After a frantic double header meeting last time out the resident Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship opened the now annual MSVR meeting in last weekend. A wet qualifying session was not enough to displace the usual order however, as series frontrunner Tony Hutchings claimed pole in his faithful Audi TT. Young upstart Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird was second in his Renault Megane, with an unlikely third for Kieren Simmons with Russell Akers fourth.
Although the sun was now shining by the time they took to the track at 11.30 the track was still damp, although this didn’t deter the front row men as they made the best starts to open an early lead from the rest of the pack.
Both Hutchings and Bird were able to hold their gap at around 2-3 seconds until the Safety Car was deployed on lap 3, because of an accident at the Esses. After several laps under the Safety Car the red flags were unfortunately flying, as it appeared the barriers needed to be repaired after the accident.
After a 10-20 minute delay the grid reformed for the re-start, with a similar result to the first start as the two front row men resumed their battle from the first start. Unfortunately their battle didn’t last long as the red flags were flying again on the second lap of the re-start. This time it seemed it was for good as the cars trickled back into the pit lane, although plans were soon hatched to fit the race onto the end of the programme from the day.
After an unusually fraught days racing the Saloons were finally able to take up their place on the grid with the prospect of a 10 minute dash for victory. From the start Hutchings made the best start whilst Hyde-Andrews-Bird fell back slightly, although they were both breaking away from the rest by lap 2. Behind them was an entertaining scrap for 4th with John Barnard passing Hyde-Andrews-Bird’s father Kevin on the inside at Quarry on lap 4, with Russell Akers right behind them too.
Lap 5 saw Hyde-Andrews-Bird challenging Hutchings for the lead, although both of them would be soon fighting off the attentions of an inspired Julian Ellison, who set a string of Fastest laps to close on the leading duo, before swiftly dispatching Hyde-Andrews-Bird at the Esses on lap 6.
Just as he was set to pass Hutchings for the lead the chequered flag flew as the circuit reached it’s curfew point, with a relieved Hutchings claiming the win from a surely frustrated Ellison who was so close to a first win in a long time. Hyde-Andrews-Bird completed the podium in 3rd, with John Barnard, Russell Akers and Kevin Bird completing the top 6.
Despite the long wait and two red flags the re-start was worth the wait as the lead battle was riveting throughout with a deserving winner in Hutchings although he was challenged by Hyde-Andrews-Bird and Ellison for the victory.