Dunlop Motorsport News Saloon Car Championship - Thruxton. August 15th 2009
Rod and the team headed to the fastest race track in the country on Saturday August 15th to defend there lead in the Dunlop Motorsport News saloon car championship. Thruxton, in Hampshire, is also well renowned as having the most abrasive surface. In practice Rod qualified second just 0.1 of a second behind local driver Nick Williamson, from Southampton. Both Rod and Nick drive similar Ford Escort Cosworths. Lining up on row two would be the very potent Nissan Skylines of Darren Bly and Mark Biggers. From the start Birley took the lead and held sway for four laps. However, on lap five his tyres started to lose grip and Bly powered into the lead closely followed by Williamson. The 800 brake horse power Nissan seemed to be heading for itís first win of the year until the turbocharger broke and the car slipped back down the order to seventh. Meanwhile Rod mounted a serious last lap effort but unfortunately a back marker blocked his overtaking move at the final corner. He finished just one second behind Williamson. Into third came Malcolm Wise with another Escort Cosworth, closely pursued by Gareth Porter in his very quick Peugeot 205.
Kevin Bird came home fifth overall and won class B from Andy Thompsonís similar Seat. Behind Bly came Peter Taylor, who had a good run in his RS500, holding off the class B version of Rick May. Cris Hayes rounded out the top ten as Richard Brent just stayed on the lead lap in 11th. Barry Vincent headed the next trio and his sterling efforts were rewarded with the Quaife driver of the race award. Ray Barrow was next followed by Andy Baker (who took the class D win, after Bill Richards non-started) and Paul Nevill.
The second race again saw the two Escort drivers battling for the lead. Twice Rod got in front only for Nick to repass him. On the second to last lap Rod got alongside going into the third corner and appeared to have pulled off a classic overtaking manoeuvre, but Nick turned in and the two cars touched. Rod went off through the grass, which filled up his radiator and subsequently overheated the engine. He then suffered a trip over the high kerbs as coolant sprayed onto his tyres. Undettered he limped to the finish, still in second place. Despite the damage he actually increased his points lead in the championship, even though it was his first defeats of the year.
Malcolm Wise took the final podium position again (along with the RS award), with Porter fourth. Rick May came through to win class B and beat Bird by just two seconds. From the back of the grid Nigel Craig had a terrific drive to seventh overall, which also earnt him the drive of the race award, in his recently rebuilt Subaru. Thompson and Hayes battled over the next spot, with Andy in front by the chequered flag. Cris did win the best prepared car prize. Ray Barrow completed the top ten after overtaking Peter Taylor, the two Cosworth powered cars now close in the championship as well. A subdued Brent was 12th from class D winner Baker in a similar Peugeot.
After the meeting the Best Promotions team quickly loaded up and headed back to base to try and fix the car for Sunday. This time we were back on home tarmac at Brands Hatch. It turned out that the damage was more severe than originally thought and the chassis needed to be welded. With help from the teamís main sponsor, Now Garages, we somehow completed the work with less than an hour to spare. Having missed qualifying Rod had to start from the back of the grid. What followed was a real text book drive as Rod passed 12 cars on the first lap alone and hit the front with six laps to go. In a car which was not handling perfectly he won by just over one second.
For the second race he started from pole position and led every lap to record his 14th win of the year, and his 12th at Brands Hatch this season. Irishman Michael Riordan followed Rod home in second place, claiming it was the best driving lesson he had ever had following Birley, as he got used to the undulations of the circuit.
It is a three week break until our next race, which will be at Lydden Hill for the Festival of Motorsport on September 5th.