Stand-out moments that will be forever remembered
WORLD FINAL AT SKEGNESS STADIUM 5TH SEPTEMBER 2012
This was the first World Final to be held at the East Coast, Lincolnshire based stadium and some stock car fans had their reservations about its suitability. In the event it attracted a huge crowd and while there was critical comment about car parking on the solid ruts of a ploughed field and the restricted viewing in parts of the temporary grandstand on turns one and two, the overall organisation and promotion was superb. The electric atmosphere was reminiscent of World Final nights in days gone by at Coventry, the old Belle Vue and Bradford and seemed to suggest that something special was in the offing - and it was!
Those of us there that night witnessed the first World Final to be won by a driver who had not qualified for the big race from either his semi-final or by right from the Consolation semi-final. It was not however the first World Final victory from the back of the grid, that was a feat first accomplished by 68 Trevor Frost at the very wet Coventry staged WF in 1964.
But back to Skegness and that Consolation semi-final with 4 Dutch drivers joining 22 UK drivers to battle for those final two places at the rear of the WF grid. An incident packed race entertained the watching thousands with 417 Mike James leading for almost half the race. The eventual winner was Holland's H217 Ron Kroonder followed by a cautious 4 Dan Johnson who decided against a last bend attack in favour of qualification for the WF. 217 Lee Fairhurst came home third having pushed Mike James wide on the last bend. At that stage, Lee thought he would have to wait until 2013 for another crack at the World Championship but fate had other ideas.
Ironically, Lee's father 218 Derek Fairhurst, who had qualified on the 14th row of the WF from his semi-final race, had been having mechanical problems with his car that would lead to him having to withdraw from the big race and the vacant race slot was filled by the third place finisher in the Consolation semi-final - his son Lee. He was to start on the 17th row, the last of 33 drivers. (In 1964 there were 22 drivers in the WF with 68 Trevor Frost at the back.)
As darkness fell, the illuminated and flashing Jamie Davidson tractor unit resplendent in James Bond-themed shining graphic artwork entered the floodlit arena, followed by the World Final competitors to a cacophony of air-horns and cheering that lifted the noise level inside the stadium to ear splitting volume.
Most commentators and fans expected the winner to come from the first two rows where 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr and 150 Mick Sworder lined up ahead of 84 Tom Harris and 55 Craig Finnikin. Behind them were the fastest Overseas drivers, H399 Jessy de Bruin and H247 Gary Castell on row three in front of defending champion, 2 Paul Harrison and 212 Danny Wainman on row four. Lurking on row five were 197 Ryan Harrison and 390 Stuart Smith Jnr. All hard hitters, any one of the drivers on rows three to five had the pedigree to effect the outcome of the race. The tension was palpable.
As the green flag fell, all eyes were on turn one. 84 Tom Harris stormed into 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr sending him hard in to the Armco fencing and spinning himself. While Frankie bounce round the fencing and carried on down the back straight, H399 Jessy de Bruin collided with the 84 car. Turns one and two rapidly became a car park as more and more cars piled in and eventually the red flags came out signalling a complete restart.
The infield was soon littered with damaged cars frantically being worked on by hordes of mechanics. 28 cars lined up for the rerun.
Wainman Jnr led at the second green flag followed by H22 Louw Wobbes as 84 Harris and 150 Sworder clashed. 318 Rob Speak rolled on lap 2 bringing out the yellow flags. Frankie headed the single file restart and at this stage 217 Lee Fairhurst was up to 12th place immediately behind 150 Mick Sworder. The other consolation semi qualifiers H217 Ron Kroonder was 10th and 4 Dan Johnson 9th. Between laps 3 and 7, Harris sent Wainman Jnr into the Armco again and grabbed the lead, Johnson made it to 2nd place followed by 21 Mark Gilbank and a badly damaged Wainman Jnr with 217 Fairhurst behind him in 5th position. The yellow flags came out again at this point on lap 8.
On the restart, 4 Johnson punted 84 Harris into the Armco on turn 2 and out of the race with a well-timed front bumper. 21 Gilbank went past the two of them and into the lead followed incredibly by 217 Fairhurst with 4 Johnson tucking in behind in 3rd place. Wainman Jnr was still battling on in 4th despite the damage to his car having slowed him up. The yellow flags were out again for the Tom Harris fencing and the order remained 21, 217, 4 and 515 as the race got underway again with 15 laps still to run.
4 Johnson took 2nd place from Fairhurst who then had Wainman Jnr looming in his mirrors. The bumpers were going in on every bend. Something had to give. Eventually Fairhurst got past Johnson with a superbly timed hit and took a lead he would not lose. Wainman Jnr temporarily overtook Johnson but the damage to his car was proving a real handicap and Johnson regained 2nd place. At the chequered flag exploding fireworks greeted 217 Lee Fairhurst as the 2012 World Champion with 4 Dan Johnson 2nd and 515 Frankie Wainman Jnr limping home with a damaged front axle and bent bumpers in 3rd. 21 Mark Gilbank slipped down the order and finished 10th.
An action packed race full of incident and controversy that kept the packed stadium enthralled.
For Lee Fairhurst it was a dream come true and very much a family triumph as the Fairhurst clan noisily celebrated his victory - the second ever from the back of the grid and the first for a driver who only qualified by default. For the fans it was a race to savour and be thankful for being there to witness history in the making.
Below is a model of Lee's World Championship winning car proudly displaying the number 1: