The third Castle Combe race meeting of the year promised to be a good one with a wide variety of racing to keep the sizeable crowd’s attention. This packed race day began with the opening race for circuit debutant the 750MC’s thriving Tegiwa Civic Cup. Although the series is still relatively new the series has already garnered a reputation for full grids and close racing.
From the start it was the older Civic of 2nd man Bernard Galea who shot into an early lead from pole sitter Robert Baker. Galea’s lead didn’t last long however as Baker took the lead by the end of lap 1. Galea was clearly not going to let him get away easily and was challenging for the lead over the next few laps. Behind them the battle for 3rd was no less intense as Rich Hockley finally found a way past Marc Kemp after a frantic few opening lap battling over the position. With a few stranded cars on track the Safety Car was called on lap 5 before coming in 2 laps later.
The Safety Car intervention left only a few minutes left from the original 15, leaving little opportunity for any changes for position. Rich Hockley subsequently torpedoed this theory by passing Bernard Galea for 2nd at the Esses on lap 8, before rapidly eroding the comfortable lead of Baker’s. Unfortunately the crowd were denied a grandstand finish as the time ran out just before Hockley could challenge Baker for the win. Galea completed the podium in 3rd.
Next up was the resident Castle Combe Sports Racing Car Series, a new series for 2014. From the rolling start local man Norman Lackford who took an early lead from Andy Crockett. After a intense initial few laps things ended in tears on lap 8 when Crockett tried an ambitious move going into Bobbies, with the subsequent contact being enough to eliminate both from the race. This left distant 3rd man Chris Vinall with a comfortable lead, possibly karma for spinning at the Esses on lap 3 avoiding a slow Crockett, as Vinall cruised to a comfortable victory in this 20 minute race of attrition from Richard Gray, a lap down in 2nd, and Antony Weeks in 3rd.
The third race of the day was the centrepiece of the day, the 90 minute Dave Allan Trophy handicap race, featuring a talented grid ready to compete for the win. From the rolling start the front row men of Tim Woodman and Phil Keen raced away from the pack. Woodman’s lead didn’t last long as experienced GT racer Phil Keen took the lead at the Esses on lap 2. The race claimed an early retirement as star turn Matt Neal retired his Honda Jazz on lap 4, leaving the crowd disappointed they didn’t get to see the driving ace in action for longer.
By lap 13 Keen’s lead had grown to 10 seconds as the penalties began being handed out for corner cutting. One of those affected was the monstrous Audi A8 Quattro of duo Jon Nicholls and Ollie Millroy, things soon got worse for the team as their car was forced out of 6th with cooked front brakes.
After the leading five took their scheduled 3 minute pit stops on laps 36 and 37 the order remained largely the same until the flag. After 70 laps it was the Andrew Smith/Phil Keen Ariel Atom that claimed a dominant victory by a lap over soloist Tim Woodman in his Caterham 7. Completing the podium was the Desmond Smail/Richard Meins Honda Integra . The final handicap results were somewhat different however as it was the Smail/Meins Integra that claimed victory from the Smith/Keen Ariel Atom and the Leigh Sebba/Tasmin Doyle Morgan +8 completing the handicap podium.
After the Dave Allan Trophy Endurance race the fans were then treated to the complete opposite as the resident Formula Ford Championship took to the track for a 15 lap thriller. Ash Crossey made the best getaway from the line to take the lead, opening a opening lap lead of roughly 2-3 seconds. The man on the move at this point was championship leader Roger Orgee, who was charging through the field after a qualifying problem forced him to start from the back.
A 4 car train was battling for 2nd early on, only helping Crossey in his escape. Things got interesting behind him however as reigning champion Adam Higgins was in the process of passing former champion Ed Moore going into Quarry on lap 9 before Moore lost it himself and spun off, re-joining well behind the pack. All of this helped Crossey build a insurmountable 5 second lead which he would hold to the flag, cementing his status as the championship favourite right now. After some frenetic battling behind Crossey it took a last lap move on Farm straight to clinch 2nd place for Nathan Ward with Adam Higgins taking 3rd.
Race 5 was for the always popular Aero racing Morgan challenge. It was no surprise to see Morgan expert Keith Ahlers on pole position, yet a warm-up lap miscommunication meant he started the race from the pit lane. This left Roger Whiteside and Phillip Goddard to battle for the lead early on. The fight for the lead didn’t last long as Ahlers completed his charge on Dean straight by lap 5. Before he hit traffic Ahlers was able to leave the others trailing to the tune of 4 seconds a lap as he asserted himself at the front.
The interest in this centred behind Ahlers as the battle for 2nd was finally resolved on lap 9 as Phillip Goddard passed Roger Whiteside exiting Camp Corner. As Goddard quickly shed Whiteside the entertainment was then provided by the fight for 4th place. After a frenetic couple of laps the battle was eventually decided as the charging Jonathan Edwards took both Robin Pearce and Tony Lees at Bobbies to snatch the place on lap 12.
The fight was far from over however, yet by lap 17 the dispute was resolved as defending into Camp corner Edwards left his braking too late and went straight into the tyre wall and out the race. After this the positions were fairly spread out until the flag after 30 minutes of racing, it was Ahlers who claimed a comfortable victory from Goddard in 2nd and Whiteside in 3rd.
Next up was the revamped Castle Combe Sports @ GT championship which has continued to provide exciting racing so far in 2014. This race contained some added spice as pole man Gary Prebble was forced to start from the pit lane as his clutch broke in qualifying. Therefore the early laps were led by Barry Squibb in his Mitsubishi Evo who quickly built a substantial lead from the rest. Things soon went downhill for Squibb however as he slowed with car problems, with the inevitable passes from Ilsa Cox and Gary Prebble taking place at Quarry on lap 8.
Cox’s lead was short-lived however as Prebble took the lead later on that lap. Cox’s fortunes also took a hit as she was forced to retire from a comfortable 2nd on the exit of Quarry on lap 10. From here it was comfortable win for Prebble, who also took the all time wins record at Castle Combe with this 36th victory from Bob Light. Perry Waddams and his TVR Tuscan claimed 2nd with Nick Holden and his Ariel Atom completing the podium.
The seventh race of the day saw the Tegiwa Civic Cup cars venture on track for their second race of the day. With the top 8 from race 1 reversed for this race action was almost guaranteed. It was Andrew Gaugler who claimed an early lead. It wasn’t to last long for him as he was mugged by the charging Rich Hockley at Camp on lap 2. Immediately race 1 winner Robert Baker smelled the opportunity and demoted Gaugler to 3rd on the pit straight.
Adding to the excitement were the first falling of rain drops on lap 4 although they were not substantial enough to cause significant challenge to the drivers. The rain intensified slightly by lap 9 yet Hockley was already around 1.5 seconds clear from Baker and duly claimed his 1st victory of 2014 from Baker and Gaugler.
The penultimate race of the day was for the Castle Combe Saloon car championship, ever popular as always. From the line it was the impressive Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird who took the early initive. After clearing Mark Wyatt for 2nd Tony Hutchings went hunting for Bird ahead. Hutchings was denied the pass on track however as Bird dramatically pulled off at the end of the pit straight on lap 5, leaving Hutchings lonely ahead of the pack from here on out. He subsequently romped to a comfortable victory of 9.2 seconds over an equally lonely class B winner Mark Wyatt in 2nd and Tony Dolley in 3rd.
The last race of the day was for the Lackford Engineering Midget and Sprite challenge. The series is always popular at Castle Combe and an exciting finish to the day was predicted. The drama began before the start even took place as Martin Morris was forced to start from the back not 2nd after replacing his gearbox after qualifying. After a rocket getaway it was 5th man James Dunkley who stole the early lead, meanwhile behind him Morris amazingly managed to go from the back to 3rd on the opening lap alone.
Back at the front it didn’t take series benchmark Paul Sibley long to re-assert his dominance as he dived inside Dunkley for the lead at Quarry on lap 2. Now in front he quickly built an 8 second lead with the race set for a stalemate. This was quickly avoided however as the circuit began drying, with Dunkley then taking seconds out of Sibley’s lead over consecutive laps as he clearly favoured the drying conditions.
Dunkley was challenging for the lead by lap 9 yet couldn’t quite find a way through before Sibley re-asserted his buffer as he warmed to the conditions. Sibley therefore took a challenging victory from Dunkley in 2nd and Martin Morris completed the podium in a great recovery drive to 3rd.
This signalled another exciting Castle Combe race meeting coming to a close with the next race meeting taking place in 2 weeks time on Father’s Day, the 14th June. For more details on that meeting and any other Castle Combe events please visit their website here. http://www.castlecombecircuit.co.uk/
For any further info relating to the official results of this meeting please visit the TSL Timing website here it will provide all the stats you need. http://www.tsl-timing.com/?loc=club&season=2014&series=CCRC&event=club&source=ed_CCRC&eventid=142268