What should have been an opportunity to toast another successful season for Melton motorcycle racer Antony Hart, was dampened by the death of a popular rider.
The season finale at Brands Hatch was eventually abandoned after one championship race in each class following the accident which claimed the life of well-respected rider, Fran Fletcher.
The accident was a difficult reminder of the sport’s dangers for Hart’s father and mechanic Ron.
“It should be a very happy experience with another very successful season against some exceptional opposition, and I’m extremely proud of our achievements,” he said.
“But like a lot of sports, rugby, horse riding and motor sports, accidents can have a huge life-changing effect, and when it’s someone you know it brings it home to you.
“It was one of the most sombre meetings we’ve been to.”
Having already wrapped up two championships, the Leicestershire team planned to use the meeting as a test session for next year’s parts.
But the Yamaha TZ 350 suffered from handling problems during practice, persuading Hart to return to the pits to refit the bike with its original parts before qualifying for the King of Brands race.
With 38 places available on the starting grid and 58 entrants, Hart sneaked in with the 32nd quickest lap after suffering from a fuel leak which forced him out after only one lap.
The weekend’s first race was on board the Manchester Yamaha, and the modifications worked well as Hart claimed a clear class win and a comfortable second place on the road in the superbike class, leaving him second overall in the final standings.
The Melton rider could only manage fourth in the Honda RS 125 race. A post-race inspection found the bike’s barrel was cracked, but the championship was already in the bag thanks to a lead of more than 100 points.
With the Yamaha TZ 350 back to its original spec, its handling problems remained, but he managed another clear fourth place to retain the championship thanks to his 50-point lead.
Hart capped the meeting with a marvellous ride on board the Manchester Yamaha in the King of Brands race, moving through from the back of the grid to claim a terrific sixth place.
The result promoted him into second place in the King of Classics series.
The Hart team wish to thank Simon Evans at BE Event Hire, Tony Keele at TK Motorcycles, and Arnold Fletcher and David King for their invaluable support.
Overall results – 1st Honda 125 RS Championship; 1st Yamaha 350 GP Championship; 2nd Superbike Championship; 2nd ACU 350 Post Classic Championship; 2nd King of Classic Series.