Mark Hodges won the Southern Championship at Ringwood on Saturday 27th September, taking the chequered flag with ease by the length of the straight from Daz Ryecroft and Andrew Bilby. With the top three drivers in the...
Mark Hodges won the Southern Championship at Ringwood on Saturday 27th September, taking the chequered flag with ease by the length of the straight from Daz Ryecroft and Andrew Bilby.
With the top three drivers in the Championship separated by just a couple of points as they entered the penultimate round of the Championship, and with a healthy 17 cars turning up, some exciting and very close racing was expected by all. It wasn't long in coming either, as heat one (The West Country Challenge) got under way. Dave Smith was the early leader from the Whites, however he was unable to keep a charging Mark Hodges at bay for long, as Mark took the lead, closely followed by the blue graders Joe Bourne and Andy Hinch. Although Joe appeared to be quicker, Mark defended the racing line with supremacy, leaving Joe crawling all over his back but unable to pass. Andrew Bilby and Alan Buckland were also having a good battle as they made their way through the pack, and started to close in on the leading group. However it was Mark Hodges who was just able to hang on and take the win by a nose, from Joe Bourne, Andy Hinch, Andrew Bilby, Alan Buckland, Ez Walker, Harold Lowe, and Daz Ryecroft.
Heat two got off to a dramatic start, as the red flags were brought out just seconds after the green flag. A charging pack of reds into the first corner, had resulted in Alan Bucklands car making heavy contact with wall, leaving his Stealth stranded and ending his race. The restart once again saw Joe Bourne and Mark Hodges locked in battle for the lead, with their positions from the previous race reversed. Gary Bonner was going well from the front of the reds, sliding his car masterfully out of the corners and looking to catch the leaders. Joe Bourne held on to take the win, followed closely by Mark Hodges, Dave Smith, Gary Bonner, John Salter, Andy Hinch, Daz Ryecroft, and Ez Walker.
The Southern Championship was the final race of the evening, and consisted of a qualifiers grid followed by a non-qualifiers grid with drivers lined up one behind the other in order of their grades. This closed up the field up giving everyone that had qualified a good chance of doing well. It was Mark Hodges who got the best start, driving into the lead on the first lap and never looking back. Gary Bonner also made a flying start and looked to be the only one capable of catching Mark after Joe Bourne spun at the start. Dave Smith was doing an excellent job holding back many of the quick reds, although Daz Ryecroft, Andrew Bilby, and World Champion Andy Collins did eventually find a way round the outside. Gary Bonner was reeling Mark Hodges in, until a spin from Bonner left Hodges with no real threat to the lead, allowing him to go on to take a comfortable win, and with it the Southern Championship. He was followed over the line by Daz Ryecroft, Andrew Bilby, Andy Collins, Dave Smith, Alan Buckland, Harold Lowe, and Neil Clarke who rounded off the point's scorers.
With just one more meeting left of the 2003 season, Alan Buckland is leading the points championship and will have to start from the back of the grid at Buxton in two weeks time, making for an exciting climax to what has been a very close Midget season!!!