Another fast circuit, which probably contributed to a few drivers giving it a miss. Although some did make a valiant effort, such as Andy Wickens who nearly got his new Sapphire ready and Russell Bradley, who almost fixed his VW Golf from its fiery incident at Brands. In the end 26 cars made the qualifying session, and this time we were not the first onto the circuit.
Instead we were session three, and almost immediately it started we were back in the pits checking wheel nuts and a rising temperature gauge. With this in mind Rod settled for one quick lap, then see what was going on. However, MST had a problem, or rather no times were appearing on the timing screens. The net result was that no one really knew how they had done. In fact it took them over two hours to issue a grid sheet. Surprise, surprise we were not on pole, that honour went to Kris Waite, who finally got his new mount running properly. Kris was delighted with his effort, which was 0.287 seconds better than ours.
Lining up third would be Nick Williamson. More tweaks to his Escort means that he is closing on that front row slot, his time being 0.7 seconds behind Rod. Next to Nick was his familiar adversary David Oates. David collected the Quaife “best prepared car” award this week, so his team were very pleased. On row three we saw the leading class C runner, namely Richard Gane, followed by Peter Taylor and his smart Sierra Cosworth. The two turbo cars of Ray Barrow and Graham Bahr occupied row four, followed by the two leading class E protagonists, namely Jason Watkins and Richard Brent. The rest of the varied grid is as per the results page, but it was good to see Mark Hosken and David Smart returning to the championship.
After a heavy shower, the rapidly drying track made us all choose dry weather tyres. The exception being poor Ashley Hargreaves who was busily trying to rebuild his engine in the paddock. He had managed to find some new bearings, but time was not on his side. So the rest of us set off on the rolling start. The lights were held red until everyone was on the Senna straight, but Kris timed it well and just held the lead into Riches Corner. Rod slotted into second with Nick hanging on in third. David Oates was maintaining fourth but clearly lacking the speed of the turbo brigade up front. Meanwhile Richard Gane was soon mugged by three other turbo cars, namely Taylor, Barrow and Bahr, but Richard still led his class.
By the third lap Rod was sizing up a place to pass Kris, mainly because the Sapphire was emitting some fluid onto our Escort’s windscreen. Coming through Russell chicane our driver closed right up and got a good tow past the pits. At the last minute he darted out of the slipstream and outbraked Kris into Riches. Kris tried to retaliate as the two came back into sight, braking very late at Russell. Rod held on, having just set the fastest lap, which was over a second quicker than our practice time.
Another close battle had developed further back, for the lead of class E. Jason was slowly edging away from Richard, who had the class C Peugeot of Kerr Robertson closing in and bringing Andy Mitchell and Les Beer with him. Back in 15th, David Smart headed a four car group, which included Greg Pye, Graham Richardson and the VW Vento of Ray Adams, whilst Gary Cole was fending off Mark Hoskin and Andy Pipe. In fact Gary’s antics earnt him the Quaife “driver of the race” award.
At the end of lap five Rod crossed the line without the yellow Sapphire shadowing him. The entire pit lane looked towards Coram, and suddenly it became obvious that Kris had gone off. The red flags were then shown and everyone looked concerned. Eventually Rod reappeared and explained that Kris had indeed crashed quite heavily, but that he was OK and standing on the bank. We were all relieved, but the car certainly looked a mess on the flat bed truck. Curiously a marshal had noticed something smouldering under our car when Rod stopped to see if Kris was OK. It later transpired that a wheel locating stud had come loose and started to wear away at the rear suspension beam.
With less than an hour before we would be called for our second race, Stewart set about re-building the right rear corner. With the brake disc still very hot his language was quite colourful. Undeterred he completed the job and we took up pole position for the longer race. Again the lights stayed red until the last second, but Rod out gunned Nick and soon edged out a small advantage. On lap three he popped in a quick lap, just 0.3 seconds shy of our previous fastest lap. This translated into a 4.5 second gap, and although Nick tried very hard (perhaps too hard a couple times) he could not close up. Little did we, in the pit lane, know that the engine temperature in our car was dangerously high.
A battle for third place commenced when Ray Barrow got past Peter Taylor and latched onto David Oates. Brute power down the Revitt straight told, and Ray appeared in third. Not to be outdone, David held onto the slipstream and nipped back past just before the end of the 12 laps. Gane and Taylor had a slight incident at Russell, where somehow Richard Brent slipped through and lost his “playmate” Watkins. The end result was fifth overall for Brent, sixth for Gane, seventh for Watkins and Taylor eighth. Andy Mitchell finished a competitive ninth, whilst the next two had a race long battle. Eventually the Audi TT of Mark Hoskin just beat the Focus V8 of John Cross, this feat earned Mark the second “driver of the race” award.
With Graham Bahr pulling off due to an oil line spillage, which may have accounted for Les Beer’s untimely exit, the class B laurels went to a delighted David Smart, who had a good race with Anthony Ahmed. Behind Richardson and Adams, Andy Pipe got revenge on Gary Cole, whilst Greg Pye had the measure of Alex Ribbens. Alan Cherry kept all his wheels on this time, and Dave Coleman had a steady run to complete the finishers. Special mention must go to Ashley who finally got his Peugeot engine “re-build” finished just as the race started. To general applause he gamely joined in, but found that there was still something amiss, so decided to pull off after a couple of laps.
So it was another two wins for our black car, although Rod was concerned about the high water temperature and the damage that the wheel stud had done. To cap it all a brake calliper seal burst just as we loaded up, what a day. We did manage to avoid the big hold up on the M11 thanks to a phone call from Andy Ratcliffe who was stuck in it.
With the next round a month away it looks like we will be very busy. The Lydden meeting will see the Dunlop T&R races being held on the Sunday of this two-day event.
Video download available here. Thanks to Gary Cole
Right click the link above and select 'save target as'. When the box appears select 'desktop' and the video will be saved there.