Track titles taken by Kirkcaldy racing star Michael

Kirkcaldy Stock Rod driver Michael Bethune says he is happy with what was a successful season on the track.

By Jim Turner
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 12:12 pm
Kirkcaldy stock car driver Michael Bethune.
Kirkcaldy stock car driver Michael Bethune.

Bethune took the ORCi Championship and Open Scottish Championship titles amid a series of good finishes.

It was a season where the driver numbers were on the increase and there was no shortage of some close and exciting racing at the Cowdenbeath Racewall.

The highlight of the season was the World Final which attracted a good number of drivers from the south west of England and from Northern Ireland.

Bethune says: “I started the season with my old car which we had refreshed for the 2020 season but due to Covid we only raced around six times.

"The engine had been rebuilt and didn’t need anything done to it. I have had the car since 2016 but Craig Haxton commandeered my spare and he even won a title with it.”

“During 2020 closed door meetings I experimented a lot with the car set up and each time I raced I kept making adjustments.

"It was a similar story at the practice meeting’s last try to get the best set up out of my car mindful that we had at the World Final at the Racewall.”

The season at the Racewall didn’t start until May and whilst Bethune says was pleased with his car’s performance he was still making slight adjustments to try and get more out of it.

“My first away trip was in June over at Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland - in fact that turned out to be my only trip away – was for the British and ORCi Championships,” he said.

"I like the track at Nutts Corner and when we went out for practice, I was happy with the car’s performance.

"It’s a track where most drivers can be on the pace and it is more a case of having the set up correct.

“In the heats I got a fifth place in the opening heat and a seventh in the other so I was quite pleased.

" I was to start the race from the inside of row three. It turned out to be a very short race for me and when the starter dropped the green flag to start the race my seat belts burst open so I quickly turned right onto the sidelines and that was my dreams of becoming the British Champion over and done with!

"It scared the living daylights out of me!

With his seat belt repaired, Bethune returned the following day.

“The weather was dry and before the meeting started I made some slight adjustments to the set up.

"They worked and in the qualifying heats I finished second on both occasions and that netted me pole position.

"I made a good start to the race and went straight into the lead but had Cammy Doak in second although I did manage to open a gap.

"There was an incident which suspended the race and the gap that I had built up disappeared.

"Once the track was cleared, we restarted and again I was able to pull away but with five laps remaining Cammy had caught me up.

"I had to make sure that I kept a tight racing line and not give Cammy a glimmer of a chance so it was a hectic last few laps.

“I did manage to hold on and win but in the end it was close.”

Back at the Racewall, Bethune says: “It was a case of keeping the car competitive and scoring as many points as possible with the track points title the light at the end of the tunnel.

"There are usually a few drivers looking to win the points so it’s a case of being as competitive and consistent as possible.

"I had a lot of close races with the likes of Davy Philp Jnr, John McAllister and Cammy Doak who seemed to the most likely contenders.”

“I didn’t go to either St. Day or Taunton for the Nationals or the European although I usually try go there for the weekend.

"I have raced at St Day every year since 2015 and I like the track but unfortunately it is under threat of closure which is a great pity.”

The next major meeting was the World Final and with it being on home soil, bethune says he felt he had a good chance of winning.

He said: “I had already won the World at the Racewall in 2015. With three weeks to go I set my car up as I had done when I won the World but the following week, I changed it to a totally different set up.

"When I thought about it, I changed it again as I didn’t think it would last the forty lap race. The set up I decided to go with was the one that I had started the 2020 season with.

"I managed to get the fastest lap of the year when I tried it so was quite confident.

“We got to the track and in the practice I was happy with the car’s performance although I did make a slight adjustment for the heats.

"The first heat turned out to be a disaster.

"There was a shunt right at the start to the race and whilst I tried to take avoiding action, I clipped one of the cars and suffered a puncture.

"After that I trundled around to finish fourteenth and last but I scored points.

"It was a different story in heat two where I finished in second spot and was really happy how the car performed.

"I was to start the World from row seven and made a good start and was making up places.

"I was challenging for fourth and a gap appeared so I dived into it but I clipped a car and ended up against a marker tyre.

“The following day was the World Masters and I did well in the heats finishing in fifth place in heat one and fourth in heat two.

"It was a good race for me and I ended up in third place but Craig Haxton in my spare car won. I told him he wasn’t getting the car again!”

Next up was the Scottish Championship, a fortnight after the World.

“In practice I managed to chalk up the fastest lap.

"The grid is a public one and I drew seventeenth. I had a good race and came from my lowly grid position to finish in fourth place and not that far away from the cars ahead of me.

“From then to the end of the season I concentrated on picking up points and good results so when we started the last weekend, I was six points ahead of Davy with Cammy a further six adrift.

“On Saturday we were racing for the Simon Laing Memorial trophy and instead of it being the first race there were too many cars so it ended up as two heat consolation final format.

“I managed a third and was pleased with the car’s performance. The track conditions were poor and changed at every race so it was a challenge.

"The cars lined up in their points order in their grades So I was right at the rear of the field.

"I had a good race but when trying to go around a car I clipped the wall and bent a wishbone so had to be content with seventh.

“When we started the meeting on Sunday, I was in second spot in the points with three points covering all three of us.

"The track was very greasy and different from the night before.

"I was fourth in the first heat but after winning heat two I had claimed pole position for the Scottish Open Championship.

"I went straight into the lead when the race started and went on for an easy win but I was followed home by Cammy and Davy. The track points went my way but the National Points went to Cammy.”

Looking ahead, Bethune says: “I am going to build myself a new car for next year.

"It will be a Corsa C and along the same lines. I plan to do most of the championship events but we will take it as it comes.

“My main mechanic is my Dad Eric and we do most of the work on the car although we get help from Deek and Craig Haxton.

"I am also grateful to my mum and to my partner Gillian and daughter Lacey for putting up with the long hours we sometimes spend in the garage.

"I am lucky that I get sponsorship from EJB Autocare, Trevor Harris Paver Hire, Hillfoot Cleaning, PC Joinery, BG Heating, Network Distribution, AVS Scotland, Lee Smart Racing and ROC Tec.

"Without their support I wouldn’t be able to race as often as I do and I am very appreciative of their sponsorship.”