Malton Forest Rally – November 2022

After a 10 month hiatus, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis showed no sign of rust as they stormed to Historic class victory on the North Yorkshire based Malton Forest Rally.

With 6 classic North Yorkshire stages within the Cropton, Gale Rigg and Langdale forests the 2022 Malton Forest Rally had attracted a healthy number of local crews and it was Ford Escort stalwart and rally legend, Steve Bannister who held the historic category lead after the first trip through Langdale. 

However, Robinson, possibly making a cautious start in the thick fog, was soon up to speed as he and Sam Collis dominated the time sheets for the remainder of the event; the MK2 Escort pairing claiming fastest historic time on each of the remaining 5 stages to take category victory by 17 seconds with an impressive 5th position overall!

Bannister, yet to show any sign of slowing down at the ripe old age of 71 (per ewrc results), may not have been able to match the pace of the aforementioned Robinson but was more than a match for the rest of the historic field as he and Dave Oldfield claimed the runner up spot in the famous red striped RS1800. 

Meanwhile, Richard Jordan had Matt Edwards on the notes for the Malton Forest Rally and the multiple British Rally Champion driver’s experience may well have come in handy as the duo claimed a strong 3rd in category with an excellent 8th position overall, just 21 seconds adrift of the ‘Malton Missile’.

In the class for smaller engined machinery, Robin Shuttleworth and Malcolm Smithson, having already claimed the overall HRCR Motoscope Northern Historic Rally Championship in their Ford Escort Mexico, continued their strong form to take a dominant class H1 victory with 38th position overall.  The podium positions on this occasion being rounded out by the Chrysler Sunbeam crew of David Mcleod and Eamonn Boyle and the Lotus Cortina of Bob Bean and Mike Curry.

Continuing the theme of dominance, Elliot Payne and Tom Woodburn were in a league of their own in the open category as they strolled to overall victory by a mammoth 1 minute 48 seconds aboard their Ford Fiesta Rally 2 machine!  Respective class 4,3,2 and 1 victories meanwhile would go the way of Carl & Rob Tuer (Renault Clio R3T), Ash Slights / Dave Robson (Ford Escort), Ben Cree & Robert Wiggins (Opel Corsa) and Dom Mernock and John Quinlan (Vauxhall Nova).  

It is also worth mentioning Neil Commons who, with Dukeries MC stalwart Bob Draper alongside, managed to claim a second rally finish of the season in the WB Motorport Mini (after a 40+ year sabbatical).  This despite a scare at the treacherous downhill 90 left in Gale Rigg where big thanks are necessary to the masses of spectators (tow rope and all) who were on hand to ensure their day did not end early! 

Neil Commons / Bob Draper

FULL RESULTS

Next up for me after yet another thoroughly enjoyable day on the fabulous North York Moors is the NHMC Stages at Cadwell, the second round of the 2022/23 Circuit Rally Championship, to round out the motorsport year.

GALLERY

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Motor Racing Legends – Silverstone – October 2022

The Motor Racing Legends Silverstone GP event had a bit of an end of season feel to it, but definitely not in a bad way! More that it was run in a very relaxed manner and had attracted a fair share of current and ex professional drivers to grids.  Indeed the entry list for the main event, The Pall Mall Trophy race for Pre-66 GT and Pre-61 Sports Cars, contained the likes of Phil Keen, Oliver Webb, Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan, George Gamble and Rory Butcher to name but a few.

And it was British GT legend, Keen, who would play a starring roll in the 3 hour Pall Mall Trophy race, setting fastest lap on the very last tour aboard the James Thorpe E-Type, to claim a dominant victory of over 1 lap. That’s not to undersell the performance of Thorpe and Phil Quaife however who handed the car over to Keen with an already mammoth lead; in part due to a clever early first mandatory stop under safety car conditions and a relatively early retirement for the pole sitting Michael Birch / Gareth Burnett / Richard Bradley Lotus 15.

Whilst the entry was a little light of contenders for overall victory, this was more than made up for by the battles behind.  The tussle for the final steps of the podium being one example as Mark Farmer and Andrew Jordan (aboard the JRT built Elan) somehow managed to claim the runner up spot despite clutch issues throughout the second half of the race.  Possibly aided by a late safety car, the pairing just managed to hold off the chasing Harry Barton / Oliver Reuben TVR Griffith who themselves put in an excellent drive to take the final podium position.

The highlight of the race in many respects though was the epic Porsche 911 fight for positions in the midfield.  Usually found in their own Peter Auto organised standalone event, several more examples (most of them Tuthill prepared) than usual had found their way onto the Silverstone Pall Mall Trophy grid. 

Witnessing the likes of Rory Butcher, Oliver Webb, Seb Perez and George Gamble man-handle the classic German machines around the famous Northamptonshire Circuit was highly entertaining, and as expected the racing remained pretty close with the fortunes of the individual crews fluctuating throughout the 3 hour duration of race, often dependent on how the “AM” drivers were utilised.

In the latter stages, class victory looked to be heading the way of the William Paul / Rory Butcher machine, however a 3 minute penalty for a refuelling infringement put pay to that!  This left Guy Ziser, Oliver Webb and Richard Tuthill himself to take class 3c victory with 9th overall in the #777 machine, just 2 seconds ahead of the Christian Coll / Bonamy Grimes car!  More of these machines to be run in the UK please!!

Earlier in the day, courtesy of heavy overnight rain, the combined grid of Historic / Sixties Touring Car Challenge cars faced the age old dilemma of Slicks or Wets for their 1 hour race (where regulations allow).  And whilst wets were probably the tyre of choice over the early laps, it was the slick shod Skyline of Ric Wood which held the advantage as the race progressed; the Cheshire man eventually finishing 50 seconds ahead of the similar machine of Jonathan Bailey / Andy Middlehurst.

No such tyre choice was available for the Lotus Cortina runners making up the U2TC element of the grid and they were as spectacular as ever over the early laps.  There wasn’t much to choose between the field, but the experience of Mike Gardiner combined with current BTCC ace Josh Cook paid dividends in the end as the #37 crew came out on top with an excellent 10th overall.

Much like last year, spectator attendance was ridiculously low, which I struggle to get my head around given tickets were only £16 and people seem more than happy to spend a small fortune on Goodwood or the Silverstone Classic each year!   But this is only good news from my perspective due to lack of heavy handed security Silverstone love to employ and the full availability of the various catch fencing holes! 

The grids may not have been quite as strong as 2021 but you can’t really grumble at 30 cars in each of the 2 historic races on offer, especially during the current economic crisis.  Overall a great way to end my Circuit racing schedule for the year with just the Malton Forest and Cadwell Park rallies remaining.  

GALLERY

Woodpecker Stages Rally – September 2022

Local crew, Henri Grehan and Dan Petrie put an end to recent Fiat British Historic Rally Championship dominance by registering an impressive Historic Class victory on the Phil Price Memorial Woodpecker Stages and Cement their place at the top of the BHRC championship standings.

Henri Grehan / Dan Petrie

Always rapid in Radnor and Haye Park, Grehan and Petrie would have been amongst the pre-event favourites for rally victory, along with multiple British Rally Champion Matt Edwards (Fiat 131) who had taken a string of Historic victories in recent times.  And as expected it was the aforementioned duo who set the early pace; Edwards, with Hamish Campbell alongside, quickest in Haye Park and Cwm Y Gerwyn but with Grehan holding the lead at the halfway point courtesy of an exceptionally quick time in stage 3 which was equal 10th fastest overall!

Matt Edwards / Hamish Campbell

The phenomenal battle would then continue throughout the afternoon stages with Edwards marginally quicker in stage 4 and 5 to leave the crews tied on equal times heading into the Stanlo Trump finale.  But unfortunately rally followers were robbed of a proper final stage showdown as the Italian machine would suffer a mechanical failure forcing Edwards into a final stage retirement.  A disappointing end for the RSD prepared Fiat crew who were looking to make it a hat-trick of BHRC victories but conversely an excellent result for the Plas Lime backed MK2 Escort of Grehan and Petrie who now sit comfortably at the top of the championship standings.

Edwards’ retirement had however paved the way clear for Robert Gough / Sam Collis and Nick Elliott / Dave Price to claim the respective final 2 steps on the Historic class podium.  After a relatively steady run through the first pass of Haye Park, Gough and Collis were never outside the top sixteen stage times to claim the runner up spot in their MK2 Escort whilst Elliott and Price were not quite able to match the pace of the 2 Ford crews ahead of them but were rewarded with 3rd overall and first in class G1 after a strong drive aboard their immaculate Alitalia liveried 131.

Nick Elliott / Dave Price

Behind, category 2 victory would go the way of Chris Skill and Brian Hodgson aboard their MK1 Escort as they claimed 10th overall in the National Historic class, with C2 class winners Rory and Paul McCann (Hillman Avenger) just pipping C3 class winners Josh Carr and Richard Wardle (MK1 Escort) to second in category.  Elsewhere, Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver (MK2 Escort) topped class G2 with 6th overall, Ford Escort pairing Neal James and Kevin Jones headed class D3 with 20th and Malcolm and Ron Mounsey were first home in class D2 in their Talbot Sunbeam.

Chris Skill / Brian Hodgson

Meanwhile Michael McDaid and Declan Casey (MK2 Escort) would claim BTRDA Historic Cup victory.  The Irish pairing managing to keep the similar machine of Richard Gough and Jonny Tad Evans at arms-length throughout the event to claim top spot by 17 seconds.  Class H1/2 winners Jonathan Brace and Paul Spooner would defy their seeding to round out the podium positions in their MK1 Escort after yet another strong drive.

Michael McDaid / Declan Casey

After many years away from the Shropshire/Herefordshire forests it was nice to make a return to Haye Park and great to catch up with several fellow enthusiasts! Next up for the BHRC crews is the North Yorkshire based Trackrod Rally towards the end of September where championship leaders Grehan and Petrie will be looking to edge one step closer to a maiden BHRC championship crown.

GALLERY

Rallynuts Stages Rally – April 2022

Fresh from Rally North Wales Victory, Matt Edwards and Hamish Campbell continued their excellent form to head a historic Fiat 131 one-two on the 2022 Rallynuts Stages Rally

With the Rallynuts Stages Rally attracting a very healthy contingent of historic machinery, and upon finding myself with a clear diary, it would have been rude not to head to mid Wales (Hafren in my case) on what promised to be a cold but pleasant early April day.

Indeed more than 35 historic category crews would leave the Builth Wells start line headed up by not one but two Fiat 131s; relatively high numbers for a BTRDA round but aided in part by the use of classic mid Wales stages such as Hafren and Myherin and being a qualifying round of the HRCR Stage Masters Challenge and the Welsh Historic Rally Championships.

And the crews would face a tricky opening couple of stages with snow on the ground in parts and the odd wintery shower thrown in too but it was the Italian machines of Matt Edwards / Hamish Campbell and Nick Elliott / Peredur Davies that would find themselves tied for the category lead as the event reached the Mid-day service halt; the pairings each claiming a fastest category stage time before tying the short Cwmysgawen test to leave everything to play for over the drier afternoon loop.

With brake bias issues corrected at service however, Edwards set a blistering pace through Myherin 2 and Hafren Main especially to find himself with a whopping 37 second advantage as they headed back to Cwmysgawen for the final 4.73 miles of the event. This had been yet another excellent drive by the 3 time British Champion who would go on to claim category victory by an impressive 40 seconds.

With Edwards in a league of his own over the afternoon loop, Elliott would instead find himself looking over his shoulders as the leading Ford crews closed in. Indeed Meirion Evans closed the gap to 9 seconds after SS4 and then to 8 following SS5 but with only a short stage 6 remaining Elliott just had enough in hand to register an excellent category one-two for the RSD prepared machines.

A strong afternoon push for Evans and co-driver Gwynfor Jones was however rewarded with 3rd in Category and class H3 victory aboard their MK2 Escort; the Welsh duo leapfrogging the similar machine of Ben Friend, who was suffering with a misfire, and managing to keep stablemates Roger Chilman and Paul Morris at bay.

The combined class H1/H2 victory would go the way of Jonathan Brace and Paul Spooner with 14th overall in the historic section, the MK1 Escort duo ending the day with a 42 second advantage after a seemingly faultless drive. The battle behind was far less clear cut however with David Lloyd Roberts catching and passing both the Fords of Andrew Stokes and Neal James over the afternoon loop to claim the runner up spot in dramatic style.

Elsewhere, Alan Walker and John Connor in yet another MK2 Escort would claim class H4 honours with 11th in the historic category. Meanwhile Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear perhaps surprised some with a very dominant display to take overall rally victory by 31 seconds. Perhaps more impressive still they were an incredible 15 seconds quicker than anyone else through Myherin 1! Definitely a crew to watch out for this season.

Overall this had been another top day out in possibly some of the UK’s finest rallying territory rounded off nicely by the amazing views on the drive out of Hafren forest. It will probably be a couple of months before my next rally but after such a good start to the season it can’t come soon enough!

GALLERY

Rally North Wales – March 2022

Matt Edwards and Hamish Campbell overcame both challenging conditions and strong opposition to claim a hard-fought Rally North Wales victory aboard the RSD prepared Fiat 131; a first for the Italian brand in the BHRC.

The Wolverhampton and South Staffs CC organised Rally North Wales formed round 2 of the 2022 British Historic Rally Championship and followed the ‘post pandemic’ trend of managing to attract a phenomenal entry (more than 150 if you include the Minis!), which I imagine was partially aided by the use of classic Mid Wales stages such as Dyfi, Pantperthog and Gatheiniog. Amazingly the organisers had also booked the weather with temperatures in the late teens and barely a cloud in the sky!

Desperate to add Pantperthog to the list of UK stages visited but unable to get there in time, we instead opted for an old favourite in Dyfi Main (Stages 2 & 6) and were miraculously able to find spots between junctions 4 and 5 which were new to us.  By the time the crews passed by however the incredibly rough nature of the stages had already taken its toll with a number of early retirements and many others battle scarred.

Indeed Edwards and Campbell were already managing a suspension issue but amazingly would find themselves just 7 seconds behind Nick Elliott (with Dave Robson alongside for this event) at the half way point with the MK2 Escorts of Riponian winner Matthew Robinson and 2021 BHRC champion Ben Friend already succumbing to the conditions.

With many a crew electing to take a more cautious approach to the afternoon stages (to ensure a finish), Edwards, with initial problems sorted, elected to press on.  And despite the 131 developing a steering problem in the second running of Pantperthog set a blistering pace throughout the remainder of the event to turn a 15 second deficit into a 16 second victory!  A fantastic effort by the 3 time British Champion and proof if ever it were needed that the stunning Italian machine can be a match for the Blue Oval stalwarts of historic rallying.

Holding a relatively healthy lead of 15 seconds with three stages remaining Elliott (MK2 Escort) would have been favourite to claim victory but unfortunately suffered a puncture in stage 6 which, combined with Edward’s electric pace, forced the Cheltenham man to settle for second.  Meanwhile Roger Chilman and Patrick Walsh just managed to fend off a hard charging Henri Grehan and Dan Petrie to round out the podium positions aboard their similar machine.

Adam Milner and Roy Jarvis (above) thrive on giant killing performances and 5th overall on the Rally North Wales National event proved to be one of their best yet. The North Yorkshire duo were visibly more committed than most on both runs through Dyfi Main and incredibly went on to claim category 2 honours in the Ralloy Engineering built, 1600 Crossflow MK1 by 23 seconds! Who knows what the pairing could have achieved had it not been for an incorrect morning tyre choice and an afternoon puncture amongst other issues …

On any other day, Chris Skill and Brian Hodgson may have found themselves on the top step of the Category 2 podium but had to make do with C4/C5 class top spot aboard their BD engined MK1 following a strong drive to 6th. Meanwhile Ben and Steve Smith were first home in class C3 and rounded out the category 2 podium positions with 8th in the Pinto powered MK1.

Elsewhere in the classes Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver (MK2 Escort) would claim FIA Appendix K honours with 7th Overall, Conrad Bos and Geoff Crabtree (MK2 Escort) would come out on top of a close battle in class D3 with 24th overall and Dave Hopkins and Tony Vart (below) would claim D1/D2 victory with 32nd aboard their Sunbeam.  Courtesy of being the only category 1 entry on the event Bob Bean and Mike Curry claimed the winners trophy, however just getting to the end of this event in their aging MK1 Cortina was a major achievement in itself.  Dyfi Main was difficult enough to walk on in parts!

It was great to be back spectating in Wales having not visited since the RAC in November 2019. And given the relatively sensible finish time we even managed to squeeze in a visit to the best chip shop in the country (Andrews Fish Bar – Welshpool). Well worth the minor diversion on the 3 hour plus journey home.

Having recaptured the rallying bug of late a trip to the Rallynuts Stages in early April is now on the cards and I will probably spend the next two weeks deliberating between Sweet Lamb and Myherin!  Chances of similar weather?  Very low I would imagine …

GALLERY

DONINGTON RALLY – MARCH 2022

David Henderson & Sion Cunniff dominated the 2022 Northside Truck and Van Donington Rally to claim consecutive MSN Circuit Rally Championship victories aboard their Fiesta R5.

Having not witnessed a circuit rally for almost 8 years or a rally at Donington since the mid nineties for that matter, I was drawn to attend the 2022 Donington Rally, especially given the short commute and it slotting nicely into my schedule between the opening couple of BHRC rounds.

Overnight rain had left a damp tricky surface facing the 85 crews, less of an issue of course for the four wheel drive machinery and unsurprisingly there was a Fiesta R5 lockout of the podium positions after the first 2 long stages of the event, with David Henderson and Sion Cunniff managing the track surface and tyre wear to perfection to open up a massive (in circuit rallying terms) 13 second lead over championship leaders Neil Roskell and Andrew Roughead.

And the lead pairing continued their strong pace over the next loop of stages to extend their lead to half a minute from the now second placed Darrian T90 of Barry Morris and Tom Hutchings. The super lightweight rear wheel drive machine of Irishman Morris was more at home on the drier second loop and now right back in the championship hunt following disaster for pre-event championship leader Roskell; the Garstang and Preston MC man had been doing everything necessary to claim the title on the day but was forced into retirement when his R5 Fiesta suffered a snapped belt and ultimately head gasket failure on stage 4!

With just the 3 shorter anti-clockwise afternoon stages remaining Henderson and Cunniff could afford to relax a little, but if they did it was hard to tell as the Hexham MC man went on to claim a full set of fastest stages times (Stage 7 tied with Andy Scott) and take victory by an impressive 38 seconds, remarkably a third of the season for the in-form Henderson after claiming top spot on the recent Snetterton and East Riding Stage rallies.

Picking up their pace as the day went on, 2019/20 MSN Circuit Rally champions Barry Morris and Tom Hutchings ensured a final round shootout for the 2021/22 title by claiming 2nd overall whilst the local crew of John Griffiths / Nigel Wetton rounded out the podium positions in their Fiesta R5, the Dukeries MC duo not able to keep the Darrian behind as the track dried out.

In the classes, 7th overall represented an excellent result for class C winners Josh Payton and Jamie Vaughan (above) aboard their MK2 Escort, the pairing even edging out the Class D machine of championship front runners Martin Hodgson and Tony Jones over the afternoon stages!  Meanwhile Class B honours would go the way of Ben Wilkinson and Andrew Wilkinson aboard their glorious Peugeot 106 Maxi with 17th position overall whilst James and Adrian Hardy put in a mighty giant killing performance aboard their Nissan Micra to claim class A top spot in 34th.

Being a big Donington Park fan I couldn’t imagine having a bad day at the venue but even I was impressed by the clockwork nature of the Dukeries MC organised event! It would be great the see some of the gravel perimeter roads used, similar to the RAC rallies of old, but I guess this is an asphalt championship and so, along with the logistical nightmare of ensuring us spectators stay where we are supposed to, doesn’t necessarily fit with the needs of the championship.

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable day shooting through, over and around the (not too obtrusive) catch fencing which has left me massively tempted to try and shoe-horn the championship decider at Cadwell into my diary!

GALLERY

Riponian Stages Rally – February 2022

Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis were in a class of their own in the North Yorkshire forests to claim a comfortable Riponian National Historic Stages Victory and an early lead in the British Historic Rally Championship title race.

Possibly one of the best entry lists on record for a North Yorkshire based rally and full utilisation of the relatively recent road closure regs for UK rallying was all the convincing I needed to head north on a dark early February Sunday morning for the Riponian Stages Rally!  Two loops of 3 healthily lengthed stages in the classic Wass / College Moor and Cropton / Gale Rigg forests faced the mammoth 122 crews leaving the Thirsk start line, 50 of which were fully registered BHRC runners gunning for honours in the National Historic Stages part of the event.

Gale Rigg has long been a personal favourite stage of mine but remarkably it had been 5 years since my last visit and the change in tree line combined with new routes opened up by use of Keys Beck Road made it feel like a completely new stage, although it proved just as good as I remembered for viewing!

Any thoughts of a steady start to the season were blown out of the water early on as most crews seemed to be ’on-it’, none more so than local man Matthew Robinson who, with regular co-driver Sam Collis alongside, set a blistering pace from the off and by half distance had developed a lead of more than 20 seconds over the similar machines of Nick Elliott and Ben Friend.

And it was more of the same over the afternoon stages as not even the weather (hail and snow at various points) could get in the way of Robinson and Collis claiming a full set of fastest stage times to claim an excellent 47 second victory and firmly put last years RAC disappointment behind them.  Despite not quite able to match the Malton man’s phenomenal pace, Nick Elliott and Dave Price got their BHRC title ambitions off to a positive start with second overall whilst Roger Chilman and Gwynfor Jones rounded out the podium positions after 2021 champions Ben Friend and Cliffy Simmons dropped time on the final stage.

Behind, in the category 3 classes David Brown and Callum Atkinson claimed D4 honours with 9th overall whilst Ben Mellors and Alex Lee were first home in D3 with 11th overall aboard their immaculate Toyota Celica. Meanwhile Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver would top the FIA Appendix K runners in 10th.

As usual category 2 contained a wonderful array of pre-74 machinery but was ultimately topped by the Pinto powered MK1 of Ben and Steven Smith who just managed to keep behind the powerful Datsun 240z of combined class C4/C5 winners Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds.  Meanwhile Mark Tugwell and Steve Pugh claimed top spot in the combined C1/C2 category aboard their MK1 Twin Cam whilst historic stalwart Bob Bean, with Mike Curry alongside, claimed category 1 honours in the stunning Lotus Cortina.

In the Interclub Stages part of the event, Ollie Mellors and Max Freeman defeated a plethora of Ford Fiestas to claim a convincing victory aboard their Proton Iriz R5 with Ford Fiesta R5 pairings Elliot Payne / Patrick Walsh and David Henderson / Chris Lees rounding out the podium positions.  With 9th overall David Mennell and Steven Brown would claim the Historic honours with an excellent drive in their 1600 Escort with the more powerful H2 category machines of Richard Spink / Nigel Hutchinson and Thomas Hewick / Mick Johnson completing the top 3.

Caught out by the cold weather, the traditional stop at Thompsons Fish & Chips Restaurant on the way home went some way to thawing me out but I don’t think I fully warmed up until the following morning!  Nevertheless it was an excellent event all-round that seemed to run like clock-work!  Bring on the next event which should hopefully be Rally North Wales in March and possibly even the Donington Stages Rally before that.  I guess you just don’t know how much you miss forest rallying until you return to the woods …    

GALLERY

Best of 2021 – Words and Pics From the Spectator Banks

After the lows of 2020, 2021 promised a return to some sort of normality in the world of Motorsport, however the elongated 3rd (I think) lockdown postponed any form of none signed-on attendance until late May!

Desperate to return to the circuits after 7 months of crowd-less sport viewing on the box an enormous entry list for the Classic Sports Car Club’s May bank holiday meeting at Donington was just the tonic I had been looking for. The 39 car Classic K race was a personal highlight which saw experienced historic racer Jamie Boot expertly guide his TVR Griffith to victory, however the moderate crowd were also treated to a trio of highly entertaining combined sprints for the Racing Special Saloons / Modsports and Bernie’s Sports Racing / V8 machines which contained everything from the whacky to the sublime!

So good in fact was my first taste of Classic Sports Car club action that a couple of weeks later I would find myself Cadwell bound for a second dose.  Unfortunately the grids were not quite so packed but this was more than made up for by perfect early Summer weather.  This time it was the Group 1 Swinging Sixties machines that stole the show with Ian Staines, aboard his MG Midget, managing to get the better of pole sitting Turner MK1 pilot Tim Cairns to claim an excellent victory at the undulating Lincolnshire track.

Late June saw a return to Donington for an excellent line up of Historic Sports Car Club grids with the added bonus of a 1 hour race for the GT & Sports Car Cup!  Despite a dull day weatherwise the on track action was as good as it gets with Michael Lyons lighting up the time sheets in the Aurora Trophy races aboard his F5000 Lola T400, Dean Forward delighting onlookers aboard his enormous Can-AM McLaren M8F to take a double Thundersports victory and Andrew’s Haddon & Wolfe claiming an excellent GT & Sports Cars Car Cup victory in their Lotus Elan.

After an excellent championship in 2020, a third trip to Donington, this time on the Grand Prix circuit, was lined up in July for the 2 hour British GT race. The series as a spectacle suffered in 2021 however with the removal of GT3 Silver Silver combinations which, combined with somewhat questionable driving standards and poor quality support races, lead to this being the only Modern event attended during the year!

Refreshingly it was back to old stuff in August with the Classic Sports Car Club’s Snetterton Sizzler meeting and the HSCC’s Oulton Park Gold Cup.  The Gold Cup meeting was back to it’s very best with Historic F2 machinery making a welcome return (something good to come out of the pandemic!) and it was Matthew Watts aboard his March 782 who claimed the prestigious trophy following an attritional second encounter of the weekend!  We were also treated to a pair of Historic Touring Car / Dunlop Saloon Car Cup races which are always worth a watch around the fabulous Cheshire circuit, and best of all the paddocks were finally open to the general public!!

Two trips to Mallory filled the first half of autumn’s action where a torrential morning downpour threatened to de-rail the Historic Sports Car Club meet.  Glorious afternoon sunshine and excellent efficiency ensured this only lead to delays and not cancellations however with Ben Simm’s charge through the field (only to be denied victory by Murray Shepherd’s excellent defensive display) in the Formula Ford 2000 race being the pick of the action. 

The excellent Classic Touring Car Racing Club would visit the same Leicestershire circuit in Mid October featuring a mouth-watering collection of machinery that included everything from the iconic 60’s Mini to the monster Aussie V8 Ford Falcon. Nothing quite beats a good old David vs Goliath pre-66 touring car race however and the two races on the day provided everything you come to expect from this era of racing; Alan Greenhalgh taking victory in the second race aboard his Ford Falcon after losing out to the much smaller engined Anglia of Robyn Slater (in part due to an off) in a damp race 1, brilliant racing!

Although far from a fan of Silverstone (not the circuit, more the unfriendly Security and archaic ticketing system) I could not fail to be drawn to the new standalone Motor Racing Legends meeting at the end of October. The 1 hour Historic Touring Car Challenge brought back many a childhood memory as Paul Mensley (RS500) managed to fend off not 1 but 3 temperamental Skylines to take victory whilst the excellent 43 car, 3 hour Pall Mall cup race met all expectations as the fabulous James Cottingham / Max Girardo piloted Lister Jaguar Costin managed to hold off a plethora of Shelby Cobra’s to take an unlikely victory. Maybe the unwelcoming nature of the circuit is a thing of the past as this had been a highlight of the season, partially aided by full access to the ‘Wing’ with less than a couple of hundred people in attendance!

And finally, after a pandemic induced year and 9 month period away from rallying, I eventually managed to see a live stage or 2 on the end of season Roger Albert Clark Rally. In an event unfortunately impacted by the devastating storm Arwen (Scotland’s stages completely cancelled), Ryan Champion and Craig Thorley remarkably managed to break the Blue Oval strangle hold on the event by claiming victory in their immaculate Porsche 911. Whilst disappointing not to be able to make the bi-annual trip into the Southern Scotland forests it was great to see action on the stages again.

All in it was year to remember and we can only hope that 2022 brings with it more freedom, definitely more rallying and a return to somewhere near the motorsport life we were all accustom to pre March 2020!

HSCC – Mallory Park – September 2021

The Historic Sports Car Club Contingent taking on the extremely unique Mallory Park was an opportunity I was not willing to miss, even if entry levels were a little on the low side.  With a yellow warning of rain also given out for Sunday’s action it promised to be an interesting outing at the Leicestershire circuit.

Sure enough rain started to fall just before arrival and steadily worsened to an extent that Historic F3 qualifying was red flagged and over an hour’s delay was required to allow the circuit to become drivable again!

Such is the crazy nature of the weather at the moment however that by the time racing commenced at 1pm the only evidence of such a downpour were a few puddles around the circuit perimeter and the odd wet run off area, with blue skies greeting the Midget and Sprite Challenge runners.

Carnage is probably the most appropriate word for what would then take place as the first red flag was waved almost as soon as the lights turned green; a collision between Martin Morris, David Morrison and Edward Weston wiping out 75% of the front two rows of the grid.  And it wasn’t long before the red flag was out again following a nasty collision with the John Cooper Esses tyre wall for Hugh Simpson, thus ending proceedings after just 4 minutes of racing. 

In the meantime, polesitter Paul Sibley (MG Midget), courtesy of being the sole remaining class A runner left, had still managed to develop a 7 second winning margin over Pippa Cow’s class E leading Healey Sprite and class D victor, Tom Walker’s, similar machine.

Exceptional work by the Mallory support staff would ensure the first Historic F3 race would commence with little delay and it would be Ian Bankhurst aboard his Alexis Mk8 who lead the early stages before polesitter Sam Wilson would eventually find a way back past.

Both would soon be concerned by the rapid progress of Jeremy Timms from a lowly 8th place starting position however; The Chevron B15 pilot carving his way through the field to take the lead by half distance and claim an excellent victory by over 2 seconds. With Wilson forced into retirement after a spin, Bankhurst would find himself on the second step of the podium whilst Steve Seaman (Brabham BT21) would set fastest lap of the race on his way to third.

Timms would later complete a victory double after again falling behind Bankhurst at the start! Bankhurst meanwhile just managed to stave off challenges from Wilson and Mike Walker to again claim the runner up spot whilst Walker, aboard his Brabham BT21, would this time round out the podium positions after Wilson’s late retirement.

Historic Formula Ford 2000 machinery lapping Mallory Park was an eagerly anticipated sight and I would not be disappointed.  Courtesy of retiring from race 1 of the weekend, usual front runner Benn Simms would start from 18th on the grid but was upto 3rd in next to no time at all.  Murray Shepherd, aboard his class D none points scoring Van Diemen, proved just too difficult to pass however with Simms trying every which way to demote the race 1 winner to third.  And Shepherd’s race long defensive heroics would ultimately earn him a second victory of the weekend after long time race leader Ian Pearson dropped back late on with his Royale stuck in 3rd gear; a real shame after Pearson’s exceptional lap 1 pass around the outside of Gerard’s!

Whilst the Historic Touring Car entry was disappointingly a little on the sparce side, race 1 at least still proved to be an entertaining affair with Mike Gardiner and Neil Wood locked in a race long battle for top spot; a tussle which Gardiner ultimately won as Wood’s Anglia didn’t quite have the legs to slip past his Lotus Cortina. Mighty qualifying performances in the wet had seen Roger Godfrey take pole in his Mini from the Singer Chamois of Steve Platts. However, with a dry race in prospect, they would find themselves battling it out for the final step on the podium, with Platts nipping past at the hairpin on lap 2 before Godfrey was forced into retirement in the latter stages.

With Gardiner a none starter for race 2, Neil Wood would claim a comfortable race 2 victory whilst Robin Ellis (BMW 1800 Ti) and Paul Wallis (Alfa Giulia Sprint GT) would round out the respective podium positions.

In a much less dramatic second encounter for the Midget and Sprite Challenge runners, Martin Morris provided a glimpse of what might have been as the back row starting Midget man charged through to second place in a relatively short space of time!  Unfortunately for Morris however, Paul Sibley had already developed a commanding lead allowing the series returnee to claim a comfortable second race win of the weekend.  Behind, Pippa Cow would round out the race 2 podium positions with a second class E victory of the weekend.

As anticipated, Mark Charteris was in a league of his own during a pair of Classic Clubman races. The Mallock MK20/21 pilot taking 2 commanding victories whilst also setting fastest race lap of the day with a very rapid 45.072! Dave Facer meanwhile would claim double class B victory, the Mallock MK16 pilot just edging out Tom Muirhead on both occasions.

And in what felt like no time at all I had made the short journey home and was scoffing my tea. Miraculously the organisers had managed to shoe horn 9 races into just 4 afternoon hours, which was pretty good going considering the red flag was required on three separate occasions. This a stark contrast to what felt like hours of waiting around in the morning for the torrential rain to eventually subside.

Hopefully a little more consistent weather will be on offer for my next outing which is scheduled to be the Classic Touring Car Race Club meeting at the very same circuit. See you soon Mallory!

HSCC – Donington Park – June 2021

Steve Soper in a E36 BMW, a full Thundersports grid containing both March and McLaren Can-Am machinery, Michael Lyons piloting a Lola T400 and the excellent GT and Sports Car Cup; all good reasons to make the short trip to Donington Park for the end of June Historic Sports Car Club meet.

Sunday was the day of choice and, having made the enormous walk to the pit straight (here’s hoping paddocks will be open by the end of July), was treated to an excellent Classic Formula Ford race to kick off proceedings. With most fully expecting another Cam Jackson victory, we were instead treated to an excellent tussle between the aforementioned Jackson, Henry Chart and Jordan Harrison.

Having just managed to maintain the lead in the early stages Jackson would unfortunately be forced into retirement with gear linkage issues though, thus leaving the way clear for either Harrison or Chart to end Jackson’s early season domination. Chart, in his Van Diemen, looked to just have enough to keep Harrison at bay, however the Lola T540E pilot managed to edge into the lead at the Craner Curves with 3 laps remaining and subsequently take the flag with a mere 0.154 seconds in hand. Formula Ford racing at it’s very best.

It didn’t turn out to be a great day for Jackson who later saw his 100% Historic Formula Ford record fall too following a phenomenal drive by Tom McArthur aboard his Titan MK4. McArthur looked to have lost any chance of victory after losing time in traffic but, after setting fastest lap after fastest lap, managed to toe up to the back of Jackson’s Winkelmann and Horatio Fitz-Simon’s Classic team Merlin and slip past both on the final lap (Fitz-Simon at Redgate and Jackson through Schwantz Curve). A Titan-ic drive from McArthur.

The GT and Sports Car Cup is a personal favourite of mine.  The variety of 60’s sports cars achieved through being an invitation only event just cannot be beaten; wonderfully evidenced by Andrew Haddon leading the opening stages of the race in his Lotus Elan with the Cobra 289 of Chris Giles Jnr, Matthew Wrigley piloted E-Type and Fred Wakeman’s Lister Jaguar Coupe just behind. 

Whilst the Cobra managed to re-take the lead of the race before the pitstops, it was the Elan, now with Andy Wolfe behind the wheel, which emerged in the lead once the pit window had closed; a lead which the Cobra, now in the hands of Simon Garrad, could do little about, leaving Wolfe to claim victory by a whopping 38 seconds!  A now smoking E-type in the hands of Mike Wrigley tried his best to hold onto the final podium step but could not keep historic ace Patrick Blakeney Edwards (Lister Jaguar) at bay as the hour drew to a close. 

Further back GT3 class honours went the way of Jeremy Welch and Doug Muirhead with 12th place overall; a great achievement considering they had to swap cars overnight resulting in a back row starting position!  With 16th position overall Richard Cook and Richard Tuthill claimed GT2 top spot in their Porsche 911 despite a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits.

The Dunlop Saloon Car Cup and Historic Touring Car grids were combined for their two races on the day which culminated in a mammoth 36 car grid for race 1. Unsurprisingly both races were affected by Safety Car periods however little could get in the way of Simon Garrad’s Skyline who on best lap times was over 2.5 seconds quicker than second placed Sean Brown’s stunningly turned out RS500.

Fortunately for the rest of the field, Garrad failed to make the grid for race 2 which allowed Soper to make amends for his race 1 trip to the Roberts chicane gravel trap and claim race 2 victory from the back of the DSCC grid!

Mustangs, Minis and Cortinas a plenty graced the Historic Touring Car element of the grid but there was no stopping Dan Williamson (Ford Falcon) who claimed a pair of victories with an incredible 7th and 4th place respective overall finishes. The Cortina’s of Marcus Jewell and Mark Martin would round out the podium positions in both races, each claiming an Appendix K 2 litre class victory a piece.

Is there a better sight than a McLaren M8F powering around Donington Park? Possibly a Michael Lyons piloted F5000 car … A debate for the pub maybe! Dean Forward’s M8F looks particularly stunning in JCB colours and it goes as well as it looks, with Forward claiming a second win of the weekend following Callum Lockie’s enforced retirement; the front bodywork of the March 717 removing itself on the Wheatcroft Straight part way through the race. Behind, Mark Richardson claimed 2 litre honours in his immaculately turned out Lola T290.

Later on the relatively small crowd were treated to a Michael Lyons Masterclass in the 2nd Aurora Trophy race of the weekend. The ridiculously quick Lyons, aboard his Lola T400, managing to lap the entire field in just 20 minutes of racing; a field which included the Chevron’s of Paul Campfield, Martyn Donn and Michael Bletsoe-Brown and March 742 of Mark Dwyer, all far from slow pilots of single seater machinery. A 1.04.63 lap around the Donington Park National Circuit is quicker than anything I have seen for quite some time! A strong argument from the single seater side of the aforementioned pub debate!

Continuing the earlier theme of competitive wingless single seater action, Andrew Hibberd, Jeremy Timms and Benn Simms formed a 3 way battle for victory in the Historic Formula 3 race.  A red flag would ultimately shorten a great battle which saw pole sitter Andrew Hibberd just about stave off pressure from Simms and Timms to claim his second victory of the weekend aboard the Brabham BT18.

Such is the current health of the Historic Formula Ford 2000 championship that a qualifying race is required to reduce the entries down to a maximum 32 starters for the championship race! And the championship race turned into yet another closely fought affair, with Graham Fennymore (Reynard SF81) putting in a stellar defensive drive to take a second race win of the weekend from the Royale of Ian Pearson and Delta of Ben Tilley. Pearson and 2020 champion, Andrew Park, both tried their very best to snatch victory but just could not find a way through, with Park’s final attempt causing him to drop out of the podium positions.

Behind, 70 year old Adrian Reynard himself (the man responsible for half the cars on the grid!) put in a great drive to claim 6th overall in the Championship race following victory in the earlier qualifying event.

30 minute races for both the Historic and 70’s Road Sports had attracted healthy entries. The Elan of John Davison and AC Cobra of Kevin Kivlochan were expected to lock horns in the Historic Road Sports race and the pair got a little too close for comfort at the old hairpin in the early stages which left both cars behind another Elan in the hands of Paul Tooms. Davison was the quickest man in qualifying and this form ultimately carried over to the race as whilst both Davison and Kivlochan were able to re-pass Tooms, the Cobra pilot could do nothing about the pole sitter.

The 70’s Road Sports race turned into a race of 2 halves (Literally) as oil dropped by Greg Thornton’s Ferrari 308 caused a red flag with 10 minutes still left on the clock.  Morgans were the car to have on the day though as not even the red flag could get in the way of a Plant one two (William leading home Richard) in their Plus 8’s.  Despite ending up in the gravel before the red flag, Jim Dean, in his Lotus Europa, was able to take up third on the restart grid courtesy of count back regulations and ultimately prevented a Morgan lock out of the podium positions by pipping Kevin Kivlochan’s hard top model to 3rd.

It is great to live just 15 minutes from my favourite circuit and with such a full day’s activities it is a good job too as I still found myself out of the house for almost 11 hours! And whilst the weather proved to be dull throughout the racing was far from it. I am not sure I can remember a better day’s racing; not a single race felt like a filler event with close battles throughout. It had been a while since I last witnessed a HSCC meeting but I will certainly attempt to get to a second before the year is out. Mid September at Mallory Park has been firmly pencilled into the diary!

GALLERY

Motorsport Reporting & Photography