Saturday morning at Cadwell Park was cloudy and there was a forecast for sunny intervals during the day which, if they transpired, would mitigate the chilly breeze permeating the Lincolnshire Wolds.
There had been heavy overnight rain but the track was steadily drying and as we were not due on track for qualifying till 13.25 the hope was that it would have dried out completely by then. The BBC weather summary indicated a small % chance of rain some time during the day, so the omens were positive for good track conditions.
A total entry of 12 cars was somewhat disappointing given the expectations that had arisen from speaking with drivers earlier in the year, but at least we had more entries than the MX-5 Super Series, the Porsches, and the Fiesta Juniors, and only one or two less than the Fiestas and the MX-5 Groups. We were nevertheless paired with the Porsches again for a joint qualifying session and at the drivers’ briefing our Clerk even floated the idea of a joint race if the timetable was running late at the end of the afternoon, a suggestion that aroused strong opposition from all parties.
The intention was to send the Porsches out first, then ourselves after a reasonable interval in order to try and keep the two groups separate on the track. However, after the first two Porsches exited onto the circuit the third one declined to move, so in response to the call that then arrived from the chief Assembly area marshal the Clerk of the Course told him to release the Alfas.
Tom Hill was using the spare Bianco car (the ex-Andy Hancock 156) as they were still trying to resolve ECU problems with his own car, and was first onto the circuit as is his custom. On his second flying lap he was already into the 1:47s – close to the Twin Spark Cup lap record – and on the 7th of his 10 laps set the Twin Spark pole at 1:46.898 and finished the session 3rd fastest overall, notwithstanding being unable to select 3rd gear. Not to be outshone, Paul Webster recorded a superb time of 1:43.656 on his 8th lap, well under the Power Trophy lap record, to take the overall pole, a position where most had expected to see Graham Seager’s mighty supercharged GTV. Graham was having his first outing since last July and could justifiably claim to be a little rusty; he finished the session with a best lap of 1:45.279 – some 1.6 seconds slower than Paul but second quickest overall.
Dave Messenger was getting to grips with an unfamiliar and challenging circuit in only his second outing in his newly acquired Power Trophy 156 GTA and in those circumstances it was unsurprising that his quickest laps came right at the end of the session. A best time of 1:47.106 would see him line up 3rd on the front section of the grid. The evergreen Keith Waite had entered the evergreen 33 that he had debuted at Brands in March, and said he was racing at Cadwell for the first time since 2002! With a best lap of 1:59.032 he was off the pace of the rest of the field but was intent on getting on track and enjoying himself. He toyed with the idea of starting from the very back or from the pit lane so as not to get in the way of the Twin Sparks but a 20-second gap at the start between the two sections of the grid meant this was unlikely so he took up his normal position. The remaining entry in the front section of the grid was Jamie Thwaites in his superb-looking 155. Gearbox problems had thwarted his efforts at Snetterton so the team were hoping for better things here. Sadly it was not to be. On his first lap there were ominous wisps of blue smoke coming from the back of his car and he pulled into the pits at the end of his second lap with what turned out to be a cracked gearbox casing when the car had been recovered to the paddock. A spare gearbox back at base proved not to be serviceable and unfortunately the team had to withdraw from the races.
As the team were unfamiliar with racing an Alfa, Roger Evans introduced them to Philip from Alfashop and there was a long discussion about the things the car would need to establish a reliable base on which to build. Hopefully this will help them to move forward in resolving the issues with the car.
So, with Tom Hill on pole for the Twin Spark Cup runners, where were the others? Former class winner James Ford was second quickest in his red 156, having its first outing of the season. The car had been languishing outside in the rain and wind for many months last year and had been in something of a sorry state – cosmetically at least – but James had got it ready for the meeting at his home circuit and was rewarded with an excellent qualifying performance, albeit a second adrift of Tom’s best lap. His quickest lap – a 1:47.854 – was set early in the session but he then had to back off to allow his brakes to cool and he never got into the 1:47s again after that. Andrew Bourke was third quickest with a time of 1:47.991 on his final lap, reflecting Andrew’s determination to get back to his best form. A tenth of a second behind Andrew was Simon Cresswell who had gone quicker and quicker as the session progressed but was robbed of a potentially quicker time on his 9th lap when a fuel pipe came adrift. Richard Ford was next but had also run into problems. He set his best time of 1:49.712 on his fifth lap but a couple of laps later a drive shaft failed at Charlies bringing an end to his session. An excellent time of 1:47.921 – only 9/1000ths of a second behind Richard – on his last qualifying lap was recorded by Martin Jones, showing strong form in his 147 in only his 5th race in the Championship, followed by the irrepressible Steve O’Brien in his white and blue 147 to round off the grid.
The weather had remained dry all day, although chilly when the sun wasn’t shining, but just before 5.00 there were a few spots of rain as a bank of cloud made its way across the Wolds. We were due to be called to the Assembly area at around 5.10 for a race start at 5.40 and hoped it would blow over but then the heavens opened and stayed open – the downpour went on and on. Finally the Modified and Power Trophy runners had no choice but to change their slicks to wets in a mad scramble before heading down to the Assembly area. Perversely, shortly before the cars were released onto the track, the sun came out! Fortunately the track conditions during the race would not have warranted slicks even though there were dry sections…
Because of the change in conditions we were given an extra green flag lap – very sensible on such a demanding track where a small error can have major consequences. As the front section of the grid got away Dave Messenger passed Graham Seager to take the lead through Coppice but by the end of lap 1 Dave was back in third behind Graham and Paul Webster, with Keith Waite further back in 4th. When the flag fell for the Twin Spark start, the cars got away cleanly in grid order and completed the first lap in that order. On lap 3 Keith Waite slowed to let the Twin Spark field through but this had no effect on the Twin Spark running order which remained the same for the first 6 laps with the cars becoming generally more spaced out. By the end of lap 4 Tom Hill had a 10-second lead over James Ford with the rest of the field going through at 2-4 second intervals. Dave Messenger passed Paul Webster on lap 3 to retake second place overall but perhaps surprisingly Graham Seager was not pulling away from the two of them.
On lap 6 three events occurred which were to prove significant in the final reckoning. At the front Dave Messenger was right behind Graham Seager at the end of the Park Straight and decided to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre. It didn’t succeed and Dave got all 4 wheels off the track and lost time – as a result, Graham drew further away and Paul Webster retook second place, Dave cursing his rashness in making the attempt as he regained the track.
Further back, Richard Ford went off just after Coppice, the car spun round, the rear end hit the barrier then went round again and the front end hit the barrier as well, knocking the front bumper partly off as the car came to a halt. He resumed but the 3rd event then occurred which was to bring out the red flag. When the final two cars (apart from Richard) in the Twin Spark field reached the Park corner, Martin Jones made an attempt to pass Steve O’Brien. He went down the inside into the corner but got too far over, got onto the grass and went straight on at undiminished speed, hitting the barrier on the outside of the circuit head on between Park Corner and the Chris Curve, sustaining heavy frontal damage, though happily Martin himself was uninjured. Although the car was some distance off the circuit the Clerk of the Course took the safest course of action and the red flag came out with 4 minutes of the race to run.
Back in the paddock the Bianco team pored over Martin Jones’s car and after due inspection reckoned they could repair it adequately for Sunday’s race by pulling the front end out, fitting new suspension legs and generally patching it back together. Dave Messenger, meanwhile, was still berating himself for his unsuccessful overtaking manoeuvre. When the red flag came out the leading cars were on lap 7 but on the count back the result was declared at the end of lap 5 as that was the number of laps that Keith Waite had completed at the back of the field. This elevated Dave Messenger back into second place, much to his delight and Paul Webster’s chagrin, and his delight was enhanced when it was revealed that he had taken overall fastest lap, 1/10th of a second quicker than Graham’s. Tom Hill had taken a dominant win in the Twin Sparks from James Ford, Andrew Bourke, Simon Cresswell, Richard Ford and Steve O’Brien, Richard also benefitting from the count back to the end of lap 5.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Sunday morning dawned with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky to be seen, promising ideal racing conditions. The Bianco team had done a sterling job on Martin Jones’s car to get it passed to start, working till about 10 PM to do so. It didn’t look pretty, but it was certainly race worthy. Richard Ford’s had also been repaired, the damage having been relatively minor.
We were due off at 12.25, but a series of crashes in the earlier Fiesta Junior and MX-5 races necessitated lengthy repairs to the barriers and to several cars being retrieved from the circuit. Disappointingly, these delays led to all the remaining races being shortened from 20 minutes to 15 minutes and our race eventually started at 1.15.
Both sections of the grid got away in grid order – a good clean start. There was very slight side-to-side contact between James Ford and Andrew Bourke going up the hill after Coppice behind Tom Hill but they both continued unaffected. At the end of lap 1 the front group was led by Graham Seager, followed by Dave Messenger and Paul Webster, with Keith Waite dropping back as before. Tom Hill led the Twin Sparks, followed by James Ford, Andrew Bourke, Richard Ford, Simon Cresswell, Steve O’Brien and Martin Jones. However, it was not destined to be Richard Ford’s weekend. Unbeknown to him one of his front tyres was rubbing on a brake pipe and as he went to brake for Barn on lap 2 the metal on the pipe had worn through, the brakes failed and he hit the tyre wall on the exit to the corner. He got going again and tried to continue but soon realised he could not do so and retired to the paddock. At the end of lap 3 the running order was the same but Andrew Bourke was making a determined effort to pass James Ford; he was right on his bumper and pulled to make a successful pass into Coppice to grab second place.
At the front Graham Seager’s GTV was relishing the dry conditions and pulled steadily away from the battle for second between Dave Messenger and Paul Webster to win by nearly 17 seconds. The gap between them was consistently around 0.7 seconds, with Paul lapping consistently quicker and getting visibly closer, but a slower lap 6 in the 1:49s and the general difficulty of overtaking at Cadwell did for him in the end and he finished 8/10ths adrift of Dave at the flag. The strange thing was that after half distance they were both lapping slightly slower than the four quickest Twin Sparks. Tom Hill in particular was getting visibly closer to the battle ahead and finished only 5 seconds behind Paul and set a new Twin Spark lap record of 1:46.782, nearly 3/10ths quicker than Andrew Bourke’s previous record at the circuit.
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Thus ended our annual visit to Cadwell Park on a beautiful sunny Sunday; Tom Hill retook the Championship lead followed by Andrew Bourke and Paul Webster. An 8-week gap until the next meeting at Croft on 6/7 July now awaited us, hoping for a bigger grid as always. The Croft circuit has recently been resurfaced and lap records there have been tumbling as a result this season and that promises excellent racing. So – to all our drivers – please come and race there, the Championship needs you!