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/