Macqueen In Charge As Higlett Struggles
Neil Macqueen took three wins from four at the opening round of the DFDS Seaways-backed Yamaha Past Masters Racing Club series at Snetterton, while reigning champion Graham Higlett had a weekend to forget at his local circuit.
A wet qualifying saw Macqueen qualify on pole with a lap time nearly six seconds quicker than anyone else, set on his final lap of the session. Pete Moore qualified second, while last year's Rookie championship runner-up Sacha Gyte completed the front row.
Higlett qualified in seventh, but as track conditions improved for the race, he was able to make progress towards the front of the pack, and led onto the final lap. However, he was out-foxed, with Macqueen stealing victory by eight tenths of a second. Higlett was second with Pete Moore just eight thousandths of a second further back in third.
It was a lonely ride for Matt Barber in fourth, before a train of riders crossed the line in the battle for fifth. At the front was Scott Grant, the Rookie making his YPMRC debut with a class win. He crossed the line less than a second ahead of Steve Higerty, who took sixth and his first Clubman class win. Ben Miles and Andy Davies were a second behind in seventh and eighth.
The battle for ninth was another close-run affair, with two seconds splitting Rookie Giles Harwood and Kev Marshall in 12th. In between was Sacha Gyte, who was second Clubman, in 10th and the returning Paul Toland in 11th.
It was an interesting start the racing career of Stephen Johnson, who looped his TZR250 in exuberance off the start, while Paul Henson also crashed out of contention in the early stages. There were also mechanical retirements for Clubman championship hopefuls Michael Stanley and Paul Whitby, while Paul Davies failed to make the start.
Race two started on Saturday, but a high-side at the final corner for Graham Higlett brought proceedings to an early end when the red flags came out. The re-run was carried over until Sunday morning, and it was Macqueen who took the win in tricky conditions, storming to victory by over six seconds. Barber was second, just ahead of Davies. Doug Edmondson, who retired from race one, came through the field to finish fourth.
Grant was again lead Rookie in a fine fifth place, again finishing ahead of Higerty, who took his second Clubman win. Paul Bowling took second in the Clubman class in seventh with Marshall completing the class podium in eighth. Gyte was ninth and Stanley was 10th, ahead of Paul Middleton on the Yambits Club Bike, who took his second chequered flag of the weekend, improving all the time.
Macqueen completed his hat-trick of wins in race three, crossing the line two seconds ahead of Matt Barber, who rode to another fine second place, with Edmondson on the podium in third after holding off the challenger from Pete Moore, who finished fourth and a half a second off the podium, with Davies another second and a half back in fifth.
Grant took his third Rookie class win in sixth, while Gyte took his first Clubman class win in seventh with Higerty second in class in eighth. Harwood was second rookie in ninth with Ben Miles in 10th, who mistakenly took yellow flags on the start finish straight as the last lap flag, and eased off with a lap to go.
Higlett's charge from the back of the grid ended after just one lap, with the reigning champion retiring with mechanical woes.
Howeverm Macqueen didn't make the start of the final race, which saw Barber take a comfortable victory, as Edmondson and Moore were again tied together, this time in a battle for second. It went the way of Edmondson with Moore third and Davies fourth.
Toland, after retiring from the previous race, came through to take a well-deserved fifth place, ahead of Grant who completed his Rookie class clean-sweep of wins, and has installed himself as the early favourite for the championship come the end of the season.
Gyte was seventh and took his second Clubman win ahead of Miles, Harwood and Paul Davies, who rounded out the top 10.
The closest battle on track centred around 14th place and the scrap for the final championship points. Stanley crossed the line three hundredths of a second ahead of Middleton on the Club Bike, with Henson half a second behind in 16th and Marshall 17th, two seconds behind at the line.
The next round of the DFDS Seaways Yamaha Past Masters Championship heads to Silverstone on May 9-10, with Friday practice on May 8.
Photo: E.G.B Photography