Dunlop Motorsport News Saloon Car Championship Round 9 - Lydden October 6th
A pleasantly warm day greeted everyone for the BARC south east centreís final meeting of the year at Lydden. Yet again there were enough entries for the DMN to have split grids, although a number of none starters soon reduced to just 24 runners. The first race for classes A and B saw Nigel Craig make a storming getaway from row two, easily passing the front row of Rod and Andy Thompson. Nigel held onto the lead for three laps until Rod powered past going over the start line. From then on he gradually extended the lead to a useful margin, which was just over 7 seconds by the time the chequered flag fell. The battle for second hotted up when John Cross, who had started from the back after his exhaust came adrift in practice. John quickly moved up to third but took a few laps to usurp Nigel from the runner up spot.
As the race wore on Nigel came under increasing pressure from Andy Thompson who was having one of his better races at Lydden. For some reason his Seat seems to struggle on the small circuits, but this time he managed a class win and fourth overall. Hot on his heels was the ever improving Darren Bly, now getting to grips with the powerful Nissan Skyline. Darren won the driver of the race award for his efforts. Just 0.2 of a second behind Darren was Steve Weatherley, going well again in his Sapphire and easily holding off Rick Mayís hatchback version. Stephen Craig gave Rick a run for his money, whilst it was good to see Mike Watson back in the championship with his Ford Sierra. Nick Hayes completed the finishers with his newly acquired ex-Rob Austin Seat Leon. Nick was taking time to adapt to left hand drive.
The second big car race again saw Nigel Craig beat the front row away. This time Rod only waited until the hairpin before driving around the outside and setting off towards another win. Yet again John Cross took a few laps to pass the Subaru, but once clear he really knuckled down and threw the Mercedes about in his efforts to close up. Towards the end the gap narrowed significantly as Rod nursed what he thought might be a noisy CV joint. In the end the winning margin was only 0.78 of a second, and Cross set the fastest lap. The third place contest became quite interesting when initially Stephen Craig tried to copy his fatherís start and actually held third for a while. Unfortunately he was unable to maintain the pace and slowly fell back to an eventual sixth place, although his efforts were rewarded with the Quaife driver of the race award. Rather surprisingly Nigel also slipped back as well. Bly got into the groove well with his Nissan and charged up to third overall, which is his best result so far with this car.
Steve Weatherley managed to force his way past Andy Thompson and then Nigel Craig to take a very fine class win and fourth overall. This result means that Steve still has a shot at the class B runner up spot in the championship. Nigel Craig came home fifth just 2 seconds in front of son Stephen. Andy Thompson was right on Stephenís tail in seventh after Rick May had a spin at the elbow. Rick finished behind Nick Hayes who dramatically improved by over two seconds a lap in this race. Mike Watson retired after nine laps with an undisclosed problem.
The races for class C,D and E were as dramatic as usual. Andy Woods Dean made a poor start due to a clutch problem, whilst pole man Russell Turner lost out to Bill Richards. When Russell had a major mechanical failure at Paddock Bend, lubricating the circuit in oil, it looked as though Bill would cruise to an easy win. However, it all went wrong when the Miniís crankshaft broke. Somehow Woody appeared in the lead having gained a number of places when most of the field slid around on Russellís oil. Ashley Hargreaves drove well to take the runner up spot, along with the driver of the race award. The class E battle became a little fraught when Peter Crewes and Lee McNair had a couple of clashes, which allowed Andy Pipe to take a very good third overall. Crewes separated Andy from his usual sparring partner Alex Ribbens. Alex soon found he had Jamie Goldthorp on his back bumper after Phil Brent retired. McNair clawed his way back to 7th overall (second in class E) whilst debutant Duncan Clarke took his very pretty VW Lupo to 8th overall and also winning the best prepared car award. Andrew Gatfield chased him hard with his Vauxhall Nova followed by Tristam Barden.
Their second race saw Bill Richards join in with his tin top Mini (fitted with Gemma Morrisís slick tyres), after every driver signed the acceptance form. Bill blasted through from the rear of the grid and soon latched onto his usual two battling partners, Lee and Peter. However, disaster was to strike poor Bill again, when a tyre rubbed through against the inner wing, deflated and plunged the Mini into the Chessonís Drift tyrewall. Meanwhile Woody maintained his lead despite early pressure from Ashley. Ashley then had a time consuming spin at Chessons, moments before Billís incident. In the end Ashley came home 8th overall, but still second in class. The other two dicing Minis continued their contest all the way to the flag with Peter Crewes managing a rare double win at Lydden. The points however still show Lee in front, although all three still have a chance at the class E crown.
Similarly in class D the final round at Brands is going to decide the victor. This time Alex turned the tables on Andy, and just beat him by 1.5 seconds, although both ended up behind Phil Brent who drove very well to take class D honours after his earlier problems with his Peugeot. Goldthorp couldnít quite live with the battling Escorts, but did hold off the recovering Hargreaves. Barden drove his Mini well to defeat the larger engined Lupo and Nova. Tris deservedly winning the driver of the race award, which shows that it doesnít always go to the front runners.
At this stage we now know that Rod has won the championship overall, which is a brilliant result to retain the title in such a competitive multi class championship. Andy Thompson has secured class B and Andy Woods-Dean is the class C champion. However, classes D and E will go to the wire at the final meeting on November 3rd/4th at Brands Hatch. This will probably have our biggest crowd of the year to witness a wonderful finale.