The 2017 WEMSA World Championship took place at Lobith in Holland on Sunday 10th September where 50 drivers were booked in to race for the gold roof, 32 of which had made the trip over from England.
The Saturday practice session was chaotic due to changing weather conditions all day. The track resembled a lake after heavy rain poured down and during the brief dry spells everybody scrambled to get time on track. As the session came to a close with yet another late afternoon shower, the conditions had claimed their first victim with Colin Packman suffering irreparable damage and unable to take his place in the qualifying heats the following day. Despite available drivers ready to fill the gap, the heats were re-sorted to ensure an equal amount of drivers in each race – as per the rules.
On such a big track the racing was extremely fast and furious. Any contact ran the risk of ending peoples’ chances early on and there were many drivers who went home with a damaged chassis and one less bodyshell!
Competition was fierce with so many quick drivers capable of not just qualifying for the final, but ultimately winning as well. This meant a number of “big names” missed out on a place in the main race – perhaps most notably two drivers who appeared in the last Lobith World Final. European Champion Mark Whittaker suffered rear axle damage in his semi-final meanwhile Sam Wearing exited at the quarter-final stage after a bit hit damaged his bodyshell which was then pinching the fuel pressure pipe.
Scott Grocock and English Champion Dick Batty also suffered mishaps in their quarter-finals. Scott ran out of fuel after leading from the start, and Dick’s engine cut after he made an error while lapping another car. Julian Vaux suffered damage to his front axle meanwhile one of the top Dutch drivers Jeroen Janssen failed to qualify from the heats.
One of the big set-up debates for this meeting was whether to use a rear exhaust engine or a traditional OPS Stock Pro. There were arguments for both and so it proved with three of each being used in the final, which was made up of defending champion Ben Harding, top “bridesmaid” Alex Montague and Dave Gwilliam using rear exhausts. Amelia Batty, Andrew Whittaker and Maikel Rutten on his home track all opted for OPS.
As the green flag dropped it was the Stock Pro powered cars that made the best start. Andrew snuck into the lead ahead of Maikel and Amelia. Alex and Dave were close behind with Ben dropping back on the first lap. Under pressure from Amelia, Maikel’s lines got wider and she barged her way through into second place after a few laps, soon chasing down Andrew and making light work of passing him for the lead. Andrew eventually came into some bother and briefly blocked the track before being smashed out of the way. Engine cut and bodyshell destroyed, his race was over and he finished 6th. Alex began to pull away from Dave and found himself in a position to attack Maikel for 3rd – he didn’t waste any time putting the bumper in! Looking for revenge, Maikel traded hits with Alex for the rest of the race with one incident costing Maikel his wing. He finished the race but came home in 5th. Dave spent most of the race trying to avoid the other battles and his cautious approach landed him in 4th.
Despite being out of contention for the first half of the race after getting caught on the inside barrier more than once, Ben began to claw back some ground and worked his way through the destruction into 2nd place ahead of Alex who had lost too much time and was in a comfortable 3rd.
Amelia was a lap ahead of Ben and cruising to the win, but with 1 minute left Ben began to catch her. Running the risk of emptying her tank, she began to push harder – perhaps expecting the bumper from Ben in an attempt to un-lap himself. As the clock began counting down from 30 seconds, it became obvious that Ben would have to perform a kamikaze attack to give himself a chance of retaining his title. During the last few laps, Ben was presented with a couple of half chances to connect with Amelia but she stayed just too far in front and as the buzzer sounded for the end of the race she crossed the line just as her engine died! Her pit crew had timed fuelling to perfection but she had also kept such a cool head throughout the race. A fully deserving World Champion, and the first female to win gold!
The Junior final was a brutal race, despite only having 4 drivers take part. Rinze Postma recovered the best from a pile up on the first lap to take the win, ahead of Ryan Kinton in 2nd and James Kinton in 3rd. Joel Vissers suffered with numerous problems and put his front bumper to good use but couldn’t get back the laps he had lost.