THE first of the practice sessions took place on Sunday at the Cowdenbeath Racewall for a season where GMP hosts both the Saloon and ORCi Stock Rod World Finals.

Thankfully the weather was dry allowing the drivers to test their cars to the full, writes our Racewall scribe Jim Turner, who also caught up with Classic Hot Rod driver, Keith Chesher.

There was drama both on and off the track, with Kyle Rogerson's transport having a problem and he didn't arrive until very late in the afternoon.

On track Caitlin Mitchell and Nicole Allardyce (Leven) had a coming together that resulted in the Allardyce car rolling, luckily landing on its wheels. There were a few long distance travellers in action with Aaron Vaight appearing in his Formula 2 and Sam Critchley with his Saloon, both from England, whilst Jamie Dawson, Leona Anderson and Freya Lovett were down from the north of Scotland.

Amongst the new faces were ORCi Stock Rod drivers, Aiden and Kieran McKinnon (Crossgates), along with Critchley and Jay Carruthers (Thornton) in the Saloons; and Jaxson Watters (Kennoway) and Evah Ashley (Cowdenbeath) in their Micro F2s.

Jordan Dignan (Methilhill) had switched from the Prostock to the Stock Rods whilst James Paton had switched to the Prostock Basics.

Luckily the drivers didn't experience too many problems although Dale Robertson's car suffered suspension damaged after a brush with the wall. Vaight had modified his Formula 2 and was by far the quickest.

Barry Glen was amongst the quickest of the Saloon drivers whilst Andrew Mathieson (Lochgelly), Robertson and Holly Glen, were not that far adrift.

The Stock Rod British and Scottish Champion, Leon Stewart; Dylan Smart (Kirkcaldy) and Michael Bethune (Cowdenbeath), ran well with their cars, whilst the McKinnon brothers must have been pleased with their outings.

Bobby Brandon was the one to catch in the Minis, Paul Barron (Cardenden) in the Prostock whilst Liam Boyle (Hillend) topped the Basics times.

The Micro F2 drivers had a couple of sessions with Oakley Grief and Lana Middler the quickest, whilst Iona Sibbald and Watters ran well.

One formula at the Cowdenbeath Racewall that brings back memories of the past is the Classic Hot Rods where the sight of Ford Escorts, Anglia’s and Vauxhall Chevettes remind some of the spectators of the days when they were the National Hot Rods.

This year the Classics are back at the Racewall but their end of season weekend will be highlighted with the Best in Britain Championship.

Amongst those who is looking forward to that meeting is Dunfermline's Keith Chesher, who plays his trade in a Mk2 Escort. The cars livery is similar to the Escort his late father, Malky, used to race with distinction.

Keith has had spells in the 2 litre and the National Hot Rods that raced at Cowdenbeath. The Cheshers had a winning weekend in August 2000, when Keith won the World Cup, whilst the following day Malky won the Scottish with Keith the runner-up.

Keith retired from racing but returned in a Classic and has been one of the top Scottish drivers over the past few years, and last season changed his power unit from a Pinto to a Zetec and is, if anything, even more competitive.

Chesher, Graeme Callender, John Buchan and Kenny Purdie were the top drivers north of the border at the start of the season, with Purdie finishing last year on a high by winning the Jack Cardno Trophy, at Hednesford.

"I had a good season," Keith commented. "I changed engines and am using a 2 litre Ford Zetec, nothing fancy, but I find it easier to drive, smoother and maybe that more torque.

“I ended up as the runner-up in the Turner Trophy, to Graeme Callender. We had each won a heat and whilst I led the final for a while, he managed to find the line to get ahead of me to win.”

“At the end of the season we had a double header but the weather was not the best. There were quite a few visiting drivers from South of the border and there was a lot of close racing.

“On Saturday I had started well but when the rain started, I struggled for grip and didn't really figure in the results. If anything, the conditions were worse on Sunday and I just couldn't get any sort of grip in the Doug Farrer race and I really struggled. With the weather showing no sign of improving I decided to save the car and loaded up.”

Added Keith: “I went to Hednesford later in the year, but the track was wet for the opening heat and I struggled. When the track began to dry, I fared much better and picked up some results.

"My car is basically ready for the start of the season and I am looking forward to it. I hope to go to Ireland for a weekend, but my son Kallan plays football so it looks like I will give it miss as he is playing in competition at that time. I would like thank to my sponsors for their contributions and to me mechanics, family and friends for their help and support."