May Spring Bank Magic at Mallory Park

Despite living within an hour of Mallory Park I had somehow never managed to visit the smaller of Leicestershire’s two circuits.  And so the Classic Touring Car Racing Club meeting on May Spring Bank Holiday Monday was the perfect opportunity to put right this wrong.

15 minutes sessions, be it qualifying or racing, was the flavour of the day, which was exactly what the doctor ordered around the short 1.35 mile circuit on yet another red hot UK bank holiday weekend!  And after a highly entertaining qualifying session in which pole position changed multiple times it was with great anticipation that the Group 1 pre 83 Touring cars lined up for the first race of the day.

Pole position may have gone the way of 2017 champion Stephen Primett in his MK1 Escort, however it was the more powerful Jaguar XJ12 of David Howard that lead the field into Gerard’s and crucially the Triumph Dolomite Sprint of Mark Osborne that grabbed second (courtesy of superior track position) at the John Cooper Esses.  I say crucially as even though both the Dolomite and Escort eventually found a way passed the ‘big cat’ on lap 3, Primett could not break down the defences of a very finely driven Triumph; thus leaving Osborne to claim an impressive race 1 victory.

And Osborne looked to be well on the way to claiming a second victory when Primett lost time behind the, again, fast starting XJ12 early in race 2.  However a series of fast laps by the reigning champion brought the MK1 right onto the tale of the race 1 winner.  But just as the moderate crowd were anticipating another fantastic duel, an ailing Rover P6 3500 managed to block the Dolomite at the exit of Gerard’s on lap 11 allowing Primett to slip by on the Stebbe Straight.  A win a piece perhaps a fair result on reflection.

The pre 93, 03 and 05 Touring Car grids were combined on the day, with the 30 car grid for race 1 perhaps a little too busy for the short East Midlands circuit.  It was therefore no real surprise that 5 laps of the first race were lost behind a safety car.

It would be pole sitter Ray West at the front of the train when the track returned to green however, having crucially regained the lead at the John Cooper Esses before the safety car halted proceedings.  And the BMW man proved just too quick for the rest of the field at the re-start; West then maintaining a comfortable gap over his rivals to claim race 1 victory.  Behind, Steve Barden’s Honda Civic and Simon Ward’s Astra GTE would round out the podium positions.

West and Barden were also the leading contenders in race 2, before both were handed a 10 second penalty for jump starts.  This only appeared to spur West on however; the 13 second gap over 3rd place at the flag ensuring he took his second win of the weekend by a nett 3 second margin.  Barden on the other hand couldn’t quite build enough of a gap to hold onto second, leaving the Astra of Simon Ward to claim the runner up spot with Barden this time having to settle for third.

A great variety of machinery was on display for the combined Classic Thunder & Blue Oval Series Saloon races but it was the very quick Subaru Impreza of Dale Gent which proved near unbeatable in both events.  With superior cornering speed, the awesome Alfa Romeo 33 of Adrian Hawkins was able to keep pace initially however the Subaru had the edge in traffic.  Gent easily setting fastest lap of the day in race 2 with a mega rapid 47.398.

Of the Blue Oval Series crews it was the 2.3 litre MK2 Escort of Piers Grange who would top the time sheets on both occasions; a 5th and 6th place finish for the long time Ford man representing a good day’s work.

Race 1 for the Pre-66 Touring Cars offered up a classic multi class battle, synonymous with this era of tin top racing, starring the pole sitting Ford Falcon of Alan Greenhalgh, Lotus Cortina of David Hall and a very well turned out Imp in the hands of David Heale.

In fact it was Heale’s Imp which would lead into Gerard’s on lap 1 courtesy of a stonking start from the second row of the grid.  However the sheer straight line speed advantage of the Falcon allowed Greenhalgh to re-claim top spot by the time the cars emerged from Devils elbow.  And despite not being able to break away, the chasing pack couldn’t quite get close enough through the slower parts of the circuit to mount a challenge, leaving Greenhalgh to take a well controlled victory.

The battle behind was far less clear cut however, with Hall’s Cortina losing out to the Mini of Neil Bray at Gerard’s on lap 3 before regaining the position by the end of the lap and then ensuring he would stand on the second step of the podium by grabbing second from the Imp 2 laps later.

With the Falcon a no show in the second race it would be the Imp that had the upper hand in the day’s penultimate event.  Having lost out to Heale again at the start, Hall appeared to be building up to a late charge before falling back in heavy traffic; the more nimble Imp able to take advantage, break the tow, and record a relatively comfortable 5 second victory.  Meanwhile, Neil Bray would eventually find a way passed the Anglia of Michael Sheraton to claim the final podium position in his Mini Cooper.

The Hyundai Coupe Cup was also part of an excellent BARC race day and the competition could not have been closer between the leading three machines of 2017 champion Alex Cursley, Wayne Rockett and Steve Kite.  Kite has been the man to beat in 2018 however and it was he who  leapt into an early race 1 lead before putting in a stellar defensive drive to keep Rockett and pole sitter Cursley at bay; the top 3 drivers covered by just 0.6 seconds as they crossed the line!

With race 1 finishing order dictating the grid for race 2, pole sitter Steve Kite found himself relegated to third by turn 1, with Cursley snatching the lead at the John Cooper Esses.  And whilst Cursley was able to maintain top spot for the remainder of the race, Rockett found himself relegated to third when Kite managed to sneak down the inside at the Shaw’s Hairpin on lap 3.

After such a good day out, especially for the very reasonable admission price of just £13, I won’t be waiting another 30 odd years to make a second visit to the South Leicestershire venue.  Whilst I love the big international meetings there is something about the access of a good old fashioned clubbie that make the events just as appealing.  Throw in some great racing at a circuit where the spectator banks allow upto 90% of the circuit to be viewed at any one time and you have the recipe for a great day out.  I am already looking to shoe horn the Classic Sports Car Club October meeting into my diary!

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