Austin Healey

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/

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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.

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.

David Smithies takes first leg of Combe Austin Healey invitational

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.