but his ability to get the 500cc bike sliding under maximum throttle put him ahead of some of the nation's best grasstrackers at Orlhams Farm, Leddington on Sunday, May 5.

That he beat former European number two and British champion Glen Phillips and Somerset speedway rider Tom Perry underlined the quality of his performances which had the large crowd hoping he will return to the grass surface again soon.

"I'm just riding in the Premier League and wasn't doing enough," he explained at the prizegiving. "I didn't think I really wanted to do grasstrack but my sponsor kind of "forced" me in to it and I love it now. "It's just different and gives me variety and time on the bike."

350

Upright and Pre 75 500 winner Peter Carr wouldn't have looked off the pace if he had ridden in the modern class, such was his incredible speed. There was simply no-one to touch him in either class. Cirencester motorcycle dealer Dave Hammond was one of three riders to suffer a tumble in turn one, in an upright 500 heat but strung together a win, a second and a third in the heats to take second place in the Pre 75 500 class.

Two three-wheeled crews nailed a win in every outing. Father and daughter team Nick and Abby Radley won each of their 500 Sidecar heats, including against newcomers to the smaller outfits, Mark Cossar and Dan Crawford. 1000 Sidecar top man Cossar is trying to win British titles in both right-handed classes and is certainly on the right track to success. With Carl Blyth in the chair in the 1000 class, he was never headed and won all three heats.

Sadly Godden twin pairing Neal Owen and Wayne Rickards suffered a serious crash on the start straight in their second outing and required medical attention. Neal is understood to have escaped with bruising but his passenger may need an operation to fix a cracked pelvis. Understandably medics treating the pair needed to take all the time necessary to ensure both could be conveyed to hospital safely.

Despite a two hour delay, the club cracked on with heats already shortened by a lap due to the dust kicked up off the circuit.

sidecar

The 350 class was less clear cut, with a very good quality entry vying for the win. A frenetic first heat saw James Shanes go in to turn three very low underneath Barry Powell, who was fortunate to miss the stricken Shanes. However Shanes came back to win the second 350 race, while Mark Taylor from Eldersfield-based RTS and Cinderford's Powell tallied up a series of consistent points scoring rides to get the other two overall podium spots.

Harland Cook put machine problems in the 500 class behind him, to record two wins and a second, to James Shanes in the second 350 race. Shanes' challenge ended in the following 350 race when a mechanical problem forced him to push the bike in to try and collect some points.

In the 250s, both Ben Ilsley and Trevor Clarricoats managed a pair of wins and a fourth each Clarricoats' fourth came in the only heat where they faced each other. Tewkesbury's Gerald Short, and Chris Mackett swapped top place on the podium in the Upright and Pre-75 350 classes respectively.

With the dust continuing to hang in the air, a meeting was called by the clerk of the course following an approach from some of the 500 class's leading riders. After a vote of all entrants, the meeting was called off after race 48 on safety grounds and placings were awarded on points accrued rather than finals.

mtg

Snippets: Great weather and a good crowd turned out for Ledbury's first grasstrack of the year, dominated by Cory Gathercole, Peter Carr, Nick and Abi Radley, and Mark Cossar and Carl Blyth. Official results to follow soon, but your editor took down the results as the prize money and superb Geoff Gosling Memorial Trophies were handed out, as the dust settled...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Neal Owen and Wayne Rickards who suffered a major crash in the 1000 sidecars - feel free to visit the Midlands Air Ambulance to find out how to support this fantastic charity.

There was plenty of debate and opinion among the crowd over track watering, after some heats were hit by clouds of dust. More watering could have left a polished surface which didn't give enough grip, but the clouds of dust eventually meant the meeting was called to an end after a particularly dusty 500 heat, 10 races short at 5.30pm. Hindsight is a wonderful thing - remember this is a field that was so soft a month ago that the meeting was postponed!

Enduro riders like Ledbury 250 runner Joe Stephens may recognise commentator Brian Curran - he's the man who flags 600 riders away from the start of the Welsh 2 Day Enduro.

Late entries Mark Baseby, Charlie Saunders, Stuart Mears, and Andrew Appleton didn't ride. Neither did Charley Powell, but such was the depth of the entry the big crowd wasn't short-changed - Tom Perry was a late entry, while Rodney McDonald, Adam Filmer and Josh Dingle mixed it at the sharp end, and Cory Gathercole's riding was simply breathtaking to beat Glen Phillips. Peter Carr's performance in the Upright and pre75 would have put him well up in the modern class, plus some 350 action which was probably closer than the 500s meant most of the crowd went home happy despite the dust.

Top marks to the Ledbury MCC grafters who put in countless hours to get the event on - they're getting ready to do it all again on June 8 at its Saturday Evening Grasstrack.

Provisional results:

250: 1 Ben Ilsley, 2 Trevor Clarricoats, 3 Colin Bird, 4 Ben Worrall, 5 Jack Nelson, 6 Barry Jukes.

350: 1 Harland Cook, 2 Mark Taylor, 3 Barry Powell, 4 James Shanes, 5 John Jeffries, 6 Simon Phillips.

500: 1 Cory Gathercole, 2 Glen Phillips, 3 Tom Perry, 4 Josh Dingle, 5 Rodney McDonald, 6 Rob Fortune.

Pre 75 350: 1 Chris Mackett, 2 Gerald Short, 3 Adrian Vaughan, 4 Geoff Urben, 5, Roger Taylor, 6 Steve Palmer.

Pre 75 500: 1 Peter Carr, 2 Dave Hammond, 3 Colin Harris, 4 John Priese, 5 Kenny Blain, 6 Vincent Priestley.

Upright 350: 1 Gerald Short, 2 Chris Mackett, 3 Richard Warry, 4 Antony Worrall, 5 Dave Meadows.

Upright 500: 1 Peter Carr, 2 Colin Harris, 3 Antony Pye, 4 James Childe, 5 Ben Millichap, 6 Wayne Barrett.

500 Sidecar: 1 Nick and Abi Radley, 2 Mark Cossar/Dan Crawford, 3 Dave Carvill/Richard Phillimore, 4 Rob & Sam Heath, 5 Tony Cook/Paul Smith, 6 Dan Berwick/Mark Hopkins.

1000 Sidecar: 1 Mark Cossar/Carl Blyth, 2 Mick Cave/Kevin Goddard, 3 Myles Simmons/Kevin Woodley, 4 Chris Walker/Dave Keisslinger, 5 Joe Mogg/Jake Cutler, 6 Fred Skinner/Stephen Russell.

Preview: Ben Falconer

Entry List

STOP PRESS: Charlie Saunders, Stuart Mears, and Andrew Appleton are late entries, after an event in Germany was cancelled. And the final late entry is Aussie speedway star Cory Gathercole.

Grasstrack fans have endured a long delay for the season to get in to full swing but Ledbury MCC's Spring Leader event line-up promises to be worth the wait.

The club has secured a top quality entry of 131 which will take to the Orlham Farm oval, Leddington, on Sunday, May 5.

Twenty three riders have signed up for the premier 500cc class including current number one ranked Harland Cook, Britain's leading international longtracker Andrew Appleton, 2007 British champion Glen Phillips, UK number four Charlie Saunders, UK number five Josh Dingle, elder statesman of the sport Rob Fortune, Australian continental front runner Rodney McDonald, and Cricklade speed king Charley Powell.

With Newent's 350cc front runner Martin Williams moving up to the top class, plus UK number nine Adam Filmer and 16th ranked Rob Finlow taking to the line, the 500 class promises a great deal. Appleton, Saunders and Stuart Mears' late entries thanks to a meeting in Germany being cancelled has boosted the 500cc entry list to arguably the club's finest ever.

Wet weather forced the event to be postponed on April 7, and heavy rain curtailed the club's ACU British Championship for Upright-engined machines last September, so riders and grasstrack fans are itching to get back on to the grass under blue skies.

Cook leads a competitive 350cc class, and a fascinating battle awaits, as gifted youngster James Shanes moves up from the 250cc class, and will face experienced hands like Mark Taylor from the Eldersfield grasstrack family, UK 350cc number six Barry Powell from Cinderford, and John Jefferies who has fared well at past Ledbury events.

Shanes' elevation to the 350cc class leaves the 250cc class wide open, with a winner likely to come from Anthony Worrall, Trevor Clarricoats or Jon Shanes. Wayne Barrett and Peter Carr lead a competitive 500cc Upright class, though Cirencester motorcycle dealer Dave Hammond is likely to have a say in the result. The 350cc Upright British champion, Tewkesbury's Gerald Short is favourite for that class, and he triples up with rides in the pre-75 500cc and 350cc events.

The pre-75 500cc favourite is likely to be Carr. Sidecars of 500cc and 1000cc will take to the startline, and the British champion pairing of Mark Cossar and Stef Blyth will be hard to beat. Likewise number one 500cc sidecar driver Dave Carvill, whose strongest challenge is likely to come from Josh Goodwin.

Practice starts at 10.30am and racing begins at noon. Admission is 10 (7 for concessions) and includes one programme per car.