A year ago I bemoaned the fact that more drivers don’t make our annual visit to Cadwell Park a “must do” event.
Our entry had been on the thin side and to a degree, the racing had reflected this. However, it is a pleasure to report that the trip to the Lincolnshire circuit last weekend produced not only a strong, if not capacity, entry but racing that had all the “wow” factor that can make the Alfa championship so special. Spectators were also able to take advantage of continual improvements being made to an already excellent viewing experience while, as I have said before, photographers can have their digital masterpieces clicking away knowing that the results are going to give them a lot of pleasure later.
As we have said before, it is often difficult to gather enough of our modified cars in one place but it was an enticing prospect to look at the entry list this time and see seven that were due to run, all of them different! And, of those, two were cars that we had not seen so far this year. Most people arrived on Friday afternoon by which time, a large Bianco Auto Developments transporter and marquee had been established on part of the large grass area outside the paddock “proper” which was dominated (and crowded out) by the huge Mazda entry. The Bianco base acted as a beacon for everyone arriving later and had the big advantage of keeping us all together during the weekend.
After their successes at Snetterton, Anthony George and Vincent Dubois were absent this time but Roger Evans had returned, the 147 GTA now fitted with a 3.2 litre engine rather than the 3.8 that overheated at Oulton. Roger was hoping that the handling of the car would make up in some part for the inevitable lack of horsepower. Andy Robinson’s 3.8 unit appeared not to have suffered from race 1 overheating at Snetterton and although he reckoned that Cadwell was not his favourite circuit after a crash there in 2013 (?) and a retirement in the Sunday race in 2014 he still hoped that he could give a good account of himself. Graham Seager missed Cadwell last year and thought that despite the straight line performance of the superchargd GTV he would have to work hard through the twistier parts of the circuit to stay ahead (if he got ahead!). It was good to see Chris Snowdon and Bryan Shrubb back again with their 33s which are ideally suited to Cadwell (Bryan won both races in 2014, Chris having done the same back in 2010). I asked Bryan whether his hard Hankook tyres might perform better than they had at Oulton and he was a little non committal! Finally, we had two cars from the McMahon stable.
Barry’s 156 has been completely rebuilt after its big accident at Spa last year but all was not well leading up to Cadwell, the 1750 Giulietta Turbo race engine having developed a problem and having to be replaced with a standard unit which meant that he might just about be on a par with Ray Foley’s 156 GTA. Roger McMahon, on the other hand, expected that his 2 litre 147 GTA Cup car would go well and be ideal for Cadwell. Originally it was thought that it would be able to run in the Power Trophy but it was pointed out, on closer inspection of the regulations that, as it had a Sadev sequential gearbox (as fitted as original specification) it would have to run in Modified. The car was beautifully turned out in its “Happy Days” red and yellow livery and Roger could hardly wait to get it onto the track! The Power Trophy was down to two cars this time – Ray Foley’s 156 GTA and the 33 8v of Nick Anderson, class winner in race 2 at Snetterton.
As usual, there was an excellent Twin Spark Cup entry, with all the front runners and regulars present apart from Stacey Dennis and Tim Perry (both there to support Bianco but without cars). Following a relatively late entry from Paul Plant, it looked as though it could be a three way battle for the lead between his Oulton winning 156 and the similar cars of James Bishop (with five wins to his name so far in 2015) and James Ford who was first to the flag in race 1 at Snetterton. Steve Potts was eager to repeat his good performance of a year ago, now in his face-lifted 156, while Andy Hancock was hoping for another podium in the Grove and Dean car. Tom Hill had his proper race engine this time, Simon Cresswell was back with a new engine in the ex Tom Herbert 156 after his original unit gave problems testing which meant he missed the last two rounds. Other 156s were the two Avon cars of Andy Inman and Paul Webster, Jeremy Chilton and Dave Messenger plus Luther Blissett’s example fresh from its class win in the recent 360 Club 6 Hours driven by Luther, Russell Anderson and Mike Watson. Really enthusiastic about the circuit after testing on Friday was Richard Stevens who reckoned his 145 was the ideal car. He was sorry though not to have the similar cars of Matt Daly and Tom Eastwood to measure himself against having watched their in-car videos. Richard Ford was back with his 146 not having raced since Silverstone, a new gearbox fitted to see if this was a cure for its propensity to jump out of third at awkward moments.
Saturday morning was bright and dry as qualifying got underway at 10.40 for the usual 20 minute session. It was going to be interesting to see how the newcomers to the circuit fared but sadly one of those, Dave Messenger, was an immediate casualty as his engine lost power on the first lap. He pulled off at the Mountain into the paddock slip road where it stopped and was pushed back onto the grass at the side of the track. By contrast, the best of the others making their first visit was Simon Cresswell who would end up fourth quickest among the Twin Sparks, one of only four to drop into the 1’48s. For most of the session it was Paul Plant who led the class with a 1’48.846” but after a pit stop for adjustments, James Bishop set a sub lap record best of 1’48.141” on his penultimate lap to grab the class pole. Paul improved to 1’48.552” to join him on the front row just heading James Ford (1’48.576”) and Simon Creswell but his 1’48.683” looked a bit of a one-off as it was on his 5th lap and he got nowhere near before the flag came out. In the 49s were Andy Hancock, Steve Potts and Tom Hill but there was then a 1.6” gap to Richard Stevens who was a little disappointed not to be quicker but his time kept him ahead of James Browning , Andy Inman (who completed the top ten) and the rest of the class.
The glorious sound of the 33 16v’s in the Modified class is always something to be savoured, in Chris Snowdon’s case approaching 9,000 rpm in fourth on his way to the uphill left hander at Coppice. By contrast the V6’s sound quite quiet! It was mid session before any quick times started to emerge, with Graham Seager and Roger Evans fighting it out for pole. In the end, that honour would go to Graham by a mere 0.116” with a best lap in 1’40.583” Bryan Shrubb had just about equalled his 2014 best which was interesting as he was on the derided Hankook “hards” but the team had made some subtle front end changes since Oulton which had obviously made the car more predictable. Chris Snowdon reckoned that the suspension on the Sismey 33 was far too stiff and this meant that he was some 3” away from pole which was not quite where he expected to be. Also in front of him was the amazingly quick 147 GTA Cup car of Roger McMahon which appeared to be very strong under braking and through the corners giving Roger a great deal of confidence plus a wide grin under his crash helmet. His best lap, to take a second row slot alongside Bryan was a 1’42.002”. Brother Barry completed 7 laps before stopping beyond the pit exit in the white 156 telling us afterwards that he had run out of fuel but it also appeared that he had an alternator problem and they would try to source a replacement. In the Power Trophy, Ray Foley was not feeling on his best form and his time would leave him between James Bishop and Paul Plant, although with the grid arrangements we have he would, of course, start ahead of both. Out of luck was Nick Anderson whose 33 8v completed just 2 laps before stopping with what Nick thought was a broken crankshaft (yet to be confirmed).
There were a number of woes to be dealt with between qualifying and the Saturday race. James Bishop had suffered a collapsed rear wheel bearing, Andy Hancock needed a new driveshaft and Paul Plant a new sump after riding a kerb too hard. Chris Snowdon needed a new front wheel bolt. Richard Ford’s 146 was still jumping out of third gear indicating a selector problem. Dave Messenger diagnosed a seized engine but a discussion with the Ford family later in the day found that they had a 2 litre engine sitting out of the 146 they had bought for spares and a deal was done for a grateful Dave to take his car to their home in nearby Lincoln to effect a changeover.
The Saturday race was to provide us with the first of two of the most exciting Alfa races we have seen for some time. Going away from the start, Graham Seager was quickly into the lead while Bryan Shrubb made an excellent getaway from the second row and slipped past Roger Evans into second place with Chris Snowdon fourth after making a better start than Roger McMahon. However, Chris had a twitchy moment at Charlies as he realised the brake balance was too much to the rear and on the way to Park he was trying to adjust it (with the little red knob behind the steering wheel, as seen on his excellent in-car video). James Bishop had made no mistake at the Twin Spark Cup start, consolidating his lead into Coppice ahead of James Ford and Paul Plant, with Andy Hancock and Simon Cresswell in pursuit. Through Mansfield and down to Mountain Bottom, Graham Seager had pulled out a small lead with Bryan Shrubb still second while Roger McMahon had slipped past Chris Snowdon. Andy Robinson was holding a comfortable 6th place while James Bishop had Ray Foley between himself and second in TS, James Ford. At this stage, 2.6” covered the top five but Bryan had closed a little on Graham as they went through the woods.
Chris Snowdon was the quickest of the five as they completed lap 2 while Roger McMahon had made a late braking effort to try and wrest third place from Roger Evans. Now only 1.6” covered the front runners with everyone cheering on their particular favourite. Andy Robinson was already 5” off the lead and James Ford had passed Ray Foley in his chase of James Bishop. Missing was Simon Cresswell who had had contact at the hairpin and had pulled off after Charlies with rear suspension damage. Richard Stevens was running a fine 5th amongst the Twin Sparks ahead of Tom Hill and James Browning. Steve Potts had already retired with a blown engine and lap 3 was to see the retirement of Roger McMahon as his water temperature had risen alarmingly, leaving the remaining four at the front to fight it out, which they continued to do. Roger Evans passing Bryan Shrubb on lap 3. Chris Snowdon had given himself a fright running onto the grass at Charlies which damaged the 33’s front spoiler fixing but didn’t fortunately end his race. At the end of the lap, it was clear that James Bishop had some sort of problem as he was slowing which allowed James Ford to take over the TS lead as they passed the pit wall. James would soon retire with a throttle related problem, marking his first non finish for over two years. Paul Plant was now 4” behind with Andy Hancock, Richard Stevens and Tom Hill gradually losing touch behind.
By the end of lap 4, it had all closed up again, under a second covering the leaders with Chris Snowdon pushing Bryan Shrubb hard. At this stage Andy Robinson was actually lapping fairly close to the top four’s times but on lap 5 Graham Seager speeded up by some 2” and everyone else followed suit, so the gap was still only 0.968” from first to fourth when they crossed the line, Bryan Shrubb trying to find a way back past Roger Evans. James Ford continued to lead the Twin Sparks, 3.5” clear of Paul Plant with Andy Hancock now third, while Richard Stevens and Tom Hill continue their battle for fourth and fifth, Further back another entertaining contest was that between Richard Ford and Luther Blissett. The next few laps saw the pace hot up considerably, with lap times dropping into the 1’41s and then the 1.40s. Chris Snowdon made a real effort on lap 9, passing Bryan Shrubb and then closing on Roger Evans who he passed the end of the Park Straight on lap 11 but it was too late to do anything about Graham Seager who would run out a well deserved winner 0.872” ahead of Chris with Roger and Bryan completing the top four with 1 mere 1.6” separating them all. Bryan had dropped back for the final lap to see if he could make fastest lap on a clear road, a feat he achieved with a 1’40.052”, just missing the sub 1’40” he had hoped for. Andy Robinson slipped back to finish 24” behind Bryan but his best lap had been nearly 2” quicker than in qualifying. James Ford took his second Twin Spark victory of the year with Paul Plant 4.5” back, though well clear of third placed Andy Hancock. Richard Stevens stayed ahead of Tom Hill to be delighted with the 145’s best result of the season while James Browning, Andy Inman, Luther Blissett, Richard Ford (still jumping out of third!), Jeremy Chilton and Paul Webster completing 17 finishers. In the paddock afterwards we all caught our collective breath and there were plenty of stories to tell and videos to watch. For me, in the main commentary box with Andy Fraser having even more excitement out in the “country” it had been non stop action. For once, I hardly noticed the stiff climb back to the assembly area! What would Sunday bring?
Well, before that, there were several car issues to be sorted out. Dave Messenger had decided to take up the Ford family’s offer of an engine and disappeared for a long evening (and night as it turned out!). Bianco decided to fit the spare engine they had brought along to Steve Potts’ car while the McMahon team were able to fit a replacement radiator to Roger’s 147 which would hopefully solve the overheating problem. Simon Cresswell’s rear suspension would also be fixed before the morning.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Ray Foley|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|
There was rain during the night and we wondered whether this was going to be a case of another dry Saturday and wet Sunday. However, despite another early morning shower, it looked as though the track would be dry enough to remove any question marks in the slicks versus wets (or intermediates if available) argument. It was good to see that Darnells trailer was back in the paddock, having arrived at around 4 a.m. leaving a very tired team to grab some sleep before Dave Messenger had to qualify (successfully we are happy to say) with the Toyota MR2’s. It was going to give added interest to the race to see how Dave, James Bishop, Steve Potts and Simon Cresswell fared coming through from the back of the grid. There was still some dampness through the trees and on the inside at Coppice, so there would no doubt be a little care taken through these sections.
Away from the start, Chris Snowdon led for a few yards, taking Bryan Shrubb with him while Roger Evans tried to go between Bryan and Graham Seager but then backed out, then managing to pass Bryan before Coppice. Graham Seager from pole took the inside into the corner alongside Chris, but the 33 had the inside line at Charlies and was away into the lead arriving at the Mountain with a clear gap over Graham. Andy Robinson and Roger McMahon had been well in touch at Charlies while Ray Foley managed to stay ahead of James Ford, Andy Hancock and Paul Plant leading the Twin Sparks. Roger Evans was lying third at the Mountain, with Roger McMahon ahead of Bryan Shrubb, having gone by at the favourite passing place, Mansfield. Andy Robinson was holding on well in 6th place ahead of Ray Foley before the Twin Sparks came into view, with Paul Plant challenging James Ford hard, Andy Hancock again lying third.
Across the line at the end of lap 1, Chris Snowdon had a 1.05” lead from Graham Seager with Roger Evans a further second back while in TS James Ford had Paul Plant pushing him hard. Steve Potts had been the best of the back of the grid starters, up to 7th in class already and was in front of James Bishop but this wasn’t to last for long. At the Mountain at the end of lap 2, Graham was a little closer to Chris but the 33 was in full flow now and by the time they crossed the line the gap had gone out to nearly 2 seconds although the next group of three were holding on well, as was Andy Robinson. Paul Plant was mounting a definite challenge on James Ford, and James Bishop had passed Steve Potts, his next targets being Tom Hill and Richard Stevens.
On lap 3, Graham Seager used all his supercharged V6 power to rush past Chris Snowdon on Park Straight and into the Mountain Roger McMahon was very confident on the brakes as he tried to run alongside Chris as the 33 ran wide but had to pull back for the right hander before the hill. Over the line, Chris was right on Graham’s tail and such was the ebb and flow again as different parts of the circuit suited different cars that only 1.47” covered the top five, with Andy Robinson just 1.7” further back. As the lap times came down, Chris Snowdon was keeping the pressure on Graham Seager and on lap 5 it was 0.331” at the line, lap 6 0.335” but they both now had Roger Evans mounting a challenge. On lap 7, however, Graham Seager ran wide onto the grass after the Gooseneck and although he gathered it all up he lost enough momentum to let both Chris and Roger by and to find himself challenged by Roger McMahon and Bryan Shrubb. For the next two laps, Chris and Roger crossed the line nose to tail – the race seemingly theirs to fight out to the finish. Meanwhile, the Twin Spark battle had continued unabated and side by side between James Ford and Paul Plant while James Bishop passed Andy Hancock into third place on lap 8 and was only 10” behind the leading pair.
Lap 10 –the gap 0.163” at the front with Roger Evans now convinced that he could take the win. Up at Charlies, Chris Snowdon seemed to run slightly wide, Roger put his nose into the gap as Chris went for the apex. Double contact followed with Chris off on the grass at speed on the left and Roger broadside and stationary across the track. Phenominal avoidances by Graham Seager (who very nearly nosed into the barrier but luckily avoided it) and Bryan Shrubb meant that we didn’t have a T-boning accident on our hands but the race was over there and then for Roger as he pulled off. After bumping across the grass Chris Snowdon had suffered suspension damage, also retiring. A racing incident wwas the conclusion later. All this, commentated on with great excitement by Andy Fraser, left a surprised Bryan Shrubb in the lead with a lap and a half to go. Roger McMahon had retired with a suspected tyre problem after thoroughly enjoying himself, so it was Andy Robinson who now lay 3rd. After more side-by-side action, Paul Plant had eventually made a pass stick on James Ford while James Bishop was still pushing on, the gap to Paul now down to 8” but he knew that was as close as he would get and had backed off.
A somewhat incredulous Bryan Shrubb took the flag having completed 12 laps, 4.6” ahead of Graham Seager with another fastest lap – 1’40.042” to his name. He was disappointed not to have broken into the 1.30s, his data logger indicating that a 1’38.6” was possible. 12” further back, a happy third was Andy Robinson having set a very respectable 1’42.459” best lap on the way. Ray Foley came home fourth to take the Power Trophy and Paul Plant was very satisfied to lead a Bianco whitewash (oh well, I had to use that sometime!) from James Ford, James Bishop, Andy Hancock, Steve Potts, Tom Hill, James Browning and Simon Cresswell. It was good to see some hard fought Twin Spark action again. Richard Stevens was the first non Bianco car home and would have been higher but for contact with James Bishop at the hairpin. Andy Inman and Dave Messenger enjoyed an excellent battle, crossing the line half a second apart, with Luther Blissett, Jeremy Chilton and Paul Webster completing the list of finishers. The battle for a new Twin Spark lap record was eventually won by James Ford with a 1’48.127” in Saturday’s race.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Ray Foley|
|Twin Spark Cup||Paul Plant|
With no visits to the Clerk of the Course to interrupt proceedings, Philip Clay presented trophies for both races, Bryan Shrubb receiving the Grove and Dean Driver of the Weekend award with James Browning getting a special mention. It had been good to see so many old friends of the Championship giving us their support including Mick Bolton, who brought along four of his great trophies, William Hebblethwaite, Ian Keyworth and Richard Isgar, one of Clive Hodgkin’s first sponsors under the Interparts banner.
To avoid any confusion, we have started showing the points table with the three worst scores deducted now, and reveals that 1 point divides James Bishop (124) and Graham Seager (123) at the top of the list with Ray Foley (108), Bryan Shrubb (102)next, ahead of Tom Hill and James Ford equal on 99. Roll on Brands Hatch on Sunday, August 23rd.
This was the final meeting for Drew Furlong as BRSCC Competitions Director before he moves off to pastures new with the BARC. We should like to thank him for all the help and support he has given us over the years and wish him well as he gets to grips with a new set of problems based down at Thruxton.