Castle Combe Howard’s Day Meeting report part 1

With the late arrival of Easter this year the new 2014 Castle Combe car racing season finally got underway this Easter Monday with a packed programme full of British manufactures in memory of previous circuit saviour and long time owner Howard Strawford, who tragically passed away before the start of the 2013 season.

The decent sunny weather helped draw in the crowds for the first meeting which began with an old favourite, the Dunlop Mini 7 championship. These original Mini’s always produce top quality racing and the first of their two 10 lap races was eagerly anticipated. Pole man Gareth Hunt slightly jumped the start which allowed second man Andrew Deviny to claim the lead off the line.

At the end of the first lap Hunt slowed suddenly and retired soon after with what appeared to be a transmission or gearbox issue. After this Deviny was able to just about hold off the challenges from behind to claim the victory, from Ashley Davies in 2nd and Graeme Davis in 3rd, both close behind at the finish. Ross Billison was 4th from S class winner Ian Deviny in 5th and it was Keiran McDonald that rounded out the top 6.

Next up was the first of two 15 minute Lancaster Insurance MGOC races, with the swarm of MG ZR’s expected to dominate the race. Ben Palmer claimed pole from Lee Sullivan, both in ZR’s, with both making good starts yet it was Palmer who had the ideal line for the first kink at Folly and therefore took an early lead. Initially Palmer and Sullivan were squabbling for the lead before Sullivan began to slip away as he began to be challenged for 2nd by Andrew Rogerson on lap 2.

Rogerson finally made his way past into 2nd on lap 4 but by this point Palmer had already opened a comfortable lead. Behind the lead three the excitement of the race was the battle developing on lap 6between Gary Smith, Fergus Campbell and Vince Pain for 4th. The battle wasn’t slowing them up however as the sucked 3rd man Sullivan into their battle by lap 8, the same lap Pain took Campbell for 5th on the inside going into Quarry. Pain was the man on the move as twice on the final lap he made up places by taking Smith for 4th at Folly and then going inside Sullivan into the Esses for 3rd in a masterful race for him. In front however Ben Palmer cruised home to a comfortable lights to flag victory from Andrew Rogerson in 2nd and Vince Pain in 3rd. Lee Sullivan was 4th, Gary Smith was 5th and finally Fergus Campbell rounded out the top 6.

Something new for 2014 at Castle Combe is a new six round Sports Racing Car Series, a new series aimed at giving both the sports prototypes and GT cars from the Sports and GT championship fair races and chances to compete with similar levels of competition. As with most new championships the first race saw a small grid for the 20 minute race. After Alan Hamilton pulled off on the formation lap it was sadly only left to 5 cars to start the race. Pole man Norman Lackford made the best start from the rolling grid as 2nd man Andy Crockett initially struggled. Crockett soon made up for it however as when the Safety Car came out to retrieve Hamilton’s car at the end of lap 1 it was Crockett who led.

The Safety Car went in after only 1 lap on lap 2 at which point Crockett and Lackford resumed their battle. Lackford finally took the lead on the inside at Tower on lap 5 however the gap between the two ebbed and flowed as Lackford was unable to shake Crockett completely. Behind them Robert Gillman passed a slowing Neil Harris for 3rd on the start/finish straight on lap 15. Back at the front the battle for the lead came to it’s conclusion as Crockett pushed slightly too hard going into Tower on lap 15 and spun off into retirement. This left Norman Lackford to take a comfortable victory over a lapped Robert Gillman in 2nd and Richard Gray in 3rd. This race was the perfect validation to the old racing cliché you only need two cars to make a motor race.

Next up was the first of the two 10 lap races for the more powerful Dunlop Mini Miglia championship. These original Mini’s boast 1300cc engine compared to 1000cc engines for the 7’s. There was drama before the start as pole man Aaron Smith was out before the race even started with an unspecified problem. This left Daniel Wheeler alone on the front, therefore it was no surprise he made the best getaway to take an early lead as behind him Kane Astin in 3rd made a shocker of a start as he was swallowed up by the chasing pack.

It didn’t take long for the order to change as Richard Casey took 3rd from Niven Burge on the inside at Folly on lap 2. Astin soon recovered from his poor start and was swapping the lead with Wheeler several times between laps 3 and 5. Soon this changed however as David Drew moved up to 2nd on lap 6 as the 4 car train for the lead held station for a few laps. Amazingly Rupert Deeth joined the lead battle in a remarkable race for him as he made his way up from 15th to 3rd on lap 9 and then passed Drew at the Esses on the final lap to steal 2nd. Daniel Wheeler claimed the win from Rupert Deeth in 2nd and finally David Drew in 3rd.

The halfway point of the meeting was reached with the first round of the eagerly anticipated 2014 Castle Combe Formula Ford championship. Many of the contenders from 2013 returned and first blood went to Ashley Crossey who planted his Kevin Mills Spectrum on pole from team mate Nathan Ward in 2nd. Crossey came on strong during the year yet at this point it’s unclear whether he will compete in the full championship or not, therefore it appeared a crucial confidence boost if he could grab an early win. Pole man Crossey made a good start likewise 2013 champion Adam Higgins up from 5th, meanwhile Roger Orgee fluffed his start from 3rd. The first lap is usually frantic and this was no exception as Nathan Ward out braked himself at the Esses before re-joining and promptly retiring at Bobbies all on the opening lap.

Crossey had a big early lead yet behind him first Orgee then Higgins passed 2004 and 2007 champion Ed Moore for 2nd and 3rd on laps 4 and 5 respectively. Crossey was suffering with a misfire however and was soon caught and passed by Orgee on the inside at Tower on lap 6. Crossey showed his strength however as he re-took the lead at Quarry on lap 10. By this point Higgins had joined the battle and promptly took 2nd from Orgee up Avon Rise on lap 11 before repeating the trick on Crossey for the lead a lap later, with Orgee following him through into 2nd. The drama wasn’t over however as Orgee made a move inside at the Esses to steal the lead from Higgins, who then tried a last lap lunge at Camp which didn’t come off. Behind him however his brother Richard Higgins showed him how to do it by completing his Camp lunge at Crossey to steal 3rd on the last lap.

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