Puncture proves costly for Haines as Pope lifts title

New Arlington track champion, Mark Pope
New Arlington track champion, Mark Pope

After a whole season of fierce competitive racing, the South Coast Hydraulics Banger League went down to the final race, of the final round.

Fans on the terraces were met by the news that the defending champion Darren Terry, was out of contention after having surgery on his broken wrist.

Desperate to be fit for the World Final in November, Terry had elected to go under the knife, rather than risk doing so later in the year.

The night’s action started with Rob Haines holding a slim lead over Mark Pope, whilst Rob Barnes was back in third, with Terry fourth and Mark Almeida a distant fifth.

With Terry absent, Haines and Pope would battle for the title, whilst Rob Barnes and Mark Almeida would contest third place in the championship.

In recent weeks, Almeida lost his way a little having led the table for several rounds. With double points at stake on every race in the Grand Final, one last push from the Eastbourne driver could see him overtake Barnes and Terry for third, but only if other results went his way.

The first race of the night was a cagey affair with Almeida making a good start coming home second, ahead of Haines and Pope. Barnes failed to finish.

Next race up had the elements of drama and controversy that has become a hallmark of the racing at Arlington this season.

With just a handful of laps to go Haines was sitting pretty in third, Pope was back in fifth, and Barnes was nowhere in tenth. By the chequered flag, that had changed. Haines retired with a puncture, Pope took the win and Barnes scraped through in fourth. Almeida took another second position to strengthen his claim.

Going into the Final, Pope now had the upper hand with an eight point advantage over Haines, and just needed to come home in sight of his rival.

After a brace of seconds, Almeida wanted to end the season that promised so much, on a high. Whilst Haines and Pope played out a game of cat and mouse, Almeida with the bit between his teeth, sped away for a convincing victory.

Haines put in a mighty effort to close the gap finishing third, but with Pope doing just enough to hang onto his bumper, fourth place was enough to seal the title.

Almeida’s night’s work was sufficient enough to finish in third, behind the unfortunate Haines.