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Warneton  25th April 2010

European Late Model Series
Round 3 – The CAMSO Cup – Warneton International Speedway, Belgium

The European Late Model Series returned to action with the first of this season’s long races, the CAMSO Cup. Sixteen cars would start the first of the day’s three races, with 2009 Champion Gary Ellis and Raptor Racing’s Kurt Dujardyn among a number of cars repaired after sustaining serious damage in the season opener at Easter.
The first race of the day got underway with Paul Bowman leading the field to the green flag. He was one of two Ali Block cars on the grid, the second being Revolution Racing’s British rookie Andrew Knight. “I’m really pleased to be here,” Knight commented before the day’s racing. “It’s my first time racing these cars so we’re going to take it steadily, but I felt comfortable in testing yesterday so we’ll see how it goes.” As a rookie, Knight would start from the back for the first race.
Bowman showed good pace to begin with, before being caught and passed around the outside of Turn 1 by Dutch quad racer Rodger Twikler in the #177 Monster Energy Chevrolet. At the back Gary Ellis was making progress in the #95, and Belgian Xavier Vandermeersch was also carving his way through the pack, though a big sideways moment in Turn 2 hampered his charge slightly.
Back at the front Twikler was pulling away as Bruce Andrews caught and passed Bowman’s #39 to take second, but as Twikler caught the tail-enders Andrews seized his chance and started to close the gap. Bowman’s good showing came to an end with a puncture which allowed Ellis, Jean Vasseur and Vincent Lehouck to move up.
Try as he might Tony Roots was unable to get by Vandermeersch, who in turn was struggling to overtake Wim Moonen in the #73. Jos Jansen continued his run of form from Easter, coming out on top of a three way battle for best Raptor Racing entry, but at the front no-one could prove a match for Twikler, who took a commanding first win from Andrews, Ellis and Vasseur. “We were flying out there,” he beamed after the race. “This is so good, we worked hard last time and found our feet, and now it starts to come together. Now we have to see how we go from the back!”
Having started the first race from the back, the #97 Andronicas World of Coffee Pontiac of Andrew Knight started Race 2 from pole. He didn’t get the jump he was hoping for at the start though, with a misfire setting in which the team thought they had cured in testing on Saturday. This left Bowman at the front, but he too had problems – an electrical issue meant the engine in the #39 ASBF Monte Carlo wouldn’t rev over 5000 RPM, and he fell back through the order.
Vasseur, Vandermeersch and Ellis charged through the pack as usual, but the yellows flew for Wim Verloo’s spin in Turn 4. His Toyota Camry was undamaged, but the #13 of Kelvin Hassell had nowhere to go and ran into the back of Paul Bowman, causing damage to ‘Black Sunshine’s’ nose section.
The #222 of Jansen led the field back to green, but was soon caught by Ellis – the Roots V8 Racing driving having seemingly better luck on his side than he did at Easter. Ellis eventually made his move around the outside of Turn 1, and proceeded to pull out a gap. Hassell slowly dropped back down the order, struggling for pace with his damaged car, eventually securing an 8th place finish, just ahead of team boss Tony Roots, and Vandermeersch in the #19 who had also struggled to keep pace with the leaders.
At the end of the 25 lap race Ellis emerged as the victor, with Jansen in second, and Frenchman Jean Vasseur coming third after passing Wim Moonen in the closing laps.
The final race of the day saw the European Late Model Series drivers competing over 60 laps for the CAMSO Cup. Both Ali Block cars made a good start, but again both faded with technical problems. This gave Bertrand Zore in the #71 the lead, which he soon had to defend from Hassell in the #13 Pontiac. Also moving up through the field was Kurt Dujardyn in the #2, but his charge forward nearly came to an end with a huge slide out of Turn 2. The Belgian racer saved the car from hitting the wall, but lost a lot of time.
Meanwhile, his teammate Jansen had taken the lead, ahead of a three-way battle between Roots, Vasseur and Ellis, but Roots became another victim of the slippery track, and had a large moment exiting Turn 2, and like Dujardyn, managed to avoid the wall. This left Vasseur, Ellis, and now Vandermeersch to fight for the lead – all having made their way past Jansen.
From then on all eyes were on the recovering Dujardyn, who was engaged in mighty scrap with Wim Verloo in the #89. Lap after lap the two raced side by side, frequently making contact as Verloo slid up the track in the turns, and Dujardyn tried to squeeze him down track to gain an advantage. The #2 eventually came out on top, seizing an opportunity when Jean Vasseur came through to lap the pair. Behind them, Knight was showing improved pace as he matched the similarly afflicted car of Paul Bowman. The #97 was compromised though, when an overly aggressive Anton Gonnissen forced the rookie into a three-wide situation on the front straight. Knight recovered well, only for Gonnissen’s teammate Jansen to do exactly the same thing only a few laps later. Jansen couldn’t slow his Dodge Charger down enough when the pack reached Turn One though, and slammed into the side of the #97 car. Knight once again held it together, and continued pushing until his technical problems worsened and was forced to retire.
With Vasseur still leading, the main focus was on the fight for second. Ellis and Vandermeersch were both pushing hard to catch the Frenchman, Ellis leading the way from an increasingly frustrated #19. Their tussle came to an end when the pair made contact in Turn 3, resulting in a spin for Vandermeersch. He would have to restart at the rear of the field when the race returned to green, and was very aggressive when the flag dropped, monstering the slower cars of Bowman and Twikler.
Whilst the caution had proven costly for Vandermeersch, it closed Ellis right up to Vasseur, setting the scene for a mighty race to the flag between the two Roots V8 Racing teammates. As the green flag flew though it was Vasseur who maintained his advantage, with Ellis unable to overtake, though just when the Frenchman thought he had the victory sewn up, the yellow flags flew one more time – this time for Rodger Twikler, who had spun in Turn 2.
With a two lap dash to the finish the pressure was on at the front of the pack, with any one of the top six able to win if someone made a mistake. At the restart Ellis got loose exiting Turn 2, costing himself time and causing a chain reaction that saw Tony Roots run into the back of the #95 Chevrolet, damaging the hood of the #77 and forcing him to drop down the order. The two Raptor cars of Gonnissen and Jansen went three-wide with Ellis down the backstretch as they tried to take advantage of his error, though neither would make the move stick into Turn 3, and further back Wim Moonen also a had a big moment, almost spinning to the inside wall before recovering. Vandermeersch too was aggressive at the restart, and due to the misfortune of those ahead of him managed to salvage a sixth place.
So it was Vasseur who emerged victorious at the end of the 60 lap encounter, securing his third win of the season ahead of Ellis and Jansen.
The European Late Model Series faces another three week break now before the cars return to Warneton Speedway for more wheel to wheel action on May 16th.
Matthew Screaton
MSM Designs