After what seems like an overly lengthy summer break stretching back 14 weeks to Cadwell Park with just one race meeting at Croft interspersed to provide entertainment and excitement for drivers and supporters, the championship returns to the south east for the second time this year to contest races 9 and 10 as part of the popular Festival Italia programme on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
With the championship at the halfway point in the season, double champion Tom Hill is leading the way with 136 points from 2017 champion Andrew Bourke, both in their familiar 156 2.0 Twin Spark cars. In joint second on 117 points is Dave Messenger, having an impressive first season in his recently acquired 156 3.2 GTA, who heads the power trophy class from Paul Webster on 98 points and Gary Miller on 73 points, neither of whom are able to compete this time out. In the third podium position in the Twin Spark class is Richard Ford on 83 points, having lost ground to the leading pair after a terminal engine problem at Croft. The top three drivers in the Modified class, Barry McMahon, Mervyn Miller and Richard Thurbin are all unable to take part for various reasons. Nevertheless, there should still be an impressive 20+ cars that take to the track when qualifying signals the start of the competitive action with quite a number of new and returning cars and drivers making a welcome addition to the regular competitors.
The Modified class sees Keith Waite returning to the action after missing out on Croft. Keith is in his now familiar green 33 and he is joined by returning drivers George Osborne in his immaculate 75 3.2 and Chris Snowdon in his impressive GTV6 making his first appearance of the season in this particular championship but having successfully raced in Historics.
Power Trophy entries are headed by class leader Dave Messenger who will be looking to consolidate his overall and class position as he gets to grips with the ex Roger Evans GTA that has performed so well in its first season in new hands. The Mito returns after a much more promising outing last time and Ben Sharich will be hoping that he can challenge for podium positions in what we hope will be an ever improving competitive car.
Looking to put his own mark on the class and making his first outing of the year is potential class winner Simon McFie in his well turned out Fiat Punto Abarth. It’s great to see Simon back in the fray and we can expect to see the entertaining Punto provide some stiff competition. Also in the mix will be Jamie Thwaites in the immaculate Caged Steel Motorsport 155 3 litre that is improving each time out, and former Alfa racer Simon Hampton in his 33 1.8, making this five different models lining up alongside each other. Simon raced with the championship in the mid 2000s so it’s particularly good to see him lining up on the grid once again.
The bulk of the entries are in the competitive Twin Spark Cup class, headed by reigning champion Tom Hill in his Bianco Auto Developments 156. Regular competitors Andrew Bourke, Simon Cresswell and Richard Ford in their 156s and Martin Jones and Steve O’Brien in their 147s will be joined by a number of new and returning drivers in a mix of similarly engined twin spark machines.
Andrew, Simon and Richard all had problematic outings at Croft for differing reasons, losing ground on the class leader in the process but all are capable of putting in strong performances to regain ground this weekend, whilst Croft class winner Martin will be looking for another strong drive on his return to Brands Hatch as will Steve who had a strong first run out in the season opener here. Also returning to Brands is Ciprian Nistorica in the Turatello trailers and Bianco supported 156 and Andrew Fulcher in the distinctive Filippo Berio sponsored 147, both having missed the intervening rounds. Cip will be hoping for an improvement on his last outing here on a circuit where he has put in some competitive times whilst previous Brands class winner Andrew is sure to be a front runner and provide stiff competition to the championship regulars.
Another pair of seasoned drivers making their first appearances of this season and no strangers to the Alfa Romeo championship are past champion Paul Plant, this time out in his 156 Twin Spark, and Matt Daly in the impressive and nimble yellow 145. Both are sure to add to the number of drivers who will be hoping to be, and are well capable of, challenging for the top podium spot in class. We are also pleased to welcome two drivers new to the championship who join us to swell the twin spark entry into double figures. David Packham, who has raced a Suzuki already this year has now decided to have an arrive and drive outing with a Bianco 156. Hopefully, he’ll enjoy the experience and want to come along to more meetings. Robert Taylor is another newcomer who is joining us in another Bianco racecar, this time a 147. Completing an interesting line up is another former Alfa racer in Martin Parsons, a seasoned campaigner in the earlier years of the Championship from 1986 through to 2001.
It’s not Martin’s first taste of racing this year though, having recently competed in the Clubsports Mini endurance race, also at Brands finishing 7th overall and first in class! Martin is having a one-off outing as a Guest in another Bianco 156 and it will be particularly pleasing for those involved in the championship during that period to see Martin back on track.
The Festival Italia has provided the best entry of the season and although some regular drivers have been unable to get along, it’s great to have so many new faces joining the action. We look forward to some competitive and enjoyable racing throughout the grid at what is one of the highlight events of the calendar.