Boultbee-Brooks Bags Victory Double at Castle Combe Classic

Thankfully, the Castle Combe Autumn Classic did not clash with the Trackrod Rally in 2017 and this was all the incentive I needed to make a first visit to the relatively little used Wiltshire Circuit.  Now in it’s sixth year the 2017 running of the Autumn Classic included 7 excellent races, headlined in many respects by the wonderfully diverse field of machinery taking part in the 1 hour long GT & Sports Car cup; 39 cars doing battle across many different classes around the 1.85 mile circuit a mouth watering prospect if ever there was one!

After a soaking wet morning, the clouds began to lift as midday approached; the damp track proving quite a challenge for the Formula Vintage Pre War Sports Car runners in the first race of the day.  Indeed, the safety car was required as early as lap 2 after Trevor Swete just failed in his attempts to keep his Invicta out of the Camp Corner tyre barrier.

Once the track returned to green however, there was really only going to be one winner; Patrick Blakeney-Edwards putting on a fantastic sideways display as he headed home a Frazer Nash Super Sports 1-2.  Mark Gillies in his Aston Martin had managed to jump both Blakeney-Edwards and the second Frazer Nash of Edward Williams at the re-start (illegally as it turned out) but was back in third by the end of the lap, such was the pace of the eventual front two.  Tim Kneller would in the end round out the podium positions in his Riley TT Sprite following a 30 second penalty for Gillies’ re-start infringement.

After a lengthy break for tyre wall repairs at Camp corner, the second race of the day for the 500cc F3 cars would commence in fully dry conditions.  And whilst Sir John Chisholm had been mighty in the wet to claim pole position he quickly fell behind the leading machines at the race start.  In fact it would be the 2 Starides of Xavier Kingsland and Darrell Woods who would break away from the field; Woods eventually passing Kingsland at Tower on lap 3 before going on to record a comfortable 10 second victory.  Stuart Wright in his Cooper MK11 would round out the podium positions.

Qualifying in very wet conditions had produced a topsy turvy Pre-66 Jaguar grid with Kevin Zwolinski in his XK140 finding himself sharing the front row of the grid with the Jaguar MK2 of Peter Dorlin.  It wasn’t long before the E-types rose to the fore during the race however as Grant Williams lead from Harry Wyndham by the end of lap 2.

In fact Wyndham, after starting on the fifth row of the grid, would find himself in the lead of the race by the end of lap 5 and whilst not able to break away from his local rival, a great performance from Wyndham saw him maintain the lead right up until a red-flag brought the event to a slightly premature end on lap 18.  Chris Milner in another E-type rounded out the podium positions whilst Richard Butterfield claimed the Saloon class win, in his Jaguar MK2, with fifth position overall.

In the John Gross Memorial Race for Aston Martins, Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Martyn Corfield would quickly break away from the rest of the field, with Boultbee-Brooks in his glorious DB3s just having the edge over Corfield’s Frazer Nash as he went on to record a relatively comfortable 5 second victory.  The front two really were in a class of their own however with Chris Woodgate in his DB MK3 almost a lap in arrears as he rounded out the podium positions.

The Formula Junior machines were in their element around the fast Wiltshire circuit and, having won for the first time at Oulton, Benn Tilley would again find himself standing on the top step of the podium.  Following an early safety car, Westie Mitchell in his De Tomaso, had looked a strong candidate for victory as he quickly passed Peter De La Roche and was on the tail on the leader.  A spin at the far end of the circuit put pay to Mitchell’s challenge however leaving Tilley to wrap up another victory in his Lotus 22; 3 seconds to the good of pole sitter Peter De La Roche in the BMC MK2 with Richard Smeeton in his Wainer 63 completing the podium.

Making it’s debut at the Autumn Classic, the 1 hour long, GT & Sports Car Cup centrepiece would be the penultimate race on a busy schedule and again the morning rain produced a somewhat unconventional grid.  Indeed earlier in the day Nigel Greensall had produced a stunning lap to place the GT3 spec E-type shared with Chris Milner on pole position but as anticipated Milner could not keep the higher specification cars behind on a dry track.  Instead it was Philip Walker in his Lotus 15 who lead the early running from 4th row starters Mark Williams in a Cobra and Ben Adams in his Lola MK1.

But after initially breaking away, Walker soon had the chasing two on his tail and sure enough on lap 7 both Williams and Adams had snook by.  Williams’ lead was short lived however as a mix up with a back marker would drop the Cobra pilot back to fourth; thus leaving Ben Adams to develop a reasonable lead before his pitstop.

Tackling the event on his own, Adams would find himself disadvantaged in pitlane (having to endure a 1 minute minimum stop) and this allowed Miles Griffiths, taking over the Lotus 15, to emerge in the lead as the race entered the second half.  In fact, the Chris Wilson/Nigel Williams Cobra had also managed to jump Adams in the stops but Adams’ superior pace soon saw him back in second.  There was absolutely nothing the Lola pilot could do about Griffiths though; the Lotus 15 man now setting the track alight as he and Walker went on to record a very comfortable 53 second victory.  Even without the pitstop disparity, Adams would have struggled to match the pace of Griffiths; second place and top spot in SP1 therefore a great result for the little Lola.

Elsewhere, Mark Williams was able to reel in the ailing Wilson/Williams Cobra to claim GT4 honours with third position overall whilst pole sitter Greensall just managed to hold off a late challenge from Patrick Blakeney-Edwards to claim an excellent fourth and top spot in GT3 for he and Milner.  Malcolm Paul and Rick Bourne meanwhile came out on top of the TVR Grantura battle to claim GT2 top spot with 16th position overall.

In the final event of the day, Steve Boultbee-Brooks would again take his Aston Martin DB3s to victory in the FISCAR Historic Intermarque race.  The win was a little less clear cut on this occasion however as the Aston Pilot was required to fend off not 1 but two very rapid Lotus Elite’s in order to claim top spot.

Indeed the Barry Dye / Richard Fores driven Lotus even had a spell at the front before slowing in the second half of the race.  And despite Boultbee-Brooks emerging from his stop with a healthy lead, he would find the margin evaporate over the remaining laps as Robin Ellis, in the second Elite, closed the gap to just over 3 seconds by the time the chequered flag was waved.  There was no stopping Boultbee-Brooks on the day though; 2 pole positions, 2 fastest laps and 2 victories from the 2 events entered represented a great day in the office!

There were many things to enjoy about my first visit to Castle Combe but what stood out the most was the sheer simplicity of the venue; the uncomplicated nature of the track (essentially just three corners with very limited run-off) creating some of the best racing witnessed all year, viewed from the excellent circuit wide spectator bankings.  It felt like a throw back to my childhood, even more so when the winners were taken on a lap of honour by the open top bus; something which I do not remember seeing in a long time!   I have a feeling this will not have been my final visit to the Wiltshire Circuit.

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

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Smith Stars at Oulton’s Stellar Gold Cup

Already an excellent event, the Oulton Park Gold Cup stepped up yet another gear in 2017 with the addition of both the Historic Touring Car Challenge and FIA Historic F2 International Series.  And, when considering the ultra competitive HSCC Historic Formula Ford and Pre-66 Touring Car championship events featured heavily on the Bank Holiday Monday undercard, the more than respectable crowd were in for a real treat.

The HSCC organised Historic F2 championship appears to have suffered very little from the emergence of Peter Auto’s rival series in 2017 with some 25 cars taking to the Cheshire track over the weekend.  And whilst Darwin Smith dominated proceedings in race 1 to claim victory by 17 seconds, he would have his work cut out in race 2 as the event quickly turned into a two horse race.

Donington winner, Richard Evans is regularly a front runner in this category and on this occasion refused to let the Northern Irishman out of his sights as the two bright yellow machines pulled away from the pack.  But, despite Evans’ best efforts he never really got close enough to challenge; the series returnee, in his formidable March 722, appearing unbeatable around the picturesque parkland circuit as he went on to record his second victory in as many days.  The Gold Cup, awarded to the aggregate winner of the 2 F2 races, just reward for Smith’s utterly brilliant drive.

The Motor Racing Legends organised Historic Touring Car Challenge was a very welcome addition to the Bank Holiday Monday schedule where, for a trial period commencing with the Gold Cup, Group A RS500s have been allowed to join the party.  And whilst Chris Ward claimed pole position for the 50 minute race with a late charge in the JD Classics Rover Vitesse (shared with Steve Soper), it was the Mark Wright piloted RS500 which leapt into an early lead; his pace over the opening laps as he pulled away from Ric Wood’s Capri and the pole sitting Rover possibly the reason why these machines had previously been off the menu!

Having dominated earlier in the season at Donington Park, Soper was not quite able to deliver the same level of performane at Oulton.  Ward on the other hand is rapid everywhere and an early stop to get the ex Silverstone Chief Driving Instructor behind the wheel would pay dividends as Ward found himself in the lead of the race as the mandatory pitstops unwound.

Had it not been for fuel starvation issues, Dave Coyne, in the RS500 started by Wright, may well have challenged for victory.  However the intermittent problem would play havoc throughout the second half of the race with the 1990 Formula Ford Festival winner doing well to salvage fourth 4th with a last lap charge.

As it was, despite suffering a braking issue, Ward was able to take a comfortable victory in the end, with the Capri of Ric Wood and the late stopping M3 E30 of Mark Smith rounding out the podium positions.  This had been a classy drive by the JD Classics man and Soper was the first to acknowledge that Ward was largely to thank for their top step of the podium appearance.

This wasn’t the only touring car action of the day however with the schedule also including 2 historic touring car races for the pre-66 machines as well as a second encounter for the end of millennium Super Tourers.

The Honda Accord is often the car to beat in the HSCC run Super Touring Car Trophy and the second race at Oulton provided no surprise in this respect; Stewart Whyte heading a 1-2 for the Japanese brand to register his second victory of the weekend.  Meanwhile, Gianfranco Brancatelli claimed 6th position overall to take class A honours in the very same RS500 he drove to Spa 24 hour victory in 1989.

Qualifying for the Pre-66 machines saw Ford Falcon pilot, Jack Drury, require just 4 laps to take pole position by a massive 1.4 seconds.  It was to no avail however as a broken oil pump, which cut short his qualifying session, also caused him to miss race 1 whilst the engine was changed!  This left the door open for the smaller engined marques to flourish with James Clarke leading home Richard Belcher to complete a Ford Cortina 1-2 and Jonathan Lewis in his Mini Cooper S registering an excellent third.

The Falcon was fixed for race 2 however and despite having to start from the back of the grid, Drury was in the lead of the race before the end of lap 4; his victory by more than 13 seconds underlining his total dominance of the category on the day.  With such a performance gap, a double race victory should have been a formality and the ex BMW driver will hope his championship push is not impacted by the unfortunate reliability issues experienced in qualifying.

As has often been the case in 2017 a healthy grid of Formula Ford machinery had been gathered for the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting and it was no surprise to find Richard Tarling and Callum Grant again battling it out for victory.  But whilst overtaking was plentiful at Croft, it was not so easy at Oulton and try as Grant might he could not find a way passed the Janum T2 of Tarling in either race; Tarling again showing his defensive skills to record a double victory despite suffering a broken exhaust in the days first encounter. And whilst Tarling’s two strong results kept him well in the title frame, a distinctly under the weather Grant (2016 champion) all but threw in the towel following another strong points haul for series leader Michael O’Brien.

Benn Tilley put in 2 strong Formula Ford performances to claim creditable 6th and 7th placed finishes but it was the Formula Junior category where the youngster truly excelled; the Lotus 22 pilot going on to record his first and second overall victories in the Silverline backed series as John Fyda and Peter De La Roche, on both occasions, rounded out the podium positions.

In the Second Derek Bell Trophy race of the weekend, a drive train problem with his March 79B denied Andrew Smith the chance of a double win.  Instead, Neil Glover powered his F5000 Chevron B37 to victory as the 2 litre F2 Chevron B27 of Mike Bletsoe-Brown and the March 712 of James King, fresh from his brilliant F2 performance to claim class A honours, rounded out the podium positions.  Behind, Julian Stokes came out on top of the Techno F2 battle to claim Classic Racing Car victory with race 1 winner, Daniel Pyett unfortunately ending the day in the Old Hall barriers.

And last but not least, there looked to be a huge shock on the cards in the Classic Clubmans race as John Harrison lead much of the early running.  Mark Charteris is very rarely beaten in this category however and would not be denied on this occasion either; the Watford man making the crucial pass at Cascades on lap 8 before going on to record a 3.6 second victory.

Was there a better way to spend August Bank Holiday Monday?  I think not.  Having absolutely loved the Gold Cup meeting last year I wasn’t sure it could be bettered.  I was wrong.  Witnessing historic F2 machinery lapping Oulton in sub 1.36 times is something else, as was the sound of many a V8 at full chat in the Historic Touring Car Challenge.  More of the same next year please!

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Cracking Racing at Croft Nostalgia

Although racing is Croft’s primary motorsport discipline,  I had previously only managed to witness Rallying and Rally-Cross at the North Yorkshire venue.  Racing at Croft had long been on my agenda though and the opening day of the Croft Nostalgia Festival would fit nicely into my 2017 plans.  Now in it’s 8th year this event definitely has more of a festival feel than other fixtures on the HSCC calendar, with many a military, aerospace and general motoring related display on offer to compliment the usual array of car clubs.  Not to mention the large groups of people attending in period dress.

It is the on track action that essentially drew me in however and in particular the 60’s Sports Prototypes and GT machinery taking part in the 40 minute Guards Trophy race.  Qualifying had seen 2 Chevron B8s in the hands of Phillip Nelson and Charles Allison top the time sheets and the race for outright victory would soon develop into a great battle between the front row starters.

Running second in the early stages, Allison is already a double Guards Trophy winner in 2017 and by lap 4 he was again at the head of the field.  Any thoughts he had of disappearing into the distance were soon dispelled however as the Chichester man could not break away.  Nelson was well on the pace at Croft and the pole sitter remarkably re-took the lead with an excellent move down the inside at Clervoux on lap 8.  But much like Allison earlier, Nelson was unable to shake off his rival; Allison remaining in his wheel tracks before making his mandatory pitstop on lap 14.

And it would be this early pitstop that proved decisive as Nelson emerged from pit lane 2 laps later in second position.  A slow lap 21 was then the final blow for the chasing Chevron pilot, thus gifting Allison the cushion he required to, in the end, take a comfortable third victory of the season.

The GT battle also proved highly competitive, however, no one could quite match the pace of Mike Gardiner and Dan Cox in the TVR Griffith.  Indeed, had it not been for Ben Mitchell’s excellent recovery drive in the Elva MK7S, an overall podium may well have been on the cards.

The Historic Formula Ford action has been brilliant in it’s 50th anniversary year and that trend most definitely followed suit at Croft.  In the earlier qualifying race, Max Bartell had taken victory from Sam Mitchell, rewarding them with a respective 7th and 8th on the championship race grid.  However, neither were a match for Callum Grant, Michael O’Brien and Richard Tarling as the trio headed by pole sitter and 2016 champion Grant edged away from the field.  Grant would in fact maintain top spot for much of the early running before O’Brien eventually managed to sneak passed at Tower on lap 5.  But, as is the nature of Formula Ford racing, O’Brien would not maintain the lead for long; with he and Grant appearing to take it in turns to top the time sheets over the coming laps.

Meanwhile, Tarling appeared happy to sit in third.  Up until lap 9 that is when he stole 2nd from O’Brien; a move which put the Henley on Thames driver in pole position for victory when Grant was forced off track at Sunny-in following an altercation with a back marker.  And having survived the chaos, Richard Tarling now found himself in the lead of the race with just over 1 lap to run; the Janum T2 pilot defending well to record a quite brilliant second victory of the season from the chasing Merlyn of Michael O’Brien.

A wide variety of machinery had turned out for the Historic Touring Car race where the Ford Cortina proved to be the car to beat.  Surprisingly however it was the Class B, out of period, 2 litre machine of Richard Belcher who took pole position from the more conventional class C Lotus Cortina of James Clarke.  And once Clarke was forced into retirement on lap 3, there was only ever going to be one winner as neither the Mustang of Peter Halford or the Falcon of Jack Drury had the pace to challenge.  And so whilst Belcher went on to record the most unlikely of victories, the championship battle roared on behind.  It would however be Halford who grabbed the all important maximum class K1 points with Drury struggling with setup at the North Yorkshire venue.

Towcester man Jon Milicevic is usually the man to beat in Historic F3 and whilst he would eventually take the category top spot with 4th overall the final result masks the story of the race.  In fact Milicevic, in his Brabham BT21B, was involved in an almighty battle with the Merlyn MK14A of Jonathon Hughes in the early stages; the pair swapping positions on more than one occasion before Hughes disappointingly fell out of contention with a spin at the chicane on lap 8.  Upfront meanwhile, Julian Stokes, in his Techno F2 machine, claimed overall victory in the combined Classic Racing Car/Historic F3 race.  But having built a large lead at the start was almost caught by a fast charging Nick Pancisi in his March 712 Atlantic.

The Formula Junior entry may not have boasted the same level of entry as the Historic Formula Ford event, however, it did feature a, Formula Ford like mid-race duel.  Following a short safety car intervention, pole sitter and early leader Benn Tilley came under attack from Jonathon Hughes.  Where, fresh from a starring performance in the Historic F3 event, the local man managed to squeeze his Brabham BT6 into the lead at Tower on lap 7.  But whilst Hughes would fall back behind Tilley before the lap was out, he would be back in front before the end of the next,  with Tilley this time not able to respond;  Hughes instead managing to maintain the lead over the remaining laps and record victory by just over half a second.

A longer safety car period in the combined Historic/70s Road Sports race would unfortunately ruin the race as a spectacle.  It was however relatively surprising to see the Historic machines hold an advantage over their younger counterparts, with John Davison leading home a Lotus Elan 1-2.  Meanwhile Charles Barter just about claimed the 70s Road Sport victory with third overall; The Datsun 240z pilot out-dragging the Lotus Europa of Will Leverett having initially looked to have lost the position at the final hairpin.

Sunday’s highlights included a first championship victory of the season for Michael O’Brien in Historic Formula Ford and a return to form of Jack Drury in the second Historic Touring Car race.  Meanwhile Andrew Park and Mark Charteris claimed double wins in the respective Historic Formula Ford 2000 and Classic Clubmans events, whilst Jonathon Hughes, Jon Milicevic, Julian Stokes, John Davison and Charles Barter also claimed a second victory of the weekend.

FULL RESULTS

This had been another thoroughly enjoyable day out following the HSCC brigade and for an admission price of just £14 it represented great value for money.  With this in mind I am already looking forward to my next slice of HSCC action; the Oulton Park Gold Cup at the end of August.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Ahlin & Petch Claim Nicky Grist Spoils

Since my last visit in 2015, the mid Wales based Nicky Grist Stages has gained British Rally Championship status, and with it, an additional day of action of the very fast Tarmac roads of Epynt; uniquely making the event the only multi surface fixture on the 2017 BRC Calendar.

The 2017 British Rally Championship hasn’t quite attracted the same level of interest as it’s re-birth year however and thankfully the modest 28 international entries were swelled somewhat by a healthy 102 national B competitors taking part in the Saturday only BTRDA round; a pivotal round 6 of 8 in the 2017 championship.

There are few better views in British rallying than that offered by Route 60 and from our vantage point between junctions 5 & 6 it was easy to see why Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss had taken an early lead in their Spencer Sport Fiesta R5.  Their commitment over the infamous crest was second to none with this moment alone making the 7 hour round trip worthwhile!

But, having been quickest on 5 of the 8 gravel stages and having built a lead of just over 19 seconds by the overnight halt, things would all go wrong for the Welsh pairing as the event headed for the Tarmac.  Disappointingly, having played their joker, the pre-event championship leaders would initially pick up a five second penalty before being forced into retirement on stage 12 with fuel pump failure.

This left the door wide open for Fredrik Ahlin and Torstein Eriksen to claim their 3rd win of the year.  Just eight seconds in arrears heading into SS12, the Swedish/Norwegian pairing were more than worthy winners and will look to consolidate their championship lead over the final 2 Asphalt rounds of the season.

Whilst not able to benefit from the same pre-event recce as the BRC competitors, the action at the front of the BTRDA field was just as fierce; a three way fight for the event win soon developing between the WRC fiesta’s of Peter Taylor and Stephen Petch and the R5+ machine of Callum Black.

Two early stage wins for Peter Taylor, co driven by Andrew Roughead, had seen the Carlisle man take an early lead before a puncture in SS4 would drop them back to third.  Taylor would fight back during the afternoon loop however, claiming 3 of the 4 stage wins, but the overall victory proved just out of reach.

Whilst consistency had been the key for Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson to emerge as leaders following Taylor’s problems in stage 4, it was a turn of pace in stage 7 that would ultimately seal victory.  Callum Black and Peter Taylor were just a respective 5 and 6 seconds in arrears heading into the second running of the Halfway stage, however a clear fastest time overall for the Bishop Auckland man ensured he and Wilkinson would take a relatively comfortable 9 second margin into the Crychan finale.  And whilst Taylor claimed his fifth stage win to snatch second from Black, Petch maintained his nerve to record an 8 second victory.  A victory which puts him right back in the title hunt with just the Woodpecker and Trackrod to run.

The production based Group N machines excelled in the dry and dusty conditions with eventual class winners, Sacha Kakad and James Aldridge, finishing the day in an excellent 5th position overall.  Kakad didn’t have it all his own way however; the evo X driver first having to fend off a fast starting Patrick Naylor and later an afternoon charge from the vastly experienced Richard Hill.  Naylor and Hill’s victory challenges would end with time losses in SS4 and SS7 respectively however, leaving the consistent Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy to claim second, just 5.7 seconds in arrears.  An apt result given Kakad and Thompson shared fastest time overall on the days third test.

Class B13 honours would go the way of Subaru crew,  Toni Carannante and Simon Coates, with 11th position overall; a class which Dylan Davies and LLion Williams had dominated before retiring with power steering failure in SS6.  Davies’ unfortunate demise did however throw the battle for class victory wide open with just 4 tenths separating Carannante and the Mitsubishi Evo 6 of Simon Rogers as they approached the final 2 stages.  And despite Rogers, with Wyn Davies alongside, recording a time 6.5 seconds quicker in the Crychan finale, Carannante and Coates would take class victory courtesy of a super quick pass through Halfway.

With 13th position overall, Richard Sykes and Simon Taylor claimed an excellent Silver Star victory in their Citroen DS3; the Black Country/York based pairing dominating proceedings in both class B12 and the two wheel drive category to take victory by almost 50 seconds.

Second in category, and 16th overall, was the MK2 Escort of B11 class winners Owen McMackin and Lee Taylor.  Strong performances in both runs of Halfway and Crychan the deciding factor as they headed home another MK2 in the hands of Nick Dobson and Steve Pugh and the Andy Davison/Tom Murphy piloted Sunbeam.

Just one place further back in 17th were 1400 victors Dave and Toby Brick.  The “Flying Farmer” was at his flamboyant best over the morning run of Route 60 and would find himself locked in a day long battle for class victory with the Talbot Sunbeam of Chris Powell and Jim Lewis; the duo separated by just 4.2 seconds as they headed into the final stage.  Unfortunately for Powell however, the Herefordshire Raceway backed machine would not emerge from stage 8 leaving Brick to take a very hard fought victory.

Bob Vardy and Keaton Williams fought off a healthy gathering of B10 rivals to claim class victory in their Ford Fiesta R2.  Lying second at the mid point service, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith had closed the gap to just 2 seconds after the second running of Route 60 but would ultimately drop to third behind another R2 in the hands of Jordan Reynolds.  Neither of whom quite had the pace to catch Vardy and Williams as the pairing registered a 12.9 second class victory with 22nd position overall.

Steve Ward and Mike Crawford enjoyed a strong run over the Mid Wales gravel to claim overall Historic and class H2 honours with 33rd position overall.  Josh Browne had taken an early lead in a similar MK2 Escort but was forced into retirement after stage 4 leaving the way clear for Ward to take victory from the H3 class winning Ford of Paul Gunter and Jack Walby.  Meanwhile Class H1 would go the way of Ken Davies and Alan Jones in their Volvo Amazon.

Elsewhere, Joe Evett and Matt Fowle would claim 1400C honours with a superb 35th whilst Sam Bilham and Cameron Fair would record class N3 victory with 38th position overall.  Bart Lang and Sinclair Young meanwhile defied their seeding with a dominant Rally First victory in 53rd position overall!

FULL BRC RESULTS

FULL BTRDA RESULTS

CLASS WINNERS GALLERY

Having not managed to attend any BTRDA events in 2017 prior to the Nicky Grist it soon became apparent what I had been missing.  The variety of machinery is the key, made even better by the inclusion of the BRC competitors; the extra commitment of whom, probably aided by the recce, was at times simply breathtaking!

The addition of the BRC certainly helped bolster entry levels too; something which the Trackrod Rally in late September will be hoping to replicate as the event closes out the season for both the BTRDA and BHRC championships.  With many events struggling for entries in 2017, maybe searching for more ways to entwine the 3 major UK championships is the answer …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Ward Stars at 7th Annual Donington Historic

The 2017 running of the Donington Historic Festival also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Donington Park’s re-opening, and fittingly over 450 classic motor racing machines, many with a rich sporting history, had been attracted to the 7th running of the event.  The Leicestershire circuit was in great shape too;  now properly re-grassed and landscaped following the F1 debacle, the infield is at last fully open to the public.  And with the infield bankings providing some of the best spectator viewing in the UK there really was no better place to take in the weekend’s 19 races.

Saturday’s schedule included 10 of the aforementioned races and Historic racing ace, Chris Ward would amazingly find himself standing on the podium’s top step on 3 occasions!  The first of which would come alongside Touring Car Legend, Steve Soper, in the Bastos livieried Rover Vitesse.  But having qualified the British built machine on pole for the 1 hour long Historic Touring Car Challenge, Ward instead jumped into the TWR Jaguar XJ8.  And whilst Soper developed an early lead, Ward set about bringing the big cat towards the front, leading to suggestions that the versatile JD Classics man could in fact appear on the podium twice!  ECU issues would unfortunately negate that prospect but once Ward was aboard the Rover there was only ever going to be one winner; the pairing going on to record a dominant 36 second victory.

A second success would soon follow, this time aboard the stunning Lister Costin in the Stirling Moss Trophy race for Pre-61 Sportscars; a race win which in many respects was his toughest of the day.  In what effectively became a two horse race,  Will Nuthall, in a Lister Knobbly, would sit in the wheel tracks of Ward’s Costin bodied machine for almost the entirety of the one hour race.  However the healthy crowd were robbed of a close finish when Nuthall was dealt a late double blow; first, a one minute time penalty for a late decision to drive solo, and second, by hitting car trouble on the very last lap.  Such was the dominance of the leading two Listers however that Nuthall was still classified in second!

Ward was then at it again in Saturday’s final race of the day; the ex-Silverstone Chief Instructor once again joining Paul Gibson in his continuation Lola T70 MK3 for the 90 minute ‘1000km’ race for pre-73 prototypes.  Whilst the entry was a little on the disappointing side it was more than made up for in terms of quality and the early running was made by the 3  T70 MK3s in the field; Paul Gibson ahead of Leo Voyazides and Chris Beighton.

By lap 29, both Gibson and Voyazides had handed over their respective machines to Chris Ward and Simon Hadfield, with a quicker pit stop for the latter allowing Hadfield to emerge in front.  Ward however was driving like a man possessed and with lap times consistently below the 1.11 marker, was quickly on the tail of Hadfield and into the lead once Beighton had pitted for Greensall on lap 38.  Hadfield is reknowned for his pace in historic machinery but even he could not match the low 1.08s Ward was achieving in clean air, leaving Gibson and Ward to claim victory for the third time in as many years.  What a day this had been for the one time Nissan man!

Once again Touring Cars from latter half of the twentieth century would feature heavily at this years festival and as a result stars such as the aforementioned Steve Soper, Colin Turkington, Adam Morgan, Patrick Watts and Andrew Jordan were all set to compete.

In fact, prior to his success in the Historic Touring Car Challenge, Soper had taken the brand new Team Dynamics built Lotus Cortina to second in the first of two races for pre-66 under 2 litre Touring Cars.  Traditionally the Cortina’s have been no match for the Andrew and Max Banks piloted Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and even the touring car expertise of Soper could not reverse the fortunes of the popular Ford machine.  As it was the pole sitting Alfa duo were never troubled as they went on to record a 23 second victory.  Soper meanwhile had to fight his way passed the similar Lotus Cortina’s of Andy Wolfe and Oscar Rovelli after a slow pit stop to claim second, while Rovelli went on to snatch third from Wolfe on the finish line!

Sunday’s second race may well have had a similar outcome, in that Andrew and Max Banks recorded yet another victory, however the Cortinas appeared much more competitive on this occasion.  In fact Soper almost made it into the lead at Goddards on lap 2 but would fall back into the clutches of fellow Cortina man, Andy Wolfe after running wide.

A mid race safety car would however allow both Cortina drivers another shot at the leading Alfa and Andy Wolfe would emerge as Banks’ closest challenger at the restart.  But, an unsuccessful attempt for the lead around the outside of the chicane would ultimately allow Banks to escape to victory and Soper to close in and re-take second at Hollywood.   Wolfe was far from finished though and the two Cortinas would swap positions on more than one occasion before Soper eventually claimed his second runner up spot in as many days.

Many of the under 2 litre machines would again take to the track for the final Touring Car race of the weekend, the HRDC ‘Coys’ Trophy; an event again catering for pre-66 machines but this time with no engine capacity restrictions.  And whilst there was no sign of the Banks’ Alfa, the Lotus Cortina pilots would this time have to contend with brutish American muscle in the form Ford’s Falcon and Mustang models.  And it was the pole sitting Ford Falcon in the hands of Jack Drury, fresh from his Donington HSCC HTC success earlier in the month, who would slip in front of Soper as the cars headed for the mandatory mid race pit stops.

Once complete there was nothing to choose between Drury and Soper and expectations were high for a great battle to the finish.  Unfortunately the duel would be short lived however as both cars found themselves on the retirement list courtesy of a collision with a back marker at McLeans.  This left another Cortina in the hands of David Tomlin to take victory from the similar machine of Graham Pattle and the Mustang of Mark Burton.

The Donington Historic Festival also played host to the opening two rounds of the 2017, HSCC organised, Super Touring Car Challenge and it was James Dodd who claimed a brace of commanding victories in his Honda Accord; beating the Alfa Romeo 150 STW of Neil Smith to top spot by 15 seconds in race 1 and the similar Accord of father Graeme by 41 seconds in race 2.

Meanwhile, Mike Jordan, paired with his 2013 BTCC champion son, Andrew, aboard the family run Austin ‘GT’40 recorded a dominant victory in the HRDC Pre-60 Touring Car race.  Despite an early safety car period, the very rapid duo claimed victory by a mammoth 52 seconds over the Butterfield/Dorlin Jaguar MK1.

Whilst it was great to see so many touring cars at the festival it is ultimately the Sports and GT Cars that draw me back year after year.  And pleasingly a jam packed field took to the track for Sunday morning’s 2 hour GT and Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GT and Pre-63 Sportscars.

Last year Grahame and Oliver Bryant had claimed victory and it wasn’t long before Oliver Bryant had established a healthy lead over the chasing Cobra’s of Robert Bremner and Leo Voyazides and the E-type Jaguar of Carlos Monteverde.  The rules for this race dictate a maximum of 50 minute stints and whilst Oliver Bryant escaped from the pack prior to the enforced stop, Grahame was unlikely to lap at the same speed.  Hadfield and Pearson, subbing for Voyazides and Monteverde respectively meanwhile were the quicker drivers in their pairings and began to quickly close in on the leading Cobra.

A long safety car period, for oil at the chicane, would however dampen the race as a spectacle somewhat; enough time passing for the elder Bryant to be relieved of his duties under the caution period, allowing Bryant the younger to go on and take a comfortable 39 second victory.  The battle behind was far less clear cut however.  Whilst Hadfield had managed to keep Pearson behind, the positions were reversed soon after the second pitstops; the Voyazides Cobra dropping time and two positions with an excursion at McLeans.   Thus ensuring the Monteverde/Pearson and Clark/McCaig E-types would round out the podium positions.

The Pre-War Sports Cars would make a welcome return in 2017 and Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards would quickly establish themselves as the class of the field; the duo going on to record victory by more than 1 lap in their Frazer Nash.  However, the victory may well have been less dominant had fellow front row starter, Sam Stretton, not been forced into retirement in his Alta Sports after just 11 laps.

A day later, Wakeman and Blakeney-Edwards would claim a second victory in the RAC Woodcote Trophy race for Pre-56 Sportscars.  Although Gary Pearson, in a Jaguar D-Typre, lead the opening stages of the race, Fred Wakeman in the Cooper T38 was able to get by at Hollywood on lap 7.  And, with Pearson never re-emerging from his mandatory pitstop, Patrick Blakeney-Edwards was able to go on and record a comfortable victory of more than 1 lap.  The battle for second was fascinating however.  Lying 8th after the mid race pit stops, Simon Hadfield stormed through the field in the Wolfgang Friedrichs Aston Martin DB3S to grab second with just 4 laps remaining!

E-types of various body styles filled the majority of the grid positions in the Jaguar Classic Challenge race and it was Gary Pearson and Ben Short who would battle it out for the lead over the opening stages of the race.  It would have taken some drive to beat Pearson in equal machinery however and as it was the Jaguar expert was able to break away in traffic; eventually taking race victory by 14 seconds.

There was also a nice blend of single seater action across the weekend and a whopping 25 cars made the start of the opening FIA sanctioned Historic Formula 2 race.  Richard Evans had previously claimed pole position by a huge 1.5 seconds in his March 742 and expectation was that he would dominate proceedings in the race.  And whilst a poor start left him fourth behind Mark Dwyer, Daniel Gibson and Frazer Gibney, Evans would find himself at the head of the field by lap 10.  But this appeared to be a race that no-one wanted to win as first Evans and then Dwyer were forced into retirement; the latter pulling off at Redgate with just three laps remaining to leave the way clear for Frazer Gibney to take the most unlikely of victories.

The opening laps of race 2 proved highly entertaining as the rapidly driven cars of Richard Evans, Mark Dwyer and Daniel Gibson all cruised through the field; the grid having been set from the results of race 1.  In fact, such was their pace that by lap 4, Evans, Dwyer and Gibson held the top 3 positions.  But whilst Gibson would again find his Chevron B42 condemned to the retirements list, Evans and Dwyer would, on this occasion, go on to claim the top two steps of the podium, despite the latter suffering from a broken exhaust.  Behind, after a brilliant second in race 1, Robert Simac in his Class A March 712M would put in another superb drive to round out the podium positions.

Elsewhere, John Sykes claimed a double victory in the races for pre-61 Front Engined Formula Junior cars.  The Merlyn MK2 pilot twice getting the better of the Justin Fleming and Robin Longdon piloted Lola MK2’s to record the narrowest of victory margins.

Meanwhile James Murray in his Lola MK5A claimed the first Pre-64 Rear Engined Formula Junior race and John Fyda in his Brabham BT6 claimed the second in what was the final event of an excellent weekend of racing.

What is there not to love about the Donington Historic Festival?  The Coppice tunnel closure and the lack of transmission on 87.7FM for much of Saturday morning were small negatives but these were far outweighted by great racing, fantastic displays (including the ’88 Le mans winning XJR9), and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary pairing.  I am already looking forward to 2018!

RESULTS
GALLERY

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Heavy Rain no Hindrance as Elliott Storms to RNW Victory

Nick Elliott and Dave Price continued their strong start to the BHRC season with their second maximum points score in as many events; the duo setting fastest time on every stage to record a dominant Rally North Wales victory.

Rally North Wales would once again form round 2 of the British Historic Rally Championship with the crews set to face 6 challenging stages in the infamous Dyfi forest complex; the rally featuring minimal double usage in 2017 following great work by Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC in attempting to utilise every available forestry track.

As in 2016, the weather had not been kind with heavy overnight and morning rain rendering the stages treacherous in places.  This did not hinder round 1 winners Nick Elliott and Dave Price however who flew through the puddles (lakes and rivers in places) of Gartheiniog to open up a commanding 15 second lead over the similar MK2 Escort of Joe Price and Chris Brooks.

2016 Champions, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, endured a difficult start to the event, losing 40 seconds to the early leaders in stage 1 as they recorded 5th fastest time.  A puncture in stage 2 compounded their issues but by the mid event service in Dolgellau they were back amongst the podium positions, albeit 27 seconds  adrift of Price and Brooks.

Now in full damage limitation mode Pritchard may well have struggled to reel in the flambouyant Price, however, the Shropshire pilot’s day would end in the Gartheiniog East scenery, allowing the double BHRC champs to pick up much needed championship points for second overall, claiming top spot in Category K in the process.

Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver are a new combination for 2017 and the Woolacombe/Wolverhampton pairing continued their strong start to the season.  Indeed, after consistently setting top 4 stage times, Lancaster and Weaver almost stole second with a strong run through the Dyfi East finale.  However their second consecutive podium finish represented a more than respectable outcome.

Upfront meanwhile, Nick Elliott and Dave Price were in a class of their own; their lead stretching to 29 seconds by the Dolgellau service, 1 minute 4 seconds after the retirement of Price in stage 4 and 1 minute 21 seconds by the time the cars had reached the finish.  This had been some performance by the red, white and blue Ford crew who are fast becoming the team to beat in 2017.

Category 3 Class Results

Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons topped class D3 with an excellent 6th overall.  A mega consistent drive saw the pinto powered Escort crew record fastest class time on every stage to beat Rex Ireland and Adrian Scadding to the class honours by more than 1 minute.

Further back David Hopkins and Tony Vart claimed the combined D1 and D2 honours with an excellent 18th position overall in their Talbot Sunbeam.

Category 2

Stanley Orr had gained both a BDG engine and a new co driver in the form of Stephen McAuley for 2017 but found himself somewhat surprisingly behind the the similar machine of Bob Bean and Malcolm Smithson after stage 1.  However this would be he and McAuley’s only scare of the day as the Northern Irish crew dominated the remainder of the event to claim category victory by almost 2 minutes with a superb 4th position overall.  And to round off a great day, Orr and McAuley also ended the day as top HRCR Stage Masters crew.

Behind, the combined class C1 and C2 honours were claimed by Iwan Roberts Jnr and Baz Green in the car Adam Milner piloted to several giant killing performances in 2016.  And whilst Elliot Retallick drove the wheels off his Avenger in an attempt to take the battle to the crossflow engined, Ralloy built Ford there was just no stopping the Welshman; class victory by a margin of 1 minute 24 seconds and 8th position overall just reward for their efforts.

With Roberts not BHRC registered, Retallick and co-driver Tim Tugwell would however claim maximum BHRC championship class points.

Simon Pickering and Paul Barbet claimed class C3 honours with 15th position overall.  A solid performance by the Pinto powered Escort MK1 crew resulting in class victory by 1 minute 26 seconds over the RS2000 of Mike Simpson and Dale Gibbons.

Category 4

Jake Scannell and Adrian Stevens have swapped their Mazda RX-7 for a class E1 Toyota Corolla in 2017 and duly claimed category 4 honours on Rally North Wales.  Their event was not without issue however; the pairing recovering from an afternoon roll to finish the historic event in 30th position overall (31st according to the results but there is no way the car seeded at car 100 is in class B3!)

Category 1

Continuing the trend of late just 2 cars were entered in category 1.  However Phil Harris and Richard Suter put in a strong performance in their Morris Mini Cooper to take category honours by almost 5 minutes from the class B3 winning Ford Cortina GT of Mike Barratt and Emily Retallick.

RESULTS

  1. Nick Elliott/Dave Price | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | 0:45:44
  2. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:21
  3. Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver | Ford Escort MK2 (G2) | +01:22
  4. Stanley Orr/Stephen McAuley | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +01:49
  5. Tim Freeman/Paul Williams | Ford Escort MK2 (D5) | +02:43
  6. Ben Friend/Cliffy Simmons | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +03:03
  7. Phil Jobson/Arwel Jenkins | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +03:39
  8. Iwan Roberts Jnr/Baz Green | Ford Escort MK1 (C2) | +03:41
  9. Rex Ireland/Adrian Scadding | Ford Escort MK2 (D3) | +04:15
  10. Bob Bean/Malcolm Smithson | Ford Escort MK1 (C5) | +04:16

Full Results

Final Word …

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable Rally North Wales from a spectator’s point of view.  The light may not have been great for photos but the scenery and action in Gartheiniog more than made up for it.  My legs however are still aching from the chosen steep climb back out of stage 4 to the spectator car park!

With regards to the format of the event itself, in my opinion, the organisers did a fantastic job.  In an age where double usage has become the norm, it was refreshing to see a very different configuration for 2 of the afternoon stages which is precisely the kind of test the drivers need.  It is just a shame that more crews were not encouraged to compete with just 88 cars taking the start.  But perhaps this is more to do with the unfortunate increase in the forestry commission charge …

Whilst BHRC numbers feel down on previous years, the battle at the front is as intense as ever.  With Elliott re-finding his magic touch on the Welsh gravel this could be one hell of a title race.  Can Elliott and Price stop Pritchard and Clarke gaining a hat-trick of titles?  Their phenomenal pace on Rally North Wales would suggest yes but the Cheltenham man must continue to outscore the Welshman on the loose as Pritchard will be a massive favourite as the championship moves onto the black stuff later in the season.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

Hewick Heads Riponian Historics as Petch Snatches Last-Gasp Overall Victory

Tom Hewick and Mick Johnson established an early Northern Historic Rally Championship lead with a comfortable class victory whilst Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson claimed overall Riponian Rally glory following final stage drama for Ryan Champion.

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Having initially planned a trip to Mid Wales for the opening round of the BHRC, a more varied entry list, Gale Rigg and the promise of Thompson’s Fish & Chips saw us instead make the relatively short trip up North for the Riponian Stages Rally.  It has been many a year since the event, jointly organised by Ripon Motor Sport Club and Whitby & District Motor Club, has used forestry roads as far east as Cropton and Gale Rigg and with a strong historic entry including marques such as Porsche, Datsun and BMW, it proved too good an opportunity to miss.

At the head of the field however, Stephen Petch, in his newly acquired Fiesta WRC would lead the cars away and it was he and Michael Wilkinson who would be spraying the after event champagne.  Though it could have been a very different story had Ryan Champion and Craig Thorley (re-united with their 2006 BRC campaigned Evo 9) not suffered differential problems in the very last stage.  Having held the lead all day, the Whitby man dropped to third; losing 20 seconds to the eventual winners following an altercation with a bale that would ultimately cause the Mitsubishi to complete the stage in 2WD!

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As it happens Champion may well have struggled to keep Petch behind even without the drama as, after a cautious start, the WD40 liveried Ford crew had upped their pace following the Mid point service halt; setting fastest stage time on all 3 afternoon tests to take victory by 7 seconds from the very well driven Fiesta R5+ of Callum Black and Elliott Edmondson.

With a free entry to the RAC rally in November on offer to the 2017 NHRC champions there was much to play for in the forests of North Yorkshire.  And whilst the usually front running Escort of Steve Bannister did not appear on the entry list it was another MK2 in the hands of Tom Hewick and Mick Johnson who proved to be the class of the field.  Their day was however made somewhat easier when the Porsche of 8th seeds Tim Mason and Graham Wild caught fire in the very first stage but by setting fastest historic time on all but one of the 6 stages, Hewick and Johnson were able to claim Riponian Historic victory by a fairly comfortable 27 seconds, finishing the event in 9th position overall.

Quickest historic through the second running of Gale Rigg was in fact the glorious Datsun 240z of Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds and it was they who would end the day as closest challengers to the class leading MK2; the Datsun more than a match for the Ford on the long straights but perhaps losing out to the more nimble machine through the twisty sections of stage.  Nevertheless, 2nd in the historic section and 11th overall represented a very good return.

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Richard Lepley and John Connor were a more than welcome addition to the Riponian entry list in their Prepfab Porsche and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in the afternoon sunshine.  Lying 5th at the halfway point behind Bob Bean’s MK1 Escort and the BD powered MK2 of David Goose, the Dukeries Motor Club man found more pace in the afternoon, passing Bean with quick times in Cropton and Gale Rigg and taking advantage of the gearbox enforced retirement of Goose and co-driver Caron Tomlinson; Lepley and Connor thus claiming a well deserved podium with 14th position overall.

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Class H1 for the smaller engined historic machines would feature a good early battle between the MK2 Escort of Kim Gray and Tom Murphy and the Avenger of Keith Davison and Henry Richardson.  Whilst the Avenger crew would steal an early 6 second march on their rivals with a strong time in Roppa it would be the Orange Escort which lead the class after stage 2.  And from then on in Gray and Murphy never looked back; some very quick times in the afternoon landing them 25th position overall and class victory by 1 minute and 42 seconds.

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Whilst the early pace of Davison would fade courtesy of engine problems which would ultimately lead to their retirement, another Avenger in the hands of Christopher and Roger Bown would end the day second in class; 33rd overall a fantastic result for the number 67 seeds (if not artificially low due to lack of recent activity).  Indeed the Bown’s were in a close battle with the 1600 MK1 Escort of Stuart and Linda Cariss early on but a strong drive through Gale Rigg saw them pass the Ford pairing and open up a 24 second advantage.

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Stuart and Linda Cariss in the end would have to settle for 3rd in class despite being 4 seconds quicker than Bown over the afternoon stages; another story of what might have been for the Husband and Wife crew.

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Elsewhere victory in class C would go to Ross Brusby and Kevin Wilson with an excellent 13th overall whilst Mike Wolff and Mark Twiname would take class D honours with 23rd.  Meanwhile, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith would keep the 1600 front wheel drive machines at bay to record class B victory with a fantastic 15th overall in their Avenger and David Coatsworth and Chris Pattison would emerge on top of the battle for class A honours with 34th position overall in their MG.

FULL RESULTS

Despite a high level of retirements and a relatively early finish this had been yet another excellent adventure into the forests of North Yorkshire.  The mega prize fund offered up by Barry Jordan, combined with the price-hike in Welsh gravel entry fees will no doubt encourage further participation in the Northern Historic Rally Championship in 2017 with more competitors possibly tempted to concentrate on events in the Northern parts of the UK.

Which brings me to the question of why 2 forest rallies such as the Red Kite and Riponian must take place on the same day?  Not only is this a strain on entry levels but will also have some impact on the availability of Marshalls.  Whilst I accept that both events are geographically dispersed there are clearly some competitors who may have entered both.  Throw in the previous day’s Snowman Rally and there is little wonder why both the Riponian and Red Kite struggled to attract more than 60-odd entries.  Will the Red Kite be able to run in 2018 with similar entry levels?  I fear not …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Motorsport Reporting & Photography