Cover photo by Virgiliu Andone, courtesy of alfattitude.com
It always seems a long stretch between the end of one racing season and the start of the next, particularly when the last racing is in September.
However, the start of the 2019 season is once again upon us rather early and this in itself throws up its own issues. The weather is extremely unpredictable anyway, the unseasonably warm days at the end of February giving way to a more typical wet and windy March with the chance of the odd sleet and snow shower, hopefully not in the sunny south east! The rebuilding and testing of new cars is sometimes incomplete and does tend to affect the grid numbers for the early races.
Having said all that, we are looking forward to seeing a number of new cars and drivers this season and early indications are that the championship can expect some exciting racing in all three classes, something that has been lacking on a number of occasions. Despite the early season opening date, we have good entries in all classes hopefully reflecting what promises to be a feature of the grid make up throughout this year.
It’s great to have Barry McMahon’s 156 turbo back on the grid in the modified class alongside Mervyn Miller’s 156 that he last raced in Anglesey back in April. Barry’s 156 last made a brief appearance at Snetterton last July in this championship but it has regularly competed in the Britcar series. Regular Alfa racer Keith Waite is back again this year with a number of options, on this occasion competing in a recently acquired 33 that itself has seen previous track action with the Alfas, the last time being Donington Park in 2012. They are joined by welcome newcomer Richard Thurbin in his impressive Lancia Delta Integrale providing an interesting addition to the entrants at the head of the grid.
Power trophy entries are headed by 2018 class winner and 2nd overall Paul Webster in his 156 GTA, fresh from a winter rebuild and looking forward to defending his title against both familiar and fresh opposition. Regular sparring partner Scott Austin will once again be seeking to gain the edge in his 155 3.0 litre V6. They will be joined by three newcomers to the class. Gary Miller, son of Mervyn, will be racing a Fiat Punto Abarth, Puntos regularly featuring last year as competitive opposition to the Alfas on most circuits. Dave Messenger, previously a regular competitor and class winner in twin sparks has acquired the ex Roger Evans 156 GTA 3.2 last successfully raced by Roger in the final outing of 2018 at Oulton Park. Dave will be keen to get to grips with the new machinery and we can expect the car to be on the pace from the outset. Experienced driver Ben Sharich is a welcome newcomer to the grid and will be driving the Alfa Mito built by ex Alfa racer Dave Peddie on behalf of AROC Mito Register.
In the ever competitive twin spark cup class, double champion Tom Hill will be in his refurbished Bianco Auto Developments supported 156, and 2017 champion Andrew Bourke makes a welcome return to the action in his new 156 after a year off. Last year’s double race winner here, Andrew Fulcher, is back in the distinctive liveried and immaculately presented 147. Former class winner Simon Cresswell returns in his Bianco 156, Richard Ford is back after missing Oulton and looking to build on his wins at Snetterton and Rockingham and Cyprian Nistorica returns to the action in the Turatello sponsored 156. Completing a healthy twin spark grid for races 1 and 2 and making a welcome return to action after a few years away from the championship is Steve O’Brien in the ex Jon Billingsley class winning 147.
The mix of regular competitors, returning competitors and new competitors with familiar and new machinery to line up on the grid should give us some interesting and competitive racing throughout the field for this opening race on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.