“I couldn't have hoped for more from this meeting.” It was a fine weekend's work for Matt Isherwood as he collected pole, two fastest laps, two wins and the Castrol Driver of the Day Award during the opening round of the 125 Open championship.
The full 2.172 miles of the Croft circuit would be a challenge for the drivers as most of them had not seen it before. With 22 Opens on the grid, being able to set a clear lap during the morning qualifying session on a track made greasy by rainfall would be another. Assisted by Chris Needham, Isherwood found that compared to short circuit trim, the bodywork of an Open produced “more gradual oversteer” in the wet.
His pole time was 0.34 faster than defending champion Ben Willshire. Next was Liam Morley at 1.40.556 and then Danny Edwards at 1.41.519. Making it to sixth, qualifying was “better than expected” for long circuit debutant Gareth Sheridan.
Whickham's Duncan Marshall had raced kitcars and had gained good experience during 13 lap races in the wet. Returning to the 125s after nearly ten years and just knowing he would be racing in January, he was “over the moon” to qualify fifth. Running a rebuilt engine, Danny Butler could only do two laps before it seized.
The 125s started ahead of the 250s on a dry track and dust was kicked up as they sprinted into Clervaux. Willshire made a good start but dicing with Liam Morley, he outbraked himself and would spend the rest of race being pursued by long circuit newcomer Tom Moore. He also collected the bump at the pit straight which made for a painful ride and “looking forward to the chequered flag by the end”.
Moore made a move at the hairpin, but found with the headwind , he couldn't live with Willshire benefiting with a 6 mph advantage on the straights. On his way to third, Morley found his kart handling the same as it did last year, his Vortex engine had a “slightly different” inlet.
Butler made up for lost track time by moving up the field to sixth but then found the “only puddle on the circuit” and spun. He then lost his right rear wing on the pit straight after colliding with a 250 and would finish twelfth. Damian Sleep was “on the limit” with weight saving measures on his kart, including a new fuel tank and changed washers. He collided with a 250 and was left with a damaged sidepod after also collecting Jason Kitchin.
Away from the frantic action lower down the top ten, Edwards pursued Isherwood up at the front and was 2.8 seconds away by the end after having to fight his way past the backmarkers.
His kart was unchanged from last year apart from replacing his plastic floor with an aluminium one to improve stiffness and direction of airflow. Having raced on old tyres, he had a fresh set ready for the second. Isherwood changed to fresh tyres at the rear in order to cope with the bumpy back section at the circuit.