Tag Archives: Michael Lyons

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

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Crowds Drawn to Zandvoort Historic GP

Slotting nicely into the UK’s August bank holiday weekend, the 4th running of the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix was selected as our annual European circuit adventure for 2015.  Uniquely situated within the sand dunes north of the town, Circuit Park Zandvoort has a very different feel to other circuits I have visited.  With few places out of bounds,  the prospect of classic F1 machinery, great weather and a very reasonable entry fee (€40 for the weekend) it is little surprise that record crowds of over 52,000 had been attracted.

The infamous Dutch circuit has not hosted a Grand Prix since 1985 and is unlikely to in the near future given the strict criteria.  However, pleasingly, we found a circuit built in a traditional manner, blessed with excellent viewing from the spectator bankings and without the (now standard) computer game style tarmac run off areas!  Exceeding the track limits at Zandvoort was rewarded with a trip across the gravel!

The main draw from our point of view was the 4 Masters series events headlined by 2 FIA Historic Formula One races and the ear piercingly good FIA Historic Sports Car championship which boasted a mega 41 car entry for the classic 60’s and 70’s endurance racing machines.

SATURDAY

Having witnessed a great race at Donington earlier in the season, the Pre 66 Touring car field was a little light on numbers.  It only requires two cars to make a race though and out front Leo Voyazides in his huge Ford Falcon had managed to pull out a small lead over the pole sitting Alfa Giulia Sprint GTA of Alexander Furiani.

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However the tables turned once ex Audi man, Frank Stippler, was aboard the little Italian racer.  Hadfield, a very quick driver himself, could do little about 4 consecutive sub 2.06 lap times from the German and Stippler was soon on terms and passed the Falcon, going on to record race victory by just over 3 seconds.

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Hadfield and Voyazides would manage one place better later in the day however, recording victory in the 90 minute Gentleman Drivers race by a convincing 56 seconds.  In a field packed with Cobras, E Types, Elans and Porsches, Voyazides, in his Shelby Daytona Cobra, found himself leading a three way battle for top spot.  Whilst Voyazides had maintained the lead throughout his stint, Gans and Hart, in AC versions of the Cobra, changed position on more than one occasion, with the three leading cars sitting line astern as they headed for the mid race pitstops.

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First in was the #76 Cobra of David Hart, handing over to ex Dutch F1 driver, Geido Van der Garde (pictured).  The Dutch duo’s victory challenge was soon to be over however as they had made the change prior to the opening of the pit window, and as a result were delivered a late stop and go penalty.  By this time Hadfield had taken over the lead Shelby Cobra, and with a much later stop, Nigel Greensall, in the glorious silver E-Type Jaguar had snook into second.

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While Hadfield was able to cruise to victory, behind the battle was far from over.  Andy Wolfe, taking over from Michael Gans in the #94 Cobra, was unfortunately not able to match the pace of his team mate and in fact, the two quickest cars on the circuit, were the rapid Dutch Cobra’s of Van der Garde and Tom Coronel.  Emerging in fourth following his drive through penalty, 5 sub 2.02 laps allowed the the #76 Cobra to grab the final step of the podium but not without a far from clean tussle with Wolfe which left both cars showing the scars of battle.  Third was the Limit of Van der Garde’s charge though as a consistent drive by Greensall allowed himself and Julian Thomas to split the American muscle cars and claim an excellent second.

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Further back,  Coronel was lighting up the track in the second DHG Cobra; the long time WTCC driver’s charge landing he and Hans Hugenholz fourth position overall by the time the chequered flag was waved, setting fastest lap and passing the similar machines of Wolfe and Andrew Haddon in the process!  This had been 90 minutes of top drawer historic racing and a great way to round out the track action for the day.

SUNDAY

A good nights sleep was required after a long day at the track and a wander through Zandvoort town itself to take in the parade.  There is however nothing quite like the sound of 40 glorious Sports Cars from yesteryear to reinvigorate the senses on a Sunday morning!

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And with photography now a bit of a problem (my trusty 70-200 deciding to separate itself from its mountings) we took in what turned out to be a brilliant race from the spectator area overlooking the pit complex.

Long time historic racer, John Minshaw, had brought his very rapid British GT team mate with him to Zandvoort, and Phil Keen duly put Minshaw’s Lola T70 on pole position with a stunning 1:44:063; a whole 3 seconds quicker than anyone else!

It was Minshaw himself however who took the start of the race, opening up a small advantage before David Hart in a similar T70, closely followed by the nimble Lola T290 of Michael Gans began to reel in the Englishman.  On lap 7 however Hart’s challenge was over; a collision with Minshaw while challenging for the lead causing the Dutchman to retire his T70 with a damaged door and bent steering.

It was Gans who then took up the fight, passing Minshaw on the twisty sections but struggling to keep the raw power of the 5 litre Chevy V8 engined Lola behind on the straights.  And while Gans was blessed with clear air once Minshaw pitted, by the time the T290 made it’s pitstop the lead was gone; some fantastic lap times by the recently installed Phil Keen firmly planting the #36 Lola at the top of the timing sheets as the race headed for the closing stages.

Meanwhile, Simon Hadfield had climbed aboard the white and blue Lola T70 shared with Leo Voyazides and was continuing to progress through the field; qualifying issues having caused the duo to start from the very back of the grid.  Although Hadfield was soon passed both the T70 of Jason Wright and the T290 of Gans, Keen proved just too far in front for even the vastly experienced Hadfield to set about catching, leaving Keen and Minshaw to eventually claim a 19 second victory.

With just a few minutes remaining it appeared Gans had been cruelly robbed of a fantastic podium by a charging Gary Pearson in the #23 Lola T70.

Pearson

However the race was brought to a premature end; Michael Lyons in his Osella the cause of the red flag having become beached in the middle of the track after the loss of a rear wheel.  And on count back luck was on the side of Gans; the T290 pilot rewarded with the final step of the podium to go with his Marko class victory.

Had the race not been red-flagged, Gans may well have struggled to hold onto the Marko Class victory as well as the overall podium.  Nick Padmore had been absolutely flying in his Lola T212 during the second half of the race but in the end had to settle for fifth and second in class as a result of the halt.  And remarkably, despite being the cause of the red flag, the Osella of Lyons and Manfredo Rossi di Montelera was still classified 6th overall and 3rd in class!

In fact it had been looking like a disastrous weekend for Michael Lyons, having lead much of Saturday’s F1 race before encountering braking issues that would demote the young Essex man to fourth!  However, Lyons was rewarded for his continued efforts with a commanding overall victory in the second Historic Formula One race of the weekend.  Starting from fourth, two great overtakes after a good start promoted the Hesketh pilot into the lead of the race within the first couple of laps and from then on the road to victory was clear.  Rob Hall, in his Ligier, had managed to pass race one winner Loic Deman at the start but could not keep Lyons at bay for long.

Belgian driver, Loic Deman, may well have challenged Hall but dropped back to fifth by the end of the race with what appeared to be gearbox problems.

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This allowed Andy Wolfe in his Tyrrell 011 to claim a second podium of the weekend and Nick Padmore to take his Surtees to another Stewart class victory with a fantastic fourth position overall.

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In between all of the above, onlookers were treated to races from the HGPCA for both pre 66 (pictured below) and pre 61 machinery, Historic Formula 2, Monoposto and Formula Junior, together with action from the fantastic Dutch Historic Touring Car and GT series.  Unbelievably large and varied grids in the latter two events making for some great racing.

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All in all it had been a great weekend in the Dutch sand dunes, with Zandvoort becoming another classic European circuit visit to tick from our list.  The only real downside from my point of view was the elongated demonstration runs on both days.  Whilst it was nice to see the 1999 Le Mans winning BMW and a couple of 90’s F1 cars, 20 minutes instead of well over an hour of track time would have been suffice.  However I guess the organisers were left with little choice when the Group C race had to be unfortunately cancelled following a strange lack of entrants.

And whilst the lack of car parking at the circuit may have seemed like an issue, nothing beats a trek along the sea front before a day at the circuit!  A cracking hotel choice in the outskirts of Haarlem (De Zoete Inval) and less than an hour of delays at Calais on the way back made August bank Holiday weekend 2015 one to remember.

GALLERY

Historic Racing Round-up – Spring 2015

Historic F1 ace, Michael Lyons, thrills fans at Thruxton while Paul Gibson and Chris Ward fend off late Voyazides challenge to claim coveted Donington Historic Festival ‘1000km’ glory.

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With today’s technology so impressive that many lines of motorsport have to be ‘pegged back’ I find myself drawn more and more to the historic side of our sport; I would love to have been around to see the thoroughbred racing cars of the 60’s and 70’s in period.  And so with there being no calendar clash between the opening rounds of the WEC and British GT in 2015 I found myself free to make a first visit to Thruxton on Easter Sunday for the HSCC revival meeting.

A packed schedule of races with a more than respectable start time lay in store for day 2 of the revival meeting with the Pre 66 touring car, Derek Bell Trophy and Guards Trophy events particular highlights.  The relaxed start to proceedings providing ample time to wander around the paddock for a closer look at some of the racing stars of yesteryear.

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The Derek Bell Trophy, aimed at the F2 and F5000 cars of the 70’s saw the Lyons family responsible for 3 of the brutish open wheel delights.  Unfortunately Michael’s Gurney Eagle was not fit to take part in the event, however the HSCC were as brilliantly accomodating as ever and allowed him a run the family owned 1977 Hesketh 308e F1 car instead; oh what a shame (Said no one!)

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It was an absolute pleasure to witness Lyons thrash the 3 litre V8 Cosworth powered machine around the Hampshire track; the huge rear wheels from the period providing massive amounts of grip, which combined with the raw grunt of the Cosworth engine allowed some of the fastest laps in years to be recorded.  As a comparison Lyons managed a 1:07.648 in Saturday’s race whereas the pole lap for the 2015 BTCC meeting was a 1:16.785!

Much debate surrounds the current F1 engines with many wanting a return to V8 power.  Whilst it would be nice to increase the decibel level the scream of the ‘glued to the track’ 2013 V8 formula 1 cars is dull in comparison to this late 70’s Cosworth.

On the day no other car was a match for the Penthouse liveried machine leaving Lyons, the master of historic F1 racing, to take a commanding 49 second victory over the Historic Formula 2 machine of Richard Evans and the Classic Clubmans specification Mallock of Mark Charteris.

The Historic Touring Cars always provide high quality entertainment; the traditional pose of a Lotus Cortina, Austin Mini or BMW 1800Ti being backed into a corner, almost Moto GP like, is something that is rarely seen in modern aero driven racing.  As it was Tim Davies, in his Lotus Cortina, was the class of the field; the Welshman managing to eek out an early lead before going on to take victory by a margin of 8.5 seconds at the chequered flag.  This may not have been the largest field of Touring Cars but the fast flowing nature of the circuit allowed them to be seen at their sideways best.

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The Guards Trophy runners were split between the GT and Prototypes for the Thruxton meeting.  With the GT cars taking to the track the day before, Easter Sunday visitors were treated to a diverse grid of cars including the fabulous McLaren M1B and several Chevron B8’s.  On the day the nimble 2 litre Chevrons were no match for the Mighty M1B nor the Lenham Spider of Stuart and George Tizzard and while the Tizzards headed for the second step of the podium it was the Bill Coombs / Chris Drake driven McLaren which went on to claim a commanding 28 second victory.

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Elsewhere,  Callum Grant made a late charge to claim Historic FF2000 victory, while Ben Mitchell was able to break away from the field to register a relatively comfortable Historic Formula Ford win. Ian Pearson stood on the top step of the Classic F3 podium while the busy Mark Charteris pedalled his Mallock to victory in the Classic Clubmans race after earlier registering third position in the Derek Bell Trophy.  Meanwhile the 70’s Roadsports race had it all with eventual winner James Dean, in his Lotus Europa, passing the majority of the field to claim victory after an early spin at the Club Chicane; an effort which was warmly appreciated by the knowledgable crowd.

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In just over 2 hours, with the glorious sound of the Hesketh F1 car still rattling around in my head, I was back home and contemplating my next slice of the historic racing action.  The Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix is now a firm entry in my diary and calendar clash permitting I hope to be back at Thruxton in 2016!

THRUXTON GALLERY

 

 

Fast forward 1 month and it was the 2.5 hour ‘1000km’ race for the 1964-71 World Sportscar Championship machines at the Donington Historic Festival which caught my eye; the jewel in the crown of my third visit to the 3 day bank holiday weekend event.

Weatherwise, a bitterly cold wind and low temperatures more akin to March than May was not kind to the opening day spectators.  However the variety of machinery both on display and taking on the fast undulating Donington Park National Circuit was more than enough to keep the moderate crowd entertained.

Unfortunately what had been light rain fall prior to the race start intensified as the cars readied themselves for the green flag; leaving the two Lola T70’s of Chris Ward (#9) and Leo Voyazides (#1), who had qualified on the front row of the grid, facing the daunting task of manhandling their huge Chevy engined prototypes around the damp opening lap.

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And after successfully keeping them on the track, it was Chris Ward who managed to build a steady lead over the similar car of Voyazides, with Andrew Kirkaldy third, making a nuisance of himself in the #4 Chevron B8; the smaller engined car being much quicker through the corners but losing out on the long straights.

Further back Anthony Reid and Olly Bryant in their respective McLaren M1C and Lola T70 were making headway after conservative starts; both starting from the back of the grid having not appeared in the earlier qualifying session.  Bryant however was soon on terms with Kirkaldy and Voyazides, passing both at Hollywood before running into car problems coming out of the Old Hairpin; A sticky throttle not what you need in these conditions!  A safety car was required to remove the stricken Lola T70 from the outside of the Schwantz Curve which somewhat nullified the lead built by Ward.

Both leading Lola’s took advantage of the safety car however and made their first of 2 required pitstops; Simon Hadfield taking charge of the #1 Lola and Ward staying aboard the #9.  And so there was little between the cars as the track returned to green with Hadfield fancying his chances of taking the lead.  A spin exiting the Old Hairpin 2 laps later somewhat hampered his progress though leaving the white Lola some 30 seconds adrift.

Nevertheless Hadfield was soon into a rhythm and whilst finding it difficult to eat into Chris Ward’s lead initially, he had managed to cut the gap to 15 seconds by the time the leader made his second pit stop on lap 58.  In fact Hadfield was now flying on the drying track, so much so that Paul Gibson, now in the #9 Lola, dropped two laps back, albeit with the #1 T70 owing a final stop.

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Indeed Hadfield made his final stop on lap 79, with Leo Voyazides climbing back behind the wheel, but such had been Hadfield’s pace in comparison to Gibson that the #1 T70 emerged from pit lane with an almost 1 lap lead over the similar pole sitting car.  But the tables were to turn again with Gibson now having the edge in pace over Leo Voyazides; quickly turning a 1 minute 19 second deficit on lap 80 into a 30 second gap by lap 95 and a less than 3 second margin as they entered lap 102.  And amazingly it was Gibson who was in the lead of the race by the end of the lap.

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However Gibson was not able to break the tow and with just a few laps remaining the Greek driver was back on terms and making a move down the outside of the Craner Curves; a move which unfortunately would not pay off, sending the glorious T70 heading for a rather large off and allowing Gibson and Ward to claim the ‘1000km’ race victory.  A somewhat disappointing way to end proceedings but if you ever thought historic racing was merely a demonstration then think again!  Watching these incredible machines power sliding around McLeans in the drying conditions was further proof if needed!

DONINGTON GALLERY

 

 

Yes the weather may have been poor but the event still delivered; the group B rally car and F1 demonstration runs adding further value to the many millions of pounds worth of automotive machinery on display.  I will definitely be back at the Leicestershire track for the Masters Meeting in early July on the fantastic Grand Prix circuit.

Before then though it is the back to the British Historic Rally Championship at the end of May with the Severn Valley Stages followed by the Legends support race at Le Mans in June and the Wolds Trophy HSCC meeting at the awesome Cadwell Park.  Stay tuned for coverage ….

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For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)