Mens National Autograss Championships - Preview

Class One
Conner Griffiths (SV101) is the defending champion, taking the lead of last year’s final on the final bend, good form in the BAS so far with taking the wins at Cwmdu and Scunthorpe puts him as one of the favourites to pick up his third nationals title.
Another name that keeps popping up as one of the favourites is Tom Roberts (PAC57), highest point scorer at the first BAS round and finalist at rounds two and three sees Roberts looking to improve on last year’s sixth place. Also running well in the BAS championship is Dave Owen (NW97) picking up trophies at the last two rounds. Other names that are doing well are, Jason Saunders (WS20), Lyndsey Allen (P37EM), Steve Edwards (R137) and Mark Watson (Y123).
The two top runners in the UKAC are also entries to the Nationals, each having taken a win in the last two rounds. Caine Parnell (SP129) took the latest win at York whilst picking up second at round two and Jake Law (SR3) took a win at round two, was second in the points at round one and picked up fifth last time out. Parnell also took the MAP Open win earlier in the year.
Coming back to better last year’s final results are Mike Winkworth (C211E) although he won’t be returning in the Mini he was running last year but in a Micra, Alex Hill (SN164) and Dan Keddie (6F).
Whilst you can’t rule out the following drivers; Ian Ullathorne (SC25) the only other entry with a nationals title to his name, James Jess (DA75), Peter Watson (Y2), Rich Owen (NW15) and Lee Powell (NW52).

Class Two
Class Two could be seen as one of the most open in recent times with no obvious favourite, an exciting time for class two. Our defending champion, MA19 Callum Hallinan has had a rough time at the BAS this year and currently sits 14th in the standings but will look to have luck on his side to defend his title this weekend. We have two previous Class Two nationals Champions out there to stop him however in the form of Crag Conway in SC126 and John Gadsby in P12EM. To join the battle, we also have two previous Class One National Champions; SV100 Connor Griffiths who was your 2017 Class One National Champion and the 2015 National Champion SP43 Ashley Robinson.
Dan Robins SN34 is looking hot this year with taking top points at the York BAS, Lee Evason SR54 is looking dominant as well with pace on his side and is looking to improve on his 3rd Place last year. Ollie Stevens took the win of Round Two of the BAS in S55D as is looking to take that pace forward to this years Nationals. Chris Manners in 69F has been looking quick this year with taking the win in the first attempt of the final at the Round Three UKAC.
It’s certainly not easy to pick the finalists from the list this year, never mind a winner, who’s your money on??

Class Three
Adrian Herbert (S26D) was the man who took the fight to Sam Gould (NS334) at Cwmdu last year and despite the Shropshire man’s form, took the title. This year, he starts his title defence while coming back of an under-par performance at York’s UK Round. Having changed from the traditional Starlet to one of the newly shaped space-framed 3s, Herbie will still be one to look out for – especially on that uphill straight!
On form, Gould comes into the event as the most successful class 3 driver of the year, after having been unbeaten at BAS – meaning that he will have already beaten the majority of the 40 car line up at at least one point this year!
The home league drivers Viv Cole (CM4) and Martin Roberts (PAC157) come into the nationals, after both struggling at their previous outing – with Viv being collected hard after spinning and causing a 4 car pile up at York, and Noddy having suffered some gear linkage problems. They have however had some close races at qualifying, and will be hoping that the Castle Lloyd Turf s good to them.
If any one is to mount a surprise this year, we’d suspect a Southern league attack with Adrian Joyce (WS22) looking very quick at this year’s UK Championships – and sticking our necks out a bit, we’re gonna suggest that Keith Kelly (CW247), Chris Allanson (S47Y) and Matt Lloyd (C87) will be the ones nearer the front of the field than the rear!

Class Four
It’s been publicly known this year that numbers have decreased in class four and thankfully we now have a full quota and reserves in place for this weekends Nationals .. that being said it certainly does not mean that we are missing any of the quality of drivers that we have previously become accustomed.
Undoubtably the pair who will feature among many lists of predictions for the top spots will be the two infamous micras of PAC3 Rob Corbett and CM7 Huw Jones, two drivers that have shared the top title for the last 8 years. Rob leads the battle of the pair with five titles to Huws three and has taken the top honours for the last two years.
Rob and Huw have many names to fight with this year with three other previous National Champions on the list in the form of Nick Williams M60 in 2006 / 07; Paul Tyrell who took the Class Two title in 2002 and Katie Benson who took the Ladies Class Four title in 2013 before transferring to race with the Men.
We could however also see a new name make history .. Darren Grasby was the closest man to beating the Pembrokeshire Micra last year, taking the early lead with it taking Rob a few laps to find a way past. Darren has already taken one title this year, winning the Round Three BAS and will look to take that momentum into this weekends nationals. Adam Henley in Y777 is another to watch and has looked very quick in his Micra however fellow club member Gav Emery in Y8 will have something to say; having taken the Round Three UK victory on home turf. Jamie Williams is another who is looking quick on the pace this year and looks to emulate Nick title 13 years on.
The numbers may not have suggested it, but we’re sure in for a cracking weekend of Class Four racing at this years Nationals.

Class Five
John Wilde (CY7) is returning looking to retain his title for a second time to become the first man in the class to win three on the trot. A quiet running in the BAS has meant that we haven’t quite seen his full potential.
Leading the BAS points is Ian Thorndyke (IK22) who took the latest win at Scunthorpe after a closely run final with Gary Cheetham (N17). Whilst brother Colin Thorndyke (IK2) seems to have had a bad run of luck in the finals he has still been on the pace seven heat wins, including three at Scunthorpe. Former two-time champion Jabez Smith (LUD8) took the win at round two, whilst another two-time champion Colin Chilvers (SC46) and Mark Uka (PHD20). Also doing well at the BAS are Jeff Bateman (S45D) and Daniel Lodge (SC212).
The UKAC has seen three different winners so far, with Mark Ashmead (38F) leading the points at round one and Julian Heath (E10) taking the win at York. Aaron Mason (R19) has been running well in his first year, sitting second in the points after a fourth at round two and third in York. Also showing their pace has been Louis Jackson (N7) and Alex Puddiphatt (SN23).
Returning after disappointment in last year’s final are: Ryan Jones (C3), Ben Reade (B32H), Tom Ellis (S33D), whilst Mike Sullivan (C11E) missed out on the top eight in a run-off for the final place.

Class Six
Class Six has become a formidable force in Autograss with racing becoming ever closer as competition levels continue to rise. This years list of qualifiers reflects exactly this with arguably being another class open to the favourite heading into the weekend.
We’ve a raft of six previous National Champions, the most recent of course is your defending Champion; CM8 Dalton Thomas who looked dominant last year and will look to bring the same pace back to home turf this weekend. The most recent after Dalton is that of Ben Gould in NS434 who took the2015 title with Barry Holloway in E6 in 2004 and 2006 next on the list. Looking back further we have Mick Manning who took the 1988 title in Class Four with Carl Proctor having taken the Junior Saloon title in that same year and now joins him on the grid. Looking even further back however, we find Paul Bailey in H99 who won in Class Four in 1980 and also took top honours in class six in 1984 and Class One in 1977 and at that point became only the third ever Class One National Champion.
However you needn’t be a previous champion to join the list of potential finalists as many have been looking on impressive form this year, SC90 Anthony Conway has been making steady progress in the class and now looks to become a force to be reckoned with alongside Ben Gadsby who took top honours at BAS Round Three, Stephen Parsonage in NW146 has also been looking mighty quick recently and will look bring to this weekends nationals. Andrew Davidson will bee looking for a slightly better nationals this year as he fell just 10 point short of making the national final this year and he’ll now have a score to settle as well.
All in all, a class where you wouldn’t want to bet too much on the winner, many drivers who will all be fighting for the one position.

Class Seven
One of the most successful men at the nationals is defending champion Andy Holtby (SC61) who is looking for his fifth title. Another that flies under the radar in the lead up but always pulls it out the bag come the big weekend.
The two favourites for the title though are Phil Cooper (ARC5) and Karl Mosley (SC82) who are leading the way in the BAS table, with Mosley taking highest point scorer and round two winner, whilst Cooper took the latest of the wins at Scunthorpe. Liam Evans (NS120) and Cameron Mills (C9) have also been running at the front as well as Phil Barleyman (P23EM) and Craig Bagley (C2).
Heading the way at the UKAC and back on form is Paul Waldron (139F) the top of most people’s list of who deserves a nationals title and has yet to win one. Also running well has been Lee Forster (CA98) and Mike Hockly (62F).
Half of last year’s finalist didn’t make the cut, showing how strong the class is whilst you can never rule these drivers out of contention: Mike Mackenzie (CA141), Darren Lodge (SC265), Jake Lee (SC12), Ian Stephenson (WR37), Andrew Hornshaw (Y78) and Tom Lewis (BC66).

Class Eight
Another highly competitive class which has only increased in intensity over recent years, to the extent that a number of drivers with previous top results have been unable to qualify for this years nationals. BUT that just means that we can look forward to ever more close racing in Class 8.
Defending Champion in Class Eight and the Defending National Champion of Champions winner, Dan Mackenzie in CA44 will look to hold onto the title, however with mixed results this year he’ll be looking for the luck to be on his side at the right meeting of the year.
Our last class eight champion on the list is C10 Steve Mills who took the title in 2009, such is the breast of class eight this year. We’ve also got Phil Rogers who has taken three class nine titles to go alongside his single class five nationals title and class eight title in 2005; he’ll be looking to turn around his fortunes after a BAS Round Three of varying results. Chris Pope also joins the list of previous national Champions after taking the title in 1999. Graham Bennett in 7F also took the Class Ten final in 2012. Looking to those who have held Junior Special titles, we have Matt Owen in 2014, Matt Bishop who took the 2013 title and of course Tom Chadwick in 2008. Gemma Stephenson is the only competitor with a ladies class 8 national title to her name this year.
Looking to recent results; PHD47 Dan Thomas has been looking very quick, he made the final last year and will look to do so again this year. Tom Lewis in BC55 has taken the BAS Three title this year and will look to exploit the power again this weekend. A Driver rated as “The Best Man to Never Win a Nationals”, Russ Shepherd will look to finally break the curse of coming so close and take the title this year.

Class Nine
On looking at the class 9 list, the majority of the drivers will have been seen in action at either the British Series or UK Championships during 2018 – but the 1997 (?) National Champion, Steven Lindsay (PHD1) will be keen to take a “home” win this year. Lindsay has bean a finalist umpteen times, but the man really knows the South Wales track like the back of his hand and was unbeaten during his qualifying campaign.
UK Champion from 2017, Jason Richardson P5EM is currently 4th in the BAS table, with Phil Barleyman, James Bowe and John Whitehouse ahead of him. That’s not to say that it’s bound to be the title of one of these – Kevin Chaffe was unbeaten at York, and Rhys Williams’ worst result at BAS level is a 4th. Mix in some of the table leaders at UK level, Jack Joyce (WS2) & Mike Lidiatt (309F) and literally anything is possible! The only guarantee is that Gareth JoAdrian Herbert (S26D) was the man who took the fight to Sam Gould (NS334) at Cwmdu last year and despite the Shropshire man’s form, took the title. This year, he starts his title defence while coming back of an under-par performance at York’s UK Round. Having changed from the traditional Starlet to one of the newly shaped space-framed 3s, Herbie will still be one to look out for – especially on that uphill straight!

Class Ten
Again, Class Ten is another unpredictable class with no driver yet this year able to take command of the class which leaves the position of favourite for the title wide open.
Our defending Champion, Phil Cooper in ARC9 last year became the most successful male driver in the sports history based on National Titles with nine titles to his name. Two other drivers join Phil in the list of class ten Champions; Lee Seagreaves in ARC1 has taken 4 titles and Paul Fackrell in R7 who took the title in 1991 at the Isle of Wight Nationals. Andy Hornshaw in Y7 joins them as a previous national champions with five titles to his name in Classes 8 and 9 as well as Adam Waldron who took the Junior Special title in 2006.
So far this year, Lance Bowen is the one that has shown form has been on his side as he took the MAP title on a polished surface not normally favoured by the BC car; Tony Jones in SR117 has been quick this year, taking top points at the first UKAC of this year. James Poltimore in SS79 and been looking at home in the class eight having taking victories in the UKAC and now looks to be one to watch. Vinny Gibbons in LM170 finished third last year and is still searching for the Nationals victory, Gary Morris in C28 took fourth on home ground last year and will be looking to place even higher this year and then we also have Daz Cornwell in IK77 who took fifth last year and looking to improve this year to bring himself into the trophy winning trophies.