Photos: Stacey Dennis

The unique Cadwell Park circuit in the Lincolnshire Wolds was the venue for rounds 9 and 10 of the 2022 HITEK Alfa Romeo Championship. The circuit is often likened to a roller coaster with its challenging variety of fast and slow corners, up-slopes and down-slopes and the narrowness which reflects its origins as a venue for motorcycle racing. Moreover there isn’t a sand trap or a gravel trap to be seen, just tarmac and grass. It’s a real test of bravery, overtaking prowess and driver ability to set fast lap times there. The wind there can be very chilly even in summer as those who arrived there on Friday evening can bear witness, but on Saturday we were bathed in sunshine and although on Sunday there was more cloud cover the conditions were dry and excellent for racing.

QUALIFYING

Our entry of 15 cars took to the circuit at 11.00 AM for our 15-minute qualifying session amid bright sunshine and Tom Hill was first into his stride as always, and on what is virtually an ‘out lap’ recording a time 9 seconds faster than the next quickest pair (Andrew Bourke and Toby Broome) and 16 seconds or more quicker than anyone else (!). He held pole briefly for 2 laps and recorded his best time of 1:40.82 in his GT on his 4th lap. By this time, however, Scott Austin was well into his stride with his mighty modified 156, setting progressively quicker times culminating in a 1:37.78 on his penultimate lap to take overall pole from Tom in second.

Graham Seager was 3rd quickest in his V6 class 147 GTA with a time of 1:45.76 on his final lap, a very respectable time but with ground to make up on Tom for class honours. 4th place overall was the remarkable Andrew Bourke in his 156 Twin Spark. His lap times alternated between fast and not-so-fast but a brilliant time of 1:46.88 on his 4th lap was right on the class lap record and he claimed the class pole at the head of the second part of the split grid by 1.2 seconds over Toby Broome who was 6th quickest overall in 1:48.04 on his final lap. Toby is getting better and better on his return to racing after a long time gap.

In the absence of Andy Inman (get well soon Andy!) Revs Italia boss Roger Evans made his first appearance of the season in Andy’s 156 GTA and sandwiched Andrew and Toby with a time of 1:47.13, finding the car had too much understeer for his liking. Very close behind Toby was Jon Billingsley in his 147 Twin Spark who took 3rd place on the Twin Spark grid with a time of 1:48.16, 0.7 seconds ahead of Richard Ford who was 4th quickest in the class. Mingled in among the Twin Spark cars were Andy Page in his modified Giulietta 116 Turbo, finding the circuit did not particularly suit his car, and his 1:49.25 would see him claim the penultimate slot on the front section of the grid, and Gabriele Iaccarino in his V6 class GT. Gabs was struggling with crippling neck pain and a number of the many corners on the circuit were simply too painful for him to take at any speed, but he was determined to race despite the suffering involved. True race drivers race!

5th quickest Twin Spark was James Ford and here there was a tale to be told. Having not had time to repair his engine after its problems at Brands he was racing a 147 that a friend had bought off ebay for a very modest sum. The car had apparently been built years ago for the old Class E but had never raced and had since been lying in a Norfolk technical college for students to work on, the state of some of its wiring being a ‘testament’ to this variable work. So it was a completely unknown quantity but fortunately things went very well and James put in the middle of the Twin Spark grid with a time of 1:49.41. Remarkable.

Andy Winterton was 6th quickest Twin Spark in his 156, going progressively quicker throughout the session to record a time of 1:52.81 on his final lap. Andy has shown steady improvement through the season which is pleasing to see and he might have gone even quicker if a shock absorber hadn’t come adrift. Behind Andy was the also improving Robin Hall, much closer to the pack than earlier in the season, and a time of 1:53.29 on his final lap was a good effort to take 7th place on the Twin Spark grid. Robin had been clobbered by a BMW in testing the day before at the bottom of the Mountain, went over the kerbs and holed his sump. He took it off and repaired it with liquid metal and the repair was holding up well.

Behind Robin was Adrian Norman, having his second race meeting in his well presented blue 147. His mechanical woes at Brands turned out to be much more significant than just alternator failure and an engine rebuild had been required, so he was hoping for a trouble free run to help him settle into the Championship. The final place on the Twin Spark grid went to McLaren Lead Motorsport Technician Jon Tortolani in his black 147, enjoying a break from his hectic work schedule. After a lot of teething problems with his car last season it is at last running well and it mainly seems to be a problem of straight line speed that is holding him back now.

RACE 1

There had been very few car problems in qualifying and all 15 cars were ready to take the start at 16.48. When the red lights went out for the front section of the grid Scott Austin was slow away initially as Tom Hill surged off the line to take the lead but as they entered Coppice Scott had got back ahead and led the field through Charlies. At the end of lap 1 Scott had a little over a second in hand over Tom and the rest of the pack were already 7 seconds back, headed by Graham Seager who was followed through by Roger Evans, Andy Page and Gabs Iaccarino. For Gabs it was to be a difficult race – his neck pain was so severe that he felt nauseous and he had to drop right off the pace to ease it through the corners – but he was determined to finish and continued on.

When the flag dropped for the Twin Spark start, Andrew Bourke got his trademark fast start to take the lead with Jon Billingsley and the rest in hot pursuit. At the end of the first lap Andrew had 7/10ths in hand over Jon, followed through by Toby Broome, Richard Ford, Andy Winterton (a great start), James Ford, Robin Hall, Adrian Norman and Jon Tortolani in that order. Jon held the gap to Andrew on lap 2 but then Andrew began to pull steadily away at the front. By lap 4 the gap was 3.1 seconds, by lap 7 it was 5.2 seconds, and by lap 10 it was nearly 9 seconds. It was a master class by Andrew as a flawless drive took him to a dominant race win. His pace never slackened, demonstrated by the fact that he broke Tom Hill’s Twin Spark lap record on his penultimate lap. Jon was no slouch either as he pulled steadily clear of the battle for 3rd which stretched to 7 seconds by the chequered flag. Toby Broome held a fine 3rd place throughout. Richard Ford was in game pursuit but never got quite close enough to mount a serious challenge for the place, although he was only 0.6 seconds behind at the finish.

Behind the first 4 Twin Sparks James Ford claimed 5th place from Andy Winterton after a slight skirmish on lap 2 and pulled clear, a remarkable performance given the small amount of time there had been to work on the 147. After this initial battle Andy had a lonely race, taking 6th place in class well clear of Robin Hall who in turn held a gap back to Adrian Norman and Jon Tortolani.

In the Modified and V6 group, the order settled down initially, Scott Austin setting a dominant pace at the front and Tom Hill 2nd overall and leading the V6 class by an ever increasing margin. At the end of lap 8 he had an astonishing 44 seconds in hand over Graham Seager in 3rd but then disaster struck. At the end of lap 9 he limped into the pit lane with a broken drive shaft and retired, a big blow to his Championship aspirations but one of those seemingly random mechanical failures that can happen at any time. He did have some consolation in the fact that he broke Paul Webster’s V6 class lap record by well over 6 seconds though…

Graham Seager then inherited 2nd place; having always had a few seconds in hand over the battle for 4th between Roger Evans and Andy Page. Roger held the place early on but mid race Andy was getting closer and closer and was only 0.3 seconds behind at the end of lap 8. The pressure continued into lap 9 and at the end of the Park Straight Roger hesitated slightly, distracted by a marshal waving a white flag, and Andy dived down the inside to take 3rd and finished a few seconds clear of Roger at the chequered flag. Finally, 2 laps down in great pain and feeling very unwell, Gabs Iaccarino persevered manfully to finish the race – a heroic effort.

Race 1 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedScott Austin
V6Graham Seager
Power TrophyNo starters
Twin Spark CupAndrew Bourke

RACE 2

In between races Scott Austin was concerned about continuing problems with his gearbox and decided to drain the oil. In it he found some bits of metal and also a nut which had no legitimate business being there. He refilled it but was in two  minds about whether or not to risk taking the start for the second race; in the end he did so but decided to drive carefully and to retire at the first indication of the gearbox not sounding or behaving as it should. Gabs Iaccarino, meanwhile, had taken pain killers to try and get through the race less uncomfortably than he had the previous day.

The timetable was well spaced out for us this weekend and Sunday’s race was scheduled for 14.55, albeit it started 20 minutes late owing to incidents in previous races. It was overcast and cooler but still very good track conditions, and all the cars were ready on the grid. All, that is, except for Adrian Norman. When he braked approaching the grid prior to the green flag lap, a tool that had been accidentally left in the car rolled out of hiding across the floor, so he drove into the pit lane to have it removed. While he was there the drivers’ door window glass dropped and stuck open and the marshals said he couldn’t race with it like that. Fortunately his team managed to wedge it shut again but he was unable to take the start from the grid and would start from the pit lane.

After the end of the green flag lap the start on the lights for the front section of the grid did not go to plan… The red lights came on but instead of going off to trigger the start in the normal way the amber lights came on, which should mean the start has been aborted, but instead of staying on all the lights went out. Some drivers crept forward but others didn’t move, uncertain what to do next, then one driver decided to go and gradually they all set off, fortunately without any collisions occurring which could easily have happened. The officials’ verdict after the race was that there had been a systems malfunction. It was a shambles but luckily the drivers all emerged unscathed. This shook up the order somewhat and at the end of lap 1 Tom Hill had a 5-second lead over Graham Seager with the cautious Scott Austin a further 3 seconds back with Roger Evans close behind, followed by Andy Page and Gabs Iaccarino still well in touch.

The Twin Sparks got away on the flag without mishap after a long hold, as did Adrian Norman from the pit lane, and once again Andrew Bourke went straight into the lead. At the end of the first lap he already had over a second in hand over the inevitable Jon Billingsley behind him, with Toby Broome, James Ford, Richard Ford, Andy Winterton, Robin Hall, Jon Tortolani and Adrian Norman following through in that order. That order remained unchanged for the first four laps as the race settled into a pattern until James Ford squeezed past Toby Broome and set about trying to reduce the gap to Jon Billingsley some 4 seconds up the road. James was at times lapping within just over half a second off the lap record and had reduced the gap to 2 seconds by ther end of lap 8 when unfortunate;y the gearbox/ clutch started to give problems. For a couple of laps he lost fourth gear and managed to keep Toby behind but then the car stuck in third gear and he was powerless to prevent Toby from cruising past back into third. Meanwhile, Robin Hall had disappeared off the lap charts – the sump repair had worked but then drive shaft failure sadly brought his race to a premature end on lap 7.   

In the Modified/V6 group Tom Hill was running amok at the head of the field. The 5-second lead over Graham Seager at the end of lap 1 was 23 second by the end of lap 4, 37 seconds at the end of lap 7, 50 seconds at the end of lap 10 and 57 seconds at the chequered flag. It was a masterclass in controlled aggressive driving and Tom was in a class of his own, lowering the V6 lap record he had shattered in race 1 by a further 1/10th. Surprisingly it was Tom’s first outright race victory and it was absolutely superbly executed.

Meanwhile Scott Austin’s comparative lack of pace was keeping the commentators busy speculating what car problem he was nursing. Roger Evans had passed him on lap 2 to take 3rd place and Andy Page followed suit on lap 4 as Scott circulated some 10 seconds off his previous day’s pace. However, the gearbox seemed to be behaving itself and, anxious to record at least a class win, he went 4 seconds quicker on laps 6 and 7 and retook 4th place overall from Andy. Thereafter he managed to do just enough to stay ahead of Andy while having everything crossed for the car to make it to the end. Behind Andy, Gabs Iaccarino had maintained a good pace for the first few laps – albeit not nearly what he is capable of – but then from lap 7 to the finish he again dropped right off the pace, keeping out of the way of other cars and managing the pain as best he could.

Back in the Twin Spark group, an interesting dice developed at the tail of the field between Jon Tortolani and Adrian Norman. By lap 5 Adrian had made up the time lost to Jon from starting in the pit lane but could not find a way past. Jon was lapping some 4 seconds quicker than he had in qualifying and even though Adrian was visibly quicker in a straight line Jon was able to keep him at bay through the corners, that is until lap 9, when Jon tried a bit too hard and had a ‘moment’ from which he recovered but lost several seconds to Adrian in the process. Nevertheless it was an encouraging performance and Jon could take heart from it. Adrian too had knocked 2 seconds off his qualifying time and is making good progress.

At the front of the Twin Spark field Andrew Bourke was untouchable; he had closed right up behind the experienced Andy Page and though Andy’s straight line speed kept him ahead he was mightily impressed with Andrew’s driving behind him. The gap behind Andrew to Jon Billingsley varied a little but Andrew had plenty in hand and took a second dominant class win, Jon finishing second again a few seconds behind after another strong drive. Behind Jon, Toby came home to take his second podium of the weekend. Meanwhile, James’s woes continued as brother Richard drove past into fourth spot as the 147 stopped at the bottom of the mountain on the last lap with no gears to be found. James lost about 15 seconds as he eventually managed to get the car going in second and finish the lap in the same gear. He had enough in hand to retain 5th place ahead of Andy Winterton who had another lonely race with a gap to James ahead and another to Adrian Norman and Jon Tortolani behind him.

The top three overall represented a 1,2,3 for the Revs Italia team – Tom Hill, Graham Seager and Roger Evans – for the first time since a very wet race at Rockingham in 2015, an excellent result. Scott Austin took a Modified class win ahead of Andy Page, and Andrew Bourke, Jon Billingsley and Toby Broome comprised the Twin Spark podium in a reprise of Race 1. James Ford scooped the Driver of the Weekend award for some fine recent performances and for his resourcefulness in bringing another much needed car to our grid.

Race 2 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedScott Austin
V6Tom Hill
Power TrophyNo starters
Twin Spark CupAndrew Bourke

On we go to Oulton Park for the season’s finale on 8th October. Let’s hope for a sizeable grid to round off the season at this great circuit!

Andy Robinson