Dunlop Motorsport News Saloon Car Championship. Round 1. Brands Hatch - 23 & 24 March 2008
So after the long (?) winter break the season got under way at the Brands Hatch truck festival meeting. The DMN saloons had to scrutineer and practice on the Sunday, with the two races on Monday. Bitterly cold weather greeted the teams as they fought to find a parking space in the allotted area. Sharing the paddock with the truck teams can be quite daunting as the big rigs do require a lot of room. Oh and the fumes when these monsters burst into life also leaves a bit to be desired.
Qualifying took place on a damp track, which was very slowly drying out. Rod opted for worn out wet tyres which worked quite well, although he soon realised even these would overheat. He decided to do two lap runs to set a time and see if anyone could get a better run. Ron Kiddell posted the second best time with his awesome looking Nissan Skyline. However, with Ron being a reserve he would not take up this position. Instead the other front row occupant became Richard Brent, driving brother Philís, Peugeot 205 from class D. Richard braved slick tyres because Eric (his mechanic) said it was too cold for him to change them! Nigel Craig headed row two in a rather smoky Subaru (over filled gearbox oil) with Chris Hayes alongside. Graham Bahr just managed to screw his potent BMW back together and he headed row three from Paul Dickinson, in the second of six Seats entered. The rest of the grid lined up as per the qualifying sheet (see results page).
Monday dawned a bit brighter but soon clouded over. We were the second race in the morning, straight after the class B trucks. Unfortunately one of them deposited a huge amount of diesel and oil around the entire circuit. This made things very interesting and although we had two warm up laps everyone was still sliding around as the start lights went out. Richard Brent was the bravest going into Druids and he snatched the lead. Rod settled into second and looked for the least slippery line whilst his tyres scrabbled for grip. Nigel Craig held onto third from a hard charging Bill Richards, whilst James Lindridge made good progress into fifth and heading class C. Peter Crewes stormed from 15th to sixth, as the more powerful cars slipped back. The biggest casualty was Graham Bahr who really struggled with the BMW and Rick May who had to almost coast around the corners.
Meanwhile, at the front, Brent held onto the lead for four laps before Rod eventually blasted by on Brabham straight, opposite locking into Paddock Bend. From then on he gradually extended the lead into a 17 second winning margin. Richard settled for second, along with the Quaife driver of the race award for his sterling effort. Nigel drove well to take third with Bill just a couple of seconds adrift. Lindridge and Crewes finished line astern in fifth in sixth with Ray Barrow just holding off Andrew Williams. Steve Dann emerged from the class B pack to take the class honours, which was well deserved considering his limited DMN experience. Alex Ribbens enjoyed a close tussle with Steve, even passing him at one stage.
Martin Johnston was best of the Seats, second in class B and 11th overall, from Nick Hayes. Nick had Eric Falce snapping at his heels, after Eric found a way past Paul Goddard who was having a good debut run in his Mk.1 Ford Escort. Rick May struggled in 15th from Ray Adams who picked up the best prepared car award in his ex-Anthony Ahmed Seat Ibiza. Chris Hayes, Peter Taylor and Andy Pipe all jostled over the next three positions, followed by Steve Weatherley, Peter Wilkinson (back in a Peugeot 306, which had an overnight gearbox change) and Lee McNair (in his new Honda Integra). Gemma Morris pushed Mr. Bahr hard for 23rd position, and father and son Phil and David Usher completed the classified finishers.
A heavy snowstorm about an hour or so before our second race meant that tyre choice would again be a lottery. Rod chose slick tyres reckoning that the track would dry out as the race wore on. Others like Ray Barrow and Peter Taylor opted for wet tyres whereas Steve Dann went for his faithful Toyo 888s as used in the tin top races. Again Richard Brent made the best getaway and Bill Richards cheekily sneaked past on the inside of Druids. Rod was clearly biding his time hoping that the conditions would improve. Gradually a dry line appeared and he quickly picked off the interlopers. Nigel Craig latched on to Rodís tailgate and chased hard for the entire distance in his Subaru Impreza. Nigel set the fastest lap of the race finishing just under two seconds behind our Escort, which was running with extra weight. His drive was rewarded with the Quaife award.
Richard settled for another podium finish and another easy class win, bagging a good haul of points in his championship quest. Bill meanwhile could not sustain his pace on the drying track and eventually the potent class A and B cars reeled him in. Firstly, Ray Barrow took over third, but his grooved tyres overheated as the race wore on and he dropped back to sixth. Likewise Steve Dann moved up to fifth at one stage but then found the grip ebbing away and fell back to seventh. Rick May and Nick Hayes made the most stunning progress, Rick going from 15th to fourth overall and winning class B, whilst Nick went from 12th to fifth. Nick won the VAG award presented by Mark Hosken from Backdraft Motorsport.
James Lindridge again secured class C with a fine run to ninth overall. James has converted his former tin top Vauxhall Astra, and like Steve Dann proved what a good training ground the road tyred series has been. Chris Hayes brought his Seat home in tenth followed by Andrew Williams and Duncan Clark. Duncan had been inadvertently black flagged in race one when officials thought his bonnet was coming loose. Although they apologised for the error Duncan had to start the second race from 28th so did well to climb to 12th. Martin Johnston was the first lapped runner, enjoying a good tussle with Andy Thompson. Andy had pulled out of the first race when he found the conditions too bad. Peter Taylor chewed his wets up but still finished 15th, from a rapidly closing Mike Edgell. Mike had a bit of a scare when Rod lapped him coming on to Brabham straight. Mike had expected Rod to go the other side, but no contact was made. Ray Adams and Alex Ribbens fought over the next position, with Paul Dickinson joining them in the latter stages. Eric Falce was not very confident in his Fiesta, but still bagged third in class E. Likewise Paul Goddard slipped back and was passed by Peter Wilkinson as the race wore on. Peter had been caught up in a first lap melee, which involved Andy Pipe, Phil Usher and Steve Weatherley. Steve suffered the most damage and retired immediately, which was a great shame after all the hard work put in by his father Sam during the winter.
So an interesting start to the year which sees James Lindridge heading the points table from Bill Richards. Brent and Birley are joint third, whilst Steve Dann surprisingly heads class B from the Seat hordes and Rick Mayís rapid Cosworth Sierra.
The Dunlop Motorsport News Championship moves to Snetterton for Round Two in five weeks for another two day meeting as part of the Dunlop Great and British package.