Chris Haird converted pole position into victory at the Foxhall Heath Stadium on Saturday night to become a six-time winner of the annual Thunder 500 event – the official warm up to Spedeweekend and the National Hot Rod World Final.
A seventh and third from the two reverse grid qualifying heats gifted the three-time world champion pole position for the main feature race of the night. Sharing the front row with him was Rob McDonald – who took the English points title race right down to the wire, battling with Haird throughout another gruelling English world qualifying campaign.
Haird got away well from pole position with current world champion 305 Billy Wood slotting into second place as McDonald struggled to move onto the beneficial inside line. By the end of the second lap, Haird already had a few car-lengths lead over the chasing pack.
A concertina effect in the mid-pack on lap two heading into turn three caused Jason Kew to spin out of contention with Aaron Dew also dropping a few places. This allowed the top three of Haird, Wood and McDonald to further increase the gap over the rest of the field.
Northern Irishman Carl Sloan went around the outside of Kym Weaver to take fourth and began pursuing the top three. Sloan then fought his way into the top three by overtaking McDonald as the pair negotiated the back markers.
However, the race was all about Haird as he secured yet another Thunder 500 victory and the Angie Rowe Memorial.
Wood took second position as he prepares to defend the world title he won in dramatic fashion 12 months ago.
“I can’t argue with the result,” said Wood. “I’m glad to have got second in the Thunder 500 for the second time but this year was made even more special by adding the Angie Rowe Memorial trophy to the meeting.
“There was no doubt Chris Haird was the fastest man on the night and deserved the win – that’s why he will always be a favourite at any NHR title.
“The positive though is that we came away with no damage and we can now make a couple of slight improvements for the world final. Plus, we actually took our first race win of 2019 in heat two.
“The aim at Spedeweekend is to do the double as this past year has flown by. That is easier said than done though as there really is a lot of strong opposition all racing to win the gold roof too.”
Sloan completed the podium positions in third with McDonald just behind in fourth. Fifth was another Scottish driver in the shape of Gordon Alexander.
After getting caught up in the action on lap two, Dew came home in sixth with Carl Waller-Barrett following him home in seventh.
Shane Murray secured an eighth-place finish with Scott Bourne coming ninth and Mikey Godfrey rounding out the top-10.
After the defence of his Angie Rowe Memorial title ended earlier than he would have hoped, Kew said: “It wasn’t the night we hoped for. After a change of set up, practice and heat one went well with a second position – then an average heat two put us fifth on the grid for the Final.
“I got going well and moved up to fourth when a massive hit from behind lifted us off the ground and sent us spinning out of the race. There was loads of damage done and we now have lots of work to do for the world final.
“I’m a bit disappointed as I really needed the laps in the final to judge what sort of speed, we have to prepare for the world final.”
The 2019 National Hot Rod world final takes place at the Ipswich Spedeweekend on the 6th and 7th July with the main race taking place at noon on the Sunday afternoon.
By Jordan Hollands.