Howard’s Day metting

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/