AGAINST all previous predictions; a cold, but dry evening greeted drivers, teams and fans as they gathered at HRP Lochgelly Raceway this past Saturday as they gathered for the 2018 Season Finale at Scotland’s premier stock car venue, writes Raceway scribe Les Waller.

Five of the very best formulas were on show with a great blend of contact and non-contact oval racing action scheduled over fifteen races.

The CC Rods were a late addition to the programme of events and they arrived in reasonable numbers for the event given the lateness of their call-up with Davie McFarlane proudly wearing the silver roof he won the previous week as the 2018 National Points Champion. The first heat saw ProStocks regular Neale Glancy racing in the former Scottish Championship winning car of Stewart Aitken from the front of the white grade and, with the experience he has accumulated during 2018, Glancy made it look very simple as he strode to a dominant victory.

Darren McDonald left it late to make his first appearance of the season in what appeared to be the former Kevin Connor car and he led the early stages of heat two before Brian Allen took over, however, his lead was short lived as Lee Wotherspoon flew through the field to take up the running and hold on at the front to the chequered flag with Allen and Bob Cairns in second and third.

The feature final was the first race scheduled after the traditional HRP fireworks which were completed just, and only just, before biblical rain hit the raceway and drenched all and sundry in its path. This made conditions very tricky for the CC Rods in their feature final as the cars slid all over the wet track with Wotherspoon an early casualty, but Scottish Champion Bob Cairns came through to take the final CC Rod victory of the year with Glancy in second and McDonald third after a chaotic race!

The National Hot Rods were making their now traditional appearance at the end of season finale and arrived in good numbers with visitors Podge McQuaid, Kenny McCann and Robert McDonald adding to the Scottish Series drivers plus debuts for former 2.0 Hot Rod British and European Champion Kenny Purdie and ex-Stock Rodder Lee Smart – spare a thought for McQuaid though as his meeting failed to make it on track all night after prop-shaft issues. Heat One was run in dry conditions and saw a dominant win for Ian Donaldson after he reeled in early leader Gordon Ogilvie who looked much more at home in his refurbished VW Corrado than in previous outings. Ogilvie led again at the beginning of heat two until caught and passed by Donaldson before the halfway point. Ogilvie fell further back as McDonald took second-place; but held on for a very respectable third as Donaldson completed a double in the heats. That rain continued as the National Hot Rods rolled on to the track for their feature final and the drivers deserve huge credit for managing to put on a reasonable race in terrible conditions. Donaldson did his part again as he swept into an early lead but, as the laps wound down, it was clear that Steven Armit was reeling in the leader and Armit did challenge Donaldson for the win before the end but the highly-experienced Donaldson held on for a famous hat-trick with Armit in second and Purdie third.

The Superstox were back in action for the final time in 2018 and heat One saw Dean Johnston lead briefly before Kenny McKenzie picked up the mantle. McKenzie led for the bulk of the race as European and Scottish Champion Stuart Gilchrist worked his way through the field and Gilchrist was able to take the lead at the three-quarter mark to go on for yet another win with McKenzie and Johnston taking second and third respectively. Heat Two was an absolute walkover for Gilchrist as he took the lead within the first five laps to power away to victory. However, the final was a very different story as the torrential rain turned the form book on its head. Aidan O’Hare and Dean Johnston both enjoyed spells in the lead before the previous final winner Allan Gibson hit the front. After numerous incidents and plenty of bumper action throughout the field, Gibson’s nearest challenger emerged as 2017 World Champion Barry Stephen and Stephen proceeded to track Gibson before making the move to take the lead to claim victory in the final race of the year for Scotland’s top open-wheel stock car formula ahead of Johnston and Gilchrist after a pain cost Gibson numerous places before he fought back up to fourth.

The Stock Rods had arguably dominated the headlines as HRP Lochgelly Raceway welcomed English visitor Trevor Ashworth plus Northern Irish visitors Stephen McCready and Derek McMillan on track as well as returnees in the form of James Matson and Stuart McKinnon while Lee McGill made his track debut in the formula. Over twenty Stock Rods lined up for heat one and all hell broke loose on the green flag as David Rogerson pushed Alan King wide into turn three. King locked up his brakes and slammed into the wall to bring an early caution. Stuart Bannatyne made the running for the majority of the remaining laps; but he was caught and passed by a rather forceful McCready who crossed the line first but was docked two places for contact which handed the win to Stewart Paterson. Heat Two was another great race in dry conditions and, this time, Rogerson made no mistakes as he came through an early battle with Alan King to emerge as the winner ahead of King and Teri Linden. The feature final was another of the races ran in the rain and it certainly made for an interesting race as Teri Linden led from lap one all the way through to the last few laps before McCready managed to find a way past the former Ministox ace to take a well-deserved win while Linden held on for an excellent second ahead of another Northern Irish driver in the form of Derek McMillan.

The final formula on show were the 1300 Stock Cars and, as the evening begun, there were two main talking points. One – who would take home the extra £100 for winning the feature final sponsored by Electricity Asset Services and two – who would take the track championship as Andrew Mathieson took a fifteen-point lead into the evening over Craig Haxton. A chaotic start saw Ian Goodall bounce over the kerb and drop a huge amount of oil on turn two which made life very interesting for the other drivers still on track with several others falling victim to the spill. Andrew Mathieson’s race ended in the early stages as Patrick Calderwood continued in the lead all the way to the chequered flag. Heat Two saw more lead changes than half of the F1 Grand Prix Season as the slightly depleted field continued to thrill the crowd. Haxton went on to take win with Mathieson the sixth and final finisher which meant that, going into the final race, Mathieson held a one-point lead over Haxton in the track championship!

The action in the feature final started as soon as the green flag dropped as Mathieson attempted to push Haxton into safety fence, but as Mathieson’s eyes were fixed in front; Zak Gilmour came in with a huge hit to eliminate Mathieson from the running altogether – this meant that Haxton had to finish ninth or better to take the title. Gilmour then battled with Euan Mathieson who may or may not have been intending on curtailing Haxton’s progress; but we will never know. The two battled all over the track as Haxton had to give way to a flying Danny Whyte at the sharp end of the grid with Whyte going on to take the Electricity Asset Services Final with Haxton taking second (and the track championship) with Stuart Farrell completing an excellent rookie season on the podium. It should also be noted that, in the true spirit of stock car racing, there were handshakes all round while Haxton and the Mathieson brothers headed to the local pub after the meeting to discuss their evening!!!

Huge congratulations to all drivers, teams, staff, sponsors and fans involved in making HRP Lochgelly Raceway Scotland’s premier stock car venue.