Dunlop Motorsport News Saloon Car Championship - Round 2. April 26 / 27
Round two of the DMN championship was at a sunny and fairly warm Snetterton. This is in stark contrast to round one and indeed our last visit to Norfolk, however there was a sting in the tail.
A crack of dawn start on Saturday morning, for although this was a two day meeting, we had an early qualifying session and the paddock was likely to be very full as this was a “Dunlop Great and British meeting”. The good folks at MSO were arranging the paddock parking and we pitched up on a nice piece of tarmac, next to Peter Clarke who pilots the bright yellow Lancia. Scrutineering was carried out in situ, which always helps and saves the aggro of queuing up. Then it was down to the serious business of qualifying. Rod was wary of the two Nissans, which were rumoured to be running about 800 bhp each. To his and our surprise, he annexed pole position by a whopping 4 seconds. This would inevitably mean the “more ballast” mob would soon be chanting again. However, the scrutineers decided to have a “weigh in” and all the cars and drivers trundled across the weighbridge. This proved very interesting and threw up a lot of surprises, not least of which showed our car to be quite portly. Admittedly not as heavy as the Nissans, but certainly not the lightest in class A (by 318 kilos).
The full list of practice times appears on the results page, but a few notable performances. Firstly, Ron Kiddell (having his first proper race) put his Nissan on the outside of the front row. Trevor Collar, in the ex-Dave Thomas Thundersaloon Sapphire headed row two from Darren Bly’s freshly repainted Nissan. Rick May headed the class B runners on the inside of row three with Alex Schooledge alongside in his Vauhall Vectra ex-touring car. Peter Taylor and Joss Ronchetti (Talbot Sunbeam) occupied row four.
Our first race took place on Saturday afternoon, and with the planned rolling start, it was hoped that last year’s startline shunt would not be repeated. Rod timed it to perfection and headed away smartly with Trevor Collar nipping into second spot. Darren Bly was up to third as Ron Kiddell had slipped to fourth. The two Nissans powered past the Sapphire on lap two and Bly seemed to be matching Rod’s pace. Clearly there had been a degree of sand bagging in practice, but nevertheless it was good to see the prospect of a close race. The awesome twin turbo V6 engines in the Skylines sounded like jet engines with after burners on. On lap four all three front runners banged in quick laps, with Rod setting the fastest lap of the race (1 minute 13.861 which equals 95.13 mph) and a new lap record.
Trevor Collar was falling back in fourth and gradually Ronchetti hauled him in with the raucous sounding Sunbeam. On lap seven Joss found a way by, only for Trevor to have a spin on the following lap. May and Bahr were charging along very close together and managed to miss the gyrating Sapphire.
There battle edged them closer to Ronchetti, and by the final lap all three were together. At the chequered flag the black Sunbeam just got the verdict, but it was mighty close. Schooledge was not far behind until he disappeared on the final lap. Collar recovered to seventh, followed by Dickinson in his Seat just holding off Ray Barrow. Nick Hayes was the first lapped runner in his wingless Seat, claiming fourth in class B, whilst he was chased home by class C victor James Lindridge in his Vauxhall Astra. Richard Brent claimed class D honours from Richardson’s Vauxhall Nova (going better on new tyres). Bill Richards had a race long battle with Gerald Dale over class E honours, with the blue Mini clubman just edging out Dale’s black version by 0.218 of a second. Gerald received the Quaife driver of the race award. Incidentally the first three finished in the order Birley, Bly (four seconds adrift) then Kiddell.
Race two was on Sunday morning just before midday. The rain which was forecast seemed to be holding off, so everyone started on slicks, although Peter Clarke had to do a last minute tyre swap and joined in from the pit lane. Darren ran alongside Rod to the first corner but Rod held his line and just emerged in front. A blistering first lap saw the black Escort WRC round Coram with a clear two second gap back to the first Nissan. Yet again the first three cars sounded awesome as the flashed by the pit wall. On lap 4 Rod again lowered the lap record, this time to 1 minute 13.686 (95.36 mph), over 0.8 of a second better than last year.
The class B boys were having their own battle for fourth overall. For four laps Ronchetti held off the two turbo cars until both managed to power past together on lap 5. On lap six Kiddell past Bly, as Darren’s Nissan seemed to falter. Meanwhile Collar powered up to seventh, bringing Barrow along in tow.
On lap 8 the whole complexion changed as drops of rain began to fall on parts of the circuit. A rain cloud began to drop its contents just as Alex Ribbens had a big blow up going into Riches corner. The combination of oil and water dramatically slowed the pace, although strangely Rod seemed to revel in the slippery conditions chucking the car around in four wheel drifts and slides (show off!!). Collar had a time consuming spin, Bly had a big moment along with several others, although somehow everyone kept going. The end result was another win for Rod, followed home by Kiddell, Bly and May. Ronchetti past a circumspect Bahr, who had the consolation of lopping three seconds off his previous class B lap record. Barrow, Dickinson, Schooledge and Nick Hayes completed the top ten. Alex taking the Quaife award for his drive from the back of the grid. Collar just held off Dann, whose Golf had fading power due to a loosening turbo.
Brent again triumphed in class D, whilst Lindridge only just held off a charging Lee McNair. James had turned the ignition off accidentally when he went to turn his wipers on. Dale reversed the tables on Richards for class E honours. Ken Welch took the best prepared car award with his pretty Mini. Ray Barrow received an additional award courtesy of the local Ford RS owners.