Every year we go to Cadwell Park it surprises me that more drivers (and spectators) don’t make it a “must do” event on their annual calendar.
The circuit is such a challenge for drivers and an opportunity for spectators to get closer to the action than almost anywhere else in the UK. For photographers it is a dream come true with hardly any obstructive debris fencing and plenty of different viewing points from which you can get some superb results. I suppose, the only downside is that it seems a long way to go but in reality the roads are relatively uncluttered and the journey times shorter than you might expect. It was sad, therefore, that our entry last weekend was just 18 cars of which two were the Fiat Abarth’s of our old friends Roger McMahon and Alastair Kellett. However, don’t let any of this be a criticism of the quality of the racing which was superb, particularly in class E which started with 11 cars and finished the two twenty minute races with 10 of them still running and fighting hard for positions.
The return of Bryan Shrubb was a welcome feature of the entry, the BLS prepared 33 16v having become fuel injected since its last appearance at Silverstone in October. Bryan was hoping to repeat his 2013 race wins but the reappearance of Guy Hale’s 147 GTA with its Donington damage a thing of unhappy memory meant that he should have some strong opposition. Andy Robinson was entered in his 3.8 litre 156, determined to get some points on the board, the car looked after as ever by Kevin Evans. Darelle Wilson was missing his first Alfa race for some time which meant that Robin Eyre-Maunsell was the only runner in Class B, this time back in the Avon Racing 75 3 litre. Also staying at home to catch up on a backlog of work was Roger Evans, again a rare absence. The two Fiats would undoubtedly feature well, particularly if it was wet, and Roger McMahon was delighted to find in Friday testing that some corner-weight set up changes had improved his lap times by no less than 3.5”.
Without a doubt we have to thank the efforts and enthusiasm of Bianco Auto Developments for the strength of Class E this year and the line-up in the paddock reflected this to good effect. James Ford and James Bishop arrived leading the Championship with their 156s, separated by a single point. Steve Potts had moved into 3rd in E with his 147 after a good run at Oulton while Jon Billingsley was hoping to get closer to the front after a relatively disappointing last race. Having missed Oulton, Steve O’Brien was back with the third Bianco prepared 147. Fortunately, there was no lasting damage to Andy Hancock’s 156 engine after splitting his sump on the Oulton kerbs and his confidence was high after running as high as 2nd there. Tom Herbert had had an “off” day Oulton and was determined to be back in the mix for a win at Cadwell. Bianco also had a new car in their ranks in the shape of a 146 which had been built up for Richard Ford, James’s brother, who would be making his racing debut. This particular 146 had been found on e-bay and was not to be confused with the ex Tom Allen car raced last year by Matthew Flynn. The four non Bianco Class E cars were the 145s of Spur Motorsport’s Tom Eastwood, who was another to miss Oulton, Kristian Leith in the Pro alfa prepared car, and the 156s of Avon Racing’s ever enthusiastic Andy Inman and Luther Blissett. Luther’s transporter had arrived during Friday night with a car that looked smart but, basically, was a non runner and unlikely to be ready for qualifying. Only a lot of hard work by Luther and his brother, plus much input from Bianco and Avon would eventually get it to a stage where it could do a couple of laps before lining up at the back of the grid for race 1 late in the day.
Standing at the entry to Hall Bends, there was some pretty enthusiastic and on-edge driving from the word go by some of those in Class E
Despite some rain early in the morning, the track was dry by the time our qualifying got underway just before the lunch break. Standing at the entry to Hall Bends, there was some pretty enthusiastic and on-edge driving from the word go by some of those in Class E, the tyres twittering away as they scrabbled for grip. James Ford was soon putting his experience of the circuit to good use, slamming in two really quick laps mid session with his best of 1’48.635” good enough for class pole. He would be the only one in the class to break the 1.50” barrier, James Bishop managing 1’50.224” while Steve Potts and Tom Herbert set an identical time of 1’50.531”. Most of the rest of the class were very closely matched and would line up in the order – Jon Billingsley, Tom Eastwood, Andy Hancock, Andy Inman, Kristian Leith and Steve O’Brien. Richard Ford suffered an exhaust problem and would start at the back with Luther Blissett.
Overall, Bryan Shrubb was getting used to the characteristics of the fuel injected engine and it looked as though he and Guy Hale would be matching each other as the session progressed. Sadly though, after setting his best time of 1’45.031”, the 147 GTA suffered a loss of power steering as the pump had sheered off the block, bringing Guy’s weekend to a premature end. As this was a new pump to replace the one damaged at Donington, this was a highly disappointing outcome for both him and us. Bryan Shrubb eventually got his head down for a quick final lap in 1’42.176” which would leave him 3.2” clear of Alastair Kellett’s Punto Abarth. Andy Robinson continued his learning curve with the powerful 156 to end qualifying half a second quicker than Robin Eyre-Maunsell on 1’46.878”, both of them just ahead of Roger McMahon’s Punto. The Punto, however, ended its session at the Mountain half way through qualifying with broken front suspension.
The Scrutineering Bay was busy for Class E cars after qualifying, Eligibility Scrutineer Brian Hopper and Gary Walker checking weights while Paul Plant looked at camber angles. The differences in weights were interesting, the two 145s were right down near their limit (1160 kg) while the 147s and 156s were in the 1190 – 1205 kg range as against an allowable 1180kg. Warnings were given over some camber angle discrepancies.
Incidents in the Mazda races meant that the timetable was running half an hour late by the time the Alfa race was due. Even when our cars did get onto the grid there was a further delay for more barrier repairs. From a purely selfish point of view this gave me more time to give additional driver information from the commentary box! At 5.50 the green flag was eventually waved and the 17 starters made their way round on the warm-lap. When the lights went out it was a very bunched field that accelerated away towards Coppice, Bryan Shrubb and Alastair Kellett taking an immediate lead from Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Roger McMahon while Andy Robinson, after a very slow start, became engulfed by Class E and pushed half on the grass on the way up to Charlies as Tom Herbert was outfumbled by Jon Billingsley and had to watch James Bishop, James Ford and Steve Potts getting away. Andy Robinson made a quick recovery and the power of the 3.8 V6 soon had him in hot pursuit of the Class E leaders, passing Steve Potts into Chris Curve on lap 2 and arriving at the Mountain with James Ford and James Bishop well in his sights. Roger McMahon had gone off the road at Charlies on lap 2 and had dropped behind Jon Billingsley, Tom Herbert and Tom Eastwood while behind there were battles between Andy Inman and Andy Hancock and Kristian Leith and Steve O’Brien.
There was never any question about who was going to win the race as Bryan Shrubb pulled away from Alastair Kellett at over 3” a lap to be 14” ahead by the end of lap 4. The eventual outcome of second place was not so certain however, as Robin Eyre-Maunsell was eating away at the gap between his 75 and the Punto Abarth, bringing it down to 1.4” by the end of lap 5. By this time, Andy Robinson had cleared James Bishop and James Ford but behind them there was a tremendous scrap going on between Steve Potts, a recovering Roger McMahon, Jon Billingsley and Tom Herbert. Roger McMahon was able to pull off a well thought out overtaking manoeuvre on Steve Potts at the Hairpin while Tom Herbert also squeezed past Jon Billingsley in a kerfuffle between Steve and Jon at the same place on lap 5, ending the lap right on Steve Potts’ bootlid.
James Bishop and James Ford continued running nose to tail, leading the class but it was clear that James Ford would make an attempt to pass at some point. He chose the entry to Mansfield on lap 6, but James Bishop – with damage to his nearside mirror – didn’t see him coming and the two cars made contact, both running off onto the grass. JB was able to keep his 156 going in the right direction but JF came back across the track, eventually nudging into the bank on the outside and out of the race thus doing his championship aspirations no good whatsoever. On the way, he narrowly avoided hitting Tom Herbert who seemed undeterred in his pursuit of James Bishop and Steve Potts, the three cars arriving at the Mountain in close proximity with Jon Billingsley just behind. Now 5th in class, Tom Eastwood was having a lonely time but the Hancock/Inman, Leith/O’brien battles were carrying on unabated.
By the end of lap 8, Bryan Shrubb had opened up 23” lead over Alastair Kellett but the Punto driver still had the looming Robin Eyre-Maunsell to worry about, while further back Roger McMahon was also making Andy Robinson keep a watchful eye on his mirrors. In E, it was becoming clear that James Bishop had the race under control but Steve Potts’ second place was under constant threat from Tom Herbert. On lap 10 Steve missed a gear coming onto Park Straight and this allowed Tom Herbert to get alongside him up the hill making an excellent pass into second in Chris Curve. Not that Jon Billingsley, having his best drive to date in the 147, had given up and the Hall Bends was again nose to tail stuff!
As the race entered its last few minutes, the Alastair Kellett/Robin Eyre-Maunsell contest had become even more tense and on the final lap, Robin made a lunge to pass at the Gooseneck but ended up bouncing across the grass and losing third place to Andy Robinson who had been some 20” behind. Bryan Shrubb took his third Cadwell win in a row, 33” clear of Alastair with Andy Robinson 3rd although Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Roger McMahon were right on his tail at the flag.
James Bishop led Tom Herbert home 6th overall and the winner of E by just 1.223”, Tom having the pleasure of setting fastest class lap in 1’ 49.236” after a hard fought race. 3rd in E was Steve Potts, pursued by the other green 147 of Jon Billingsley who was delighted to find afterwards that he had also set a sub 1’50” fastest lap. Tom Eastwood maintained his 5th in class while Andy Hancock headed Andy Inman home, likewise Kristian Leith in front of Steve O’Brien. Luther Blissett was happy to complete the race but Richard Ford retired his 146 with an exhaust problem. Bryan Shrubb had set his fastest lap (1’42.081”) mid race, faster than he had managed in either race in 2013 but half a second slower than in qualifying – but then he had hardly been pushed.
A somewhat chastened Robin Eyre-Maunsell returned to the paddock not knowing if he had damaged the old 75 3 litre but was assured by Clive Hodgkin that it would race again the following day. The damage to James Ford’s 156 was of a more visible nature but after much work by the Bianco team, and the recovery of some replacement headlights from one James’s “spare” cars, that would also be ready to line up for Sunday’s race, albeit from the back of the grid. His brother Richard had gone home to find a replacement exhaust which would be from a road car. Despite the late kick-off at 11 o’clock there was a lively Bianco party to watch the England v Italy World Cup encounter but there was little to celebrate as everyone eventually made their way to bed.
Some early morning rain on Sunday cleared away to give us the hope of a dry track for our second race of the weekend. Mid morning we held a prize giving for race 1 with Kelly Daly presenting the awards. As the last of Saturday’s planned races had been held over, it was just after 2.10 when the 17 car Alfa field made its way to the grid for another 20 minutes racing. Andy Robinson was determined to make a better start this time while, at the back, James Ford was faced with a long haul through the field if he was to be able to challenge new points leader James Bishop and he already had his lights on as he lined up at the back with his brother Richard.
Almost immediately Class E proved that three into Charlies won’t go
Alastair Kellett was off like a jack-rabbit as the race got underway, Bryan Shrubb being slightly hesitant, with Robin Eyre-Maunsell, Andy Robinson and Roger McMahon in pursuit of the 33. Almost immediately Class E proved that three into Charlies won’t go, Steve Potts with James Bishop on the inside, edging Tom Herbert onto the grass on the outside. Tom lost control, going broadside across the road and for a fraction it looked as though there was going to be one of those Cadwell multi-car accidents. Somehow, however, everyone avoided contact, probably the luckiest being Tom Eastwood who was well off onto the grass on the outside as Tom Herbert waited for everyone to go by. The big gainers were probably Andy Hancock and Kristian Leith who arrived at the Mountain 4th and 5th in class behind James Bishop, Steve Potts and Jon Billingsley but ahead of Andy Inman and Tom Eastwood.
Bryan Shrubb didn’t waste too much time in taking over the lead and by the end of lap 2 already had a 7.9” advantage over Alastair Kellett. Andy Robinson had moved himself up to third in front of a battle between Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Roger McMahon but they were only half a second ahead of James Bishop. James Ford had worked his way past Steve O’Brien and had Tom Eastwood and Andy Inman as his next targets. Further back, the delayed Tom Herbert was beginning to settle back into a rhythm, intent on catching the cars ahead that for a while seemed a distant prospect. Tom is never one to give up though!
With Bryan Shrubb disappearing into the distance, Andy Robinson was working hard to close the gap to Alastair Kellett while Roger McMahon who had been running just behind Robin Eyre-Maunsell was having an adventurous time in the Punto, recovering from the Charlies grass on lap 4 just in front of Tom Herbert. Happily for Tom, Roger was able to use the agility and extra power of the Punto to pass Steve O’Brien’s 147 just ahead and then James Ford and Andy Inman. At the front of E there was another fierce battle going on between James Bishop and Steve Potts, the pair crossing the line separated by just 0.45”, towing along Jon Billingsley and all three lapping in the 1’48s. 4th in class was a relatively lonely Andy Hancock in front of Kristian Leith who was having a much better race on the Sunday. Then, 4” back came a trio consisting of Andy Inman, Tom Eastwood and James Ford – covered by just half a second. And where was Tom Herbert? Well making progress to line himself up for a pass on Steve O’Brien during lap 6 after which he quickly arrived on the tail of James Ford who had lost a couple of seconds behind Andy Inman.
Lap 7 saw Andy Robinson continue to make progress in his pursuit of Alastair Kellett, the gap coming down to 2.4” and then 1.6” at the end of lap 8 but as he passed the pits there was a telltale whisp of smoke from the V6 exhaust and over the next couple of laps the gap started to grow, and Andy pulling off at the Mountain with just two laps to go. The engine had overheated bringing a disappointing end to an excellent drive which elevated Robin Eyre-Maunsell to 3rd. In E, James Bishop had opened the gap between himself and Steve Potts to 2” with Jon Billingsley drifting away in third but still ahead of Andy Hancock and Kristian Leith. James Ford was still trying his hardest to find a way past Tom Eastwood who was defending well, setting a new class lap record on lap 9 as he realised that Tom Herbert was becoming even more menacing. On the next lap James was 2” slower and Tom faster such was the see-sawing nature of the race. With a lap to go, Tom got a really good run out of Mansfield, getting alongside James into the braking area of the Mountain and gaining the place. Could he pass Tom Eastwood in the one lap remaining? All the way round that lap he chased down the orange 145 and then at the Mountain left-hander pulled off a really exciting (and brave!) overtaking move around the outside to wrest away 6th in class and go off in last minute chase of the other 145 of Kristian Leith. Kristian kept his cool, though, and crossed the line 0.44” ahead. So, Bryan Shrubb took his second race win of the weekend, setting a best lap of 1’41.430” near the end, Alastair Kellett and Robin Eyre-Maunsell followed him home well apart before James Bishop took Class E and 4th overall to consolidate the championship position. After various adventures, Roger McMahon came home 5th overall ahead of Steve Potts, Jon Billingsley, Andy Hancock (much happier with his performance), Kristian Leith (so was he), Tom Herbert (couldn’t have done much more after the lap 1 incident but never gave up), Tom Eastwood (probably happy to see the flag in one piece?!), James Ford (an unhappy weekend for him apart from the lap record), Steve O’Brien (getting steadily more competitive as his in-car video showed), Andy Inman (a clutch problem) and Luther Blissett. Richard Ford retired after just three laps.
It was good to see Philip Clay at Cadwell representing Alfashop and he presented the trophies afterwards in the Bianco marquee to some appreciative applause for some very entertaining racing. Andy Hancock handed over The Grove & Dean Driver of the Weekend Award to Tom Herbert for his second place on Saturday and heroics on Sunday. The Cadwell results left James Bishop leading the championship with 133 points from new second placed Steve Potts (103) and James Ford (101). I am grateful to Tom Herbert, Steve O’Brien, Tom Eastwood and Jon Billingsley for their in-car videos. If you haven’t watched them already, you should!
Our thanks to the Northern Centre of the BRSCC for another enjoyable visit to Cadwell. We now look forward to Round 8 at Snetterton on Saturday, July 12th which we expect to be run on the 200 circuit.
PS: An apology: In writing the report of the Oulton meeting in May (and ignoring my notes!) I totally forgot to include how pleased we were to see Graham, Andrea and Sarah Heels and Martin Jones making their first appearance of the year at a championship round, looking relaxed, fit and well. We look forward to seeing them again before too long.