RIDERS of the GP Originals series returned to Thundersport GB for their final round of four over the weekend as they headed to Donington Park.
The 350cc Championship had already been wrapped up for the Rose MOT Centre rider Phil Atkinson after a dominant and consistent season. However, both the 250cc and Masters classes were all to play for.
Qualifying was fairly dry but with a few tricky damp patches. Atkinson failed to post a time with a mechanical issue at the beginning of the session while Ant Hart took pole with a 1:20.396, but Dan Jackon was a very close second at 1:20.486.
It was similar drama for the 250s with championship leader Gary Vines failing to post more than one lap, putting him 24th on the grid. His main championship rival Rich Grinling took a row four place at 1:23.361 with the 250s of Colin Sleigh (1:21.016) and Nigel Palmer (1:22.530) fifth and ninth, respectively.
When the first race arrived, the rain had started in earnest and for the 11 rows of post classic 250s and 350s, all racing with no wets or warmers, the conditions were treacherous. Atkinson stormed through from the back of the grid and was with the leaders within the first lap. He took the win by just 0.141sec from Jackson on the Gourlay Yamaha. Ant Hart put in the fastest lap of the race at 1:36.770, but due to a couple of visits to the gravel trap he was relegated to back to third.
Vines’ luck ran out yet again, leaving Grinling to collect the 250 win. A gaggle of green plates behind him included Colin Sleigh, who posted the fastest 250 lap, from Mark Linton. In the over-55 Masters, Tony Perkin revelled in the wet conditions with an impressive sixth place on the road, heading Jean-Paul Lecointe from Palmer.
Saturday’s second race was equally wet and produced a new 350 winner as Hart disappeared into the distance, easily taking victory and producing another fastest lap at 1:32.474, three seconds faster than Atkinson. But Jackson took a tumble whilst in a strong second position, leaving Atkinson and Chris Moore to round out the podium.
Grinling had now got into his stride and rode an impeccable race to take fourth overall and another 250 victory. Vines’ championship lead evaporated down to just five points with another DNF, but his machine had been pulled together by a selection of fellow riders’ donations just to try and get him out on track. Palmer took second 250 with Mark Linton third as Perkin again dominated the Masters from Mark Edge and Palmer.
Sunday was another dismal day with heavy rain and standing water. Atkinson sat on Hart’s tail race long to make a pass at the final lap for the win and fastest lap at 1:36.410 with Neil Watson snatching third from Moore by a whisker at the line.
But the battle of the weekend was in the 250 class. Vines was back in the saddle with more borrowed parts, but Grinling took his 250 to third overall and the class victory from Vines with less that half a second between them, which left them equal on points and the title to be decided in the final race.
Linton picked up another consistent third spot while in the Masters, Edge clinched the championship with a final win, this time edging out Perkin from Palmer.
The final race was a similar affair between Atkinson and Hart with slightly improved riding condition as JL Exhausts’ rider Moore collected the final podium position.
In the 250s, Grinling proved unstoppable with an impressive ride through to third overall and class victory as he lifted the championship crown as another third place went the way of Mark Linton.
This season has been GP Originals’ strongest yet with near full entries at every round and even some with reserves. Check out how to join the only dedicated post classic 250-350 grid going at www.gporiginals.co.uk
*Images: Colin Port