Club racing

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/

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/

Sibley wins MG Midget affair at a canter

The 2015 Castle Combe car racing season roared back into life yesterday in a perfect Spring day of bright sunshine and small winds which greeted this now traditional bank holiday Howard’s Day Easter Monday meeting. The first race of the day was for the Lackford Engineering Midget and Sprite challenge, a long running MG and Austin Healey series for their iconic Midget car.

After qualifying it was long standing championship front runner Paul Sibley who unsurprisingly sat on pole, although his margin of just over three seconds to the next car was a very surprising and impressive effort from Sibley. James Dunkley shared the front row with him, with Edward Reeve and Andy Southcott completing the second row. At the start of this 20 minute affair it was no surprise to see the class A highly modified Midgets race into the lead, with Dunkley capitalizing on a poor start from Sibley to lead going into Quarry.

Unfortunately for the rest, it didn’t take Sibley long to re-assert himself as he made up for his poor start to go from 3rd to the lead by the end of lap 1. Sibley quickly built a gap to Dunkley, who did the same to third man Stephen Pegram, up from 5th on the grid.

In the early laps the focus switched to the battle for 4th, containing Southcott, Reeve and Sam Healey, with Reeve passing the class B front runner Southcott for 4th on lap 4, with Reeve and Healey immediately closing the gap on third man Pegram whilst Southcott dropped back from them in 6th. On lap 7 Reeve and Healey appeared well clear of Pegram to the tune of five to six seconds, suggesting a possible error by Pegram or possible contact. A lap later and Reeve was clearing away from Healey to the tune of several seconds as he consolidated his 3rd place.

Unfortunately this appeared to the end of the major battles with the top seven all spread out by the final laps, leaving Sibley to take a very comfortable victory by 31 seconds from James Dunkley, who in turn was 27 ahead of the final podium finisher Ed Reeve. Sam Healey came home alone in 4th, with Andy Southcott and Carl Chadwick close to being lapped by Sibley in 5th and 6th.

Afterwards in the post race interviews it became apparent all the front runners had been caught out by the newly resurfaced track, with many commenting on their need to stiffen their suspension before the race as their previously softer set up’s to cope with the bumps proved ineffective now the track is a lot smoother. The series provided a good opening race to the Howard’s Day  meeting, and we hope the series can return to Combe next year.

For more information on this series please visit their website http://www.mgmidgetchallenge.co.uk/