How unlucky can you be? Bryan Shrubb was certainly asking that question after two non finishes at Cadwell, the second on Sunday morning towards the end of the very last lap when he found a gearbox full of neutrals with a comfortable win within sight!
But that comes later in our report of the Championship’s first visit to the challenging Lincolnshire circuit for the first time since 2015. Bryan’s 33 16v was having the first of what may only be two outings this year and was joined in the Modified class by the 156 Turbo of Vincent Dubois which Vincent was confident would run reliably. None of the other modified cars we have seen this year – Graham Seager’s GTV, Roger McMahon’s 156 3.2 or Anthony George’s 33 16v – had entered while Andy Robinson’s 156 although near to completion was still not quite ready and Andy had assumed the “on the day co-ordinator” role once again. Keeping their fingers crossed for another good weekend though were the McFie brothers = Chris and Simon – in their Fiat Puntos, the Abarth version for Chris and the HGT for Simon although there were some question marks over the cars’ gearboxes. Inevitably, much of the focus was, as usual, to be on the Twin Sparks and the battle in the Championship between points leader Simon Cresswell and the chasing Andrew Bourke, Mike Tydeman and Tom Hill. Following his problems at Silverstone, Tom was having to start with an 8 place grid penalty in race 1 which, at Cadwell probably makes life more difficult than at some other circuits where overtaking is easier.
Likely to be very much “in the mix” was the 147 of Silverstone “star” James Browning while Dave Messenger can never be discounted although he would trying to avoid a repeat of his engine problems and “all nighter” the last time we were at the Lincolnshire circuit. Paul Webster had taken his car to the rolling road after Silverstone and discovered that it was seriously own on power probably due to airflow meter problem so, with that replaced, he was expecting to be more on the pace. It was good to welcome back Richard Ford and Jeremy Chilton. Richard’s 156 was looking especially smart having new “face lift” front bodywork that attracted a lot of attention from Tom Hill and his father – could we expect Tom’s 156 to have a new look in the future? Jeremy always likes to have a lap time target for every circuit but he wasn’t quite sure here that he was being realistic!
Early scrutineering in rather cold and windy conditions should have been followed by a Drivers Briefing in the Bianco marquee but no Clerk of the Course turned up! This brought an apology later from Dominic Ostrowski. However it meant that we had to make extra certain that drivers understood the start procedure for the weekend. Qualifying eventually got underway at 8.50 with Tom Hill in his usual pole position in the assembly area, ready to get into his stride straightaway with a clear track ahead of him – “we learned that in his karting days” said father Vic as everyone waited to go out. On this occasion though it was lap 3 before Tom set his fastest lap in 1’47.435”, well below the class lap record, which briefly stood as overall pole before Bryan Shrubb managed to get a smidgen of heat into his tyres. At the start of the session it looked as though Bryan and Vincent Dubois might be quite evenly matched but it was quickly obvious that the 156 turbo was not performing as it should and with just 5 laps completed Vincent pulled off. It transpired that the ceramic part of a spark plug had blown out but Vincent hoped that a new plug would sort out the problem. Bryan’s race pole was eventually set at 1’42.656” and after six laps he stopped circulating reckoning that he was unlikely to go much quicker and actually didn’t need to. Chris McFie was suffering tyre and gearbox problems, so was lapping in Twin Spark times while brother Simon was even worse off with chronic understeer in the HGT. A look at their Michelin tyres after qualifying revealed the need to use every spare they had, a couple being worn through to the metal in a couple of places.
Although Tom Hill was the quickest Twin Spark with a gap of 0.344” to Andrew Bourke, he would have to be starting near the back which left James Browning to line up alongside Andrew with a 1’47.913” giving the promise of a close battle from the front row of “Group 2”. Impressive, however, was Richard Ford who would be on the second row with Simon Cresswell and ahead of Dave Messenger and Mike Tydeman. Simon had spun at The Mountain and never quite regained his momentum after that. Andy Inman and Paul Webster were very closely matched. much to Paul’s delight as he had really put his head down in the final three laps but Jeremy Chilton didn’t seem able to match their times. However, to be fair to Jeremy he had a big bouncy “off” straightening the Hall Bends on one lap which probably didn’t help his confidence.
With the lunch break out of the way, all 14 cars that had qualified appeared on the grid but by the end of the green flag lap we had lost Simon McFie with a driveshaft failure. As the red lights were extinguished it was Chris McFie who leapt into the lead ahead of a cautious Bryan Shrubb and Vincent Dubois, staying ahead as the cars passed Diana doing her lap chart outside the cafeteria . Then coming onto the pit straight, no Bryan! – a front hub had broken and his race was over, leaving Vincent to chase the leading Fiat. Lap 2 – no Vincent! A major engine disaster had brought his race to a very premature conclusion. Meanwhile, Andrew Bourke had taken an immediate lead in the Twin Spark contest with James Browning running 0.9” behind and intent on getting on terms with the silver and orange 156. Simon Cresswell had passed Richard Ford with a “kiss” at Charlies while Dave Messenger already had Tom Hill pushing him hard, Tom having passed Paul Webster, Andy Inman and Mike Tydeman.
On the third lap Chris McFie could see that the gap between himself and the leading Twin Sparks had almost halved as he tried to be gentle with the Punto’s gearbox and tyres but on lap 4 he managed to stabilise the situation and crossed the line 5.9” ahead of Andrew Bourke who was being chased hard by James Browning. Simon Cresswell had managed to keep third in class but was being given no peace by Richard Ford – the gap ebbing and flowing. Simon was positioning himself very defensively and there seemed no chance for Richard to make a move this early in the race. Likewise, Tom Hill was right on the tail of Dave Messenger but it took him until lap 5 to get ahead and chase after Richard Ford who had had a slower lap and dropped a second back from Simon.
By lap 6, the half way stage, Chris McFie had managed to open up his lead over Andrew Bourke to 7.4” and thereafter he was able to settle into a rhythm that took him a second or so further away on each lap. This left us to concentrate on the Twin Spark battles behind, primarily that between Andrew and James Browning who were lapping at almost exactly the same pace and it was only going to be a brave move by James and an error by Andrew that would change the situation. Neither came and the two cars crossed the line just 0.382” apart although Andrew felt he had the race under control and was very careful to keep it that way to the flag on that final lap. By lap 9 the Cresswell/Ford/Hill trio were running with 0.7” seconds of each other but going into lap 10 Richard Ford managed to edge ahead of Simon at Coppice and stayed ahead into the braking area at Park when a determined Simon re-took the place. Tom Hill also saw a gap and passed Richard, much to the latter’s frustration. A lap later, after being bunched up lapping Jeremy Chilton on the exit of Barn, the three cars were still covered by only 0.5”, albeit in a different order – a really entertaining contest! And there would be no change as they dashed for the flag although Simon did manage to edge away a fraction from Tom who crossed the line 0.5” clear of Richard Ford who had driven his best ever race although he made the 156 work very hard for it as his in-car video showed afterwards. Dave Messenger had found the handling of his car deteriorate as the race went on but still managed to stay ahead of Mike Tydeman and Andy Inman while Jeremy Chilton completed the list of finishers. Right out of luck was Paul Webster whose car stopped on lap 3 with some kind of electrical malady at a point where he was chasing Andy hard – very disappointing.
Andrew Bourke was delighted to have taken his second TSC win of the year after seeming off the front running pace at Silverstone. James Browning remained philosophical – Cadwell “is so narrow that you have to be brave” or, as I would have added, risk disaster! Sensibly, he would rather keep the 147 in one piece to fight another day. With the second race not due until Sunday morning, there was plenty of time to attend to various problems although having looked under the bonnet of Vincent Dubois’ 156 it was clear that he would be taking no further part. The BLS team, on the other hand, went off to locate a replacement front hub to make sure that Bryan was on the grid for race 2, even if he would have to start from the back. Roger Evans was seen going with tool kit to the aid of Paul Webster. Paul had also discovered that his car was seriously overweight and was taking advice on what could be removed within the rules. Having initially thought that they did not have a spare driveshaft, the McFie team found one in their van for Simon’s HGT so that he would also be racing on Sunday. Tom Hill had the consolation of a new TSC lap record – 1’47.204”.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Sunday dawned less windy and a little less cold and everyone bar Vincent Dubois looked ready to race. With only three modified/invitation class cars due to start we would be, as at Oulton, reverting to a grid based on the race 1 result for race 2 (as per the championship regulations). This means that everyone starts as the lights go out and Tom Hill’s eyes lit up as he heard the news! However, it gave Andy Robinson some extra work to do to make sure that the timekeepers and officials were 100% aware of the situation, not to mention the drivers!
Chris McFie was anxious to make a good start to take him away from the Twin Sparks straightaway and this he managed, leading the field through Coppice and up the hill to Charlies. Equally Andrew Bourke needed to have a perfect getaway if he was to keep James Browning at bay, which he also managed, the pair quickly resuming their race 1 battle with Simon Cresswell and Dave Messenger in pursuit before a small gap to Tom Hill and Richard Ford. Bryan Shrubb had made a cautious start to make sure that all was well with the repaired 33 and found himself temporarily behind Simon McFie on the first lap. The top four Twin Sparks closed to within 1.6” of each other during lap 2, the order unchanged, while Chris McFie had pulled 4” away and Bryan Shrubb had started to work his way through the field, getting ahead of Mike Tydeman and closing rapidly on Richard Ford. Further back, Andy Inman and Paul Webster were enjoying a close contest and would soon be joined by Simon McFie’s Punto.
Simon Cresswell had latched on to the tail of Andrew Bourke and James Browning during lap 3 while Dave Messenger was fighting off Tom Hill as Bryan Shrubb appeared on the scene and they had to give way to the quicker car. Tom was able to take advantage, passing Dave and going off in pursuit of Simon Cresswell . By the time they arrived at Hall Bends on lap 4, Bryan was up into second overall, 5” behind Chris McFie, and the Twin Sparks were able to resume their battle as before although Dave Messenger had dropped back into the clutches of Richard Ford. Simon McFie had got ahead of Andy Inman and Paul Webster, Paul having by far his best race to date in pursuit of Andy. Little over half a second separated Andrew Bourke and James Browning throughout laps 6 and 7 but Simon Cresswell had spun at Charlies and dropped back behind Dave Messenger who was then passed by Richard Ford who promptly went for a bouncy ride over the kerbs at the Gooseneck, oil smoke immediately making itself evident as he had cracked the engine sump. Dropping oil onto the track, the smoke got worse until he pulled off at the top of the Mountain but the slippery track would make life difficult after Mansfield, particularly at the Mountain. This caused everyone to tread carefully and with lap times increasing and gaps changing. It wasn’t until lap 10 that everyone had the confidence to push a little harder. By that time (on lap 7) Bryan Shrubb had waltzed into the race lead , easing away from Chris McFie who actually held on extremely well for a while and by lap 9 was only 3.2” adrift.
With two laps to go, James Browning was right back on the tail of Andrew Bourke, Tom Hill passed the timing line 2.5” later, 3rd of the Twin Sparks, with a long gap now to Mike Tydeman who had passed Dave Messenger, and Simon Cresswell. Paul Webster had again retired – “it just stopped” – just after the start/finish line on lap 7. We were all anticipating a Bryan Shrubb win when his luck ran out on at the entry to the Hall Bends on the final lap, a gearbox full of neutrals bringing him to a halt. So instead of the orange 33 on the exit of Barn, we saw the silver McFie Punto dashing down towards the flag to take its second victory of the weekend. Andrew Bourke kept calm again at the end of the race and crossed the line 0.246” ahead of James Browning with Tom Hill getting ever closer but not close enough, third in class. Mike Tydeman was very satisfied with his fourth place, leading home Dave Mesenger, Simon Cresswell, frustrated after his good first few laps, Andy Inman and Jeremy Chilton. Simon McFie was a non finisher with his Punto HGT, pulling out on lap 7. Almost as satisfying for Andrew Bourke as his win was a new lap record, beating Tom Hill’s best in race 1, with 1’47.058”.
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Andy Robinson presented the trophies afterwards in the Bianco marquee, Andrew Bourke (and his family who were there) being especially happy to have taken back-to-back wins in the Twin Spark Cup which meant that he had re-taken the championship lead from Simon Cresswell, now with a 13 point margin. The Grove and Dean Motorsport Insurance “Driver of the Weekend” award went to Chris McFie, a just reward for two excellent overall wins – his third out of six races.
View the latest standings.
Our thanks to the BRSCC’s Graham Whitaker and his team and to all Cadwell’s hard working marshals for another enoyable visit. Let’s hope we can return next year. There is now a gap until everyone meets up again for rounds 7 & 8 of the Championship at Rockingham over the weekend June 17th/18th. For the first time for goodness knows how long, Diana and I will be missing a championship meeting as we shall be on holiday but we will certainly be watching the results!