Castle Combe

Thomas and Spark claim close fought victories

Next up on track was the always entertaining Dunlop Mini Seven challenge, with the first of their two races for the smaller engined 1000cc old style Mini’s. The series has been around for a long time and always provides brilliant racing, something the drivers were keen to prove to the large crowd this Easter Monday.

In the first of their ten lap races it was Darren Thomas who claimed pole from Graeme Davis, with former front runner Max Hunter returning after a year out to claim third on the grid whilst Jabez Dyer completed the top four. At the start it was relatively sedate at the front with the notable exception being fifth man Paul Spark who made a demon start to rocket into the top placings early on.

If this race didn’t already need any further spice, it was nevertheless added with the champion of the past two years Andrew Deviny, who suffered a engine issue in qualifying and would start both races from the back of the grid. He made up a ton of places on the opening lap alone, and his charge would prove entertaining spectating for all of the sizeable crowd. Back at the front, the lead battle was immediately in place with Thomas,Hunter,Spark,Davis and Gareth Hunt all fighting to the lead. Spark took the lead on lap 3 and opened a small gap to the pack, however a lap later it was Thomas to jumped from 3rd to the lead as the first three made a small break.

Thomas built up a huge lead by Mini racing standards of several seconds on lap 5, although this was swiftly wiped out when the Safety Car was deployed at the end of the lap, the cause being a broadside Mini at the Bobbies chicane. Luckily the Safety Car was only out for two laps and departed back into the pits at the end of lap 6, leaving them free to battle it out in the final laps.

Immediately Spark, Dyer and Davis passed Thomas for the lead, although he returned the favor later in the lap by snatching the lead back at Tower. The man to watch at this point was Deviny, whose charge had brought him into the lead battle, and he immediately asserted himself by passing Dyer in a sensational move around the outside into the tight Bobbies chicane for 3rd on lap 8, before snatching 2nd from Spark shortly after on the pit straight at the beginning of lap 9.

Deviny was a man on a mission, something he proved as he tried an audacious move for the lead on Thomas by going around the outside at Camp corner, something which put his nose ahead briefly on the pit straight, although Thomas had the line and dragged past him to just about retain his lead going into the final lap. It should be no surprise at this point that going into the final lap it was the first seven who formed a high speed train jockeying for the lead.

Going into the final corner at Camp, Deviny once again tried the impossible around the outside, although this time once again Darren Thomas was just about able to retain the lead and claim a hard fought victory by a scant 0.033 thousands of a second from the charging reigning champion Andrew Deviny, who lived up to that moniker in this enthralling race. Paul Spark completed the podium in 3rd, with Graeme Davis, Jabez Dyer and Max Hunter completing the top six. A testament to the brilliant close racing was proved by the fact the top seven were only covered by 1.9 seconds.

This was truly a brilliant opening Mini Seven race, once again proving this is one of the most exciting forms of low cost motorsport, in what was for me one of the best Mini races I’ve witnessed in several years spectating at Combe. If the further Mini races were anything like this the spectators would be in for a treat later on in the afternoon.

Much later on in the afternoon the Dunlop Mini Seven grid reformed for their second race of the day, with the remaining spectators very much hoping their second race matched up to the scintillating opener. Once again Darren Thomas was on pole for the 10 lap dash, with Max Hunter this time sharing the front row with him. Graeme Davis and Paul Spark completed row two.

After his opening race charge from the back, Andrew Deviny was hoping to go one better than his very close 2nd this time out. At the start he shot up from the back of the pack, indeed overtaking twelve cars by the end of the opening lap. Unfortunately for both him and the expectant crowd Deviny had his charge halted by a mechanical problem a lap later. Back at the front of the race and Thomas led, closely followed by Hunter and Spark.

A lap later it was Thomas and Spark who made a break from Hunter, leaving him and the rest several seconds in arrears, although this was unlikely to last knowing Mini racing. As in the first race the leaders gap was reduced to nothing when the Safety Car came out on lap 5 for cars stranded at Quarry, of which it front runner Graeme Davis was involved, but was able to continue at the back of the pack.

The Safety Car was only out briefly and came back in at the end of lap 6, leaving Thomas to fend off the pack. This was something that would prove fruitless as Spark passed him a lap later around the outside at the Esses. At the end of the lap a small break was out front, containing Spark, Thomas as Hunter with the rest trailing behind. Going into the penultimate lap Thomas once again re-took the lead around the outside at Quarry, only for Spark to replicate the move to him a lap later.

From here fireworks were expected from Thomas in the final half lap, although unfortunately he was left with damp fire power as his dramatically slowed exiting the Esses, dropping him from 2nd to 9th in the final standings with his engine sounding very rough as he passed me. This left Paul Spark free to claim victory by a relatively comfortable Mini racing margin 0.306 of a second from Max Hunter in 2nd, no doubt delighted with a podium in his return to Mini racing after a year out last year.

Jabez Dyer had a relatively quiet race to the final podium place in 3rd, with Gareth Hunt 4th, Kieren McDonald 5th and Steve Trench completing the top six. This race was another slip streaming masterclass from the Mini seven grid, proving once again why this series is so popular amongst club racing spectators. For more information on this brilliant racing series please visit their website here. http://www.mini7.co.uk/

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David Grace avenges earlier defeat in second leg of Austin Healey invitational

The final race of both the day and the 2014 Castle Combe motorsport season was the second part of the Austin Healey Invitational Challenge, with this second 20 minute affair set to be a close race based on the earlier race. The grid was based on the first race results which meant David Smithies lined up on pole, with David Grace alongside him on the front row. The first race seemed to have been one of attrition as both 3rd and 4th placed men from the opening race Bruce Montgomery and Jaap Sinke were sadly missing for this second race, leaving row 2 completely empty.

From the start it was David Grace who made the best getaway to take the lead, going on to open a lead of 1-2 seconds at the end of the opening lap. At the front the first six were quickly dropping the rest of the field, although Grace soon made sure he distanced himself from those behind as he built a 5 second lead by lap 4. Behind them David Smithies was unable to focus on closing down Grace for the lead as he first had to fend off the advances of the Jack Chatham entry, who had risen fast from 6th on the grid to fight for 2nd.

Sadly from here things seemed to spread out amongst the first three as Grace, Smithies and Chatham circulated alone by lap 9. From here it was Chatham who came under increasing pressure from the Martin Hunt/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards entry, with the gap between the top 6 and the rest now a staggering 30 seconds also. The final minutes were run out with no further changes in position as David Grace avenged his earlier defeat to claim the victory, from first race winner David Smithies in 2nd whilst Jack Chatham came home 3rd in the iconic Chatham Cars entry. The Martin Hunt/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards entry was 4th from Karsten Le Blanc in 5th and the Chris Clarkson/Ted Williams entry which completed the top 6.

This was a great race to finish the day and the season off with the Austin Healey providing some good race and excitement for the spectators that stayed until the end. In summary, just like the Autumn Classic every Castle Combe season seems to get better, with great support once again for the local championships and some great series who visited the circuit this year. From here the circuit seems to have some exciting plans although will have to find talented people to fill the long standing shoes of the Fawdington’s, long time circuit employees who are sadly leaving at the end of this year. I for one cannot wait for the 2015 season which should provide some exciting racing once again.

Steve Jones wins battle for 500cc F3 victory at Combe

The penultimate race of the day was an eagerly anticipated one, as it was the first 500cc F3 race to take place at Castle Combe since 1955. In period the category was a regular at Castle Combe as young racers such as Stirling Moss fought to prove themselves, although sadly the category hadn’t returned since it’s heyday in the 1950’s. Luckily the 500 Owners Association put together a well supported grid for this Autumn Classic race, with Steve Jones on pole in his Cooper, with George Shackleton alongside in his similar Cooper.

After a rolling start the 15 minute race got underway with Shackleton assuming the early lead from Jones. After the opening lap the leading pair had an advantage of 1-2 seconds over the rest of the field, suggesting this race would simply be between the leading duo. A mistake from leader Shackleton as he ran wide on the exit of the Esses meant Jones sped through into a lead of 3-4 seconds over the recovering Shackleton on lap 3. Over the next few laps Shackleton did manage to close the gap down to 1.7 seconds by lap 7.

A lap later and Shackleton executed a audacious round the outside move on leader Jones at Camp in what was by far the best move of the entire day’s racing. Sadly it didn’t count for much as Jones used a much better exit from Camp to re-take the lead at Folly on the next lap. From here the first two remained close over the final minutes however there were no further changes in position as Steve Jones claimed a close victory over George Shackleton, with the final podium man Gordon Russell far behind the first two in his unique Mackson racer.

Richard De La Roche was 4th in his Smith racer whilst Darrell Woods and John Turner rounded out the top 6 in their Coopers. This race showed why 500cc F3 was so popular in the 1950’s with again close racing provided almost 60 years later. This definitely showed why the 500cc Owners Association needs to organise a return to Castle Combe next year, something that would hopefully be eagerly accepted by everyone involved. For more information on this great series please visit their website below.
http://www.500race.org/

Ellis/Fores too fast for rest in Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque enduro

Next up on track was the 30 minute Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque affair, which included mandatory pit stops to ensure an endurance feel to this race. The grid was as large as it was eclectic, with the pole man being the shared Lotus Elite of Robin Ellis and Richard Fores, with the similar Elite of soloist Brian Arculus alongside on the front row. Martyn Corfield was 3rd in this impressive Austin Healey 100/4 whilst earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy front row man Steve Brooks completed row 2.

At the start it was Brian Arculus who made the best getaway to take the lead as the Ellis/Fores entry bogged down on the line. In the early laps the attention was focused on the recovering Ellis/Fores entry as they passed the fellow shared entry of John Ure and Nick Wigley in their Cooper Bristol T24 for 2nd on the pit straight after 3 laps. A lap later and the Ellis/Fores took the lead as the leader Arculus rocketed into the pit lane at the first possible moment to take his mandatory pit stop. He explained the reasoning was to avoid potential traffic during the stop which could cost him time.

Behind them lap 4 also saw the Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey 100M pass the Ure/Wigley Cooper for 3rd on the Dean straight. With Arculus pitting this promoted the Ure/Wigley Cooper back into 3rd, although this didn’t last long as they were deposed again, this time by the flying Simon Hadfield in his under powered Elva Courier on lap 5. From here it quickly became apparent the Ure/Wigley Cooper was dropping away from the top 3 by lap 7. Back at the front and it was clear that the man on the move was earlier Jon Goss Memorial trophy winner Simon Hadfield in the Elva. He passed the Thorne/Bennett- Baggs Austin Healey for 2nd on lap 8 and claimed the lead a lap later as the Ellis/Fores Lotus pitted, losing time as he was held up by slower cars also pitting at the same time.

Also on this lap the Ure/Wigley recovered from their earlier drop in pace to pass the Thorne/Bennett-Baggs Austin Healey for 3rd, which prompted both the Healey but also the 4th placed Martyn Corfield in his Healey 100/4 to pit a lap later. It was at this middle portion of the race that the majority of the pit stops were being made, making it very hard to track who was where in the jumbled up portion of the race. Lap 11 saw the Ure/Wigley Cooper pit from 2nd, with an entertaining scrap taking place a lap later as the recovering Ellis/Fores Lotus Elite bravely attempted to unlap himself from the leading Hadfield Elva.

With almost three quarters of the race gone the final front runners to pit were Hadfield and 2nd man Steve Brooks on lap 14, as Hadfield handed over to his wife Amanda. This reinstated the Brian Arculus Lotus Elite in the lead, whilst the Elva now piloted by Amanda Hadfield plummeted down the order over the final laps as she failed to match the scorching pace set by her husband Simon.

Back at the front and the Ure/Wigley Cooper was flying as it passed the Arculus Lotus Elite for the lead on lap 17. The battle for the lead intensified on the next lap as the rapidly closing Ellis/Fores Lotus finally caught the lead pair. A 3 way dice for the lead going up Avon Rise was finally decided as the Ellis/Fores Lotus blasted through the middle to take the lead on lap 18. From here the lead three remained close although they didn’t change position again as the flag fell at the end of lap 20. The Robin Ellis/Richard Fores Lotus Elite claimed a narrow victory from the solo Brian Arculus Lotus Elite whilst the John Ure/Nick Wigley Cooper Bristol completed the podium. Martyn Corfield was 4th in his Austin Healey 100/4 whilst Steve Brooks and the Andy Shephard/Ted Shephard AC Ace Bristol completed the top 6 in a thrilling Fiscar 50’s Inter-Marque race.

Wakeham recovers from poor start to claim VSCC Pre-War victory

The Vintage Sports Car Club are always popular at Castle Combe, and they kindly put together a grid for an invitational race after their regular season finished at Snetterton the week before. Combe and the Autumn Classic is obviously popular with the drivers as a high quality grid lined up for their 20 minute curtain closer to their season. David Freeman was on pole in his Aston Martin 2 Litre Speed Model whilst Frederic Wakeham was on the outside of the front row in his Frazer Nash Super Sports. Mark Brett was 3rd in his unique Ballamy-Ford V8 Special whilst Sue Derbyshire completed row 2 in his three wheeler Morgan Super Aero.

At the start it was 3rd man Mark Brett who made a lightning getaway to shoot between the middle of the front row to claim the early lead. Behind them it was all change in the early laps as David Freeman passed Wakeham for 2nd on lap 3, only for Wakeham to re-take the place on the pit straight at the beginning of lap 4. Later on in the lap and Wakeham completed his mission as he claimed the lead from the fast starting Brett. Lap 5 and things got worse for Brett as he was further demoted to 3rd by pole man David Freeman. At this stage Wakeham was attempting to break away from the rest as he opened a 1-2 second lead on the rest.

From lap 6 it was clear Wakeham and Freeman were breaking away from the developing battle for 3rd between Brett and Andrew Mitchell. After several laps of dicing for 3rd it was finally resolved on lap 9 as Mitchell passed Brett. Back at the front Wakeham now had a lead of 1.5 seconds, something he extended to 3.3 seconds by lap 11. From here things remained the same as Frederic Wakeham came home the victor, from David Freeman in 2nd and Andrew Mitchell who completed the podium.

Fast starter Mark Brett came home 4th whilst Sue Derbyshire and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards completed the top 6. This race has plenty of excitement with close battles and spectacular driving in these Pre-War race cars with a remarkable variety of little known manufacters, which is exactly why the VSCC is so popular with the Castle Combe spectators every year they race here. For more information on this great series please visit their website below.
http://www.vscc.co.uk/

Martin Hunt takes Norman Dewes Pre-66 Jaguar Trophy at Combe Autumn Classic

After a brief break in the racing proceedings, for some high speed demonstrations from the likes Julian Bronson in his Scarab Grand Prix car, a Maserati 250F and other classic racing exotica, it was the turn of the Pre-66 Jaguar grid to form up for their 30 minute Norman Dewes Trophy race. On pole was Martin Hunt in his Jaguar E Type, with Mark Russell alongside him in his similar E Type. Row 2 was made up of well known retired sportscar racer and 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andy Wallace in an older Jaguar C Type, with Graham Bull completing row 2 in another E Type.

From the start pole man Martin Hunt made a good start to take the early lead, as the rest spaced out behind him in the early laps. The gaps between the top three were now evenly spaced with the only drama in the middle portion of the race being Andy Wallace, who appeared to be struggling to keep hold of 3rd from Graham Bull behind him. After a backmarker spun off on the exit of Camp with his car broadside against the tyres on the pit straight the Safety Car was deployed on lap 16 so the recovery trucks could safely recover the car.

After 3 laps the Safety Car peeled in again on lap 18, as Brian Stevens took advantage of this to dive inside Graham Bull for 4th at Camp after the Safety Car came in. Whilst it appeared a dubious move as both cars had yet to pass the start finish line no action was taken by the stewards after. Anyone who was hoping Martin Hunt would now be challenged for the lead were disappointed as second driver in the queue failed to keep up with Hunt on the re-start, allowing him to open a huge lead again as the other front runners were held up behind slow back markers.

A lap later and things took a turn for the worse for Andy Wallace in 3rd as he was forced onto the grass to avoid a spinning car, dropping him from 3rd to 5th with only a few laps left to recover. From here things remained stagnant for the final two laps as Martin Hunt cruised home after 21 laps to claim victory, with Mark Russell and Brian Stevens completing an all E Type podium in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Graham Bull was 4th in his own E Type as Andy Wallace remained 5th in his C Type with Colin McKay completing the top 6.

Whilst the race lacked in wheel to wheel battling slightly, that’s to be expected with the value and age of the machinery on the track, something that still fascinates me to this day. The Safety Car leveled things out although this race has just enough of everything to ensure this was a great race for the plentiful spectators.

Simon Hadfield dominates Combe Aston Martin Jon Goss trophy

Race 3 of the Autumn Classic meeting at Castle Combe was for historic Aston Martin’s, with a short 20 minute race for the Jon Goss Memorial trophy. On pole was rapid historic racing proponent Simon Hadfield in Wolfgang Freiderichs Aston Martin DB3S, with Simon Brooks alongside him on the front row in is DB3S. Row 2 consisted of David Reed in his DB2 with Chris Jolly completing the row in his similar DB2.

From the lights Hadfield rocketed away into an early lead as the rest jostled for position behind him. After the first lap it was clear Hadfield was on a mission as he seamlessly built an opening lap lead of around 5 seconds over the rest. Behind him too, 2nd and 3rd placed drivers David Reed and Chris Jolly were beginning to distance themselves from the rest also. By lap 3 it was clear barring mechanical problems that Hadfield would dominate this race as he was stretch his lead by 5 seconds a lap at the front.

With the lead now at 16 seconds by the end of lap 3, Hadfield kept stretching the lead as the rest of the top six were now evenly spaced also. On the fringes of the top six things almost changed as Steve Brooks almost fell out the top six after spinning on lap 9 at the Esses, although he re-joined still in 6th. It was clearly a tough race for Brooks as the spin showed he was struggling, especially as he had quickly fallen down the order from the 2nd spot on the grid.

In the later stages the race came alive somewhat, as Paul De Havilland, in his invitational Jaguar XK150, passed Chris Jolly for 3rd on the penultimate lap. A lap later, on lap 15 Simon Hadfield completed the final lap to take the chequered flag a staggering 56.482 seconds ahead of David Reed in 2nd after only 20 minutes of racing. Paul De Havilland completed the podium with Chris Jolly coming home 4th. Gordon McCulloch and Steve Brooks completed the top six with 5th and 6th respectively. Whilst this race didn’t have many battle it still provided excitement and intrigue at the skill of Simon Hadfield’s driving, a true display in how to hustle a historic racing car.