Thursday, 16 October 2014

Number 15 - Pembrey

So this was it - the 15th and last circuit to visit - just a week after Anglesey it was back to Wales - the South this time and to Pembrey - and what a contrast - although Croft possibly runs it close (and maybe Snetterton), Pembrey must be the flattest circuit in the UK, quite a contrast to the rolling hills of Anglesey or Cadwell Park.

It was the 2-day Autumn Truckfest meeting and I was there for the second day which was 13 races starting at 1015. So another early start (from Wiltshire this time) and I mistimed my journey slightly, not realising how long it would take to get to the circuit from the M4, and having not made allowances for 30mph speed cameras and dreadfully slow horseboxes. As a consequence I missed the first race of the day for the Class A BMWs but as there were only 7 starters that was no big deal even if the race was won by new Champion Tom Wrigley by just 0.924secs over Colin Wells.

Which reminds that I forgot to include the following picture from Croft where in the BMW race Wells has just nudged Wrigley into a spin and out of the lead.

Sticking with the BMWs there was a race later in the day for the other classes which mustered just 6 starters, 5 finished and only 2 finished on the lead lap - at Croft all the classes had been combined when there were small fields and one wonders why this was not done here as it was a long programme and with trucks around recovery and a barrier repair can take much longer to put right.

The Mazda MX5 is a very popular racing car these days but it all gets very confusing when you look at the different Championships which must lead to a dilution in the numbers that appear for each one - there is the BARC MaX5 Racing Championship, BRSCC Mazda MX5 Championship, the BRSCC Mazda MX5 SuperCup and the 750MC also run a seried - have I missed any??

There were 9 cars on the grid at Pembrey for the BARC MaX5 race which was won by Jonathan Cryer by just over a second from Paul Roddison while Amy Barker won the B class. Not a great deal of excitement but at least most of them finished on the same lap at the end of the 16 lap race. here a few of the entries:

Jonathan Halliwell in his Mk3

Richard Smith in his Mk1

and Paul Roddison in his Le Mans 1991 paintworked Mk3

It has been a while since I have watched Legends and I had forgotten how much fun they were - buzzing all over the place - the man to beat this year has been Dean Brace and he won all 3 races on the Sunday at Pembrey - but in different fashion -in  the first one he ran away and won by nearly 12 seconds, in the second he had to work through the pack and he stretched a 2 second gap by the end but the third was a real battle at the front with Ben Power and James Holman keeping him honest and all 3 were separated by just 0.3 secs at the end. A great result for Holman as his engine had blown up in the previous race and his team had fitted a new one in less than 2 hours. Dean (below) and his father Nick both race in full Union Jack colours and make a colourful sight.

The Pickup trucks of course are the only series who race on the full oval at Rockingham Motor Speedway (correct me if I am wrong there) and they bring a flavour of NASCAR to British tracks. Either Vauxhall or Ford fronted they are speedier than you might think and produce close racing. Pete Stevens is a long term supporter of Pickups and is the same Pete Stevens as the one who drives the Vauxhall Carlton in Special Saloons as pictured earlier this year at Mallory. His white truck is fairly free of decals compared to the others but that obviously does not slow him down as he is once again the Champion.

Stevens comes from a short oval background and another ex hot-rodder (in fact the 2003 World Champion), Dave Longhurst, now races Pickups.

As with the North of England, there is a prospering saloons and sports car Championship in Wales - after a decline in numbers the organisers have reduced the number of meetings for this Championship to 4 (all double-headers) and all held at Pembrey. Once again it was great to see all manner of machines and for the sake of boring you with Minis - here are a further variety of those taking part.

Melissa Luffarelli's rear-engined 1.0 machine

Jim Lyons' 1.3 rapid turbocharged version

and Endaf Owens  1.3 spaceframe

King of this championship is Keith White in his 2.0 BMW Z4 - another ex hotrodder turned to left handers as well as right handers. A beautifully prepared machine it won the two races by 15 and 12 seconds respectively over Ben Scrivens' Ginetta G50 (both cars pictured below)

One of the rapid pedallers in this Championship is Keith Butcher in his Nissan Primera Supertouring, the ex-Aiello BTCC car but he had a difficult day at Pembrey.

In the first race he went into the barrier at Hatchet's Hairpin on the first lap and in the paddock after there was the evidence to show what he had had to do to make it raceable again:

and then on the first lap of Race 2 at Hatchets this happened!!

Coming from the back of the field he had to anchor up to avoid ramming Melissa Luffarelli who had had to brake hard to avoid the spinning Ken James' Loco Hornet. By the time I took this photo the culprit had restarted and run away but with neither Butcher nor Luffarelli getting underway quickly the race was red-flagged. All 3 cars were able to restart, Luffarelli from the pits and Butcher at the back of the grid again in his original position. However, his day finished a lot better as a clean drive through the field found him third at the end, closing on Scrivens' Ginetta.

And then there were the trucks......but I think I will leave them to another post as this one will become a bit long. But here is a flavour of the action

It has been great doing this tour of the mainland circuits of Great Britain - I will do a seasonal review as in all the best magazines in a few weeks but in the meantime I look forward to any comments you may have - any information you want to know that I may have gleaned in my travels, any corrections or additions you think I should make.

Hope you have enjoyed reading so far.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Number 14 - Anglesey

From one scenic circuit it was off to another - and this one has the advantage of some beautiful views across the sea to the mountains of North Wales as well an interesting combination of corners and level changes. It was a fairly low key meeting with just three classes participating. The main feature race on the Sunday (as it had been on the Saturday there too) was a 3-hour event for the Fun Cup cars with support from the North-based Ford XR Challenge and also the Northern Formula Ford 1600 Championship which was also the final meeting of the 2014 National Championship.

So just 4 races to look forward to (" for the XRs) and the prospect of a finish before 3 pm which would enable me to get home in time for dinner almost. From my overnight stay in North East Wales it was a 2 minute drive to the A55 and then all the way along that dual carriageway to the turn off for the circuit just before Holyhead. 

The sun was out but there was a bit of a haze over the mountains which never really cleared but as you will see from some of the photographs they did provide a stunning backdrop to the circuit. The National version of the circuit was in use which incorporates Wales' very own Corkscrew as the cars descend from Peel Corner to the Pits straight. The following may give you some idea of the terrain - these were taken from the back of the Paddock.

Going up to Rocket Corner......

and coming back down

A field of 23 Fun Cup cars took to the track after the first XR3 race and 3 hours and 125 laps later there were still 21 of them running and 8 them were on the lead lap! A number of safety car periods helped to bunch the field up periodically but at the end of the race the Team Honeywell car driven by Tim Wheeldon, Geoff Fawcett and Neil Plimmer were victorious by 12+seconds. They were consistent front-runners and had held the lead at the one hour mark and been just 0.792 secs behind the leader after 2 hours!!

Here we see them cresting the rise after Peel before plunging down into the Corkscrew, a place where you can great big-sky photos.

These cars look like great fun and with 3 or 4 or even 5 drivers they are good value for money though obviously seat time may be reduced with more drivers. One of the more colourful teams is Team OBR who run 3 cars - which I called red, black and white and you can maybe see why  from the pictures below!

The Ford XR Challenge field was not very big - just 6 Fiesta XR2s and 6 Escort XR3i but both races featured battles for the lead with the XR2s mainly being on top but Jonathan Wells holding the fort for the Escorts with a strong 3rd place in the first race which was won by the latest in the Minshaw family to go racing - Jack - his car resplendent in the family colours.

and this is the top XR3 of Jonathan Wells

And then there were the Formula Fords. The Northern Championships is split into 5 classes by age and generally have two separate races - one for pre- '90 and one for post- '89 but at Anglesey they were all together to give s field of 22 cars ranging in age from Philip Nelson's Hawke DL2B of the early 1970s to James Raven's up to the minute Ray GR13/14 - the progression over 40 years can be seen below.

This is the Hawke!!

and here is the Ray.

As a National Championship round there were additional entries to the usual Northern crowd which were headed up by a  four car team from Medina Sport for Neil, David and Tom McArthur and Martin Short (not the Mosler driver) and drivers also from France and Holland.

The great thing about regional Formula Ford is the variety of cars from the great days of FF1600 - there were chassis from Van Diemen (1985 - 2012), Reynard (1984 - 1989), Swift (1994 - 2010), Ray, Mondiale and Hawke in the field. See the variety below - how many can you name - answers at the bottom.

And don't you just love the colours of the last two!!

The race was won by the 1992 Van Diemen of Stuart Gough from Southport who defeated Raven's modern Ray by just 2.657secs followed by two of the Medina Sport Van Diemen LA10s in the hands of Tom and David McArthur.

And sure enough racing finished at 1445 and, loathe as I was to leave the beautiful surroundings, it was time to wave goodbye and look forward to the last circuit on my tour, Pembrey, at the other end of Wales just 7 days later.

What's not to like about this!

Did you identify the Formula Fords?

88 - Mondiale MS88 of Michael Beaver
48 - Ray GR10 of Vincent Jay
89 - Van Diemen RF85 of David Murphy
28 - Reynard 84FF of Jamie Jardine
97 - Swift 97 of Nigel Thompson

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Number 13 - Oulton Park

Early morning start from Scotland and a quick hack down the Motorways brought me to Oulton Park for the first time. Immediate impressions were good - another MSV circuit looking neat and tidy and my initial reaction was that there was quite a small crowd as I started spectating at Lodge, but later wanderings took me to Knickerbrook / Cascades infield area where there was a substantial crowd, and I could see why, as it gave a great view of much of that side of the circuit.

This was my second experience of the CSCC package and once again my favourite Special Saloons and Modsports were to the fore. A number of familiar faces from the Mallory Park meeting, but also a few new ones, including the man who took pole, Andy Southcott in his MG Midget, though unfortunately he did not get out for the first race.

Bob Claxton had had problems with his Skoda and so brought along his Renault 21 Turbo instead

and there were a couple of Minis that had not been at Mallory - James Guest (#54) and Anthony Hayes (#85)

The first race saw a close win for Paul Sibley's Elan by just 1.3secs from Danny Morris' Peugeot 309 but in the second race he ran away from Steven Moss' space frame Anglia to win by 10 seconds. Moss and Pete Stevens in the Vauxhall Carlton had had a thrilling battle in race 1 being just 0.054secs apart at the flag (in Moss' favour).

The Swinging Sixties 40-minute with pit stop / optional driver change race was a walkover for Stuart McPherson and Mark Halstead in their Ginetta G4 who were exactly 5 seconds a lap faster than their nearest rival, the Triumph TR6 of Christopher Edwards.

There was very wide range of cars in this race - Ginetta G4s, Triumph TRs (various), Lotus Cortinas, Jaguar Mk1 Saloon and E-type, Ford Anglia, MGB, Sunbeam Tiger, Lotus Elans, Minis etc. and it was interesting to see how the different makes models were very close on time and created some cosmopolitan duels.

Andy Yool (Ford Anglia)

Steve Pickering (Sunbeam Tiger)

One aspect of the CSCC formulae which makes for interesting races and stops one car being too dominant is the application of a 30second success penalty if you win a race - and this applies for the rest of the season - and is cumulative - so win 2 races and the penalty goes to 60 seconds. This spreads the victory laurels around though this was the second consecutive victory by the Halstead / McPherson Ginetta - it might be harder for them in the next race to win again though.

A similar success penalty applied to the previous winners in the Future Classics category - another great variety of saloons and sports cars, including some two car teams. Funnily enough for one of those teams the second car broke down early on in its stint and the driver ran back to the pits and got into the first car that had been out already. Unfortunately in this race an engine blow-up led to oil on the track and a damaging off for Nicholas Olson's Esprit.
The race was restarted over 5 laps and resulted in a win for Darren Smith in his TVR Tuscan Challenge car seen below.

Another very varied field as can be seen from the selection of cars below

Alex Livesley (Jensen Healey)

Mark Lucock (Ford Escort RS2000)

Jack Brownlie and Nick Reynolds (Rover 216 GTi)

Phil Seaman and Geoff Beale (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus)

Paul Connell (Ford Sierra Cosworth Turbo)

John Broadley and Jon Jeffery (Porsche 924)

There was also a "Classic K" race which is for pre1966 GT and Touring cars running to the FIA Appendix K regulations and this was dominated by Lotus Elans though early leader, the Halstead / McPherson example failed to finish and victory instead went to Tom Andrew in his 26R variant.

The final races were the only one make (but not one model) ones of the weekend for Classic Ferraris, principally 308GTBs and 328 GTBs, both won by David Tomlin but only after a penalty for James Cartwright in the first race and a late spin for Gary Culver in the second.

I enjoyed Oulton Park very much - great looking circuit, some great viewing spots and good commentary. I even managed to avoid having to eat a circuit cheeseburger which has been my staple diet all season it seems!! It is a long circuit and not all of it is open to spectators but it is quite compact and as I said earlier a lot can be seen from one or two spots right in the middle with not much distance to travel to get another good viewing point. I would certainly go back again but the limited number of Sunday meetings is a bit of a restriction, as is the distance from home, but with friends close by who gave me a bed this time, it is within the bounds of reason that I will return - I would certainly like to do the Gold Cup meeting.

From Oulton the next stop was Anglesey and the delights of the Fun Cup, Formula Ford and Ford XRs. But that is the next posting!!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Number 12 - Croft

From the rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds and the many changes of level at Cadwell Park it was off the flat expanses of Croft the next day for a meeting headlined by the Formula Renault Championship. Also in support were the Michelin Renault Clios, BMWs, Mini 7s and Mini Miglias, the Junior Saloons and the local Northern Sports and Saloon Car Championships.

The main issue of the day was the small number of entrants in many of the classes. Even the Formula Renault Championships could only muster 9 starters while the BMWs were combined into one race when there were only 5 Class A cars and 9 from the other 3 classes. Even the two Mini classes were struggling with just 10 Mini 7s and 9 Miglias.

And so I come back to my old hobby horse - combining all sorts of different cars, in the way that the Northern Sports and Saloons Cars Championship does, gives bigger fields and more variety for the spectator. Their first races of the weekend on the Saturday (before I got there) were for different classes (A and E in one and B, C, D and H in the other) but on the Sunday we had a combined field of 28 cars - there were dices going on through the field (though there was an easy winner) and something for nearly everyone to support. Here are a few of the entrants in this Championship.

Jeff Wilson's "Lotus Elise" was a dominant winner (overall and Class A1) finishing 51 seconds ahead after 12 laps but it is a beautifully prepared car and follows his previous creations such as the VW Beetle which is still around and appearing at occasional Special Saloon rounds.

He was chased initially by Nigel Moore's Ginetta G50 until its engine expired.

Class A2 contained just 2 starters and was easily won by David Brewis's amazing Suzuki SC100 Super Saloon, who pulled off immediately after the flag from 6th place overall.

One of the best battles was between the two leading cars in Class B - Michael Cutt's BMW M3 and Andrew Morrison's Seat Leon Cupra, the former eventually beating the latter by just 0.362secs and also winning the Championships by so doing. There are plenty of BMW pictures elsewhere so here is one of the immaculate Seat.

Class C was won by David Cox's Peugeot 306 and Class D by Paul Moss's Citroen Saxo. Class E (for Caterham type cars) was poorly supported but E1 was won by Neil Finnigan's Caterham and E2 (for the smaller engined cars) by Alan McPherson's MK Indy - both winners pictured below.

Finally Class H was won by the 1.4 Austin Mini of Clinton Ewen - another variation on the Mini theme.

Two other cars stood out for me - Colin Simpson has been driving his Marcos Mantis for the last 14 years - and I can remember the days when he was driving a turbocharged Escort Mk 1 around Ingliston, while Ian Blacklin turned up in a gorgeous Mark 1 Capri when his Fiesta was not available!

The Mini Miglias were the highlight race of the day with 7 cars fighting in a leading group for the whole race - here you can see all 7 of them as the race approached the closing stages.

The Formula Renault Championship has never excited me over the many years I have been watching them - probably because I have rarely seen an overtaking manouevre in their races. This time two of them contrived to clash on the first lap and reduce the field to 7 for the restarted race but sterling work by the respective teams got the two damaged cars out for the second race where the most excitement was caused by the Cliff Dempsey Racing team mates running side by side into the first corner from which they both emerged intact!

A fairly small crowd at Croft meant that good viewing was easily obtained on the bank at the first part of the Complex with views of more than half of the circuit in between the trees. I can imagine that on other days, for example when the BTCC visit, that many of the views are blocked by the crowds but I enjoyed what was just my second visit to this Northern outpost of English motor racing. From here it was on to Scotland for a few days before returning South to the first of the three circuits which were new to me - Oulton Park, with Anglesey and Pembrey to follow.