MALLORY Park specialist John Ingram and GP1 points leader Lee Williams shared the spoils in a tight battle for supremacy at Thundersport’s fifth round.
With runner-up in the standings Dave Brook sidelined due to injuries sustained on the club’s Thursday test day last week, it looked to be the defending champion who would have the weekend’s hardware and a gap-extending points haul all to himself.
But 2014 Race of the Year winner Ingram, who earlier this season announced he was taking a step back from racing in 2017 all together, rolled into his Mallory stomping ground to upset the apple cart.
And as if one threat wasn’t enough for last year’s Michelin Tyres GP1 Elite champ to deal with, club hustler Phil Crowe, National Superstock 1000 champion Richard Cooper, who rocked up on a GSXR600 to compete in both the 600 and 1000cc classes, and former British Superbike rider Barry Burrell, among others, were all in attendance to take a crack at Thundersport.
It was Williams who took pole position in the 15-minute qualifying session, but only just as Burrell and Crowe joined him on the front row less than 0.17 seconds adrift.
When the lights went out, Crowe controlled the race as he held an early lead, but Ingram crept up from a sixth-place start on the grid to slide past Crowe on lap three and hit the front, as they were both closely trailed by National Superstock 1000 regular Leon Jeacock.
Crowe let his gap extend to about 1.5 seconds as the two front-men contended with backmarkers, but began to reel the Fleetwood Grab Services BMW rider back in halfway through the 14-lap race.
Try as he might, Crowe couldn’t best ‘The Ram’ and had to settle for the runner-up spot just over 1.5 seconds off the lead, while Jeacock took third a further five seconds back, with Cooper powering up from the 8th row on the grid aboard the Hawk Racing 600 to finish less than a second off the podium.
Ben Crowe took Sportsman honours in eighth overall while the Garys, Hutchinson and Woodward, rounded out the rostrum.
After a disc bolt backed out in race one and he was forced to fix it trackside with an 8mm hex key he had stashed for such an occasion, Williams was back in action on Sunday and just behind Ingram on pole under Thundersport’s Mega Laps system.
It was Cooper, however, who shot out to the front on his 600 from fourth on the grid and tried to keep the bigger bikes at bay, but Crowe powered past on lap three and put his head down.
Once again, it was Ingram who got the better of the Lincolnshireman on lap six and held steady at the front for the next four laps until Williams had a go of his own.
Coming into the penultimate lap, the Hi-Tech Coatings Kawasaki rider held an advantage of 0.34 seconds, but a mistake cost him precious time and Ingram pounced to hit the chequered flag nearly 0.8 seconds clear of Williams, with Cooper holding off Crowe to take third. Sportsman winner Ben Crowe came home 11th, ahead of Jamie Tibble and Woodward.
Cooper again took the early lead in race three, but yet again Ingram hit the front early in attempt to hold off challenges. Williams, however, had other plans as he hit the front at half distance and never looked back.
Crowe, Cooper and Ingram battled for the runner-up spot while William stretched his lead, but no one could catch up as the latter crossed the line over two seconds clear of Ingram with Cooper just half a second back in third. A third Sportsman victory gave Ben Crowe the weekend hat-trick as he once again beat Tibble and Hutchinson to the line.
“It was a good end to the weekend,” Williams said. “I got a good start, pushed to the front and managed to stay there until the chequered flag, taking first and another 25 points. Team and myself are happy so on to the next round!”
After eight months out of racing all together, Ingram expressed his content with the performance and his return to competition.
“I had a fantastic Weekend spinning some laps with a great bunch of lads at Thundersport GB this weekend,” he said. “A special mention to the main man Des Fleetwood for joining forces with me once again and great to be straight back at the business end of the field after an 8 month layoff.”
“I’m well happy with the job so it’s been well worth the effort. Two wins and a second place so that will do just nicely and is way more than I ever expected.”
*Main image: John Isgar
*Crowe image: John Manclark
*Cooper image: Glyns Photos
*Williams image: Ian Boldy