AINTREE Motorcycle Racing Club’s fifth round signalled curtains on the 2018 season, but the year ended in less-than-perfect fashion as chiefs were forced to abandon the meeting.
With a number of red flags and riders sent to hospital, club bosses had to call time on the day before all classes had completed their races, but racers were luckily able to carry on and salvage track time before the cancellation.
After the excitement of the Bob Smith Memorial Trophy, the classics were out in full force with Mick Crompton leading every lap in the first Unlimited Classic race as he held off Derek Heap by 0.601s while 500cc winner Steve Ferguson took third just a second further back.
Although Ferguson led the opening lap of race two, he dropped to fourth at the flag as Crompton doubled up with another victory, 0.162s clear of Mike Walker and only 0.358s clear of Heap.
Ferguson carried his momentum into the 350 Twins race, leading Hefyn Owen from lights-to-flag to rack up another victory as Julian Tillotson took the final podium spot.
But the Owens were out in full force as Bob and Meredydd Owen made it a 1-2 in the 350 Singles scrap while the latter saw off a charge from Keith Dixon to take second by a mere 0.033s.
Rob Hodson fended off his dad Jim twice in the Superbike and Powerbike races, while Sam Walker held off Lance Cronshaw by no more than a few tenths to take third.
Greg Lewis powered to both Pre Injection Over 600 wins with time to spare, the first over title rival Andy Lovett and Mike Bampton before Bampton beat Chris Roberts to the runner-up spot in race two.
Class champ Bampton was also out in the 500-750 Twins battle, leading every lap ahead of Craig Kelly and Ian Perks to win by almost 1.5s. But Kelly got the better of him in the 650 Supertwin scrap to win by some 3.7s as Tony Leach took third.
Golden Era Superbike champ Lovett was back out on the big bike, but again had to give way to a dominant Lewis as Hose took third. And Bampton forced him to play second fiddle once more as he made a last-lap pass to pip Lovett to the line in the Forgotten Era Superbike race by less than four tenths of a second.
In the PI600 ranks, Ryan Garside was the man to beat, taking both race wins by over two seconds. His nearest title rival Liam Weston lost out to second-placed Antony Mitchell by less than three tenths in race one, but Weston was on the front of James Leatham in race two to secure the runner-up spot.
The gang were back out for the Steel Frame race, and this time it was Weston who came out on top, despite runner-up Garside’s fastest lap, with Kelly just behind them.
Minitwin champ Stephen Johnson snatched victory from Rob Taylor and Sam Eckersley by just 0.5 and 0.8s in race one, but he had an even tighter battle on his hands in race two as he pipped Eckersley by 0.294s, while Thomas Hodge bagged third a minuscule 0.002s further back.
Tony Griffiths secured the Formula 400 title after splitting wins with Phil Millard, while Jamie O’Brian and Adrian Skaife shared the 125 GP & 500cc S/C honours, both times ahead of Bob Millinship.
In the Forgotten Era 500GP ranks, Alan Oversby was the clear man to beat, but Griffiths came out on top of a four-way scrap for second as he took the runner-up spot from 350GP winner Martin Frost, Millard and Adrian Morris, all covered by less than half a second.
Former Formula 600 champ Bobby Varey returned for a play where he passed early leader Stuart Hall just two laps in before stretching a 2.1s winning margin, leaving Jason Taylor to third.
Bruce McGeoghegan led almost the entire 250 S/C & 125 and beat Dave Thorp to the line by just over half a second, with James Gerrard in third, while Dave Edwards led Ted Cornes and Alan Brooks from lights-to-flag to take victory in the 250 Twin class.
Lewis Blackstock and Patrick Rosney dominated the Sidecar proceedings ahead of Dave Molyneux and Harry Payne, while Thornton/Perry and Markland/Rigby split thirds.
*Images: Chris Swinton