After the opening HSCC Historic Formula Junior next up on track was the opening race of two to make up the Austin Healey invitational challenge race. After running it as a single 45 minute race last year, the Castle Combe organisers decided to switch it for this year and instead run two 20 minute races to make up an overall aggregate victor. This gave two car entries a chance to have an equal time behind the wheel and a huge grid reflected the popularity of this series. This is especially true with Austin Healey as legendary Healey driver John Chatham was a regular at the circuit and abroad in the 1960’s and was a locally based man.
Back to the day’s racing and as the grid lined up it was the soloist Bruce Montgomery who was on pole with fellow soloist David Smithies alongside him on the front row. David Grace lined up 3rd before the first of the two driver entries lined up 4th in the hands of the latest generation of Chatham racers Jack and Oliver.
From the start it was both front row men who made the best getaway’s as David Smithies edged into the lead from 2nd on the grid. In contrast to the opening Formula Junior race the first 5 were all fighting for the lead in the early portion of this 20 minute affair. The first real significant move came on lap 6 as David Grace went down the inside of pole man Bruce Montgomery for 2nd. Things very quickly got worse for Montgomery as Jaap Sinke deposed him of 3rd going up Avon Rise on the very next lap.
On lap 8 Montgomery was able to re-take 3rd from Sinke who appeared to miss a gear exiting Bobbies and lost momentum, and from here sadly the top 4 seemed to space out as Smithies opened a 1.5 second over the rest. A few laps later and Grace was able to close on Smithies for the lead, although this appeared to be largely because of traffic rather than a sudden burst of speed from him. Things were close between the top 3 over the final few laps although David Smithies always looked just about comfortable as he claimed victory in the opening leg of the Austin Healey challenge after 15 laps. Smithies winning margin was only 0.222 of a second from David Grace in 2nd and 0.4 of a second from Bruce Montgomery who completed the podium.
4th was Jaap Sinke whilst the Chris Clarkson/Ted Williams entry was 5th and the two Chatham brothers completed the top 6. The opening race provided plenty of battles and excitement from the large Austin Healey grid with the spectators eagerly anticipating the second installment of this Austin Healey invitational challenge later on in the afternoon.