With the sad news that the Rockingham venue is closing its doors at the end of the 2018 season, there has been a lot of focus lately on the UK Pickup Truck Racing Championship. As the only championship to use the Oval as part of their calendar, every other venue is considered a “Road course”, replicating their US counterparts. This was the case on the 9 September 2018 as the championship visited Snetterton for what would be rounds 12 and 13 of the regular season, following the cancellation of Lydden Hill a few weeks ago. For the Pickups the latest round had been well over a month and a half ago, with Donington Park holding rounds 10 and 11 before an Oval meeting took place on the 4th August. Heading into the final few rounds of the championship, it was former BTCC driver Lea Wood who topped the standings, collecting an overall total of 2,198 points to lead reigning Pickups champion Scott Bourne. The gap between the two was 77 points, but with plenty of race winners in the championship and lots of points on offer, everything was to play for. Championship regular David O’Regan held third spot in the standings on 1,908 points, ahead of former double Pickups champion Michael Smith, by a gap of 300 points. Both were seriously capable of victories in their mighty Pickups around the Snetterton 300 circuit and with 200 points on offer for a race win, the margin to Wood could easily decrease within one race. Extra points would be available in qualifying, meaning the title race would likely remain close to the season finale.
The 2018 season had been thriving with a total of twenty-eight drivers contesting the season and at the latest round, sixteen drivers had made the journey to Norfolk for Sunday’s action. Qualifying would get the day underway to set the grids for race one and two, before each race would be contested over twelve laps. To make Pickups even more exciting, results from qualifying would be reversed for each race, but it’s crucial for drivers to grab top spot to secure the extra points. All the points gained at Snetterton would likely lead to an entertaining finish at the venues of Pembrey and Brands Hatch.
Lights to Flag for O’Regan
After qualifying set the top six to be reversed for each race, rivals Michael Smith and David O’Regan lined up on the front row for the opening race, whilst championship rivals Lea Wood and Scott Bourne were just behind on rows two and three. When the lights went green for the rolling start, O’Regan got the better of Smith to lead into turn one, followed extremely closely by Lea Wood, the series leader moving from fifth and ahead of his championship challenger Scott Bourne. The driver who lost out on the opening lap was Dale Gent as after starting sixth for grabbing first in qualifying; Gent fell down the order to eighth, being jumped by Paul Tompkins, Reece Jones and George Turiccki.
Battling throughout the field in the early stages allowed for David O’Regan to break away at the front of the field but he was closed in by Lea Wood and Scott Bourne, as the two jumped Michael Smith on the second lap. Smith then would come under pressure from Turiccki over fourth position, before dropping back to fifth on lap five. Positions were promoted on lap seven when Scott Bourne ran off the circuit challenging Wood for second. A mistake cost Bourne third position and the reigning champion was forced to re-join in ninth after slight contact with the barrier. O’Regan and Wood had comfortable margins in first and second with Turiccki and Gent close to one another in a battle for third. Reece Jones passed Michael Smith for fifth by the end of the lap before major drama unfolded a lap later in terms of the title race.
As Geoff Dixon retired in the pits from the rear of the field, championship leader Lea Wood then stopped out on circuit before the Bentley Straight, losing second. A mechanical failure had brought the Pickup to a halt and with it stranded the safety car was deployed for a lap and a half.
The race distance was increased by one lap and with David O’Regan’s gap of five seconds removed; the Irish driver nailed the restart. Dale Gent, who inherited second fought hard to keep with O’Regan but had to be weary of Reece Jones. The top four spread out at the restart but it was fourth place driver Michael Smith who wouldn’t hold on, as Scott Bourne climbed from eighth, benefiting from the safety car to take fourth on the final lap. Sixth went to former champion Pete Stevens ahead of Daniel Petters, Dean Tompkins, George Turiccki and Richard Ayling who completed the top ten. The final laps of the race unfortunately saw two more retirees as Lee Rogers and Christopher Land failed to make the finish with only twelve of the sixteen classified.
Pickups Race 1 Top Five:
- David O’Regan (No.8) = 13 Laps = 29:10.248
- Dale Gent (No.83) = +2.016s
- Reece Jones (No.40) = +2.315s
- Scott Bourne (No.1) = +7.612s
- Michael Smith (No.93) = +11.139s
Bourne Grabs Championship Advantage in 500th race.
Before the second and final race of the day got underway for the Pickups, the title race seemed to firmly swing in favour of reigning champion Scott Bourne. This was because Lea Wood never made it out onto the grid ahead of the green flag rolling start. The mechanical failure in race one which resulted in Wood parked up by the side of the circuit ended the weekend, as unfortunately it turned out terminal for the former BTCC competitor. With Wood receiving nil points for the weekend, Bourne had every opportunity to extend his championship lead, in what would be an historic race for the field. The race at Snetterton was the 500th Pickup Truck Racing race since the championship got underway in 1997.
On the front row was Paul Tompkins and Reece Jones but from row two David O’Regan made a lighting start and once the field reached the bridge at the end of the Bentley Straight, the Irishman was ahead. Paul Tompkins held onto second at the end of the first lap but Scott Bourne was on a charge, going from third to first on lap three. As O’Regan dropped to second, Tompkins was third before his race came to an end in a cloud of smoke. After dropping back behind watching Dale Gent battle George Turiccki, Tompkins exited the Brundle/Nelson corners before the truck slowed as the engine gave way, with oil poured out on the circuit. The incident meant the two corners were very slippery, catching out Pete Stevens, Lee Rogers and Daniel Petters on lap four. Christopher Land joined Tompkins in the pit lane on lap four after suffering more problems with the No.77 Pickup.
Oil was a concern for most drivers after the bridge but with no incidents occurring, Scott Bourne was able to continue out-front, but the gap remained under a second until lap ten of the twelve. In the final stages Bourne increased his margin to nearly a second and a half, taking the chequered flag and adding to his 2018 Pickups win tally. O’Regan topped of his Snetterton weekend with podium to back up his victory in race one.
The battle for the final podium spot had looked to be a close fight in the earlier stages of the race after Tompkins’ blow up, as Michael Smith was reeled in mid-way through by Dale Gent. The gap had been nearly five seconds but with Gent lapping a second quicker than Smith, the two were bumper to bumper by lap six and by the start of seven, Gent was ahead. Smith was losing ground on Gent once back in fourth and fell into the clutches of Reece Jones, who jumped ahead on lap eight. The top five would remain as they were up to the chequered flag.
The oil spill from Tompkins which caught out the majority outside the top five meant that most of the field was split with George Turiccki grabbing sixth by a comfortable margin, ahead of Lee Rogers, Daniel Petters and Pete Stevens. Mark Cooper was able to complete the top ten, whilst Richard Ayling and Dean Tompkins were lapped on way to eleventh and twelfth as final finishers.
Pickups Race 2 Top Five:
- Scott Bourne (No.1) = 12 Laps = 25:40.537s
- David O’Regan (No.8) = +1.458s
- Dale Gent (No.83) = +4.333s
- Reece Jones (No.40) = +13.617s
- Michael Smith (No.93) = +16.679s
With a few rounds remaining in the 2018 Pickup Truck Racing championship, Scott Bourne now leads both the road course and oval championships in his quest to defend his 2017 Pickups title. The demise of Wood with mechanical failure this weekend massively boosted Bourne and now with Rockingham, Pembrey and Brands Hatch remaining, Wood will have to fight tooth and nail to reclaim top spot in the standings. As Scott Bourne moved onto a total of 2,528, Wood had only gained a few points from the qualifying session and therefore moved on 2,251 points. The gap between the title rivals had grown to 277 in the favour of Bourne, but making life more difficult for Wood was the arrival of David O’Regan, who is now well in the title hunt. Victory in race one and second in race two meant the Irishman had climbed from third in the standings to second and with 2,324 points, was only 204 points adrift of Bourne. Michael Smith retained fourth in the championship standings on 1,944 points, 256 ahead of Paul Tompkins, who completed the top five. One of the biggest gainers over the weekend was Dale Gent, as he climbed up two spots to now challenge Tompkins for a top five spot, as the gap between the two is only 70 points with two rounds remaining.
Pickups Championship Standings Top Five:
- Scott Bourne (No.1) = 2528 Pts.
- David O’Regan (No.8) = 2324 Pts.
- Lea Wood (No.43) = 2251 Pts.
- Michael Smith (No.93) = 1944 Pts.
- Paul Tompkins (No.12) = 1688 Pts.
For the full photo album including the BTRA and UK National Legends at Snetterton, please click here.
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Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.