Race report for Brands Hatch GP April 15th


Well all the winter frustration, re-builds, new cars, postings on ten-tenths finally came to an end when 39 cars rolled out for practice on the GP circuit at Brands Hatch. This was round one of the Dunlop Track and Race saloon car championship, and appropriately we were the first group to venture out onto the 2.6228 mile track, or was it because they wanted us to be sweepers.

Although 44 drivers were booked in, there were some last minute withdrawals including Tony Ryan (waiting for engine and gearbox), Tim Dodwell (waiting for an M.O.T. !!!), Kerr Robertson (needs new dashboard), Ray Adams (not sure), Barry Barnes (car refused to start, which was very frustrating as this was going to be his comeback race). Greg Pye missed the proper qualifying session, but did get out later. The rest had to tackle a rather slippery Grand Prix loop, which had seen a lot of contractor vehicles deposit mud on the tarmac. Undeterred Rod set a blistering pace and posted a time almost equalling our previous best, but then the red flags appeared.

Several cars had gone off; including Andy Pipe (who was stuck at Westfield) and Russell Bradley (who’s VW Golf had caught fire and pulled off on Derek Minter straight). Because of the very tight programme, the clerk of the course deemed that everyone had qualified and did not re-start the session. The line up behind Rod was a bit of a lottery, depending on how many laps people had completed. Amazingly our driver was nine seconds quicker than anyone else.

Second on the grid would be David Oates in his very pretty Vauxhall Tigra. David has lots of experience in short circuit racing, as well as being a former winner of the Willhire 24 hour race( see our links page for more on David ). His spaceframe car is eligible in class A and would therefore add to the huge variety. Lining up third was returnee Kristian Waite with the ex-Phil Libby eight injector Ford Sapphire. With a monstrous rear wing, this really looked like a car which has been on steroids! Next to Kris would be another newcomer, Richard Gane in a Honda Integra. This car also won the Quaife “best prepared car” award, although there were many contenders.

2004 champion Jason Watkins occupied the inside of row four, with occasional visitor Francis Butcher alongside in his pure white Ford Capri. Next came Nick Williamson, who was progressing well with his 4 wheel drive Escort Cosworth, followed by class E boys Andrew Mitchell and Les Beer. Tenth would be car no.10, which is Peter Wilkinson in his fabulous looking Mitsubishi Lancer. Peter has also graduated to class A this year, and was racing in memory of his recently departed father. Further back in amongst our regular drivers we had several newcomers, including Nigel Craig in his quick Mk.2 RS2000 Ford Escort, Al Weyman in his rumbling Chevrolet Camaro, Ashley Hargreaves in another of those quick Peugeots, Russell Harding and Phil Shed in  Ford Fiestas, Chris Adams in a VW Vento. It was also welcome back to Peter Taylor (after his roll at the final round) and Rob Compton (who had a few problems at scrutineering). All the times are on the results page.

This year we have introduced a coloured disc class recognition system. In other words class A is yellow, class B blue, class C orange, class D green and class E red. Hopefully this will help commentators and spectators identify which class everyone is in. The general mood was one of sheer joy at the size of grid for our first round and the sheer variety throughout the classes

Prior to the first race a couple of cheques were presented to worthy charities. These were from monies raised at our club dinner dance back in January. The first, for £1250 went to the British Motor Sport Relief Fund. This caters for drivers, marshals and officials who are injured during the course of a motor sport event. Former Grand Prix driver Mike Wilds represented the charity and collected the cheque. The second went to the British Conservation Trust Volunteers and was for £500. This would buy 50 new trees and would effectively combat the emissions caused by our championship last year. Dave Diboll, a local tree warden collected the cheque. Hopefully we may get a tree planted at Brands Hatch to commemorate our donation.

Photo courtesy of:

Barry (Snapper Baz) Ambrose. Click here

 The build up was now complete and we all lined up for race one. What an impressive sight. The grid stretched the full length of the pit wall and beyond. Nineteen rows with a total of 39 cars, although during the count down we lost Kris Waite whose car refused to fire up, probably due to an alternator or battery problem. The rest set off behind the BARC pace car driven by Mark Burnside. In close formation the front row held good station on the run up to the lights. We were off, thundering into Paddock Bend, would everyone make it? The answer was a resounding yes, and as the pack streamed off onto the long circuit Rod had a small lead over David Oates. Once back into view the gap had widened considerably, so we started looking at who was moving up.

Initially Francis Butcher appeared in third, but then his accelerator cable broke and he was sidelined. Then we noticed Graham Bahr appeared to be on a mission. From fifteenth at the start he soon progressed to eighth then fifth. He closed on Jason and Nick, who were squabbling over third, then Nick suddenly spun at Paddock Bend almost collecting Jason (see photo gallery). Graham took advantage and slipped into third, a drive which was rewarded with “driver of the race” award.

Meanwhile Peter Taylor, who started 20th, was almost powering his way through. He progressed to 8th by the finish, just passing John Cross and Steve Weatherley who were having a marvellous battle. Others who improved their starting position included Andy Mitchell, up to fifth and almost catching Jason, Ashley Hargreaves from 22nd to 13th, Gary Cole 29th to 22nd, and David Coleman for taking class D just from Alex Ribbens. Even on the Grand Prix circuit, 6 laps is over very soon, although we did see 8 retirements, amongst them Ray Barrow (spun off at Sheene Curve), Rob Compton (various problems, but it will get better…honest) Alan Cherry (wheel hub) Gordon Streeter (engine cut out), Andy Wickens (track rod end breakage…pretty serious).

There then followed a long break until our second race, which saw the usual patching up and re-builds. The Escort WRC just needed a change of water cap, as there had been a small leakage. With the temperature dropping and cloud thickening, the inevitable rain soon arrived. Not surprisingly this had a drastic effect on the timetable, which gradually slipped back by 40 minutes. Both Peter Taylor and Steve Weatherley opted out of the second race, and Rob Compton, Gordon Streeter, Peter Reeve, Andy Pipe, Alan Cherry, Kris Waite and Andy Wickens would all be non starters.

Eventually 29 cars lined up on a very wet track for race two. Again the start was orderly with everyone holding station. Our 4 wheel drive Escort revels in the wet, so with a big grin on his face Rod hustled off into the distance lapping five seconds quicker than anyone else. The other 4wd cars soon moved up. Nick established himself in second, although Jason kept him honest all the way. Peter Wilkinson started to really enjoy his new toy and soon moved up from 14th to 4th. The rear wheel drive Tigra slipped back to 5th, almost into the clutches of the class C winning Peugeot 205 of Mr. Hargreaves (missing one headlight after an earlier incident!). Richard Gane held position in 7th to finish runner up in class C, with Nigel Craig popping up in 8th and winning class B.

Race one hero, Graham Bahr, took things very careful and eventually slipped back to 12th, not helped by a fogged up windscreen. This problem afflicted several others, although we were surprised to see Andy Mitchell fall away to 11th. Chris Adams got his front wheel drive VW Vento up to an impressive 10th from 20th on the grid, only narrowly failing to catch Les Beer. Equally, Francis Butcher made good progress from 29th to 13th, just nipping past Anthony Ahmed on the final classified lap.

Shortened to five laps because of the 6.30 pm curfew, but also when Phil Usher stopped on the track by the start line, it gave the officials another excuse to throw the red flags. Hence the count back to lap four in the official results. Nevertheless, we completed half distance so the results stood. Congratulations to everyone who stayed on the black stuff (even though it was brown in places).

There were different class winners in B, C and D over the two races. Race two hero (and Quaife Driver of the race award winner) Jason Watkins will be missing the next round due to work commitments. So class E will see a different winner. The pressure will be on Rod to maintain his 100% record .