After a superb opening start to the 2014 Castle Combe season on Ester Monday, after what felt like no time at all the second Bank Holiday signalled another race meeting at Combe. The onus centred around the circuit’s local championships which were ably boosted by two races each for the visiting Nippon Challenge and Toyota MR2 series.
After a slight timetable change it was the Nippon Challenge that got us underway with their opening race of the day. On Pole position was the beastly 5 litre Toyota GT86 of Nick Holden with Adam Lockwood’s Nissan 200sx alongside. Both front row men made rapid getaway’s with Lockwood edging into the lead going into Quarry corner. From here things descended for Holden who went off on the first lap before re-joining well behind the rest of the pack in last.With Holden well down this set Lockwood free to open a commanding lead on the opening lap from the double Rockingham winner James Janicki, up from 4th on the grid.
As the first two were pulling away the excitement was provided by a battle for 3rd which saw Curtis Mitchell dive inside Ian Collins to claim the place going into Camp corner on lap 3. By lap 6 Lockwood had stretched his lead to 13 seconds, therefore attention turned to the remarkable drive from Simon James in his Citroen Saxo VTS, as he marched through the field from his lowly 31st starting position to stunningly pass both Collins and Mitchell for 4th and 3rd respectively on lap 10. For Lockwood however things were comfortable with his only issue being a driving standards warning flag on lap 11 as he cruised to a 24 second victory, his first of the year, from Janicki in 2nd with the amazing James completing the podium.
Next up was a fan favourite in the local Castle Combe Sports & GT Championship. Returning circuit favourite Simon Norris took pole in his monstrous Mitsubishi Evo 9 RS with the returning Chris Milner alongside in his Caterham CSR. Predictably off the line both cars made rocket getaway’s to streak ahead yet the early battle for the lead was contested by Keith Dunn, up from 4th on the grid, and Norris. After swapping places multiple times in the early laps Norris finally wrested the lead from Dunn on the pit straight to start lap 5, quickly opening a 3-4 second gap to ensure his lead was comfortable.
Behind them Milner finally passed the Mitsubishi of round 1 winner Barry Squibb for 3rd on lap 4. Things soon got worse for Squibb as his car developed a problem, allowing Tim Woodman and Ilsa Cox to take a slowing Squibb on Dean Straight on lap 7 for 4th and 5th respectively. This became the focal point for attention as a battle for 4th developed between the nimble Caterham 7 of Woodman and the more powerful Seat Leon Cupra of Ilsa Cox. Cox stole the 4th place from Woodman on lap 8 yet Woodman struck back to finally claim the place going into Quarry on lap 13. Up front the gap remained around 3.5 seconds until Norris came through for his first win of 2014 from Dunn in 2nd with Milner coming home an impressive third in his first race for 5 years.
The third race of the day was the opening Toyota MR2 race, in what is a highly supported series. Clutch troubles prevented pole man Aaron Pullan from starting the first race which left Paul Corbridge all alone on the front row. At the lights Corbridge made a good start but was almost mugged by the fast starting Nathan Harrison who rocketed up from 5th to 2nd in the drag up to Quarry corner. It was clear the first two meant business as the dropped the field early with Corbridge also edging away from Harrison by lap 3.
The next issue for Harrison was a closing Jon Winter, the first of the adjacent Hyundai Coupe series cars by lap 5. The rest of the race provided little drama apart from a squabble between Nathan Wright and Eddie O’Kane for 5th place which ended in tears for Wright as they collided at Quarry sending him into the barriers. All of this had little effect on Corbridge who eased to victory from Harrison in 2nd and a closing Winter in 3rd.
Next up was the highly anticipated Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship. After a fraught opening round a no less fraught race was expected this time around. Similarly to last time Ash Crossey took pole with Kevin Mills stable mate Nathan Ward alongside him on the front row. Crossey made a good getaway from pole as team mate Ward fluffed his start as he was swamped by the pack. The order was quickly changing as the recovering Luke Cooper disposed of the returning Felix Fisher for 4th into Quarry on lap 2.
The first 3 had other ideas however as Crossey, Ward and first round winner Roger Orgee made a break from the field early on. The drama was playing out behind them as 2013 champion Adam Higgins retired from 5th on lap 3. It wasn’t long before the lead three became the lead four as Cooper joined the battle. The constant lead changes were only halted when Ward made a mistake at the Esses, losing himself a lot of time and simultaneously breaking up the pack, leaving Crossey now with a 1.5 second lead over Orgee as Ward retired on Dean straight. Cooper also fell back at this time with a cooling problem leaving Crossey clear to claim his first win of 2014 from championship leader Orgee in 2nd and a slowing Cooper completing the podium.