There can be few drivers unhappy at the prospect of racing in front of a decent crowd and that is just what they were able to enjoy at MSV’s second Festival Italia.

It has to be admitted that at most of our racing meetings these days, the spectator element is notable by its absence. However, last year’s Festival Italia, organised by Motor Sport Vision at Brands Hatch showed there was a way to attract more spectators, many of whom were probably not racing enthusiasts. They would come along with their respective owners clubs or having been attracted by pre-event publicity. The second running of the event was to prove even more successful with an expanded on-track programme which included more demonstration sessions and with sponsorship from Abarth UK. At times, and particularly when the noise of historic formula 1 cars attracted people like bees to a honey pot, the crowd on Paddock Hill Bend was several rows deep. Diana met a couple who had never been to a race meeting before and were there watching our first race and were still there when our second race got underway later in the afternoon. It was a happy crowd and we were lucky with the weather after some rainy days earlier in the previous week. MSV had also produced a glossy printed programme to go with the day, in which we were pleased to see several of Paul Stone’s photographs.

I suppose the only problem with the Festival is that in August some of our regular competitors may be away on holiday. Nonetheless, we rounded up an 18 car field and were very happy to see the return of Matt Daly having his first run for a couple of years in the yellow 145 with which he won on his last appearance at Donington in 2015. Also back with their 147s were James Browning and Stacey Dennis. Stacey had not raced since Silverstone in April while James had missed Rockingham and Snetterton and was eager to see if he could reverse the frustrating situation at Cadwell when he was bottled up behind Andrew Bourke in both races. James also had a wonderful story about the problems in finding a new bonnet, ending up with a GT bonnet which apparently fits, via a face-lift 147 one that doesn’t! The Championship battle between Andrew and Tom Hill was set to continue, 16 points separating them after the previous rounds at Snetterton. They had both decided to test on the Friday before, Andrew “to banish the ghosts” of 2016 while Tom took the chance to test a new Yolohama AO50 control tyre that is being evaluated for 2018. Simon Cresswell, currently third in the championship points table, goes well at Brands and was hoping to be able to repeat previous performances while last year’s double winner, Dave Messenger, was keeping his fingers crossed that repairs to his 156 after its accident at Snetterton had put it back to chart topping form. The engine in Gethin Llewellyn’s 156 had been rebuilt and Mike Tydeman and Jeremy Chilton made up the 156 Twin Spark field, Jeremy also testing on Friday and keeping regularly under the 60” barrier. Final Twin Spark entry was Nick Anderson’s yellow 916 series Spider that had shown improved form in the previous races.

Sadly, after the heroics of Chris Snowdon, George Osborne, Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois in 2016, the Modified entry was limited to Vincent’s 156 Turbo. Nonetheless, after its smokey departure at Cadwell, we were delighted to see it back. The engine was almost completely new with a replacement block although it had been possible to salvage the cylinder head. In the Power Trophy we were missing Snetterton “star” Paul Webster but Bianco had been able to fit a spare, but not so powerful, 3.2 engine to Ron Davidson’s 164 and Ian Brookfield had a new set of slicks added to some suspension changes which he hoped would make the car more competitive. We were delighted to see a late entry from Paul Plant in the 3 litre 156, still with “bog standard” engine, that had given Paul a podium and class win at Snetterton. After their various problems last time out, Simon and Chris McFie were entered again in their two Punto Abarths, Simon’s still white after needing a new windscreen after Snetterton although the intention is to repaint in “team colours” when funds permit. Their old HGT had been sold to Vince Proto who raced an Uno with us a few seasons ago, and this was the third Invitation Class entry.

Signing-on, scrutineering and a drivers briefing by Clerk of the Course Derek Stanley occupied time before qualifying at 11.30 but there was plenty to look at around the lower paddock. Although not able to race this time, Chris Snowdon had brought along his latest project, an ex Luigi Racing “Boule D’Or” liveried GTV6 that had raced in the 1985 European Touring Car Championship including rounds at Donington and Silverstone. Also there was the red ex Peter Hilluiard, Dealer Team/Napolina decaled  Alfetta GTV of Richard Melvin. Both cars would be demonstrated later in the day. MSV had also organised another “Italiano v Inglese” race for which Ian Stapleton had entered his extremely quick black 3.8 litre GTV6, Ted Pearson an Trofeo Alfasud, Malcolm Jeffs his Alfasud Ti and Lawrence Alexander an Alfetta GTV in the red and white Marlboro colours of Dany Snobeck Racing.

The sun was shining and the temperature rising as qualifying got underway five minutes early with Tom Hill leading the way as usual in an effort to maximise his available tyre grip while he had a clear track ahead of him. Twin Spark pole was going to be important here but was 58.800” which he set on his fourth lap going to be quick enough? Tom obviously didn’t think so as a quick stop for adjustments showed, but although he got within 0.051” of his previous time, he was going to have to settle for a disappointing fourth best in class at the end of the session. Meanwhile, Simon Cresswell, Andrew Bourke and James Browning had all been running strongly but it was James who emerged after he too made a mid session stop to adjust tyre pressures to grab class pole with 3 minutes to go, narrowly edging out Simon and Andrew with a best lap in 58.507”. Apart from Tom Hill, Matt Daly was the only other TSC driver in the 58s, the top five being covered by just 0.383”.  The next group of four – Mike Tydeman, Dave Messenger (suffering a gearchange problem), Stacey Dennis (indul;ging in a quick spin at Paddock) and Jeremy Chilton – were not far behind in the 59s although in a 20 lap race one has to remember that this would represent a gap from first to ninth of some 20” by the flag. Nick Anderson completed the class top ten but had a front suspicion problem while Gethin Llewellyn never really got going before suffering a split clutch fluid pipe. Matt Daly reckoned that he was pretty rusty and would be happy to be chasing rather than in the leading position in which he found himself  in that Donington race.

Inevitably, overall pole went to Vincent Dubois although we were keeping our fingers crossed for him after his problems at Cadwell. In the event, he set a best lap in 54.754” pulling off half way through the session as he was happy with the way the car was running and thought he had done enough. Paul Plant emerged second quickest with 56.223” to lead the Power Trophy cars ahead of the Invitation class Punto Abarths of Chris and Simon McFie who lapped within 0.2” of each other, Chris marginally the quicker of the two. Ian Brookfield was happy with his 155’s performance in setting a 57.562”, half a second quicker than Ron Davidson although 164 had developed a misfire at the end of the session.  The front group for the start would be completed by Vince Proto’s Punto HGT.

Dallara, Benetton and Coloni Formula 1 cars from the 80s and 90s now took to the stage with their wonderfully noisy V8, V10 and V12 engines plus what looked like a growly McLaren Turbo.  Ian Stapleton was the eventual winner of a tightly fought first “Italian v Inglese” race after passing a very quick Ferrari 430GT. Interestingly, his fastest lap in 50.696” was quicker than Neil Smith’s Alfa Championship record set several years ago in 51.113”. This was followed by a demonstration of high revving Italian racing bikes and then it was time for the Alfa Championship cars to make their way to the grid.

Away from the start, Vincent Dubois’ silver 156 Turbo was the first to arrive at Paddock and was not to be headed thereafter with Paul Plant, Simon McFie, Chris McFie, Ian Brookfield and Ron Davidson left to battle it out behind. As the flag dropped for the Twin Spark start the front five cars got away well but there was almost disaster behind as Stacey Dennis, also having made a very good start, for some reason came across from the left to nudge Matt Daly towards the pit wall, squeezing a totally innocent Dave Messenger in the process. Dave then slid along the wall, taking an Abarth banner with him in the process. Stacey had managed to collect together her 147, moving out of Matt’s path but he had lost momentum and found himself behind her as well as Jeremy Chilton, Gethin Llewellyn and Nick Anderson going into Paddock. Stacey tried to go down the inside of Nick Anderson but he shut her off as Gethin tried the outside line, passing Nick on the way to Druids where Tom Hill had got ahead of Mike Tydeman. As they descended the hill to Graham Hill Bend, the TSC order was James Browning, eager to establish a lead, Simon Cresswell, equally keen to hold on to his second place, Andrew Bourke who wanted it so that he could attack James, and Tom Hill who thought Andrew’s third place would be nice! Matt Daly had passed Jeremy Chilton with a nice manoeuvre into Graham Hill and was now able to focus on Gethin who, In his turn, had Mike Tydeman well in his sights. No shortage of action then! Dave Messenger sadly retired after one lap.

Vincent Dubois crossed the line at the end of lap 1 2.9” clear of Paul Plant with the McFies and Ian Brookfield within a second of each other and now well ahead of Ron Davidson who had had a grassy moment going away from the start and didn’t seem too happy with the handling of the 164 with Vince Proto’s Abarth on his own and keeping an eye on the advancing Twin Sparks led by James Browning, running 1.16” ahead of the battling Simon Cresswell, Andrew Bourke, Tom Hill and Mike Tydeman, all very close through Paddock and into Druids. Gethin Llewellyn was closing on Mike Tydeman and taking Matt Daly with him, Vince Proto being caught by the class leaders at Clearways and keeping well out of the way. James Browning had now extended his lead to 1.45” and appeared to be able to control the pace while watching his rivals fight it out behind him. During lap 2, Ian Brookfield had managed to get his 155 between the two Abarths and looked as though he might get past Simon McFie as the race progessed although Chris wasn’t giving him any peace sitting just behind.

Into Paddock at the start of lap 3, Matt Daly took a look down the inside of Gethin Llewellyn who found himself blocked behind Vince Proto but then took a lunge into the gap that remained to keep his 156 ahead of the 145 but still just behind Mike Tydeman. Slightly further ahead, Tom Hill was right on the tail of Andrew Bourke going through Graham Hill Bend but unable to pass. By the start of lap 5, Vincent Dubois had calmly opened his overall lead over Paul Plant to 8.5” but the battle between the Punto Abarths and Ian Brookfield’s 155 was still going on apace with Ian  as the Fiat sandwich filling. On lap 5, however, it all went badly wrong as the 155 was hit on the driver’s side rear quarter by Chris McFie’s Punto who had misjudged the gap going into Clark Curve, Ian spinning to the inside and hitting the end of the pit road barrier sickeningly hard. Happily, as the car was facing the wrong way when it came to rest, Ian was able to get out but afterwards was thanking both his Hans Device and a seat with side “ears” for saving him from serious injury. Race Control decided to allow the race to continue as the 155 was hard against the barrier and not regarded as being in a dangerous place. Before that, Matt Daly had performed a smooth passing move on Gethin Llewellyn at Paddock while Simon Cresswell had cut the gap to James Browning to under a second. Going into lap 6, Matt Daly lined himself up for another excellent pass going into Paddock, this time taking away 5th in class from Mike Tydeman. Further back, Jeremy Chilton was having an excellent race ahead of Stacey Dennis with Nick Anderson bringing up the rear.

By lap 10 we really began to hope that Vincent Dubois was going to take his first win with his 156 Turbo. Paul Plant remained second 18” adrift with the McFie Puntos holding 3rd and 4th places with Simon still ahead. In the Twin Sparks the order was James Browning, 0,9” clear of Simon Cresswell who had Andrew Bourke looking for every opportunity to pass, Tom Hill slightly adrift and then Matt Daly, Mike Tydeman and Gethin Llewelleyn, 5” covering the top six in the class. For the next 13 laps, the battle would continue in the same order, ebbing and flowing. Gethin Llewellyn dropped back into the clutches of Stacey Dennis and Jeremy Chilton, Gethin and Stacey almost catching Mike Tydeman before the flag.

With 22 laps completed Vincent Dubois crossed the line to win but it was not Paul Plant who followed him home but Simon and Chris McFie, Paul’s tyres having “fallen off a cliff” after about 18 laps. However, he was still the Power Trophy winner and by rights should have been on the podium as Chris McFie was later excluded from the results for his part in the accent with Ian Brookfield and fined £200 under regulation C.1.5.  James Browning dominated the Twin Spark Cup to the end, finally coming home 2.64” ahead of Simon Cresswell who had enjoyed probably his best ever drive in the orange 156. Andrew Bourke would finish third although he almost lost the place by running into the back of Vince Proto’s Punto at Graham Hill Bend on the final lap and sending it for an excursion high over the grass but, fortunately for Andrew, not letting Tom Hill past. Matt Daly had dropped away a little at the end but would still finish 5th in class ahead of Mike Tydeman, Gethin Llewellyn, Stacey Dennis, Jeremy Chilton and a rather disappointed Nick Anderson.

It was an extremely upset Ian Brookfield who returned to the paddock after the race and when his 155 was brought back for all to see one could appreciate why but, at the same time, how lucky he had been not to be badly hurt. He reckoned that the car was a write-off, a sad return for the amount of time, effort and money he had put into it. Chris McFie apologised afterwards for his part in the accident. Another unhappy driver was Dave Messenger whose 156 was badly damaged for the second meeting in a row, his only consolation being that there was six weeks to fix it, and build a new engine, before Mallory.

Race 1 Results

Winners
Modified Vincent Dubois
Power Trophy Paul Plant
Twin Spark Cup James Browning
Invitation Simon Mcfie

View full results

Photo: Michael Ward

The crowd continued to enjoy more demonstrations and the Pirelli Ferrari Formula classic race before the “Italiano v inglese” cars came out for their second 15 minute contest. This time it was dominated by Ian Stapleton’s GTV6. Having lost Ian Brookfield and Dave Messenger, we had 16 cars on the grid for our race 2 with six in the front group to start on the lights and ten behind waiting 10” for the flag start. In the interval, Ron Davidson had had a new front wishbone fitted to his 164.

This time, it was Paul Plant who made the best start and led Vincent Dubois and Simon McFie into Paddock. As they disappeared, the Twin Sparks made a rather more orderly getaway with Gethin Llewellyn making a jack-rabbit start, passing both Matt Daly and Tom Hill close to the pit wall and almost getting by Simon Cresswell at Paddock. James Browning led from from moment the lights went out but this time it was Andrew Bourke who slotted into second place. Tom Hill just managed to stay ahead of Matt Daly, taking Mike Tydeman with him on the outside. Into Druids, Mike shot past Tom – again on the outside line – but Tom wasn’t having any of that and re-took the place at Graham Hill Bend in somewhat robust fashion, there being contact on the way. Both continued but this allowed Matt to get alongside Tom on the Cooper Straight. By Surtees, James Browning was already pulling away from Andrew Bourke while Gethin Llewellyn was almost alongside Simon Cresswell on the exit of Clark Curve. 3.5” covered the top seven TSC cars at the end of the first lap. All action once again! Overall, Paul Plant kept the lead until the top straight but once Vincent Dubois was ahead only a mechanical problem or driver error would lose him the race. Simon McFie led brother Chris once again with Ron Davidson holding on well although Vince Proto was already looking to see where the Twin Sparks were.

Into lap 2, Matt Daly was closing on Mike Tydeman into Paddock with Tom Hill eager to get past both of them. Further back, Nick Anderson was having a much better race in his Spider, running ahead of both Stacey Dennis and Jeremy Chilton but they would both pass him on lap 3. By the end of that lap, James Browning had extended his lead to 1.5” but Andrew Bourke was still being hustled by Simon Cresswell and Gethin Llewellyn, Gethin adding a new dimension to the TSC front runners. Mike Tydeman was still ahead of Matt Daly and Tom Hill as they crossed the line but at Paddock Matt got ahead of Mike only to lose out as the 156 took a tight line at Druids and stayed ahead. Matt was in determined mood and pushed himself down the inside of Mike at Graham Hill. There was slight contact but Matt was ahead, waving an apology to Mike as he went off in pursuit of Gethin Llewellyn taking Tom Hill with him.

From this point on, there never seemed to be any doubt that James Browning would take his second Twin Spark Cup win of the day but what was happening behind kept us all entertained even if the race order didn’t alterr although Mike Tydeman was losing touch with Matt Daly and Tom Hill. Nothing really changed until lap 19 when Tom Hill finally made it past Matt Daly on the exit of Surtees.

This meant that the Twin Spark “train” was James Browning (2” clear”), Andrew Bourke, Simon Cresswell, Gethin Llewellyn, Tom Hill and Matt Daly, with Stacey Dennis closing on Mike Tydeman. Overall, Paul Plant was keeping Vincent Dubois in sight although he dropped away further in the last couple of laps. Chris McFie retired his Punto before the half way stage leaving Simon to come home 3rd, all on his own. The top three had lapped all the Twin Sparks but James Browning completed a superb weekend to win the class again with his 147 – pole position, two wins and two fastest laps. Doesn’t  come much better than that! Andrew Bourke came home a satisfying 2nd, 4.11” later chased all the way by Simon Cresswell. Tom Hill almost got ahead of Gethin Llewellyn on the outside at Druids but had to give best by 0.5” at the flag with Matt Daly’s 145 a further 0.953” back after another splendid drive. 7th in class was Mike Tydeman but Stacey Dennis was within 0.6” at the flag. Jeremy Chilton and Nick Anderson completed the Twin Spark finishers while Ron Davidson made it to the finish to end second in the Power Trophy. It was a delighted Vincent Dubois who made it to the top step of the overall podium to be joined by Paul Plant and Simon McFie.

Race 2 Results

Winners
Modified Vincent Dubois
Power Trophy Paul Plant
Twin Spark Cup James Browning
Invitation Simon Mcfie

View full results

The trophies were presented later by Judith Hibbins, our named championship co-ordinator, who had shared the on-the-day role with Andy Robinson. The Grove & Dean Driver of the Day Award went to James Browning with special recognition going to Gethin Llewellyn and Matt Daly.

It was good to see so many old friends and racers once again – among those not already mentioned were Andy Steavenson and Paul Fasey, Chris and Jan Healey, Mel and Brad Freeman, Nick Suiter, Bryony Snowdon, Gary and Nikki Orchard, John Monk (Chief Scrutineer), Emma Karwacki and son Oliver, Tom Herbert, Josie Ward (Auto Italia), David and James Thomas. I also appreciated the hospitality of Chris Hartley and Chris Dawes in the commentary box. MSV looked after us extremely well and we are particularly indebted to Events Manager David Willey and Joe East who was deputy secretary of the meeting and edited the splendid programme.

By the end of the day, Andrew Bourke had expanded his overalls points lead over Tom Hill from 16 to 24 points while Simon Cresswell was now only 6 adrift of Tom in third place. Ian Brookfield had some very small consolation of continuing to lead the Power Trophy by 1 point from Paul Plant while Graham Seager and Vincent Dubois headed the Modified list.

Points

Standings after rounds 11&12

View

Sunday September 24th sees us return to Mallory Park for the first time since 2011 while the season finishes at the now MSV owner Donington over the weekend October 14th/15th.

Michael Lindsay

Just after Brands we were very sorry to hear of the death of our old friend William Hebblethwaite. William was a regular supporter of the Championship for many years and was a familiar face at Cadwell and Donington in particular. We send our sincere condolences to his sons Jeremy and Stephen. The funeral will be Peterborough Crematorium at 12.30pm on Thursday, 31st August and everyone will be welcome afterwards at The Woodman, PE3 6SQ – 1.30 onwards.

Photo by Tony Harrison