When you read newspaper sports sections and then compare them with “Autosport”, “Motorsports News”, AutoSprint (Italy) or AutoHebdo (France) you realise how well the motor sport community has done in getting racing, rallying, hillclimbing and other specialities back on the road.
Alright, there have been many without spectators – Formula 1 (until last weekend), Le Mans, BTCC to mention just a few. For us, the 750 Motor Club, MSV and Motorsport UK have contrived to hold events with a small number of pre-booked spectators in attendance. Continually having to show tickets when going in and out of the paddock to a favourite viewing point has been an irritation, but no more than that. Moreover, the entry levels seen by all the clubs have been strong – witness 500 drivers at the CSCC’s Donington meeting which even saw reserves – including ex Alfa Championship competitor Steve Fletcher who was 5th reserve (!!) for his race and didn’t get a run. How all this will work out financially for clubs and circuit owners remains to be seen but full marks for trying. Many competitors and their sponsors may well find their budgets squeezed when assessing their programmes for 2021 but we can but keep our fingers hard crossed and that the Alfa Championship will head into a strongly supported 40th season. Meanwhile, we have rounds 7 & 8 of this year’s title chase to look forward to at Oulton Park.
Andrew Bourke in Autosport’s Top 50
Congratulations to Andrew Bourke who is listed in the top 50 of Autosport’s National Driver Rankings for 2020, at no. 39. There have apparently been 36 racing events in the UK and Ireland since racing resumed and the list takes into consideration both overall and class wins. Andrew has five class wins to his credit (two each at Snetterton 200 and Snetterton 300 and one at Brands Hatch) and looking at the list, missing out on one at Festival Italia was “expensive” as, otherwise he might have been as high as 17th!
Tom Hill trashes Power Trophy Lap Record on Snetterton 300.
Tom Hill was on fine form with his new Revs Italia prepared GT when we visited the Snetterton 300 circuit on September 13th, throwing the car around with abandon and allowing us to enjoy that wonderful V6 noise along with the 156 GTAs of Dave Messenger and Andy Inman and the lovely 75 of George Osborne. Icing on the cake for Tom, who took two class wins and two second places overall, was slashing the old Power Trophy lap record held by Paul Webster and leaving it at 2’ 11.91” in race 1. Andrew Bourke came within 0.34” of breaking Tom’s Power Trophy lap record but that will have to wait for another time.
Our most recent visit to Oulton’s Island Circuit
When the 750 Motor Club and ARCA agreed the 2020 calendar, it was interesting to see that our visit to Oulton Park, scheduled for October 10th, would be on the Island Circuit. This would be the first time that we had been on this layout since 2005 as, apart from 2006 when we used the Fosters circuit twice, the BRSCC had always favoured the full International track. Admittedly the International challenge was enjoyed by the drivers but its near 2 minute lap time for the Modified cars and 15 seconds slower for the Twin Sparks meant that spectators in some parts of the circuit were not going to see the cars very often. Fosters went straight from Cascades to Knickerbrook, so Island which cuts out the final run to the Shell Hairpin, is something of a compromise and is favoured by the BTCC. I thought it would be interesting to look back on that 2005 visit to see who was there and who were the winners and losers.
The 2004 season had ended the previous November at Brands Hatch with two very healthy grids and with Neil Smith as overall champion with his Class C 156 ahead of Tim Lewis (Alfasud Sprint) and Paul Buckley (75 2 litre turbo). 2005 was due to get off to a quickfire start, opening up at Brands on March 13th, going to Oulton on Easter Monday (March 23rd) and then going back to Brands again, on the GP circuit this time, a week later. With Anglesey in May, It meant that competitors were being somewhat selective about where they raced. The original plan had been for there to be two 20 minute races at Oulton, one each for classes A to D, and the other for E & F, but after discussions with the BRSCC it was decided to merge all the classes into one race which would have a 25 car grid. This meant that Simon Hampton and Peter Woodard who had been down to share cars would miss out but Chris Healey, due to share Mel’s 33, was able to hire the “Track & Race Renta” 33 that had been driven by Alan Collett at Brands.
Sadly the only Modified cars were the Giulietta Turbo of Andy Page and Bob Godbold’s 33 16v but the 33 stopped early in the 15 minute qualifying session with “nasty noises”. After much taking apart and putting together, it was only when a watching Andy asked Bob “should the front crankshaft pulley be moving around like that?” a broken crankshaft was diagnosed. It was inevitable that Andy would end qualifying fastest, by some 4.6” with a time of 1’39.780”, but second quickest was Roger Evans who was making his first appearance with his new Class C 24v GTV, his best time being nearly matched by Anthony George’s 33 16v that would take him to a second overall championship title although Roger was not pushing his new car too hard. The next three on the grid would all be from Class F with Lee Penn (in the ex Giles Groombridge 33), Nik Mantikas and Paul Lund fighting it out for top spot in the class, a place that was taken at the last throw of the dice by when Lee set a scorching lap time 0.62” quicker than Nik whose effort was particularly praised as he was using an 8v engine in his 33 as opposed to the 16v of his rivals. Phil Astell could have been well in the mix but slid off the road on his penultimate lap. The fourth row would be occupied by Chris Finch’s class E leading 156 and the Class C 155 of Graham Seager with Graham Heels’ 146 on row 5. From the close times set by the rest of the field, it was clear that there was going to be some tight racing. Missing was the smart 155 of Kevin Evans which had overheated and was withdrawn.
There were some delays earlier in the programme so it was a fairly impatient 23 drivers who eventually made it out of the assembly area and round to the grid on what has turned out to be a bright and dry day. Anthony George was slow away while Lee Penn and Nik Mantikas made contact coming out of Old Hall, Nik running for some time on the grass before re-joining. Andy Page crossed the line at the end of lap 1 with a 1.3” advantage over Roger Evans, the GTV, “looking and sounding superb as it crested the rise at Deer Leap in pursuit”. Lee Penn emerged from the trees third with Paul Lund hanging on well while Nik Mantikas was fending off Phil Astell. Phil Donaghy in his Alfatune prepared 145 had made an excellent start and was ahead of a frustrated Chris Finch, the two touching at Lodge which left the 145’s rear bumper flapping. Another in bumper trouble was Graham Seager who had been tagged by the recovering Anthony George.
At the front, Andy Page was trying to make a race of it by not rushing away from Roger Evans and by the end of lap 5 his lead was only up to 3.8” with lap times 4” off his qualifying best. Lee Penn had thrown off the challenge of Paul Lund in F but both were being caught by Anthony George for overall 3rd. Graham Seager was lapping at a consistenly quick pace and was closing on the Class F cars of Nik Mantikas and Phil Astell ahead of him while Chris Finch had taken over the Class E lead, leaving Graham Heels to work out a way past Phil Donaghy, the 145 seeming double its width at times with the flapping bumper. He eventually succeeded by trampling all over it on lap 6 and those on the pit wall wondered if he had time to catch Chris Finch.
Anthony George passed Lee Penn into third overall on lap 6 and was now lapping faster than Roger Evans but with not enough time to catch him. Andy Page would run out the race winner by some 9 seconds while next in line, Roger Evans, Anthony George and Lee Penn were all class winners, as was Chris Finch who came home 9th, 5 seconds clear of Graham Heels. One of the best battles had been right at the tail of the field at rhe end of which Richard Wilkins (33 8v), Mel Healey (33 16v) and Chris Healey (33 8v) crossed the line with under a second separating them.
The race results after 12 laps were:
|1||Andy Page||Giulietta Turbo||21’ 08.80”||1’43.957”||A1|
|2||Roger Evans||GTV 3.0 24v||21’ 17.82”||1’44.998”||D1|
|3||Anthony George||33 1.7 16v||21’ 23.33”||1’44.816”||C1|
|4||Lee Penn||33 1.7 16v||21’ 27.35”||1’45.576”||F1|
|5||Paul Lund||33 1.7 16v||21’ 34.19”||1’45.911”||F2|
|6||Graham Seager||155 3.0 V6||21’ 43.98”||1’46.262”||D2|
|7||Nikolaos Mantikas||33 1.7 8v||21. 47.04”||1’47.546”||F3|
|8||Phil Astell||33 1.7 8V||21’ 48.53”||1’47.208”||F4|
|9||Chris Finch||156 2.0 TS||21’ 54.67”||1’47.044||E1|
|10||Graham Heels||146 2.0 Ti||21’ 59.38”||1’47.426”||E2|
|11||Alastair Iles||33 1.7 8v||22’ 06.18”||1’47.822”||F5|
|12||Phil Donaghy||145 2.0 Cloverleaf||22’ 10.88”||1’49.108”||E3|
|13||Andy Woodall||146 2.0 Ti||22’ 20.59”||1’49.325”||E4|
|14||Tony Matthews||33 1.7 8v||22’ 21.69”||1’48.853”||C2|
|15||Shaun Hazlewood||33 1.7 8v||22’ 25.11”||1’49.499”||F6|
|16||Andy Inman||156 2.0 TS||22’ 31.32”||1’50.240”||E5|
|17||Martin Jones||33 1.7 16v||22’ 37.75”||1’50.613”||F7|
|18||Richard Wilkins||33 1.7 8v||22’ 46.79”||1’50.454”||F8|
|19||Mel Healey||33 1.7 16v||22’ 47.22”||1’50.269”||F9|
|20||Chris Healey||33 1.7 8v||22’ 47.62”||1’50.346”||F10|
|Garrett MacDonnell||33 1.7 8v||0 laps|
|Mark Bevington||33 1.7 8v||6 laps|
|Ray Foley||33 1.7 8v||2 laps|
|Kevin Evans||155 2.5 V6|
|Bob Godbold||33 1.7 8v|
Winners speed: 75.79 mph
Alfa keep trying at Mugello and Sochi
The Sauber run Alfa Romeo team has two targets 2020. One is bring home the highest placed Ferrari engined car and other is to head what has become known as “Class C”. With Charles Leclerc driving one of the factory Ferraris the former is more difficult and has to depend on either retirements or penalties although in the Tuscan Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen had good pace all afternoon, despite two re-starts, to bring his Alfa C39 home 9th, sandwiched by Leclerc and Vettel, scoring 2 championship points in the process. So the Alfa was the second Ferrari engine car home and headed Class C with George Russell’s Williams next in line. Antonio Giovanazzi became involved in the very unpleasant accident at the second re-start and was lucky not to be injured.
Two weeks later, the teams were at Sochi on the Black Sea coast for the Russian Grand Prix and for the first time this year there were spectators. As a circuit it doesn’t seem to be inspire although over the years the background seems to have developed so that it has a certain amount of atmosphere. Alfa were back to their qualifying worst (17th and 20th) but the race saw Giovanazzi have a strong drive and in the closing stages he passed the Haas of Kevin Magnussen to grab 11th place to “win” Class C and be second Ferrari engined car home although Leclerc was well up the road this time, finishing a fine 6th. Kimi Raikkonen suffered a slow pit stop, without which he might have been ahead of Sebastian Vettel who was under a second in front of him at the line.
Next up is the Eifel Grand Prix, recalling those Eifelrennen races in the 30s but on the current emasculated circuit not the Nordschliefe.
Mick Schumacher to have FP1 chance with Alfa
It was inevitable that Mick Schumacher would get a proper F1 chance before too long and that it would probably be with Alfa Romeo. As current leader of the Formula 2 championship he does have credentials that go further than just being the son of a famous father and he will be in Giovanazzi’s C39 for FP1 at the Nurburgring. He will be in front of a home crowd (spectators are being allowed) but whether that will add to the inevitable pressure remains to be seen.
Classic Alfa Challenge at Lydden Hill,
Julius Thurgood had been able to keep his promise of a full race meeting for HRDC competitors at Lydden Hill and this took place on September 13th with the Classic Alfa Challenge scheduled for two 15 minute races. There were many familiar faces in the 15 car entry including Chris Snowdon with Richard Melvin’s race-winning Alfetta GTV and sometime Alfa Championship drivers Jonny Horsfield (Alfetta GTV), Simon Hampton (Alfetta GTV), Gavin Watson (Giulietta Ti), Micky Bolton (Alfetta GTV) and Chris Whelan with the ex Jon Dooley Dealer Team Napolina liveried Sud Ti.
Qualifying, however, saw Richard Merrell’s 2 litre GT Junior at the top of the pile ahead of Chris Snowdon, Richard being the only one to break the 50” barrier. James Wright took his 75 Twin Spark to third spot and would share the second row with Alex Jupe’s Alfetta GTV with Jeff Byloos (Alfetta) and Paul Clayson (GTV6) on row three.
The first race, which was to run over 18 laps of the 1 mile circuit, was to be dominated by Richard Merrell, Chris Snowdon steadily losing ground as he was pursued by James Wright and Alex Jupe, only to retire on lap 10. Alex Jupe was determined to uphold Alfetta honour and passed James on lap 12 to come home in second place with Jonny Horsfield fourth. Delays during the afternoon meant that the second Alfa race was shorted to 10 minutes, leaving Chris Snowdon with a major task to try and catch Richard Merrell, starting from the seventh row. That he was able to get up to 2nd place by lap 4 was some achievement, but he was already 6” behind Richard who was able to maintain that advantage to the finish, keeping ahead of James Wright, Jonny Horsfield who had managed to get himself ahead of Alex Jupe. The final result was on a Combined Classification and produced an easy win for Richard Merrell’s GT Junior, 25” clear of James Wright with Jonny Horsfield, Alex Jupe , Jeff Byloos, Simon Hampton and Gavin Watson next in line. A very satisfied 9th was Chris Whelan, happy to have completed both races after not having managed a race in 2019 and saying afterwards that he “had fun”.
Team Mulsanne starts World TCR season
The new Romeo Ferraris recruit for their single car World TCR team, Jean-Karl Vernay, got off to a good start when the season started at Zolder on September 13th. He drove the the Giulietta Veloce to 5th and 7th place finishes in a 19 car field. It was also confirmed that he will be part of the three car electric Giulia team in the forthcoming ETCR series.
Things you would rather not see during a race weekend
Over the years we have seen many “broken” cars at race meetings – here are a few of the things that we always hope not to see ruining a competitor’s day:
Following on from the previous item, it is all hands to the pump by Chris Snowdon, Keith Waite, Ian Stapleton, Lynn Waite and Andy Page.