Stafford sets sights on top-ten finish

HOME TRACK: Aaron Clarke (left) finished 19th and Ben Stafford took sixth spot in round eight at Cadwell Park on Sunday. Photo by Adrian Smith
HOME TRACK: Aaron Clarke (left) finished 19th and Ben Stafford took sixth spot in round eight at Cadwell Park on Sunday. Photo by Adrian Smith
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Ben Stafford has moved closer to a proposed top-ten finish in his first full year in the Pirelli National Supertsock 600 series.

The Saracen’s Head rider and the Silicone Engineering team travelled to Cadwell Park for round nine.

Stafford arrived at the Lincolnshire circuit after flying in from the Isle of Man the night before and he had to remove the plaster cast from his injured hand before free practice.

After Friday’s 30-minute session all seemed good with the hand but an incorrect gearing choice hampered the lap times in the first session.

The first qualifying session was completed in dry and humid conditions, producing good track temperatures.

With the alterations to the bike Stafford made far better progress and ended the session in 12th spot.

In warmer conditions Stafford sat out some of the second session trying to rest the hand and with 12 minutes on the clock remaining he went out to try to better the previous day’s times.

However a red flag halted this plan and Stafford found himself in 15th place to start Sunday’s race.

Stafford produced a decent start and moved up two places in the early stages, settling into a rhythm for the 12-lap race and gradually picking his way through the riders.

He moved through the field to eventually cross the line in an excellent sixth spot – again adding 10 valuable points for the championship tally.

This was a good solid ride from Stafford for a great confidence booster after the last two unlucky rounds at Brands Hatch and Thruxton, moving him to 12th in the championship.

The team packed away and set off for the Heysham port for the overnight crossing to the Isle of Man where Stafford’s colleagues will be riding and he will resume his position as mechanic until the journey home straight to round nine at Oulton Park on September 4-6.

Meanwhile, Aaron Clarke recorded his best result of the current campaign when he finished in 19th place.

The Kirton rider ended qualifying in 30th place and started his 12-lap race from the 10th row.

Although he got away to a really good start and made up a few places, another rider ran him off the track at Charlie’s – causing him to run across the grass to the top of the hill where he rejoined some way back in last place.

Clarke began to make up ground towards the back-markers, picking them off one by one, and on the final lap he secured 19th place which he held to the chequered flag.

He said: “I am really pleased to have made it up into the top 20 but to be fair if I hadn’t have been taken out on that first lap I could have been looking at securing my first championship points.

“My lap times were faster than ever before and I was riding well.

“I have to say a big thank you to my team who have worked so hard to get me up into the top 20 this weekend and also my sponsors who have supported me all season.”

Clarke pays a return visit to Oulton Park in Cheshire for the next round when he will hope to continue his upward move towards the elusive points finish of 15th place.