Toby Hales took a major step towards recovering the Indian Motorcycle DTRA UK Flat Track Nationals title he last won in 2018 with a fine victory at King’s Lynn’s Adrian Flux Arena for Round Four of the 2021 campaign. Four weeks on from his last bend dash to win in the Amman Valley, Hales capitalised on the absence of his main title rival Gary Birtwistle to build an eighteen point series lead with his second consecutive success.
Birtwistle, recovering from a wrist injury and targeting a return for Round Five later in the season, was one of two big-name absentees – Angus Gough ruled out with ongoing knee problems – but that didn’t affect the quality of the entertainment in a trip back to Norfolk that more than made up for the rain-off in May.
Hales started the day as the comfortable favourite but Rob Mear quickly established himself as the youngster’s main competition with a victory over Hales in Heat 3 on his way to a maximum score from his three qualifying heats. But that proved Hales’ only defeat of the afternoon; he made it through as second seed behind Mear and picked him off on the opening lap of what was the decisive third staging of the Final.
Two previous attempts to complete the fifteen-lap distance had been aborted, and it was in the first staging that Mear made it closest to sealing his first meeting victory since joining the DTRA. Hales had been relegated to third early on by the impressive Jack Bell, and the time taken for Hales to recover the position had allowed Mear to scamper away. But while the lead positions settled down early, the midfield battle provided the chaos: Gareth Williamson looking good early on in fifth before going down under pressure from Chris Northover into turn three, bringing out the red flags on Lap Six.
And Northover was again involved in the drama in the re-staging from a line-out as he clipped the back of Freddy Trott at the first turn, bringing him down. Trott was unfortunate to be sent back to the penalty line after a strong performance from which he deserved more.
It was also an action-packed day for Paul Young, who fell twice in three attempts. After qualifying superbly as third seed with two race victories he was crowded out by Trott on the opening lap in the initial running of the Final and, running wide in an attempt to recover, he instead lost five places more. Stranded down the order for the line-out as a result, he was then involved in the first-turn pile-up at the second time of asking, with nowhere to go to avoid the stricken Freddy Trott. And finally in the third staging a turn four fall left him out of contention.
Meanwhile up front, Mear was quickly shaken off by Hales after running wide at the end of Lap One, and the same mistake three laps later allowed Bell to squeeze through on the inside as well. Now it was a cat-and-mouse sprint to the flag reminiscent of the pair’s meeting earlier in the day; Bell had been three tenths a lap faster than Hales but was held at bay when the pair met in Heat Four. And again Hales had the advantage of track position in the Final. With three to go Bell had got the gap down as far as he could, Hales able to dig in to hold Bell back by three tenths of a second over the line. It was nonetheless a first podium at senior level for former youth Champion Bell, and back-to-back podiums for Rob Mear who missed the early-season visit to Greenfield.
The 2021 title will be settled over the first two weekends of September, at the MCN Festival at Peterborough and the TT Circuit at Greenfield.
ROUND FOUR RESULTS: 1st Toby Hales 3:04.500, 2nd Jack Bell +0.352, 3rd Rob Mear +0.850, 4th Jordan Miller +1.804, 5th Chris Northover +2.335, 6th Mark Richardson +5.262, 7th Mike Goodfellow +6.789
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1st Toby Hales 56, 2nd Jack Bell 38, 3rd Gary Birtwistle 36, 4th Jordan Miller 32, 5th Rob Mear 28, 6th Paul Young 23
Picture by Paul France