PHIL Atkinson extended his unbeaten run in the GP Original series to secure the 350 championship crown in dominant style at Cadwell Park.
The Rose MOT Centre rider battled through the pain of a big crash in last weekend’s Ducati TriOptions Cup to beat Ant Hart to a clean sweep as part of this weekend’s International Sidecar Revival programme.
But despite a hat-trick of wins in the 250 ranks, Gary Vines, who is still recovering from a broken wrist, will take his title fight to Donington Park next month.
During Saturday’s qualifying, Atkinson put in a fast lap of 1:38.580 with Ant Hart in second at 1:40.893. And in only his second ride on the Lea Gourlay 350, Dan Jackson secured third on the grid with 1:42.253 as local rider Rich Grinling headed up the eight 250cc runners at 1:46.842 with Vines second and Sian Brooks third in class.
While the first race start was soon red-flagged, Atkinson grabbed the lead on the restart with Hart, Jackson and Mike Smith in hot pursuit. But the South African held them off to take the chequered flag first with Hart second and Smith third. Vines came through as first of the 250s ahead of Grinling second and Andrew Green third.
It was a repeat 350 order in race two with Hart just 0.724sec behind Atkinson as they both enjoyed some close racing, with Atkinson clock the fastest lap of the weekend with a blistering 1:37.712.
Vines suffered a piston seizure at the end of Park Straight, allowing Grinling to bag the first 250 spot and fifth on-the-road, with a rapidly improving John Hannaford second and Dave Grigson third.
In Sunday’s opener, Hart stormed away from the line and made Atkinson chase, but it wasn’t enough and the series leader overhauled him again to take another victory. Back in third, Smith enjoyed his first solid finishes of the season and put consistent points on the board as he headed home Jackson, Chris Moore and English, who were close together as they rounded out the top six 350s.
With Sian Brooks out from Saturday’s incident, Vines jumped on the Team Spyre spare machine to continue his 250 run and take the top spot for the smaller capacity, green plated machines, with Grinling again second and Grigson third.
Atkinson, Hart and Smith made it a fourth identical weekend finish in the final race as they chalked up another one-two-three, while 250 riders Vines and Grinling found themselves locked together behind a flying 350-mounted Mark Edge – a name with a fast past, now back on track in an orange vest.
With a perfect points haul, Atkinson has now secured the 350cc title, but Vines still has work to do to lay both hands on the 250cc crown.
In the Masters ranks, Edge leads the way by 56 points, but it could be a four-rider scrap for top honours if he doesn’t score at Donington next month.
*Main image: Spyre Limited
*Side image: Neil Kirby