Castle Combe

Fletcher and Gent Share Racing Thunder Victories

The opening race of the Bank Holiday Monday MotorsTV live race day meeting was for the Hammerite Racing Thunder Championship, with the VTEC Direct Pre-2003 championship and CBT Business Travel VW Challenge also joining them on this grid for the two races at Castle Combe.

The cars glistened in the spring sunshine as they rolled out onto the grid for their 15 minute race, the first of two races before the lunch break in an unusual move here at Castle Combe. After a slightly damp qualifying it was circuit favorite and long term Combe racer Ilsa Cox who lined up on pole for the rolling start, her ex-Seat Leon cup car ahead of Vaughan Fletcher in second with his Subaru Impreza. Darren Bly and his monstrous Nissan Skyline lined up alongside Bradley Gelman in his rare Ford Sierra Cosworth to complete row two.

There was little drama at the rolling start, although after a bad start it was Darren Bly who was the man on the move in the early laps. He first passed the beast that is Andy Robinson’s ex-Craig Lowndes Ford Falcon V8 Supercar for 4th on lap 2, before passing Bradley Gelman for third and then finally Vaughan Fletcher for second going up Avon Rise into Quarry on lap 3. Whilst Bly was charging through the field, Ilsa Cox was building a comfortable lead out front, stretching it close to five seconds by the end of lap 3.

Now with a clear track in front, Bly was able to fully utilize the reported 800bhp in his Skyline to rapidly close on Ilsa Cox for the lead. He began looking for a way through on lap 4, although at the Bobbies chicane his over cooked things and lost several seconds as he got all crossed up putting the immense amount of power onto the road, especially as his Skyline was converted to 2wd spec not the standard 4wd.

Behind the front two it was Dale Gent who was now moving up, as he took his Subaru Impreza from 6th on the grid past Vaughan Fletcher for 3rd on lap 5, although he subsequently ruined his hard work a lap later with a very bizarre spin going up Avon Rise, dropping back to his starting position in 6th. After several laps of harrying Cox for the lead, Bly once again got all crossed up putting the power down at Bobbies on lap 8, although this time he couldn’t hold it as he spun off and into the barriers on the outside of the track. The spin would prove too much as Bly was forced to retire on the spot from 2nd.

This seemingly left Ilsa Cox with a comfortable run to the flag, although her lap times were slowing as she looked to be nursing a problem. Behind her, after challenging Gelman for several laps Dale Gent finally found a way past on the inside at Folly to claim 4th place in his recovery drive. At the end of the penultimate lap it became clear Cox was slowing dramatically, as she was forced into retirement halfway up Avon Rise on the final lap. It was a cruel twist of fate for the local favorite, who looked comfortable out front until her car issues, which were later revealed to be chronic engine overheating issues.

With Ilsa Cox forced into retirement this left Vaughan Fletcher to cruise round the final lap to claim a comfortable if fortuitous victory from Andy Robinson in his Falcon V8 Supercar, with Dale Gent completing the podium after his recovery drive. Ian Froggatt was 4th in another Subaru Impreza, whilst Bradley Gelman came home 5th, before Steven Woods completed the top six in his VW Golf Mk4, also claiming the VW Challenge class honors also.

Conditions had changed somewhat for the second of the Classic Thunder races, with grey skies now engulfing the circuit as they headed out once again halfway through this congested MotorsTV meeting.The grid for the second race was determined by the finishing order of the opening race, meaning Vaughan Fletcher was on pole after his earlier win, whilst Andy Robinson shared the front row with him for the rolling start.

At the start it was Robinson who made the best getaway to lead, although at this early stages it was Dale Gent who was demanding all the spectators attention as he began challenging Fletcher for 2nd. At Camp at the end of lap 2 he pulled off a brilliant around the outside move, something that would have looked great on the TV camera’s. Gent immediately disposed of Fletcher and set off after Robinson, soon passing him and taking the lead on lap 4.

Robinson fell back from the clutches of Gent as he established a comfortable lead at the front. Gent was looking in inspired form in this race after his podium in the first race, as he left Robinson and Fletcher evenly spaced behind as he looked supremely comfortable for the entire race. Vaughan Fletcher had looked slightly slower in this second race, and on lap 8 he was forced into retirement, leaving Ian Froggatt in another Subaru Impreza to claim the final podium spot in 3rd.

From here on out it was status quo at the front as Dale Gent completed the final few laps to claim a comfortable victory in his Impreza, with Andy Robinson and Ian Froggatt an equally comfortable 2nd and 3rd respectively. Bradley Gelman finished 4th, with Steven Woods again winning the VW Challenge class as he came home 5th. Some final lap fun was provided by the 6th place finisher Andy Thompson, who spun on oil exiting the final corner, before deciding he had enough of an advantage that he could reverse across the line to complete the top six.

Both of the Hammerite Racing Thunder Championship provided good, quality racing as the eclectic field kept both the spectators and TV audience entertained throughout both 15 minute races. Whilst there was some misfortune for the likes of Ilsa Cox and Darren Bly, the series showed it’s quality and we all surely hope the BARC will bring the series back to Castle Combe next year.

For more information on this great series please feel free to visit their website below.
http://classictouringcars.com/champ_thunder.html

Hutchings fights off Prebble for Saloons victory

Another of the circuit’s championships is the highly popular Castle Combe Saloon Car championship, which this year celebrates it’s 20th birthday. The series has proved popular since it’s inception and this year is no different, with both the size and quality of the grid improving on last year.

One of the front runners from last year, Tony Hutchings, claimed pole position in his very fast Audi TT, with Dave Scaramanga surprising the paddock by claiming 2nd on the grid. Angus Gorringe was another who surprised with the pack with his Nissan 200SX in 3rd, whilst the circuit’s most successful driver Gary Prebble lined up 4th, as he made the switch from the Sports @ GT championship in his Mitsubishi Evo to the Saloons, after buying the Rob Ballard Seat Leon he borrowed last year to compete a one-off race in the championship.

At the start it was one of last year’s front runners Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird who made the best start from 5th on the grid in his Renault Megane. At the end of the first lap it was Tony Hutchings who led, whilst Angus Gorringe and Gary Prebble lurked behind him in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Prebble soon disposed of Gorringe at Quarry on lap 2, and immediately set after Hutchings for the lead.

Prebble began challenging Hutchings on lap 3, with the closeness of their fight being explained by Prebble in the post-race interviews, as he explained how they both touched at Tower on lap 4 such was the intensity of their fight for the lead. Their fighting left the door open for Dave Scaramanga to close up on them, whilst behind the top three the rest of the top six were evenly spaced out on track. Long time saloon front runner Mark Wyatt found himself in unfamiliar territory in his trusty Vauxhall Astra in the lower reaches of the top seven, although soon set about rectifying this as he challenged John Barnard for 6th on lap 10 of 15.

Hutchings received a stroke of luck on lap 11, as traffic helped him open a lead of 1.6 seconds over Prebble, a gap that he failed to close in the remaining few laps, leaving Hutchings free to take a hard fought lights to flag win from Prebble. He later explained that from the halfway stage of the race his brakes were severely delaying him, which explains why he wasn’t able to close on Hutchings in the final laps once a gap had been established. Before the brake issue however, Prebble showed his pace as he became the first man in the saloons to lap below the 1m15’s, comfortably beating the lap record by over half a second on the newly resurfaced track. Dave Scaramanga will have been pleased to make his debut on the podium in the saloons with his pristine VW Scirocco.

Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird was a very distant 4th although will have been pleased that his reliability problems from last year held off this time around. Bill Brockbank returned to the series after several years out to claim 5th in his Seat Ibiza Cupra, whilst Mark Wyatt inherited 6th position when John Barnard stopped within sight of the flag exiting Bobbies on the final lap.

This opening race was a precursor to what’s likely to be the reality all season, with Hutchings and Prebble battling it out for victories and the title, whilst the rest will have to up their game at this stage if they are to challenge both of these men consistently across the year. This title battle shall be enthralling to watch I’m sure. For more information on this championship please visit http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/saloons/

Hoad shocks Formula Ford paddock with easy victory

The Castle Combe Formula Ford championship fired back into life this opening bank holiday Monday, with the grid improving in quality over the off-season. The championship has been a fan favorite since it’s inception in 1969, and still runs strong in 2015.

With an influx of returning star drivers it was somewhat of a surprise to almost everyone when sporadic Castle Combe Formula Ford racer Jonathan Hoad took pole position in his ex-works Duckhams 1990 Van Diemen RF90. Hoad has spent all winter preparing the car, and spent lots of time testing the car also, which helps to explain his pole position. The resurfaced track was clearly to everyone’s liking as the pole was was only fractionally off the lap record, set in 2008.

Roger Orgee came come to winning the title last year, and started this year from 2nd on the grid, whilst the returning Felix Fisher and Nathan Ward completed row two.At the start it was the returning and seriously fast Josh Fisher that made the best start, rocketing up from 5th on the grid to challenge for the lead going into Quarry on the opening lap.

By lap 2 it appeared all the off-season work was paying off for Hoad as he quickly built up a lead of several seconds over the chasing pack behind, with a five car train behind him fighting over 3rd position in the early laps. Lap 5 saw the fight for 3rd splinter into two separate fights, with Fisher, Ward and Orgee fighting over 2nd, whilst ex-champion Ed Moore, reigning double champion Adam Higgins and Luke Cooper fought over 5th position.

A lap later and the breakthrough was made in the fight for 2nd, with Nathan Ward passing Fisher, who dropped to fourth a lap later after being passed by Orgee. At this halfway stage of the race Hoad was comfortable out front, with a lead of 2.9 seconds over the rest, who were squabbling for positions themselves. The two separate battle for 2nd and now 6th were still going on, with Higgins managing to bridge the gap and join the battle for 2nd.

Sadly for Higgins, just as he joined the battle for 2nd, Orgee distanced himself from the bunch as he solidified himself in 2nd place, which in turn splintered the battle for 2nd into smaller battles for the lower placings in the top six. Into the final lap and Jonathan Hoad cruised home to a dominant lights to flag win in the opening round of the 2015 Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship, 3.3 seconds clear of Roger Orgee in 2nd. Nathan Ward completed the podium whilst Josh Fisher was lucky to survive late race contact with a back marker on Dean Straight on the final lap, as he could have easily lost a wheel after touching another car. He survived however and came home 4th,although Fisher can at least take solace from the fact he broke the long standing Class C lap record by a huge margin, beating the time set by former front runner Matt Rivett, set remarkably in September 2001. Adam Higgins and Felix Fisher will be slightly disappointed with 5th and 6th places respectively.

This opening round was a dominant masterclass from Jonathan Hoad, although with both Josh and Felix Fisher promising to return for more of the championship this season, alongside Adam Higgins, Nathan Ward and Roger Orgee who will look to knock him off his perch this season, Hoad will have his work cut out to remain on top as the season progresses. It shall be very interesting to watch how the season unfolds. For more information on this exciting championship please visit http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/

White,Davies share victories in contrasting Welsh Sports @ Saloon races

The Welsh Sports @ Saloon championship is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, something which prompted the series to celebrate this by mixing up their calendar for this year. Usually all rounds of the series are held at the Pembrey circuit in South Wales, although for this year they decided to make their first ever trip to Castle Combe for the opening round of the 2015 championship. This was great news for the circuit in attracting new championships, with the huge grid providing the almost certain potential for exciting racing in their two 15 minute affairs.

For their first encounter it was ex-National hot rods front runner Keith White who was on pole in his BMW Z4 silhouette, with the monster power of Martin Davies Ford Sierra Cosworth alongside him. Row two was made up of earlier Mini Miglia front runner Sam Summerhayes, this time out in a hot Citroen Saxo, whilst Keith Butcher completed row two in his ex-Super Touring Audi A4.

At the start it was the grunt and four wheel drive of Davies Sierra Cosworth who propelled him into an early lead, although it would prove to be short lived as White got himself up to speed after a poor start, and stole the lead from Davies going into Quarry on the second lap. By the end of that lap White had already used the nimble nature of his car to build an early lead over Davies, with the now four now distanced from each other.

At this stage the interest in the race came from the unusual Fabio Luffarelli Mini saloon, which sported boxy extra bodywork and a 988cc motorcycle engine. He rose from the back of a huge grid to be 7th by the end of lap 8, a very impressive achievement considering the size of the grid. Luffarelli completed his charge by passing Matthew Howell in a similar Mini for 6th on lap 11, although could make no further progress from there.

After 12 laps it was Keith White who came home a comfortable victor,6 seconds clear of Martin Davies in a lonely second, with Keith Butcher completing the podium in his Audi. Sam Summerhayes,local saloon car driver Dave Scaramanga and Fabio Luffarelli completed the top six in this opening encounter.

The Welsh Sports @ Saloon championship grid reformed on the grid for their second race of the day, and the finale to the meeting the early evening sun shone and the few hardcore spectators remained. Once again the front row consisted of Keith White on pole and Martin Davies in second, with Keith Butcher third and Sam Summerhayes completing row two.

At the rolling start once again Davies used his 4wd in his Sierra Cosworth to romp away into an early lead from White, although down in the pack the trouble started at the end of lap as Glynne Jones spun in his BMW 320si spun at Camp, collecting David Smitheran in his Lotus Elise S1 and local favorite Julian Howall in his Mini, Howell returning for the first time in a long while since his days of being a Castle Combe Saloon car champion in the late 1990’s.

Keith White again snatched the lead from Davies on lap 2, although would have been surprised to see Davies re-pass him for the lead a lap later, as Butcher hovered behind waiting to pounce on a mistake from either of the first two. Sadly at this stage things took a turn for the worse, as a stranded car in a dodgy position at Tower forced the race to be red flagged on lap 4.

With time quickly running out before the circuit’s curfew of 6.30pm, the grid was hastily arranged for a restart. With minutes to spare the race got back underway with Davies once again taking an early lead, something which would prove crucial as time only allowed them two racing laps before the chequered flag came out to declare Martin Davies the victor, with earlier winner Keith White 2nd and Kieth Butcher in 3rd. Local driver Dave Scaramanga was 4th, whilst Fabio Luffarelli and Sam Summerhayes completed the top six.

The Welsh Sports @ Saloon championship provided great racing in both their encounters, with the wide variety and size of the grid showing how popular the series is. Whilst the second race was a let down for everyone, there was little the circuit could do, although why they didn’t determine the winner based on an aggregate of the two races rather simply than the two lap affair at the end is strange to me. Despite this we hope the Welsh Sports @ Saloon championship will make the short trip over to Castle Combe again next year. For more information on this eclectic championship please visit http://www.wrda.co.uk/

Tilling comes through for double win

After a difficult first year for the newly created Castle Combe Sports Racing Car Series, the series began this year with a continuation of the upward momentum the series showed late last year. The entry list looked promising, with plenty of returning drivers complemented with several new faces for this year.

One face returning was circuit favorite Simon Tilling, after shaking down his very quick Ligier CN prototype at Combe last year, he returns hopefully for the full Sports Racing Car season. For the first of their two 20 minute races it was Tilling who claimed pole, with the smaller Radical PR6 of Josh Smith sharing the front row with him. Nick Jones lined up 3rd in his Radical whilst long time local driver Norman Lackford completed row two.

At the rolling start Tilling used the superior power from his two litre Honda engine to blast into the lead, whilst behind him the drama immediately started as a small collision ensued going up Avon Rise between back markers Darcy Smith and Richard Gray, leaving Gray out of the race against the barrier and Smith severely delayed. The Safety Car was swiftly deployed at the end of lap 1, although the delay only lasted two laps before the action resumed at the end of lap 3.

From the green flag it became a race between Tilling and Smith, who raced away from the pack in their own private battle for the lead. After several laps Tilling began to stretch out a slight advantage from Smith, whilst behind him the battle for 3rd was heating up, with Chris Child finally passing Lackford on lap 10 after several attempts in the previous laps, quickly building a lead of several seconds.

Both Tilling and Smith now held a huge lead over Child in 3rd, although with the gap stagnant between the top two the order remained the same until the flag after 17 laps, Tilling coming home a comfortable victory from the plucky Josh Smith in second, only two seconds back at the flag. Chris Child was a distant third, 48 seconds behind Tilling, showing the exceptional speed of the top two. Norman Lackford came home a close 4th, whilst Nick Jones and Chris Vinall completed the top six in this opening Sports Racing Car Series encounter.

Towards the end of the day the Sports Racing Car grid returned to the track, although sadly because the meeting was running late to avoid breaking the track’s curfew this race had to be reduced from 20 to 15 minutes in length. Once again it was Simon Tilling on pole, with Josh Smith alongside him on the front row for the rolling start. The second row was the same as earlier also, with Nick Jones in 3rd and Norman Lackford 4th.

Despite it being a rolling start the old bad luck of Tilling’s at starts reared it’s ugly head again, as he bogged down in his Ligier and had to watch Smith race away into an early lead. Usually by the end of the first lap Tilling would pick off Smith for the lead, however this time around Smith held firm and even opened a lead of several seconds in the first few laps, as the first two separated themselves from the rest of the grid.

The man to watch further back was Darcy Smith, a experienced local driver who was renting a very powerful Radical SR8 for the weekend, and he quickly rose from the back of the grid to 4th position by the end of lap 2. Darcy Smith continued his charge up the field by passing another local favorite in Norman Lackford for the final podium place at Camp on lap 4.

A lap later and it was all change at the front also, as after making Tilling work for it he finally found a way past Smith for the race going into Quarry. The first three were now clear from the pack, as Smith kept the pressure on Tilling for the lead over the remaining laps, he simply didn’t have the power to take advantage of the vast gains he would make in the corners.

After 13 laps the chequered flag was brought out for race winner Simon Tilling, although in truth he was forced to work a lot harder for this double win that he probably expected after qualifying a second clear of the pack. Josh Smith impressed in both races on his way to a double runner up spot, whilst father Darcy Smith made it a family affair on the podium in 3rd. Norman Lackford,Nick Jones and Chris Vinall completed the top six in the second installment of this rapidly growing Castle Combe series. For more information please visit their website here. http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/sports-racing-series/

Deeth,Astin claim close fought wins at Combe

After the heroics of the Dunlop Mini Seven challenge earlier, now it was the turn of the faster Dunlop Mini Miglia challenge to entertain the expectant crowd in their two races of the afternoon. The 300cc increase in engine power did not affect the close racing provided in both races, with the sizeable crowd enjoying all four of the Mini races at this Bank Holiday Monday Howard’s Day meeting.

Reigning champion Rupert Deeth secured pole position for the first of their two 10 lap races, with Mark Cowan alongside him in the famous ex-Peter Baldwin Mini. Kane Astin lined up 3rd with Dan Wheeler completing row two. At the start it was Deeth and Astin who made the best starts, whilst Cowan bogged down and dropped from the front row to mid pack by the time the charging pack reached Quarry.

From the off the lead battle developed with Deeth,Astin,Cowan and Aaron Smith initially fighting it out for the lead, although in the early laps the top eight were all fighting at the front, with constant jostling and changing positions amongst the pack as the looked to unseat Rupert Deeth for the lead. Going into the final laps it was Cowan who was on the move, first passing Aaron Smith for 3rd going up Avon Rise on lap 6, before passing Astin for 2nd at Bobbies later on in the lap.

Things soon got worse for Astin as he dropped another place on lap 8, losing 3rd to Sam Summerhayes, before regaining the final podium place with an audacious around the outside move at Camp on the penultimate lap. Despite facing immense pressure throughout the race, Rupert Deeth was just about able to hold everyone off to claim a narrow victory by only 0.055 thousands of a second over Mark Cowan. Kane Astin completed the podium after a hard fought race, with Sam Summerhayes coming home in 4th, Dan Wheeler and Colin Peacock completed the top six.

After the enthralling first race a similarly exciting second race was hoped for by many of the remaining spectators who stuck around until almost the end of the day to watch the second of their two Mini Miglia races. This time around the grid was slightly different with Mark Cowan on pole this time, sharing the front row with Kane Astin. Dan Wheeler lined up 3rd whilst race one winner Rupert Deeth had some work to do from 4th.

Once again at the start it was Rupert Deeth and Kane Astin who made the best getaways, whilst Mark Cowan once again fluffed his start and dropped well down the pack. Cowan was therefore looking to make up for his poor start as soon as possible, something which further hindered him as he spun off at Quarry on the opening lap, leaving him going from pole to back of the field in a quarter of a lap.

Back at the front and it was Wheeler and Astin who were challenging Deeth for the lead in the early laps, as a six car train developed behind them hoping they could unseat Deeth for top spot this time around. Their cause was helped immensely helped on lap 4 when it was announced that Deeth was being handed a 10 second penalty for a jumped start. It wasn’t something that had looked obvious at the start, although the officials clearly felt he had gained an advantage by jumping the start.

With Deeth’s chances of winning now looking impossible, Dan Wheeler now became the theoretical leader, despite Deeth slipstreaming past him for the actual lead on lap 7, as it now looked like the order would remain this way until the flag. Going into the final lap it was all change however, as Kane Astin stole the lead from Deeth going into Quarry, taking a lead he would keep until the chequered flag, with Dan Wheeler coming home a close second, whilst Sam Summerhayes completed the podium in 3rd. Mark Cowan provided a masterful recovery drive from his first lap errors to claim 4th, with David Drew and Phil Dale completing the top six.

Both races were a masterclass in how close, exciting racing from the always spectacular Mini Seven and Miglia grids, once again entertaining the spectators during the afternoon, with everyone I’m sure hoping the Mini series can return to Combe next year. For more information on this exciting series please visit their website here. http://www.mini7.co.uk/

Bull outlasts rest to claim opening Sports @ GT win

Next up on track was the first of the local circuit championships, the Castle Combe Sports @ GT championship, beginning it’s second season since being split in two with the Castle Combe Sports Racing Car Series. The series is still well supported however and a wide variety of machinery took to the grid for their 15 lap opening stanza of their season.

Ian Hall sat on pole position with his impressive and very throaty Darrian Wildcat and his 6 litre Rover V8 engine, the highly sophisticated Mitsubishi Evo 9 alongside him. Perry Waddams in his impressive TVR Tuscan Challenge car sat in 3rd whilst Oliver Bull completed row two in his sleek Vauxhall Tigra Silhouette national hot rods spec car.

Off the line unsurprisingly it was the 4 wheel drive of Barry Squibb’s Evo which rocketed into an early lead off the line, although his lead would prove to be short lived as he was forced to slowly return to the pits by the end of lap 1, the myriad of reliability issues which slowed this car last year rearing their ugly head once again. This put Ian Hall into the lead, closely followed by Perry Waddams, both well clear of the pack in the early laps.

In the early laps the main battle was for 4th position between Michael Timberlake in his BMW M3, old circuit favorite Ilsa Cox in her Seat Leon Cupra car and Bull in his Vauxhall Tigra. Timberlake provided a good defense, although it was breached by Cox on lap 4 as she took 4th at Bobbies.

At the front the lead pairing had been slowly closing together in the opening laps, with Waddams finally passing Hall for the lead at Quarry on lap 5, whilst later on in the lap Bull quickly dispatched with Cox and Timberlake,cementing himself in 4th. A lap later and Ian Hall’s progressively sicker sounding Darrian pulled into the pits with a possible misfire, leaving Waddams comfortably clear of the rest of the pack.

Waddams now led comfortably from Dylan Popovic in the unusual Avatar racer, who at this stage of the race was more concerned with the progressively closing Oliver Bull behind him. After edging up to the back of Popovic, Bull made a move stick for 2nd at the Esses on lap 12, now setting his sights on the troubled Waddams out front.

The drama was kept up until the final lap, with Waddams slowing at Tower, leaving Oliver Bull free to claim the lead on the penultimate lap, clear now to claim a shock victory in the opening round of the resident Sports @ GT championship. Waddams slowed dramatically half way round the final lap, which Dylan Popovic felt contributed possibly to his last lap spin at the Esses, ripping off the venturi tunnels at the back of his Avatar.

After the late laps it was surprise that Bull was eventually able to comfortably win by 22 seconds from the recovering Popovic, with a delighted Ilsa Cox able to complete the podium. Michael Timberlake came home 4th, with Kevin Mears and Paul Arber completing the top six, a lap down on victor Bull.

For more information on this series please visit their website here. http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/gt/