He had not raced in a number of years but Andrew Watson tore up the expectations of the regular racers in the British Ski Academy sponsored GBR Series to win the first of two races in Pontypool. Watson gave the rest of the field a stern wake up call in their pursuit of bragging rights. Gerard Flahive was next best and he too was in another class above all the regular racers. Callum Witts joined them on the podium with Craig Speed and Joseph Huppach finishing in the top five.
Coming into the final weekend of racing for the 2017 GBR Series, winner of round 3, Ollie Weeks, had expressed his excitement of racing against one of the stars of the sport and one of his heroes. Weeks, in contention for the Series win, straddled the final gate on the first run to disrupt his plans of challenging Watson.
Watson held a comfortable lead over Flahive on the first run with Callum Witts and Craig Speed tightly packed in third and fourth but over seven tenths behind Watson. Watson had not trained for a while on the matting but still had the talent and ability to destroy the rest of the field.
With seven to go on the second run Peter Davies was sitting in the box seat. Over two seconds off the lead, Davies was racing for series points rather than the overall yet gave a good account of himself. Robert Holmes was next up and with the Overall series very much on his mind, was looking for a consistent finish he explained after the race.
Holmes, an Under 16 age group racer grabbed the lead, going a second faster than Davies.
With a tenth of a second advantage over Holmes, Thomas Upton was next out the start gate. Upton could not live with the pace of Holmes and slotted into second just under two tenths behind.
Josef Huppach had two tenths on Holmes advantage yet was more interested in limiting further time loss to the leaders. Huppach went a fraction faster than Holmes on the second run to extend his lead.
With four to go first Craig Speed, one of the most improved racers this summer, then Callum Witts both put their all in to try and edge closer to the leading two. Witts grabbed the lead from Speed but it was now all about watching and learning from Flahive and Watson as they gave the rest of the field a stern wake up call in racing fast down the dry mat slope of Pontypool.
Flahive was first out the gate and destroyed Witts’s run leading time by three quarters of a second. Flahive had trailed Watson after the first run by over half a second and wanted to challenge for the race win. Victory at Welwyn Garden City in the Club National earlier in the summer had shown his intent and this was now raising the bar to see if Watson could cope with the pressure.
Pressure? What pressure? Watson had those watching from the side of the slope and at the bottom of the course in awe. While others had noisily slid their way down, Watson silently carved his way down. This was as near to poetry in motion. This was what every other racer was aspiring to. This was what they had to raise their work ethic to to achieve.
If the gap between Flahive and Witts was impressive, three quarters of a second, then Watson to Flahive made a mochery of that. Watson smashed Flahive’s time by over six tenths of a second to take the win and be the fourth different GBR race winner of the 2017 series.
With Holmes all but securing the Overall series after Weeks crashed out, skiing with his head on the Sunday would be needed to rubber stamp it.
The age groups were taken by Jack Upton (Under 14, 10th Overall); Josef Huppach (Under 16, 5th Overall); Thomas Upton (Under 18, 7th Overall); Callum Witts (Under 21, 3rd Overall); Andrew Watson (Senior, Race Winner) and Chris Royle (Masters, 14th Overall)
Action shots are on www.racerready.zenfolio.com