When the idea of a new racing circuit on Anglesey was first mooted there must have been many who thought the idea “mad”.
Too far to go if you live in the south, at the mercy of the weather in its location overlooking the Irish Sea and a prospect that might be hard to sell to competitors in general. However, history tells us that people will go anywhere to enjoy their favourite sport and who would have thought that a circuit at Davidstow in North Cornwall would have attracted anyone in the early 50s. As Peter Swinger wrote in his very interesting book Motor Racing Circuits in England – Then and Now, ” it had been a short career but a by no means inglorious one”. Davidstow lasted just 4 years but Anglesey has already been with us since 1997 when it first opened on the Bodorgan Estate near Rhosneigr as the brainchild of Richard Peacock. The original circuit was just over a mile in length with a lap time for our quickest cars of around 52 secs. We made our first visit in April 1998 when Alan Marshall, David Thomas, Ray Mears and Simon Frost were amongst the winners. The facilities were a bit on the basic side and essentials such as Race Control, timekeepers and commentators all shared a double decker bus – but then so did Silverstone when it first opened! Two more visits followed to the original track but you only had to look at the amount of usage of the circuit for a whole variety of motorsport activities to see that the facility could be developed into one of the busiest in the country.
Plans for major changes had been in the pipeline for some time but it was not until 2006 that the results could be seen. The original track was scrapped and a new version built that allowed for the possibility of four different circuits, varying in length from 0.8 mile to the full International 2.1 mile layout. The most popular circuit has turned out to be the 1.55 mile Coastal track which has the very challenging “Corkscrew” series of corners down from the top of the hill at Rocket and avoids the long haul out and back to and from a Hairpin corner near the distinctive white cottages once owned by the MOD. For Club racing, the Coastal track is ideal with Alfa lap records varying from the 1’15s to 1’24s set in 2010. For our 2014 visit, the BRSCC had organised a double header meeting for us with a separate qualifying session for each race. The weather forecast was somewhat daunting but, in the end, apart from heavy rain and wind on Saturday night the tail end of the much talked about “Hurrican Bertha” seemed to pass us by. Impressive was the latest addition to the infrastructure in the shape of a fairly luxurious Race Control building.
Class A1 saw Graham Seager returning to action after his race 1 clutch failure at Snetterton. The start at the Norfolk circuit is uphill and preparer Roger Evans reckoned that there is so much noise in the car that it is difficult to tell between wheelspin and clutch slip but clearly, looking at his photographs, it was the clutch that had wilted! Joining Graham’s GTV were the 156 of Andy Robinson, Robin Eyre-Maunsell back in the Avon 156 GTA, the 75 3 litre of Keith Waite and, making its first appearance, the Proalfa prepared Mito of recently married Dave Peddie. This was to be Keith’s first visit to Anglesey and also marked the 27th season in which he has competed in the Alfa Championship, equalling Clive Hodgkin. Both of them had their first Alfa races in 1986. Eagerly awaited was the first sight of the Mito and to be fair it looked superficially pretty standard, apart from big wheels and slicks. It was good to see Bryan Shrubb once again with his now fuel injected 33 16v, a double winner at Cadwell in June. He was the only entry in Class A2 but he would undoubtedly be a contender for a strong overall result. The only car in B was the ex Avon 75 3 litre – old 44 – now owned by Malcolm Chapman who used to race TVRs a few years ago. Roger Evans and Ray Foley made up Class C in their usual 156 GTA and GTV 3.2 respectively, Ray having visited Spa Francorchamps since Snetterton in company with some of the Bianco team.
You only had to look at the line up of the six Scuderia Bianco 156s to realised how much Class E relies on their support. James Bishop, Andy Hancock, Tom Herbert and James Ford had their usual cars while Stave Potts had hired Paul Plant’s example as his 147, badly damaged at Snetterton, had not as yet been repaired. Of considerable interest was the presence of 17 year old Tom Hill in the Bianco renta’ 156 most recently driven by Stacey Dennis. Tom has been karting since he was 6 and his very supportive parents were there to tell us some of what that has involved over the years. He now becomes the youngest driver to contest an Alfa Championship race but this is all in keeping with efforts to encourage drivers who wish to move from karts to cars at an early age and following on from the examples set by T cars and Ginetta Juniors.
The Healey family had brought along their Spur Motorsport 156 for Chris to drive, taking the opportunity for a holiday in North Wales, while the final 156 was that to be driven by Andy Inman. Not the usual no.80 which had suffered a clutch problem at Snetterton but the Avon Renta’, no.75. The final Class E car was a very welcome sight – the Spur 145 Cloverleaf of Matt Daly. Following his accident last year at Thruxton, it has taken twelve months to rebuild the car but it looked pristine and a tribute to Ian Brookfield, Matt and Gary Orchard who had given it a great deal of loving care on the way plus some late nights! Almost everyone arrived during Friday and several drivers tested including Tom Hill who set some times well under the lap record although Gary Walker made the point that the car was in need of some lead to make it legal. However, we were left frustrated if we had hoped to have a look at the Mito as Proalfa didn’t arrive until Saturday morning.
The sky was blue, even if the temperature could have done with a hike, as 19 cars assembled for the 20 minute qualifying session. The first ten minutes saw Andy Robinson leading the way, breaking into the 1’19s on the sixth lap, followed a lap later by Graham Seager who moved to the top of the timesheets if only by a fraction. The pace hotted up as the session moved towards its conclusion with the GTV and 156 being joined right at the end by Bryan Shrubb’s 33 who put in a scintillating final lap in 1’18.753” to split the two A1 cars, Andy Robinson securing pole with 1’18.683” while Graham had to be satisfied with 3rd on 1’18.770”. A tight race was in prospect! Robin Eyre-Maunsell would line up 4th with 1’21.694” ahead of the Class C cars of Roger Evans (1’22.124”) and Ray Foley. Keith Waite was busy learning the circuit and if we had been running a non split grid would have found himself in the middle of the Class E cars, as would Malcolm Chapman and Dave Peddie. The Mito looked to be handling well on its slicks, Dave working down to a 1’1’27.478” on its debut appearance.
The class E battle was another to go on throughout the session and pole here would eventually go to Steve Potts (1’24.521”) who was finding the balance of the 156 much more to his liking than the 147. Confirming his Friday form, Tom Hill would emerge a fine second quickest, a mere 0.079” slower than Steve and ahead of James Bishop , James Ford and Tom Herbert. Matt Daly was disappointed not to be quicker, the tyres on the 145 seeming to go “off” faster than those on the 156s. His 1’25.423” was only good enough for 6th ahead of Andy Hancock, Chris Healey, Andy Inman and Kristian Leith.
As the red lights went out it was Bryan Shrubb and Roger Evans who made the best getaways
After Snetterton, we had decided to continue with the split grid experiment. However, at Anglesey it meant that three non class E cars that had qualified with Class E times would now be in the group ahead of the Class E field. Keith Waite would start in that group but Malcolm Chapman decided to start from the back of the grid while Dave Peddie would start from the pit road. As the red lights went out it was Bryan Shrubb and Roger Evans who made the best getaways but the first corner brought the race’s first incident as Andy Robinson spun and was avoided by everyone bar Robin Eyre-Maunsell whose offside front wheel made contact with Andy’s car, damaging his tyre which later lost pressure causing his retirement on lap 5.
Graham Seager had been relatively slow away and was alongside Ray Foley into the Banking braking area to be faced with a choice of which way to go round Andy Robinson’s stationary 156. He chose the outside, Ray the inside to emerge temporarily ahead. Keith Waite also took the inside line and then found himself embroiled with Class E where James Ford and Matt Daly had made the best starts while Tom Hill had suffered too much wheelspin and was immediately pushed back to 6th in class.
where did he come from?!
Coming out of the Banking, James Ford found himself bottled up behind the recovering Keith Waite while James Bishop and Matt Daly went by the 75 and as the cars passed the commentary box we had James Bishop leading E from – “where did he come from?!” – Matt Daly! James Ford was now 3rd fighting off Steve Potts. Matt almost got alongside JB at Rocket but had to give best to the silver 156. Meanwhile, up at the front Bryan Shrubb was holding a slender advantage over Roger Evans and Graham Seager as they passed the pits at the end of lap 1 with Ray Foley and Robin Eyre-Maunsell next in line. Through Turn One, Graham moved ahead of Roger and then had Bryan in his sights. James Bishop was a mere O.8” ahead of Matt Daly in E while James Ford was a further second back was having to fend off Steve Potts with Chris Healey and Tom Herbert also going well, all having passed Keith Waite’s 75. At the back of the field were Dave Peddie, chasing Andy Inman, Andy Hancock, having had an incident involving Kristian Leith, as did Andy Inman who retired with front end damage. Andy Robinson had had to wait until the field had passed before setting off in pursuit.
For the next four laps, Graham Seager sat within a second of Bryan Shrubb and we began to wonder if Bryan could actually stay ahead. However, Graham’s move to the front when it came was pretty decisive on the School Straight and from that point on there was little question about who was going to win the race. Roger Evans was a firm third and when Robin Eyre-Maunsell pulled into the pit road at the end of his 5th lap, Ray Foley moved up to fourth. As usual, though, the excitement was in Class E where Matt Daly managed to hold on to a splendid second place behind James Bishop until he again started to lose grip from his R888s, allowing both James Ford and Steve Potts to pass him on lap 4. Tom Herbert also moved in front of Chris Healey on that lap while Keith Waite was trying hard to improve his position without getting involved in any Class E fights and was chasing Chris.
By lap 7, the half way stage, Graham Seager had opened up his lead over Bryan Shrubb to just over a second and James Ford had established a two second gap over Steve Potts which was allowing him to concentrate on possibly catching James Bishop in the second half of the race. However, James Bishop was almost three seconds ahead, so it would not be easy. Not that this deters James Ford and he was soon stuck into his task and a slow lap by JB on lap 8 aided his cause. Visually, it was clear that the gap was narrowing and as the two cars crossed the line at the end of lap 11 it was a mere 0.3” and James Bishop was going to have to defend hard. Matt Daly, meanwhile, had slipped behind Tom Herbert who was in hot pursuit of Steve Potts.
There was no stopping Graham Seager
Graham Seager and Bryan Shrubb were now lapping the lower placed Class E cars, four seconds now separating them and Andy Robinson was getting back to some reasonable lap times having moved past Andy Hancock, Dave Peddie, Kristian Leith and Malcolm Chapman. His next target would be Tom Hill. There was no stopping Graham Seager who had set his best lap in 1’17.874” on lap 10. By the time he crossed the line after completing 16 laps he had opened the gap to Bryan Shrubb to 12.22”. Roger Evans would complete the podium in a solid third place with Ray Foley crossing the line fourth.
In E, James Ford pushed James Bishop hard to the very end, setting a fastest lap in the class (a new lap record) in 1’24.289” but although it looked at one point as though he was going to get through at Rocket (top of the hill) but it was not to be and JB crossed the line to take his fifth class win of the year by a mere 0.594” and a fine 5th overall. Keith Waite persevered to get up to 7th overall but said afterwards that he didn’t want to be racing in Class E! Andy Robinson eventually got himself up to 8th. Tom Herbert drove hard to be within half a second of Steve Potts at the flag the list of finishers being completed by Matt Daly, Tom Hill, Chris Healey, Andy Hancock. Dave Peddie, Malcolm Chapman and Kristian Leith, the last three having battled it out over the final laps. After visits to the podium, there were the usual post mortems – celebrations for some, disappointment at the way things had turned out for others. The trophies for the first race were presented by Steve Foley, himself an Alfa racer between 1996 and 2008 and nearly champion in 1998.
Race 1 Prize-giving
The weather deteriorated during the night, those in tents suffering most from the heavy rain and buffeting wind, but by the morning it had calmed down somewhat, although still grey. Cars that needed repairs had received the necessary attention and all 19 runners appeared in the assembly area for the race 2 qualifying. This time it was Graham Seager who took an easy pole in 1’19.482”, 1.5” quicker than Bryan Shrubb with Andy Robinson third quickest ahead of Robin Eyre-Maunsell.
A major engine blow-up and the end of his racing for the weekend
Roger Evans would have lined up next but a pall of smoke as he came out of Church near the end of the session heralded a major engine blow-up and the end of his racing for the weekend. Those who peered underneath in the paddock could see the unwelcome sight of a conrod sticking out of the block (see Friday Fix)! Another to pull off was Matt Daly who suffered a clutch master cylinder failure on his 145. James Bishop lapped quicker than he had done on Saturday to grab the Class E pole with 1’24.292” ahead of Steve Potts, Tom Herbert and Tom Hill. James Ford, on the other hand, was down in 5th place just ahead of Andy Hancock, Matt Daly and Chris Healey and would have a lot of work to do in the race. Ian Brookfield tried hard to fix Matt Daly’s problem in the absence of a spare clutch master cylinder but sadly it was all to no avail and Matt would be a non starter.
A short shower and the threat of more rain saw Graham Seager and Andy Robinson change to wets for the early afternoon race. Once again it was the approach to the Banking Hairpin that brought problems. Bryan Shrubb took an immediate lead but behind there was chaos as Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Andy Robinson were involved in another incident that saw Andy on the grass as he avoided the back of Graham Seager’s GTV and then spinning back on to the track where he was avoided by everyone bar Ray Foley who hit the front of the 156 a hard glancing blow, ending both their races as Ray suffered a broken wishbone and pulled off at the exit of Church. The red flag was shown as Andy Robinson’s 156 was sitting immobile with considerable front-end damage in the middle of the track.
There was now a considerable delay as the damaged cars were removed as there appeared to be only one flat bed truck available. However, as the programme had been running ahead of time before the original start only 15 minutes were lost on the original timetable. Graham Seager made no mistakes with his getaway this time and led Robin Eyre-Maunsell , Bryan Shrubb and Keith Waite into the Banking with James Bishop and Steve Potts heading Class E. Bryan Shrubb wasted little time in getting ahead of Robin and in Class E James Ford emerged at the end of lap 1 third behind James Bishop and Steve Potts with Tom Herbert, a fast starting Andy Hancock. Tom Hill and Chris Healey next in line. Bryan Shrubb was trying very hard to hold on to Graham Seager, both lapping in the 1’18s in their wets and slicks battle on a now dry track. With half the race run, though, Bryan realised that he would have to be satisfied with another second place, Graham crossing the line 21” ahead having completed 16 laps. Robin Eyre-Maunsell crossed the line third but would later be excluded from the results for his part in the original first lap incident. This brought Keith Waite up to a much more satisfying podium position having run well clear of Class E all race.
Class E, though, was going to be fought out to the bitter end. James Ford got himself ahead of Steve Potts on lap 3 and again set about chasing James Bishop. Tom Hill had moved ahead of Andy Hancock and Tom Herbert, the latter having a grassy off road moment at Turn One, also losing a place to Chris Healey in the process. James Ford now had the bit between his teeth and set his quickest lap of the race on lap 4 to close to within 1.2” of the lead. By the end of lap 5 the gap had come down to half a second while Steve Potts lost out to Tom Hill and was coming under pressure from Andy Hancock and Chris Healey. Throughout laps 7 and 8 James Ford was right on the tail of James Bishop and it looked only a matter of time before he would make a move for the lead despite the defensive placing of his rival’s silver 156. On lap 9 he tried at Rocket but it didn’t work, and the red 156 lost momentum and dropped nearly 3 seconds back.
James Ford would have to close the gap all over again.
Over the next couple of laps, the gap closed quickly, but getting past was another matter. Rocket looked the most likely place and with two laps to go JF got alongside, JB ran wide and the red 156 was through, pulling away to win by just under 3”. Tom Hill had driven an excellent race to finish only 1.1” behind James Bishop at the flag while Andy Hancock had outpaced Chris Healey, both having passed Steve Potts to finish 4th and 5th. Andy Inman was happy to complete the race in 7th place whereas Tom Herbert retired half way through. Kristian Leith and the A1 Mito of Dave Peddie made up the list of finishers, Malcolm Chapman having retired his 75 3 litre on lap 3.
Jan Healey presented the trophies after an eventful afternoon, James Ford being awarded the Grove & Dean “Driver of the Weekend” after a couple of excellent drives in which he never gave up the chase and was eventually rewarded. James Bishop retains his championship points lead going to the next two rounds at Rockingham in September, and the points tables can be found elsewhere on the website. Our thanks to the BRSCC North West section and Tom Dooley for another well run meeting – and to the weather gods for being relatively kind to us!
Race 2 Prize-giving