27th July, 2021.

This year’s Connor Smith Memorial, held on Sunday the 18th of July at Dean Moor, was the perfect showcase for NETT club racing. A packed grid of adult, youth and junior quads together with sidecar classes lined up under a blistering sun to support the club and pay tribute to Connor.

NETT Championship start

With two special perpetual awards ready to be presented to the overall Adult quad winner and the top Under-21, as well as prize money down to fifth place, the action was fiercely competitive.

The first moto of the Champs class saw Oli Sansom take the lead followed by Murray Graham and Harry Walker, but by the end of the first lap, Walker had overtaken both of them to take and hold the lead to the end, Sansom holding second and Graham third. Behind them, eight young guns - all under 21 were giving it their all; leading the pack was 19-year-old George Oliver, but two laps in, young Scot Robbie Wood slipped past into fourth. Oliver was forced out with an exhaust issue, while Ayrton Knowles rode strongly to hold fifth.

Graham took the lead in the second race, with Walker on his tail. Four laps in, Walker made his move and passed Graham, to lead to the end, both riders setting an outstanding pace and leaving the rest behind them. Sansom didn’t get a good start and was back in sixth with three of the under-21 contenders between him and his 2019 Quad de Nations team-mates. In third place, 16-year-old Wood quietly held his position throughout, leaving Oliver to fend off Knowles until Oliver’s seat fell off, dropping him down to eighth and securing fourth for Knowles. Meanwhile, Sansom found himself racing another Walker, this time 17-year-old Alfie who had to overtake Sansom twice to clinch fifth place. With Sansom taking sixth it was 16-year-old Chad Beevers, last year’s British 250 Open Champion who picked up points for seventh, not realising at that point his quad’s frame was cracked and he would be forced to miss the last moto.

Murray Graham grabs holeshot

The crowd who gathered to watch the last race of the day were rewarded with some of the best racing of the weekend. At the front, Sansom led with Walker stuck to his tail like glue, while behind them Graham passed Wood and settled in behind the leading pair, who raced neck and neck relentlessly. But in a cruel twist, as Graham, one of Connor Smith’s best friends from childhood, came over the finish line on the fourth lap, he glided to a halt with mechanical failure, a disappointing end to a very special day for him.

Meanwhile Wood settled in third behind Sansom and Walker, smoothly distancing himself from the drama behind him. Once again Knowles was behind Oliver and trying everything to find a way past. With dogged determination, he did succeed, four laps in, but Oliver didn’t give up, sticking with Knowles while Alfie Walker tried hard to find a line past him. Right behind was 19-year-old Zak Beevers. It was another two laps before Alfie got his chance along the back straight, passing Oliver and pushing Knowles defences to the limit. The pair succeeded in making the crowd gasp when they came over the jump at the end of the eighth lap together, but Knowles held his line and the battle continued.

George Oliver and Ayrton Knowles had some close battles

Harry Walker kept everyone’s attention to the end when he slowed among the back markers, but he’d done enough to win the day, while Sansom took the moto win and second on the day. Behind them, Wood held third, Knowles clinched fourth, and Alfie Walker fifth, which, when the points were totted up, also turned out to be their overall positions on the day.

Other U-21 competitors in the mix were Dylan McKenna and Josh Talent. Talent had a bad day, only starting race one on Sunday, while McKenna did well to finish ninth overall riding an underpowered spare quad all weekend when the engine of his main machine wouldn’t run on Saturday morning.

Connor’s dad, Bill Smith, who was guest of honour for the weekend, presented the special memorial awards. The prestigious Silver Cup was awarded to Harry Walker for first overall while Robbie Wood proudly accepted the coveted Connor Smith Memorial Under-21 award.

Robbie Wood collects the Connor Smith Memorial Under-21 award from Bill Smith

Note: When Wood started racing at the age of six, Connor Smith, from Arran, an island on the West coast of Scotland, was racing in the Champs Class at both NETT and QRS. Connor’s impact on all the young riders at the time was immense. At Dean Moor, it was clear to see he continues to inspire everyone who raced this weekend in his memory.

NETT Championship positions to follow.

Images: Lisa Ann Williams-Holt

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